More twists and turns in Moto2 at the Circuit of the Americas

There’s definitely one thing the 2021 Moto2 season has not been, and that is predictable.  Last weekend’s outing at the Red Bull Ring of the Americas was no exception, creating yet more twists and turns in a fascinating and entertaining season.

Moto2 Americas Augusto Fernandez. Picture courtesy of marcvds.com

Over the last few rounds the championship has evolved into a two-horse race between the Ajo KTM teammates Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez, with Gardner holding onto the top spot with a seemingly comfortable lead.  Going into the weekend, Gardner, on 271 points, was 34 points ahead of Fernandez on 237 with Marco Bezzecchi in third place on 190.

Team Ajo KTM yet again dominated the front row with Raul Fernandez starting on pole (the sixth of his rookie season in Moto2), Gardner second and Fabio Di Giannantonio third. Behind them, Marco Bezzecchi started in fourth place, alongside American Cameron Beaubier in fifth, his best start of the season, and Augusto Fernandez in sixth.

Britain’s Jake Dixon started on row 5 in 13th place and Sam Lowes on row 6 in 16th.

Into turn 1 the local rider Cameron Beaubier slots through to take the lead, but only briefly as he runs wide, allowing both Ajo KTM riders through, with Raul taking the lead.

Beaubier drops back to fourth and then fifth as he is passed by Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi, but comes back at Bezzecchi to regain fourth.

Gardner passes his teammate, but is unable to make it stick, and on lap 2 Gardner is passed by Di Giannantonio, then Beaubier passes both of them to edge back up into second. The ensuing battle allows Fernandez to stretch out a lead of almost 2 seconds at the front.

Lap 3, and Gardner is back up into second place, Beaubier is pushing hard and passes him on lap 4, but is unable to make it stick.

Everything changes on lap 6 as Gardner crashes out, losing the front end in the tight left hander of Turn 15. He tries desperately to restart his stalled machine, but eventually returns to his garage to watch the remainder of the race.

Raul Fernandez now leads by 2.2 seconds from Di Giannantonio, with Bezecchi, Beaubier and Italy’s Tony Arbolino battling for third.

Digiannantonio starts to make inroads into Fernandez’s lead, bringing it down to 1.7 seconds by lap 9.

Sam Lowes, who dropped back several places in the early stages of the race, suffered mechanical issues and limped his Elf Marc VDS machine back to the pitlane.

Moto2 Americas Sam Lowes. Picture courtesy of marcvds.com

By lap 14 Raul Fernandez has again stretched out a 2 second lead over Di Giannantonio, who is in turn 2.7 seconds ahead of 3rd place Bezzecchi, with Augusto Fernandez in 4th, Beaubier in 5th and Arbolino in 6th. These positions remained the same for the final few laps.

After an eventful weekend, Gardner’s championship lead is reduced to nine points, but with Raul Fernandez on a roll can he keep his place at the top as we return to Misano?

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 20

3              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 16

4              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 11

6              Tony Arbolino ITA – Liqui Moly Intact GP                – 10

7              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcos Ramirez                SPA – American Racing – 7

10           Jake Dixon GBR – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 6

11           Aron Canet – SPA Inde Aspar Team – 5

12           Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 4

13           Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 3

14           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyder NED – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 1

Injured Fernandez claims fifth victory of 2021

Spain’s Raul Fernandez took the fifth win of his rookie Moto2 season, despite undergoing surgery during the week for a broken bone in his right hand after a training incident.

2021 MVDS team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 13 GP of Aragon in Motorland de Aragon, Alcaniz Spain © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

Round 13 of the 2021 Moto2 season took us to the Motorland circuit in Aragon, and the weight of expectation sat firmly on the shoulders of Britain’s Sam Lowes. Holder of several Moto2 track records including most wins, most pole starts, best race lap and all time lap record, plus winning here in 2020, history seemed set to repeat itself after he qualified in pole position.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Fernandez, starting from 3rd place on the grid, passed his teammate Remy Gardner on the first lap to move up into 2nd and on lap 2 passed Lowes to take the lead. Doubts lingered over whether Raul would be able to maintain the blistering pace, but he held on to first place for the remainder of the race, with Lowes remaining comfortably in second until crashing out at turn 7 on lap 13. Fernandez crossed the finish line over 7 seconds ahead of 2nd place Gardner.

2021 MVDS team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 13 GP of Aragon in Motorland de Aragon, Alcaniz Spain © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

Tyre options for the weekend were medium or supersoft, with the vast majority of the field opting for the latter. Tyre preservation was a concern, and potentially a factor in the high rate of attrition, with crashes including Dalla Porta on lap 8, Lowes on lap 13, Bezzecchi on lap 10, Bulega on lap 18 and Chantra on lap 19, all fortunately escaping uninjured.

Gardner found himself in a battle for 3rd with Ai Ogura and Hector Garzo; on lap 5 he managed to gain and hold onto the place, with Garzo crashing out shortly after. Ogura dropped back to 7th place after being passed by Aron Canet and Marco Bezzecchi, and eventually finished 8th, even despite Bezzecchi crashing out on the corkscrew on lap 10.

The fight for third place then raged between Jorge Navarro, Aron Canet & Augusto Fernandez, swapping back and forth, with Augusto finally crossing the line 1.5 seconds behind second place Gardner.

2021 MVDS team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 13 GP of Aragon in Motorland de Aragon, Alcaniz Spain © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

Next weekend takes us to the San Marino Grand Prix, with Gardner maintaining his lead at the top of the championship with 251 points, 39 points ahead of second place Raul Fernandez. This weekend’s non-finishes for Bezzecchi and Lowes mean that the gap is widening between the Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates and the rest of the championship, but with five rounds still to go, what further surprises lie in store?

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 16

4              Jorge Navarro SPA – Lightech Speed Up – 13

5              Aron Canet SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 11

6              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 10

7              Fermín Aldeguer SPA – +Ego Speed Up – 9

8              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 8

9              Tony Arbolino ITA Liqui Moly Intact GP – 7

10           Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 6

11           Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 5

12           Marcos Ramirez                SPA – American Racing – 4

13           Joe Roberts USA – Italtrans Racing Team                – 3

14           Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 2

15           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 1

Gardner emerges victorious as records tumble

The 12th round of the 2021 Moto2 season took us to Silverstone, on a cloudy and cool Bank Holiday weekend.

It didn’t look like it was going to be Remy Gardner’s day. The Australian started from the second row of the grid in fourth place, behind SKY Racing Team VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi on pole who had smashed the outright lap record in qualifying. Jorge Navarro was in second and local favourite Sam Lowes in third. Joining Gardner on the second row were teammates Raul Fernandez in fifth place and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 rider, Fabio DiGiannantonio in sixth.

Remy racing. Courtesy of: RemyGardner.com

In the end Gardner emerged victorious after a hard-fought win over Bezzecchi, who nevertheless managed to hold on to the outright lap record. The fastest race lap changed hands multiple times over the course of the 18 laps – Gardner, then Navarro, then Lowes and Gardner again before being ultimately claimed by Navarro on lap 17.

Bezzecchi was the only one to go with the softer rear tyre option, which had served him well in qualifying, but would it be enough to dominate in the race?

Ai Ogura, the rookie Honda Team Asia rider, who had been impressive in the last two rounds, was back on the 5th row in 14th place after a disappointing qualifying. And before the race even started Marcel Schrotter, starting in 15th, incurred a long lap penalty for ignoring the mechanical failure flag in practice.

Bezzecchi got the best start off the line as Lowes moved up into 2nd on the first bend, and by turn 2 Lowes nipped past Bezzecchi to take the lead as Gardner moved up into 3rd. But after a couple of moments on the opening lap, Gardner was passed by his teammate and dropped down to 5th.

On lap 2, Bezzecchi regained the lead, pushing Lowes back down into 2nd and on lap 4 Lowes was passed by Gardner making up for lost time.

The top 5 started to break away – Bezzecchi, Gardner, Lowes, Navarro and DiGiannantonio stretched out a 1.5 second gap ahead of 6th place Raul Fernandez, whilst Gardner hunted down Bezzecchi to briefly take the lead but was unable to make it stick. Bezzecchi then had a moment in the middle of turn 15, causing Gardner to take evasive action to avoid contact.

The fight on track. Courtesy of: RemyGardner. com

DiGiannantonio moved up into 4th place past Navarro as Lowes held onto 3rd, meanwhile Raul and Augusto Fernandez battled it out for 6th.

For the next few laps, Gardner and Bezzecchi swapped back and forth, with Gardner setting a new race lap record on lap 8. Navarro moved back up into 4th, and Lowes and Navarro closed in on the leading pair.

On lap 12, Gardner retook the lead, with Bezzecchi pushing hard every step of the way. On lap 15 Bezzecchi ran slightly wide, which allowed Gardner a little space to hold onto the front spot and he crossed the line almost half a second ahead of Bezzecchi.

Meanwhile, on lap 14 Navarro edged past Lowes into 3rd place, and Raul Fernandez crashed out at Farm – uninjured but his bike remained on the edge of the track – fortunately not causing a red flag incident.

Augusto Fernandez, who Raul had been battling with, managed to pass DiGiannantonio at the last minute, finishing 5th behind Lowes.

A combination of Gardner’s win and the DNF from Raul Fernandez now stretches out Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship – on 231 points he is 44 ahead of his teammate, with Bezzecchi in 3rd on 179 and Lowes 4th with 127.

But with the next race in Spain, in two weeks time, will we see Raul return to form on his home turf? And after such a hard-fought battle for the lead, can Bezzecchi regain the top step of the podium?

Race results:

1             Remy Gardner (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2            Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 20

3            Jorge Navarro (SPA) – Lightech Speed Up – 16

4            Sam Lowes (GBR) – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5            Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 11

6           Augusto Fernandez (SPA) – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 10

7           Aron Canet (SPA) – Aspar Team Moto2 – 9

8           Xavi Vierge (SPA) – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9           Ai Ogura (JPN) – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 7

10         Joe Roberts (USA) – Italtrans Racing Team  – 6

11          Thomas Luthi (SWI) – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 5

12          Celestino Vietti (ITA) – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 4

13          Marcel Schrotter (GER) – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 3

14          Nicolò Bulega (ITA) – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 2

15          Bo Bendsneyer (NED) – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of: Remygardner.com)

 

 

Rookies dominate Austrian Grand Prix

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?

Moto2
2021 MVDS Team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 11 GP of Austria in Red Bull Ring Circuit in Spielberg Austria © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

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.

Moto2
2021 MVDS Team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 11 GP of Austria in Red Bull Ring Circuit in Spielberg Austria © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

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.

Moto2
Ogura @ Red Bull Ring, Austrian Grand Prix Picture courtesy of honda-racing.com

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

 

Moto2: Dark clouds loom over the Austrian Alps

And so Moto2 returns after the five week summer break with Round 10, the Styrian Grand Prix, high in the Austrian Alps, and Sunday’s race certainly brought plenty of ups and downs.

Moto2
Pic courtesy of marcvds Racing Team

All eyes were on the weather over the weekend, with dark clouds looming over practice and qualifying. The rain stayed away and the race was declared dry, but away from the racing line the track remained damp and greasy.

Before Sunday’s race Australia’s Remy Gardner led the championship on 184 points, his Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Raul Fernandez 2nd with 153, Bezzecchi 3rd on 128, Britain’s Sam Lowes 4th on 99, and Fabio Di Giannantonio 5th with 73.

During free practice news broke that Raul Fernandez will be moving up to MotoGP next season, to join his current teammate Remy Gardner at KTM, but did the unfortunate timing of the announcement impact on Fernandez’s performance?

For only the second time this season, neither of Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates made an appearance on the podium. Remy Gardner started from pole, and his teammate Raul Fernandez on the 2nd row in 4th after a frustrating qualifying.

It looked as though Sunday would be Japanese rookie Ai Ogura’s time to shine, as he briefly held pole position during qualifying. He was pipped at the post by Gardner, but claimed his first front row start of the season in second, with Italy’s Marco Bezzecchi making up the front row in 3rd. Alongside Raul Fernandez on the second row were Aron Canet in 5th and Augusto Fernandez 6th. On the third row, Britain’s Sam Lowes started 7th, Lorenzo dalla Porta 8th, and Somkiat Chandra 9th.

Gardner briefly led the opening lap before being passed by Bezzecchi, and his attempt to reclaim the lead was foiled by running wide, also allowing teammate Raul Fernandez through. Ogura dropped back to 5th, and the next few laps saw Gardner retaking the lead, Aron Canet up into second, the pair of them pulling ahead of Bezzecchi and Raul Fernandez who were battling for 3rd. On lap 6 Fernandez ran very wide into turn 9, dropping down to 7th place, Ai Ogura moving back up into 4th, and Gardner and Canet stretching out to almost a second ahead of 3rd place Bezzecchi.

On lap 11 Ogura posted the fastest lap of the race and looked set for the first podium finish of his rookie Moto2 season, but after incurring a late penalty for exceeding track limits ended up by crossing the line in 5th. After completing the race it was announced that Ogura had been penalised a further 3 seconds for exceeding track limits during the long lap penalty. Despite this he finished far enough ahead of 6th place Celestino Vietti to hold on to the position.

Lap 20 saw an uncharacteristic error from Gardner, late on the brakes into turn 1 and running into the gravel to avoid the back wheel of Bezzecchi. He managed to keep the bike upright and rejoined in 5th.

Marco Bezzecchi of SKY Racing Team VR46 held onto the lead to claim his first win of the season, despite pressure from Spain’s Aron Canet who finished second, and the 3rd podium spot was claimed by Augusto Fernandez, celebrating his second podium in as many races. Remy Gardner crossed the line in 4th, and Raul Fernandez finished 7th, the worst finish of his rookie Moto2 season. Despite moving up to 5th on lap 4, Britain’s Sam Lowes had a difficult race, but still managed to finish within the points in 14th.

Moto2
Pic courtesy of marcvds Racing Team

The top five positions in the championship remain the same – Gardner increases his lead from 31 to 35 points ahead of second place Raul Fernandez. Bezzecchi, in third, closes the gap on Fernandez from 25 to 9 points, with fourth place Lowes trailing by 52 points, and Italy’s Fabio Di Giannantonio in 5th, 25 points behind Lowes.

Sunday 15th August sees the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. Can Ai Ogura make up for his disappointment and claim a podium spot? Will the Ajo Red Bull team return to form? And can Bezzecchi leapfrog Raul Fernandez on the championship table?

First fifteen riders:

1              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 25 points

2              Aron Canet SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 16

4              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 13

5              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 11

6              Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 10

7              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 9 points

8              Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 8

9              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 7

10           Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 6

11           Jake Dixon GBR – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 5

12           Lorenzo Dalla Porta ITA – Italtrans Racing Team – 4

13           Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 3

14           Sam Lowes GBR                – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 2

15           Albert Arenas SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 1

 

Battle rages at the Cathedral of Speed

Going into the weekend Remy Gardner leads the Moto2 championship by 36 points from his teammate Raul Fernandez, but the rookie earns his fourth pole of the season, as an eventful race sees him dropping back to ninth then clawing his way back to emerge victorious in the 9th round of Moto2 2021.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Fernandez’s teammate Remy Gardner starts from 2nd place and Sam Lowes completes the front row, ahead of Aron Canet in 4th, Ai Ogura 5th and Jorge Navarro starting 6th.

Off the line it is Canet who gets the best start, forcing Raul out wide into the first bend, causing him to drop back to 4th. Della Porta who started 8th gets caught in the middle of the group into turn 2 – catches the rear wheel of Navarro and is spat off, fortunately avoiding the other machines as his bike is launched into the air from the centre of the pack.

Canet leads, Gardner in second is closely followed by Lowes in third. Tony Arbolino crashes out uninjured shortly after at turn 7, his bike flipping across the gravel.

Lowes moves up past Gardner, then takes Canet to lead at the end of the first lap – Lowes leads briefly before Canet reclaims the lead.

Ai Ogura and Augusto Fernandez pass Raul Fernandez. Raul runs wide through turns 6 & 7 and drops back to ninth as Schrotter passes him.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner passes Lowes out of the chicane, and Lowes gets back past Canet to move back into 2nd

Joe Roberts crashes out at turn 9, meaning that both Italtrans bikes are out of the race.

Augusto Fernandez moves up into 3rd, as Raul battles for 7th, then gradually works himself back up to 6th.

With 20 laps to go Lowes starts to close the gap on Gardner. Approaching the start/finish line Lowes slots past, the two almost swapping paint, but Augusto Fernandez spots his opportunity and passes both of them, taking the lead, making it a 1-2 for Elf Marc VDS Racing Team, Gardner in 3rd and Aron Canet in 4th. Meanwhile Raul Fernandez is back up to 5th, and DiGiannantonio moves up past Ai Ogura into 6th.

On lap 7 Raul passes Canet to move up to 4th, as Lowes, who is all over the back of Augusto, passes him to take the lead. A gap of just over a second separates Gardner in 3rd and Raul in 4th, giving Raul a clear space to push on.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner slots past Augusto into 2nd, and 3 laps later Raul catches Augusto, but Augusto takes Gardner to move back into 2nd.

On lap 14 Augusto Fernandez increases the pressure on Sam Lowes, passing him to take the lead, as Raul gets past his teammate Gardner to move up into 3rd.

Gardner starts to drop back slightly from the top 3, and shortly after Raul takes Lowes to move up into 2nd place. The leading 4 start to spread out as Lowes struggles to match Raul Fernandez’s pace, as DiGiannantonio crashes out at turn 9 from 6th.

Raul pursues Augusto, edging ever closer until he makes the move along the start/finish straight at the end of lap 17, with Augusto unable to come back at him.

Augusto runs wide, giving Lowes the opportunity to move up into 2nd. Raul is starting to stretch out his lead with a 0.8 second lead over Lowes.

Lap 20 sees Aron Canet crashes out of 7th place, sliding into the gravel at turn 3.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Raul leads by over a second, breaking away from Lowes, Augusto and Gardner. Into lap 22 at the end of the start/finish straight Augusto gets the drive past Lowes to move up into second. Lowes checks over his left shoulder into turn 1, as Gardner slips past on his right, dropping Lowes down into 4th.

At the end of lap 23 Gardner passes Augusto, who pushes hard but is unable to come back at Gardner.

Raul Fernandez takes his third win of the season, ahead of his teammate Remy Gardner, with Augusto Fernandez claiming the 3rd podium spot.

Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship narrows slightly to 31 points ahead of Raul Fernandez going into the summer break, Fernandez extends his lead over 3rd place Bezzecchi from 11 points to 25, and Lowes holds onto 4th place overall.  With ten rounds still to go can Gardner hold onto the lead or will rookie Raul Fernandez spring yet more surprises?

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

 

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA –  – 16

4              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 11

6              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 7

10           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 6

11           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 5

12           Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 4

13           Stefano Manzi ITA – Flexbox HP40 – 3

14           Thomas Luthi SWI – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

Gardner extends lead in Moto2 championship

Remy Gardner dominated the 8th round of Moto2 at the Sachsenring in Germany to take third win in a row, increasing his lead at the top of the championship.

Raul Fernandez at the 2021 Moto2 Le Mans Race. Image courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM

Heading into the weekend, Gardner on 139 points was only 11 points ahead of his teammate Raul Fernandez, with Italian Marco Bezzecchi 3rd on 101, and Britain’s Sam Lowes 4th on 75.

The Sachsenring, at 2.28 miles, is a tight, twisty track, and the focus for the weekend was on tyre preservation. High temperatures on Friday and Saturday, with a slightly cooler temperature on race day also added to the tension, with the whole field on a hard compound on the front and a soft rear.

A blistering lap time of 1:23.397 in Q2 earned Raul Fernandez pole, pushing Di Giannantonio into 2nd, with Remy Gardner completing the front row. After a crash in Q2, Britain’s Sam Lowes started on the 3rd row of the grid in 7th place.

Fernandez took the lead off the line, closely followed by Gardner. Di Giannantonio dropped back into 6th, and Xavi Vierge moved up from 5th on grid up into 3rd.

The opening laps seemed to be shaping up to be another battle between Fernandez and Gardner, as the two Ajo KTMs pulled away from the rest of the field, with a half second gap opening up behind them to Vierge.

On lap two, Gardner passed his teammate and took the lead, as Sam Lowes dropped back into 14th.

The Ajo’s increased their lead with every lap – 2.5 secs ahead of third place on lap 3, and on lap 4 a gap of 3.8 secs.

Gardner settled into a rhythm putting in faster lap times, with Raul Fernandez pushing hard to stay on his tail, but on Lap 5 the rookie showed his lack of experience and lost the front end at turn 3, sliding into the gravel and out of the race.

Spain’s Aron Canet, who started 10th on the grid, had worked his way up through the field and now moved up to second, starting to pull away from Bezzecchi.

Gardner, riding a lonely race, gradually stretched out his lead to 5 seconds ahead of Canet with Bezzecchi in 3rd.

On lap 21 Lowes moved up into 8th place, meanwhile Bezzecchi & Di Giannantonio swapped places in a battle for 3rd, with Bezzecchi eventually making it stick.

Gardner extended his lead to 6.5 secs over 2nd place Canet, who in turn was over 2 seconds ahead of Bezzecchi.

On lap 26 Honda Team Asia rookie Ai Ogura passed Xavi Vierge to move up into 5th, and both Ogura and Bezzecchi started to close in on Canet.

Remy Gardner at the 2021 Le Mans Moto2 RaceImage courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM

The last lap brought yet more surprises, with Vierge, running in 6th, crashing out on turn 1, followed by Joe Roberts at the same corner, and Ai Ogura out on turn 8. Gardner crossed the line comfortably ahead of Canet who held onto 2nd, with Bezzecchi in 3rd. Di Giannantonio claimed 4th, and after the incidents on the last lap Sam Lowes moved up to take 5th.

The gap at the top of the championship has now widened, with Gardner going into the next round at Assen 36 points clear of teammate Fernandez, who is now only 11 points ahead of Bezzecchi. Can Fernandez pull something out of the bag at the Dutch TT, or will Gardner make it four in a row and further increase his lead?

First fifteen riders:

1              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Arón Canet SPA – Aspar Team – 20

3              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 16

4              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 13

5              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 11

6              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 8

9              Marcos Ramirez SPA – American Racing – 7

10           Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 6

11           Nicolo Bulega ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 5

12           Alonso López SPA – Flexbox HP40 – 4

13           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 3

14           Barry Baltus        BEL – NTS RW Racing GP – 2

15           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 1

Marshalling the TT – my experience

I never thought I’d find myself standing by one of the most famous race tracks in the world holding a flag and wearing three pairs of trousers, but it’s funny how life works out sometimes.

I fell into marshalling by accident – I was in my final year at uni, chatting with a fellow petrolhead, and the next thing we knew we were on a ferry to Douglas for the Isle of Man TT. Our destination was a football club, their pitch temporarily repurposed as a campsite, packed with bikers from all over the world. One evening after watching a practice session, we fell into conversation with a couple of marshals. The next morning we were straight up to the grandstand to sign on.

For the first race day we headed to Ramsey Hairpin – which is where our new friends were regular marshals, and I have marshalled there ever since.

One thing I quickly learned is that even on a warm summer’s day it can get very chilly under the trees, and particularly for evening practice layers are your friend. My marshalling outfit generally involves leggings, bike jeans and over trousers, plus several tops and at least one hat!

The view from a side street in Ramsey

Having become a qualified marshal, I am now one of the regular flag marshals at Ramsey Hairpin. It is probably the only place on course where the flaggie has to run – the flag point is about 100 yards down the hill, where you can tuck in behind a matrix sign wrapped in padding. But down there you have no view of anything from halfway round the bend – there is a long stretch of road up towards Tower Bends which is now out of sight.

Once the call comes through that roads have closed, the ropes go up and we inspect the track, which generally involves a lot of sweeping, a handful of cement dust, and the odd broken bit of wall (I have a tiny chunk of Ramsey Hairpin wall sitting on my bookcase).

And then we wait. The Hairpin is just over 24 miles from the grandstand, so when the first bikes set off we have a few minutes to dig out another packet of biscuits and get to our stations. One of the other marshals makes me a cup of tea, which will be scalding hot for ages as it’s in a thermos mug. The world falls silent. It feels like the whole island is waiting, listening, holding its breath.

And in the far distance we start to hear a swarm of bees, the noise coming from the north and echoing around the hills. Gradually it resolves into a deeper growl as they approach Ramsey. One marshal, who has been at the Hairpin for 40-odd years, can name the bends by the engine noise. Starting with Parliament Square, he calls them out “Cruikshanks… Whitegates… Stella Maris…” and pop they appear, sometimes two or three abreast, the machines pushed to the limits of their braking ability as they close in.

Any incident, and I am running down to the padded signpost, displaying the flag as I go. Down at flag point riders pass close enough to see the whites of their eyes, and holding a stationary flag the back of my hand is warmed by the heat of passing exhausts. At that point, I am watching the approaching traffic, while glancing back to see if the flag needs to be waved. If the incident is out of my line of sight, I have to rely on the other marshals to keep me informed, while they deal with the incident.

Once everything is cleared, I then nip back up to my spot in front of the marshal’s hut, ready to do it all again.

Occasionally we will have a ‘visitor’ – a breakdown or a minor incident. If they are on the inside of the course the rider will stay with us until we can get them across the road at the end of the session. Spectating from the hairpin during racing is a new experience for them, and their reactions can be entertaining as the machines approach, and they take the opportunity to study the various lines.

There is no one line around the hairpin – some hug the wall, some are wide on the entry, some on the exit, or a few take a wide smooth line around the outside.

Between racing mainly involves a nice sit down, eating biscuits, or having in-depth discussions about biscuits. One regular favourite game is Travelling Marshal Bingo, but nobody is entirely sure of the rules…

That one drunken conversation on the campsite has led to some incredible experiences and lifelong friendships. Marshalling gives a whole new outlook on racing, and without the marshals there would be no racing.

It’s so rewarding to feel that you can make a tiny bit of difference to the greatest show on earth. I can safely say it has changed my life.

Adventures around the Isle of Man

You’ve been going to the Isle of Man for the TT races for many years, you’ve been there, watched it, bought the T-shirt. You know the island like the back of your hand, you’ve got all your favourite locations to visit. But maybe you’re on the lookout for something a bit different to do, a bit of exploring or somewhere new to visit.

I’ve been going to the TT and Manx Grand Prix for over 15 years, and I’ve also lived there for a couple of years, and I still haven’t been everywhere I want to visit on the island. Here are a few of my suggestions, most of which I’ve done, but some are still high on my to-do list!

A burnout at the winners enclosure

A great way to get a different perspective on roads you’ve travelled many times is by public transport. You can make a day of it, with a rover ticket that covers all forms of public transport. My mate and I like to spend one day of the holiday working our way around the island, covering trams, buses and steam trains. Or if it’s a spectacular day we’ll jump on the tram up Snaefell for cake in the café at the top, and hopefully a glimpse of all seven kingdoms (the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the sea and the sky).

If history is your thing, read up in advance about the history of the Island away from the racing. For example, the island was used as an internment camp during World War 2, and some of the locations are still in evidence.

And talking of history, there are plenty of museums to visit, some focusing on the Island, including the Manx Museum in Douglas and the House of Manannan in Peel, some based around motoring, such as the Isle of Man Motor Museum in Jurby, and Murray’s Motorcycle Museum in Santon. On the road to the Calf of Man, the village of Cregneash is a living museum, and Castle Rushen in Castletown is the perfect destination for a rainy day.

The TT course hasn’t always included the Mountain Road – on a day off from the racing, seek out the original race circuits – the St John’s Course, a 15 mile route used for the 1907 TT, and the 10 mile Clypse Course which was used between 1954 and 1959.

And keep an eye out for other racing taking place around the same time – the Billown Course near Castletown hosts the Pre- and Post-TT Classics, which many of the TT riders take part in. There is usually beach racing taking place in Peel and Douglas, plus stock car racing at Onchan Raceway. And don’t forget the World Famous Purple Helmets!

For race days, find spectating spots which are different to your usual haunts. Maybe watch the commentary team in action at Glen Helen or Ramsey Hairpin, or gradually work your way round the course spectating from a different pub each time. Or if you’re feeling brave, attempt a TT circuit pub crawl on a non-race day!

One of my favourite spectating spots which people tend to overlook is the entry to Governor’s Dip under the trees – there is always plenty of room on the grass, and you get a close-up view of the machines as they tip into the hairpin, around the famous white-painted stone post. If you walk up the hill slightly, you can sit on the high bank – one of the few places left on the course where the bikes still go under your feet.

I also recommend having a bit of a walk around Ramsey – not too far from Parliament Square you can nip down the side streets and escape the crowds, or cross at the footbridge and watch from the inside of the course.

An emergency cake stop at St Ninian’s Church

And I can’t end this article without mentioning cake! I am always on the lookout for new and interesting places to have cake, and am currently most excited about going back to the little café in the steam train station at Port Erin, for lemon drizzle and a trip back in time.

The Isle of Man really is full of surprises, even when you’ve visited so often you think you’ve seen everything. I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but hopefully I’ve given you some ideas for some new adventures!

First Timer’s Guide to the Isle of Man TT

Spectating up the mountain

The atmosphere starts when you arrive at the ferry terminal. Perhaps you’re hot and bothered, having negotiated your way through the centre of Liverpool along with the rest of the world, or maybe you’ve arrived at Heysham Port, all smug with how easy the last bit of the journey is along the new bypass. Perhaps you’ve only travelled a few miles. Or maybe it’s been an expedition just to get here.

And suddenly the world is a sea of bikes, all loaded to the gunnels and beyond, and you’re lined up three abreast in the car lanes alongside a few battered vans covered in stickers. You get separated from your mate, as you’ve managed to get everything into your rucksack, but he’s got the widest panniers in the world so has been sent into a different queue.

Hard on the brakes into Ramsey

If you’re one of the lucky ones to get on board first, you do a quick dash to grab a table in the bar, or if you’re on the overnight, nab somewhere to stretch out on the floor without being tripped over every 5 minutes. Otherwise you hang around outside waiting to board, judging people’s packing abilities, and checking that all your bits are still where they should be. This is it. Your first time to the Isle of Man for the TT. Will it be everything that everyone says it is?

A three and a bit hour sailing, and it’s time to disembark. Back on the car deck you do your best impression of a Krypton Factor contestant – limboing under chest-high ropes in full bike gear, squeezing between panniers and exhausts, trying not to catch your rucksack on mirrors, and then trying to figure out where on earth the end of the rope is and how the hell to untie it.

And then your row starts to move. A bit of concentration as you negotiate the humps and bumps and slippery bits on the car deck, and then you’re on the ramp. Out into the fresh air. You’ve made it. You have officially arrived on the Isle of Man, ready to take in the greatest road racing in the world.

But where do you start? There’s so much to do and see…

Ask anyone who’s been before, and they will have their own recommendations, their own favourites and must-dos. I’m going to be one of those people – I’ve been going to the Isle of Man TT and Manx Grand Prix for over 15 years, I also marshal the races, and I lived on the Island for a couple of years in my 20’s. So even though no one has asked, I’ll give you some thoughts on how to plan your trip to get the best out of it, and give you a taste of the TT fortnight. But be warned. The Isle of Man TT is addictive. You’ll be planning your next trip even before you’ve left.

Two pieces of advice:

Don’t have an itinerary. Make a list, but keep it flexible. Remember everything is governed by the weather. Hopefully it’ll be cracking the flags and you’ll be stocking up on suncream. But you might well end up sulking in your tent, wondering if you can be bothered to go to the pub. So have some rainy day plans as well.

Talk to people. Particularly if you’re on a campsite, you’ll be surrounded be people who will have been before. Get chatting and find out where they suggest – maybe they’ve got a spectacular spectating spot, or have discovered a cracking chippy.

I’ve done quite a lot of spectating over the years, I really enjoy going off somewhere and spending the day with my earpiece radio and race guide. I like to have a couple of beers while I’m watching, so my spectating revolves around public transport. But it is still possible to get away from the crowds without too much walking. And the public transport on the Island is superb – clean, on time, not too rammed, and the buses have free wifi.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Where’s good for spectating? Have a think about what kind of racing you want to see. Do you want to experience flat out speed? Do you want a slow bit where you can see the whites of their eyes? A technical bit? The mountain? Famous locations? Near a pub? In a hedge? The possibilities are endless. Bear in mind that in some places you’ll be stuck there until the roads open, and on the mountain there’s a further wait while the one-way system is put back in place. And not everywhere has the luxury of toilets or a burger van.

Weather forecasts are only so much use – the Island is renowned for its microclimates, and I’ve lost count of the times it’s been glorious in Ramsey but everything is delayed as the heavens have opened at the grandstand, or the mountain is shrouded in mist.

Also, even on a stunning day, it’s chilly in the shade, particularly if you’re not moving around. There’s nothing more miserable than going to a suntrap in your shorts and t-shirt, and as the day goes on the sun moves round and everyone else is now wearing seventeen layers and there’s another couple of hours ’til the roads open.

I always try and spend one of the race days spectating up the mountain. Bus to Laxey, buy a picnic and a few beers in the corner shop, and then join the enormous queue for a tram up to Bungalow. On race days the trams stop short of the road, but you can cross over the footbridge and jump on another tram to the summit. I usually walk up towards the old museum building and Joey’s statue, find a shady spot to keep my picnic cool and then I’m set for the day. And you can always wander back down to the tram and head up to the summit for cake.

I would definitely recommend spectating at least one practice session from the Grandstand – tickets are cheaper and easier to get hold of, and as practice takes place from about 6pm you can spend a couple of hours wandering round the paddock, watch scrutineering, and do a bit of souvenir shopping, all the while keeping an eye out for famous faces.

And don’t forget your time away from the racing. Do you want to spend it in the pub, soaking up the atmosphere? Or do you want to do a bit of exploring? For a lazy day I can highly recommend the ice cream parlour by the Villa Marina on Douglas prom – there is loads of outside seating, and it’s great for watching the world go by, particularly when a ferry has just unloaded. Most events are listed in the programme, from live music to beach racing to stunt shows to fireworks to Red Arrows displays, but it’s definitely worth picking up a local paper for more gig listings.

There’s plenty to do if the weather doesn’t play ball. Have an adventure on a steam train or the electric tram, visit one of the several museums around the Island – the Douglas museum usually has a TT-themed exhibition, and the Villa Marina cinema in Douglas shows a selection of bike-themed films. Or there is always the pub.

Stained glass windows at St Ninian’s

And a handy hint – many churches around the island open up as cafes during TT fortnight, quite often with photography displays. I can highly recommend St Ninian’s, with it’s TT-themed stained glass windows, an upstairs exhibition space, and excellent lemon drizzle cake. Maybe next year I’ll work on doing a cake-based guide to TT fortnight…

The TT really is a holiday like no other, and if you’ve never been I hope I’ve given you a taste of it. Just writing this has made me long to be back there – I’ve got my sailings booked for next year, and I’m already counting the days ’til I pack my rucksack and head up to Heysham on my Ducati Scrambler.

Whatever you decide to do while you’re over there, you’ll be planning your next trip even before you set off home.