The fifth round of the 2019 Moto2 World Championship took place in Le Mans, avoiding the rain that had been forecast for Sunday, but under heavy clouds.
Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up) started from pole, but it was Tom Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) who made the holeshot. The lead for Luthi was unrepresentative, though. Poor pace in the dry on Friday was a foreshadowing of what was to come for the four-times French Grand Prix winner, and he soon dropped back.
From there, it was Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) who took the initiative, and started to squeeze out a gap from those behind.
As the race went on, and Marquez’ advantage edged out towards one second, Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) headed to the front, and once he had arrived in second was closing down the Spaniard. The Italian had the gap down to four tenths with fifteen laps to go, but crashed at the final corner and his chances were done.
This let Marquez off the hook, somewhat. Adding to this let off for Marquez was a mistake from Jorge Navarro a few laps later. Navarro had inherited second from Corsi when the Italian fell, and was starting to make an impression on Marquez’ lead before a mistake dropped him back into the clutches of Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40), who was able to pass a few laps later when Navarro made another mistake at Garage Vert.
This would then become the biggest battle of the closing stages of the race, as the two Spaniards each tried their hardest to hand the other second place, with Fernandez running wide in Musee, before Navarro ran wide in Garage Vert once more. Eventually, Navarro was able to string a few corners together and create himself an advantage on the final lap ahead of Fernandez.
However, Marquez was imperious out front, as he took his and Spain’s first win in the intermediate class of Grand Prix racing since Motegi 2017, twenty-five races ago. It was a cool and controlled race from Marquez, with no mistakes – something we did not see from the Spaniard in 2018. He will hope this is a sign of things to come, and the start of his championship challenge.
Jorge Navarro’s second place was not his maximum. He had the pace to challenge Marquez, but a series of mistakes, including a repeat of the poor start that cost him the win in Jerez, meant he was unable to make the push for victory. However, it was another impressive ride from the #9, and that first Moto2 win seems to be coming closer.
The same could be said for Augusto Fernandez, who finished third behind Navarro for the second race in succession, although a strong fight through the pack this time for the #40 rider showed a different race to that which he had in Spain. Like Navarro, Fernandez is improving every weekend, and surely his first World Championship victory is not far away.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took delivery of a new KTM frame for this weekend, and it seems to have been a step in the right direction for the South African, who finished fourth after overcoming Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the final laps, whilst Vierge came home in fifth.
Sixth place went to Tom Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP). Starting from the front row, to end in sixth seems like a bad race, but on Friday his pace did not seem capable of even that, so these ten points can be important ones for his championship.
Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) took seventh, and top rookie with it, finishing ahead of the injured Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP), Iker Lecuona (American Racing) and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), who was running in seventh before a mistake at turn one saw him riding through the gravel at turn three in the closing stages, but managed to hold on to close out the top ten.
Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) finished eleventh, ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Lightech Speed Up), Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), Joe Roberts (American Racing) and Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward) who completed the points.
Like the preceding Moto3 race, there were many retirements, with Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) being the first to fall at turn three on the opening lap. He was followed by championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) – who holds onto his points lead – with the Italian continuing his ‘win or bin’ record of 2019, and his pointless record in France. When Baldassarri fell, he took compatriot Mattia Pasini (Petronas SRT) with him. Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) were the next to go, before Corsi fell. Then Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) retired the #64 NTS, just before Steven Odendaal (NTS RW Racing GP) crashed the #4 bike. Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) then crashed out of sixth, before Xavi Cardelus (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) and Dimas Ekky (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) crashed out. Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward) was the final retirement, on the last lap, as he ran out of fuel.
Featured image courtesy of David Goldman;/Marc VDS