Into Round 11 of the 2021 Moto2 season and it was still all to play for. In Round 10, also held here at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, championship leader Remy Gardner finished a disappointing 4th, with rookie Ai Ogura looking set for his first podium until a late penalty for exceeding track limits, and Marco Bezzecchi crossing the line first. Would Gardner return to form, and would Ogura shake off his demons to finally gain that elusive podium spot?
After a crash in qualifying – his first of the season – Gardner started from 5th. Bezzecchi, who also suffered a crash during qualifying, was back in 16th on the grid. The Austrian Grand Prix was shaping up to shake things up yet again.
Sam Lowes started from pole – his first since Portugal back in April – with the remainder of the front row completed by rookies: Raul Fernandez 2nd, and Ai Ogura 3rd. Flanking Gardner on the second row were Augusto Fernandez in 4th and Aron Canet in 6th. Behind them were Somkiat Chantra, Celestino Vietti, and Lorenzo Dalla Porta.
Off the line, Lowes held on to first place and looked set to stretch out the lead. Meanwhile further down the field a crash at Turn 1 took out Stefano Manzi and Jorge Navarro. The top 3 kept their positions, but Gardner was held up by the incident and dropped back to 11th. A few laps later it was announced that USA rider Cameron Beaubier was to receive a double long lap penalty for irresponsible riding.
Back at the front, Raul Fernandez passed Lowes on Lap 2 to take the lead. On lap 4 Gardner moves up to 10th, with Ogura then passing Lowes for second three laps later.
Somkiat Chantra passed Canet to take 6th position, bearing down on Marcel Schrotter in 5th, setting the fastest lap of the race so far.
On Lap 5, Augusto Fernandez passed his teammate Lowes at Turn 3 to move up into 3rd. before Dalla Porta crashed out at Turn 6 on lap six. Bezzecchi ran wide, giving Gardner the opportunity to move up to ninth – which he gladly took.
On Lap 8 Chantra got past Marcel Schrotter, who slid into the gravel at Turn 1, but was able to rejoin.
By Lap 11 Gardner had moved up into 8th, and on Lap 15 he overtook Canet for 7th – after a bit of back and forth Gardner made it stick, his sights set on Chantra and Vietti who were battling it out for 5th.
With five laps to go, Ogura found himself gradually closing the gap on Raul, reducing his lead to under 3 tenths of a second, the gap coming down to 1.5 seconds on Lap 24.
Raul held onto the lead to take his fourth victory of the season, while Ogura claimed his first podium of Moto2 ahead of Augusto Fernandez, who took his third consecutive podium finish.
Further back, Lowes finished in 4th place, rookie Celestino Vietti claimed 5th ahead of Somkiat Chantra. Championship leader Remy Gardner crossed the line 7th, in front of Aron Canet, Thomas Luthi, and last week’s winner Marco Bezzecchi rounding out the top 10.
With 7 more rounds to go, we go next to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 29th August. Can Gardner hang onto his diminishing lead, or will he be overtaken by his rookie teammate Raul Fernandez? Can rookies Ogura and Vietti maximise on their success? Or will Lowes pull it out of the hat in front of his home crowd?
First fifteen riders
1 Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points
2 Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 20
3 Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 16
4 Sam Lowes GBR – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13
5 Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 11
6 Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 10
7 Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 9
8 Aron Canet SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 8
9 Thomas Luthi SWI – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 7
10 Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 6
11 Jake Dixon GBR – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 5
12 Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 4
13 Tony Arbolino ITA Liqui Moly Intact GP – 3
14 Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 2
15 Hector Garzo SPA – Flexbox HP40 – 1