The second round of the Moto2 World Championship takes place this weekend in Argentina, three weeks on from Lorenzo Baldassarri’s win for Sito Pons’ Flexbox HP 40 squad.
Baldassarri’s win was one which came as a result of a staunch defensive performance in the face of strong late race pace from the returning Tom Luthi, who took second place on his debut for the Dynavolt Intact GP team. The win also means that Baldassarri comes to Argentina leading the World Championship for the first time in his career, and it will be interesting to see how he deals with that this weekend, at a track where he has never made the podium, a best result of fourth coming back in the 2017 edition of the race.
For Luthi, the goal this weekend will be to prove that Qatar was not a fluke, not a one-off, and that his return to the intermediate class of grand prix motorcycle racing from a season of MotoGP in 2018 has come with a new impetus for the Swiss, who is once more in search of a second world title in 2019, and will know no doubt that a result to support the one of Qatar can be very important for his chances, though not vital. For example, last year’s Moto2 World Champion Francesco Bagnaia suffered his worst weekend of the season in Argentina, finishing only ninth. However, it is worth pointing out that in every year previous to that, the winner of the Argentinian round of the Moto2 World Championship had gone on to win the title.
Something else to keep in mind this weekend is that only Kalex have won intermediate class grands prix in Termas de Rio Hondo. However, several other chassis brands have landed podiums in Argentina since 2014: Suter, Speed Up and KTM have all taken rostrum positions at least once in intermediate class races at Termas. However, seeing past a Kalex whitewash of the podium is difficult, considering how they dominated Qatar.
In Qatar, every bike in the top ten was a Kalex, the first non-Kalex chassis being Fabio Di Giannantonio’s Speed Up frame in eleventh. Additionally, the weekend was a disaster for KTM, with Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) damaging his hand on Saturday, and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) suffering after the initial laps to finish twelfth – not the way he wanted his championship campaign to begin in a season in which he aims to win the title.
The saving grace for Binder in Losail was that his two main championship rivals, or the two thought to be his main championship rivals before the season got underway, had similarly disappointing races.
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) managed only eighth place in Qatar, and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) came home sixth after entering the weekend as the favourite for the win. For these two, and for Binder, Argentina represents a clean slate – three weeks on from disappointing races in Losail they will view this weekend as the true beginning of their respective championship challenges.
There were impressive rides in Qatar for Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) and Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) who finished fourth and fifth respectively. Like Luthi, they will be aiming this weekend to show that they can replicate those performances on a regular basis.
In fact, for Gardner, he will be aiming to go one step further this weekend, after he was narrowly beaten to the line in Qatar by Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) to what would have been his first podium in the World Championship.
The Marc VDS team is the second most successful Moto2 outfit in Termas, having enjoyed two wins there since 2014, with Tito Rabat (2014) and Franco Morbidelli (2017). Both riders went on to win the championship in their respective victorious years in Argentina, so look out for Xavi Vierge – who finished second in Argentina last season – and Alex Marquez this weekend.