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

Rookie Fernandez Takes Second Win of the Season

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

Dream double-header making History for Brit in Qatar

It was a Qatar dream to end the double-header for British rider Sam Lowes in the jam-packed Moto2 race at the Losail International Circuit.

Sam Lowes, Winner of the second round of the 2021 MotoGP championship. Remy Gardner second and Raul Fernandez. Image courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)|KTM

Sam became the first British rider since Mike Hailwood to win the opening 2 rounds of the season in the intermediate class since 1966.

Despite the victory, challenging weather conditions throughout the entirety of the weekend made it challenging for teams across the board – battling against the Doha winds and dust in order to find the pace and comfortable set-up for race day.

The Adriatic man Marco Bezzecchi lead the race for the opening laps after getting a fantastic start, however it wasn’t enough for the Elf Marc VDS rider to sit and watch behind him – as with 17 laps to go Sam was able to overtake and held on comfortably for the entirety. It wasn’t particularly peachy for all riders though, as things soon turned sour for a number of laps as the pressure was heightened. 

One of the victims of this was John Hopkins’ apprentice Joe Roberts who, although finished a respectable 6th last weekend under the lights – on the 8th lap tucked into a slide. This was also bad news for Ai Ogura, who in order to avoid Robert’s sliding machine had to run far wide off track. 

Joining fellow American rider was Cameron Beaubier who with 12 laps to go came off his machine. Cameron had been strong all weekend with the American Racing Team, last weekend finishing 11th. It had been a positive weekend for the team with Beaubier getting to grips with the track, bike and team despite the challenging conditions.

It wasn’t all sunshine and positive endings for the Brits today. Petronas SRT rider Jake Dixon suffered a fairly mystical accident with 7 laps to go today, looking upon inspection taking Marcel Shrötter down with him. The crash was not actually shown live, but instead panned to imagery of both riders and their machines down. Liqui Moly Intact GP rider Shrötter appeared up and unharmed during the live race, however Dixon was still down. Later reports confirmed that it was a solo racing incident on behalf of the Brit that unfortunately couldn’t be avoided by Shrötter. Thankfully, Jake confirmed on his Twitter account that although gutted with ending the weekend with a DNF he was feeling okay after the crash.

Following last weekends’ penalty involving team mate Xavi Vierge, it’s fair to say Jake is looking ahead to Portimao with a clean, fresh head with the focus to maintain the fantastic pace he’s shown in the opening two rounds of the championship.

Towards the end of the race Solunion Aspar Team rider Canet ended a tough weekend for the team in the gravel – following not far behind by SAG Team rider Thomas Luthi who has been fairly under the radar this weekend. The initial incident for Luthi made for worrying viewing, however the rider was up and unharmed.

It was a stunning race for Red Bull Ajo KTM team with last weeks’ runner up Remy Gardner showing no defeat this weekend. He consistently held good pace not letting Lowes get away. Smashing Luthi’s all-time lap record at the circuit in the final lap, Gardner walked away with another 20 points in the bag. Orange plastered the podium as joined beside his team mate was rookie Raul Fernandez who has shown great pace all weekend, proving that not all rookie’s need time to settle! 

Personal special mention to Stefano Manzi who, to say the least has had a few seasons of finding his feet again in order to find the right bike for him. He held strong and consistent pace today which was reflected highly in his lap times and ultimately his finishing result of 8th position. A fantastic result for himself and the Pons Racing team.

FIRST FIFTEEN RIDERS

1 – Sam Lowes

2 – Remy Gardner

3 – Raul Fernandez

4 – Marco Bezzecchi

5 – Ai Ogura

6 – Augusto Fernandez

7 – Celestino Vietti

8 – Stefano Manzi

9 – Xavi Vierge

10 – Fabio Di Giannantonio

11 – Tony Arbolino

12 – Bo Bensnyder

13 – Jorge Navarro

14 – Lorenzo Dalla Porta

15 – Albert Arenas  

Overall, what a way to kick start the season. This weekends’ racing is an absolute credit to all those working hard to ensure us viewers have access to a safe season of racing. The upcoming Portimao race leaves Lowes ahead of the game with 50 points in the bag, Gardner only shy behind with 40.

As they say where our bikes land next, vejo você em breve!

Sam Lowes takes first win of the season in Moto2 in Qatar

Sam Lowes became the first British rider since the late, great Barry Sheene to win an opening grand prix of the season. Although Sheene’s last opening day victory was in 1979, he did win the opening races in both his title years 1976 & 1977 and Lowes will hope for the same success by the end of the season.

Sam Lowes, Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

The 30-year-old was in commanding form all weekend, second in FP1 and fastest in FP2 before taking pole position on Saturday. Although he was passed by both Bo Bendsneyder and Marco Bezzecchi at the start he soon took the lead and controlled the race from the front. After missing out on a challenge for the 2020 title through injury, the 2013 World Supersport champion will be hoping every race weekend goes as smoothly as this one.

Remy Gardner finished second for Red Bull KTM Ajo after passing his teammate Raul Fernandez with twelve laps to go. Although the Australian rider could not catch Lowes, he did finish three seconds ahead of third place after a solid ride. Fernandez dropped down to fifth place in the end but should be delighted with his showing over the weekend, especially qualifying on the front row on his debut.

The battle for the last step on the podium was a great one between Italian riders Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi. In the end, Gresini rider Di Giannantonio came out victorious and it was a great tribute to the late Fausto Gresini to see one of his riders on the podium. It was the fifth podium for the 22-year-old who is still chasing that first elusive win. Bezzecchi was fourth overall last season and is expected to be the main challenger to Lowes this year but missed out on the podium by just 0.013 seconds.

Joe Roberts and Jake Dixon were in close company for much of the race on Sunday. Dixon in particular can be pleased with his performance as he is still recovering from a wrist injury which will have hampered his ability and certainly his stamina. It can surely only be a matter of time before the Brit takes his first podium finish.

Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Germany’s Marcel Schrotter finished eighth ahead of Bo Bendsneyder who achieved his second-best finish in Moto2. The Dutch rider looked much better on the Kalex chassis after riding Tech 3 and NTS since he graduated to the class in 2018. Jorge Navarro came home tenth on the first non-Kalex bike, the Boscoscuro which is a re-branded Speed Up.

American Cameron Beaubier had an impressive first race in Moto2. The five-times AMA Superbike champion qualified 22nd but made steady progress throughout the race and finished eleventh in front of rookie Celestino Vietti.

FIRST FIFTEEN RIDERS

1 – Sam Lowes – GBR – Elf Marc VDS Racing – 25 points
2 – Remy Gardner – AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 – Fabio Di Giannantonio – ITA – Federal oil Gresini – 16
4 – Marco Bezzecchi – ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 13
5 – Raul Fernandez – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 11
6 – Joe Roberts – USA – Italtrans Racing – 10
7 – Jake Dixon – GBR – Petronas Sprinta – 9
8 – Marcel Schrotter – GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 8
9 – Bo Bendsneyder – NED – Pertamina SAG – 7
10 – Jorge Navarro – SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 6
11 – Cameron Beaubier – USA – American Racing – 5

12 – Celestino Vietti – ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 4
13 – Aron Canet – SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 3
14 – Augusto Fernandez – SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing – 2
15 – Thomas Luthi – SUI – Pertamina SAG – 1