Oliveira Looks to Continue Championship Momentum in Brno Moto2

Sachsenring was… eventful for the Moto2 class. It all started on lap two when Mattia Pasini’s crash left Francesco Bagnaia with nowhere to go but the grass. The crash of Pasini was then proceeded by a plethora of falls, including a potentially fatal one for the championship contention of Lorenzo Baldassarri.

Bagnaia was able to recover his position to finish twelfth, passing Alex Marquez in the final corner. But with Miguel Oliveira only qualifying seventeenth and with Bagnaia’s stellar pace across the weekend, Sachsenring was another opportunity for the Italian to extend his championship advantage, but with bad luck the chance went abegging. Nonetheless Pecco made a good recovery, and maintained his position at the top of the standings going into the summer break. Now the championship has returned after the holidays, it will be important for Bagnaia to continue in the vein of Sachsenring because, although the result was bad, he was fast over the whole weekend like all the races so far.

For Oliveira, though, the area to work on is obvious: qualifying. Saturday afternoons have been apocalyptic for the Portuguese rider so far this year, costing him a shot at the victory on multiple occasions and whilst he is still right there in the championship fight, it is only a matter of time until a poor qualifying really catches him out and leaves him either on the floor or with a bad result. In fact, it nearly happened in Germany, as the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was cutting through the field and lost the rear in a pretty big way on the exit of the final corner, pushing hard to try to lose as little time as possible. He was lucky it only cost him a few positions, and he got lucky with the effect Pasini’s crash had on Bagnaia, too, but this is racing and perhaps this good luck will help him (in a small way) on his way to a first World Championship.

Binder,Mir and Marini on the podium at Sachsenring 2018. Image courtesy of Hondaproracing

Whilst Oliveira was able to close the gap in the championship, his teammate, 2016 Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder, was able to take his first victory of his Moto2 career in commanding fashion. There is not much to say about Binder’s race in Sachsenring, because it was pretty faultless lights-to-flag, but the journey he has been on to get there, since his broken arm in the end of 2016, has been monumental. In a sense, the victory was a surprising one, because Binder has not been in the best form this season, almost in an opposite way to Oliveira, as he has been going okay in qualifying – generally – but struggling after a few laps in the races. Hopefully for Brad, this German GP win will open the proverbial floodgates, and he can build some momentum on the back of this milestone.

Joan Mir was second in Germany, his third podium of his debut Moto2 season, putting more security on his fourth position in the championship standings. He lies fifty-three points behind in the standings, probably too far to challenge for the title, and has a factory Suzuki MotoGP contract in his pocket. But that does not make it any less important for the Spaniard to grab at least one victory in the second half of this season – to go to a factory MotoGP in the rookie year, a win in Moto2 is important for the confidence. Also, with no win, the media have something to criticise, and when something goes wrong, they will point to his lack of a Moto2 win. A win is almost essential for Mir before the end of the year, and perhaps this weekend will be the one for him to take it.

The third place on the German podium, two weeks ago, was taken by Luca Marini. Of course, whilst it was the best result of his career, it was not anything fantastic, primarily because Valentino Rossi, Marini’s maternal half-brother, finished second in the MotoGP race. But, seriously, Marini’s podium was both well-deserved and long in the making, a shoulder injury holding him back for much of the season to date. Like Binder, Marini’s first podium has the potential to be the catalyst for more top threes – even in the immediate aftermath of the race Marini mentioned several times about the importance in building the foundation with the lower steps before you reach the top. He has certainly done that, coming from the European Moto2 Championship in 2016 to essentially fight for last for one year, before a year of mixed results in 2017 led into this year which has so far culminated in his first Grand Prix podium. There is more to come from Luca Marini, and a good result in the Czech GP last year means that there will be strong hopes in the orange side od the Sky VR46 garage that more will arrive this weekend.

A crash in free practice for Alex Marquez in Germany curtailed his entire weekend, as he crossed the line in thirteenth. He is thirty-five points off the championship lead which, in Moto2, is not an impossible deficit, but if he is to overcome it, he will need to start reducing it this weekend.

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