The 2018 Moto3 World Championship arrives in Barcelona this weekend for round seven of this season, and to the old circuit layout – the two fast right handers ending the lap.
Coming into this seventh round, Marco Bezzecchi still holds a slim lead in the standings after his impressive start to the season for PruestelGP. Second place in Mugello was the best he could manage with the KTM on the limit with the front tyre for almost the whole race, in almost every corner. For sure, the KTM lost a lot of time in the corners, and Bezzecchi was the only rider who could manage that to be able to fight for the win, but the straight line speed advantage that appeared for the Austrian bikes in Le Mans was apparent once more, and that kept the Italian in the game. He would have been disappointed to miss out by so little – just 0.019 seconds in the end – in his home GP, but, really, did even he expect to be leading the World Championship after six rounds? It was only fourteenth for Bezzecchi in Catalunya last year, but of course he was on the CIP Mahindra and as in every other round it is difficult to read too much into Bezzecchi’s result last year. We will see what the number 12 has this weekend during Free practice.
It was Jorge Martin who took his third win of the season in Mugello. Both he and his teammate, Fabio Di Giannantonio, looked fabulous all weekend long and clearly had far superior pace in the main body of the lap compared to Bezzecchi. In fact, being able to hold off the number 12 KTM in the final run to the line was impressive in itself, and ultimately Martin deserved the victory. He probably also deserves to be leading the World Championship at the moment but the DNFs of entirely not his making in both Jerez and Le Mans have prevented that from happening. Jorge is surely the favourite this weekend, too; he lost out in the final corners to who else, but to Joan Mir in last season’s race[at Barcelona], the move of the eventual World Champion also costing Martin a place to Fenati. But what Martin showed in Mugello was that, even with the slipstream, he can break the pack. Sure, Diggia and Bez caught him, but only because they had pace to match him, not because of slipstream. If Martin can split the pack like he did in Mugello again in Montmelo this weekend, it will likely be the same trio from the Italian Grand Prix, joined by maybe a few others, who contest the win, and that will work perfectly for the number 88 who would be able then to exercise his pace better than in a twenty-bike group more typical of Moto3. With his Red Bull KTM Moto2 deal in his back pocket for next year, when he will replace Miguel Oliveira, Martin will be looking to confirm that the Austrian factory took the right decision in picking him by making a good weekend in Montmelo.
So Martin is the favourite, but after being denied his first win in Le Mans for absurd penalties and being, for the third time in three years, denied by less than one tenth from victory in his home GP, Fabio Di Giannantonio will be desperate to win this weekend. This could end in one of two ways: it could power him to victory, or it could leave him in the gravel. It was only seventh place last year for Fabio in Barcelona, so for the championship – in which he is only eight points adrift of the top spot – it will be important for him to better that result. In fact, considering the consistency of both Martin and Bezzecchi, it will probably be important for Diggia to find the podium, and he is well capable of that.
Of course, in Spain, all the Spanish riders will want to do well, especially Aron Canet, who since his crash in Jerez which took three others with him has been quite under the radar. He was impressive in France but due to his grid penalty it only got him as far as eighth place, and in Mugello he was almost transparent again, only managing eleventh place. He is not out of this championship, sitting in fourth place, only 22 points away from Bezzecchi, but his results need to pick up quickly before the championship becomes out of reach for him.
In wildcard news, a common thread in Spanish races, Raul Fernandez will be in attendance for the Angel Nieto Team this weekend. In the week following the Barcelona round of the Moto3 Junior World Championship last weekend, there has been much said about Andreas Perez in light of his tragic accident last week, and there is no doubt that every rider will be thinking of Andreas this weekend, but perhaps especially Fernandez, who shared the grid of the CEV Repsol with him at the beginning of this season, so expect a passionate display from Raul, who first came to the attention of Grands Prix back in 2016 at Valencia where he made his debut in the World Championship. A difficult season last year with Aspar on the Mahindra kept him away from GPs, but now he is back atop the Junior World Championship standings and will be hoping to be in and around the fastest riders this weekend.
Featured image courtesy of hondanews.eu