All eyes were on the weather this weekend at Le Mans, with the 2.6 mile Bugatti circuit plagued by changeable conditions during qualifying. Saturday saw plenty of yellow flags, with damp patches catching out many. However, the weather improved enough overnight for Sunday to be declared a dry race.
At the start of the weekend only 6 points separated the top 3 in the championship, with Remy Gardner leading on 69 points, and Sam Lowes second with 66. Raul Fernandez, in his rookie season in Moto2, rounded out the top 3 on 63 points, after gaining victory in the third race of the season in Portugal.
Lowes went into the weekend having won the first two races of the season, at Qatar and Doha, and race 4 in Spain saw Fabio Di Giannantonio on the top step of the podium.
Another one to watch this weekend was the Brit Jake Dixon, who came so close to winning at Le Mans last year only to crash out four laps from the finish.
Sam Lowes started strong, setting the fastest lap in FP2 on the Friday, with just over a 10th off the outright lap record but it was Raul Fernandez who emerged victorious in qualifying, setting the fastest qualifying lap at 1’50.135 to gain his maiden pole in Moto2.
Bezzecchi, whose fastest lap was only 0.240 behind Fernandez, lined up second on the grid, and third was Joe Roberts, who had started from pole at Le Mans in 2020.
Lowes was nudged further down the order, starting from the fourth row of the grid in 10th place, and Jake Dixon was way back in 26th.
Bezzecchi made the best start off the line and led from the outset, R Fernandez taking second, and the American Joe Roberts in third.
Aron Canet, starting 4th, briefly moved up into 2nd, before crashing out at the Chemin ux Boeufs esses.
Lowes went out on the fifth lap, attempting to overtake into turn 8, catching a damp spot and collecting Vierge, resulting in Lowes retiring, unable to restart his machine.
Joe Roberts also left the race on lap 5, losing the front end at turn 9 and heading into the gravel.
Meanwhile at the front, Fernandez caught Bezzecchi and moved up into the lead, remaining there for the rest of the race.
Having dropped down the order early on, Remy Gardner worked his way back up, putting in the fastest lap of the race at 1’36.893.
By lap 16, Gardner was back up into 3rd and starting to close the gap. Bezzecchi runs slightly deep and onto the green paint beyond the track limits, and Gardner seized his chance to move up into 2nd.
Again, as on Saturday, the dark clouds started to gather, raising the possibility of the race being cut short, but the rain held off long enough to complete the full race distance.
Gardner can’t quite catch his teammate, with Fernandez maintaining nearly a one second lead to win the second Moto2 race in his rookie season. Gardner finishes a comfortable second, resulting in a team Red Bull KTM Ajo one-two on the podium. Bezzecchi takes the third spot, with Arbolino less than 3 seconds behind him in fourth.
Fabio Di Giannantonio, winner of the previous Moto2 race two weeks ago in Spain, finishes 8th and Jake Dixon is well off the pace, finishing 19th.
The weekend comes to an end with the championship even closer – Remy Gardner holds onto his lead with 89 points, but Fernandez is breathing down his neck with 88, and Marco Bezzecchi moves up into third with 72. Sam Lowes, his 66 points unchanged after a difficult weekend, moves down to fourth.
This leaves Lowes with plenty of work to do going into the 6th round at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in 2 weeks time. All eyes will be on the rookie Raul Fernandez, with Gardner facing a battle on his hands to keep hold of that top spot in the championship.
First fifteen riders:
1 Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points
2 Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 16
4 Tony Arbolino ITA – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 13
5 Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 11
6 Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 10
7 Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 9
8 Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 8
9 Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 7
10 Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 6
11 Lorenzo Dalla Porta ITA – Italtrans Racing Team – 5
12 Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 4
13 Nicolo Bulega ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 3
14 Marcos Ramirez SPA – American Racing – 2
15 Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 1