Luthi pips Morbidelli in Phillip Island Thriller


Tom Lüthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) has taken his first ever back-to-back victories in the world championship, as he slipstreamed Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli to the line in Australia – overtaking the Italian in a stunning photo finish only a week after his victory at the Twin Ring Motegi. Dynavolt Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese completed the podium for his first rostrum in over a year, bouncing back from a tough season marred by injury.

Blue skies, good weather and finally a completely dry track at Phillip Island saw Moto2™ line up a little late after a dramatic Moto3™ race, with Lüthi getting the holeshot from pole and as you were at the front – with a key loser off the line proving Championship leader and reigning Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport). As Lüthi then had a big moment, Morbidelli then struck for the lead – but the Swiss rider hit back and the front row set off at the head of the race.

From a tough starting position of P15 for Championship contender Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40), the Spaniard was up into P6 with 20 laps to go – with Zarco back in P13 – as he attempted to cut the Frenchman’s 21 point lead ahead of the Australian GP. Then Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was the first big name to crash out – rider ok – as the Brit suffered his fifth fall of the weekend early on, before Rins saw his title chances take another big hit as he ended up in the gravel soon after.

The front group of Lüthi, Morbidelli and Pasini remained clear in the lead, with the three keeping pace with each other – and Lüthi, P3 in the Championship, seeing his “Rins – out” pit board. As the three remained in the 1:34 laptimes, Zarco began to drop back through the field – in P14 by 11 laps to go.

After a strong turn of pace at the start, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) fell back into the clutches of Misano winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing), with the Italian taking over in P4 and Folger holding on in the top five – until Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Folger’s teammate Sandro Cortese overhauled the Brno winner. Cortese continued his stunning pace and ride through the field to take the podium, with Nakagami fading slightly as he felt the effects of his highside crash in Qualifying – and Pasini falling out of contention at Turn 4.

Baldassarri finished P4, ahead of Nakagami by the flag as Folger held on to P6. Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) had a solid ride to P7, with Axel Pons (AGR Team) taking eighth ahead of an impressive performance from Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing), who came home in ninth. Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) completed the top ten.

Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) headed reigning Champion Zarco, as the Frenchman finished the race in P12 – with Jesko Raffin (Sports-Millions-EMWE-SAG), Edgar Pons (Paginas Amalrillas HP40) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsi Honda Team Asia) completing the points positions.

With Lowes and Rins both crashing out, and Zarco down in P12, Lüthi was the big winner in Phillip Island – cutting his deficit in the title fight significantly as the penultimate round of the year at Sepang International Circuit approaches. He took over in P2 in the title, now only 22 points down, and showed the adage can be true – he who dares really can sometimes win.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

AGR Team Salvage positives from Tricky Phillip Island weekend

The weather forecast was right and the day started at Phillip Island without rain and with a little bit of sun, though with an ambient temperature of 12º that caused many crashes in Moto3 and then also in Moto2. The final position of our riders was in some degree due to some crash of the riders in front, but mostly to their honour and competitiveness.

Our riders started from different rows of the grid, 4th for Schrötter and Pons from 7th. And until mid-race it was the German who was ahead of the Spanish rider in the competition between the two Argiñano & Ginés Racing Team riders. But in the second half, things changed and Áxel went ahead. The Catalan rider led a group of 5 that also included Schrötter, Vierge, Simeón and the Champion Zarco, who finished behind our riders.

They fought for the 9th position. They had Corsi 5 seconds ahead and they were not able to catch him in the end, though they did reduce his advantage by 2 seconds. In the end, the 8th and 9th place for the AGR riders was due to Pasini’s crash a couple of laps before the chequered flag.

The team is gathering its things in Phillip Island to go to Sepang, where the title could be decided. Tomorrow, Monday, we will have a day of rest in the island, but in the evening, we will go to Melbourne to take the flight to Malaysia. There we will have the last race of the Asian tour, the penultimate of the year.

Áxel Pons: I think we had more pace

“I’m happy with the result. Yesterday we made a mistake and we paid it today. We recovered positions, but starting so far back it was impossible to get to the leading group, though I think we had pace for more. I’m happy with the weekend, overall, and I want to keep this path for the last two races of the championship”.

Marcel Schrotter: The bike was dangerous under acceleration

“Another difficult day, because we want more, but at least we finished in the top 10. At the start, I lost some position and I couldn’t get the line, so I had to fight and recover. I had some trouble during the race, which sometimes delayed me and sometimes the bike made a dangerous move when accelerating. In fact, it was a difficult weekend, but I was able to stay in this group and overtake another 3 rivals. It’s important to be in the group and feel that you are in a competitive situation”.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Hernandez back to Moto2 with AGR

The Argiñano & Ginés Racing Team has started to give shape to its 2017 project. The first agreement is with Colombian Yonny Hernández (25/7/1988, Medellín), who is now riding a Ducati in MotoGP. Hernández arrived to the World Championship in Moto 2 and stayed in the class for two seasons, 2010 and 2011, before jumping to the highest class, where he has been for 5 seasons, one of them with Ducati.

The Moto2 class is now very different from how it was when Yonny was here. He will have the most competitive prototype up to now, the Kalex. The 6th place is his first objective, as it was his best result, achieved in 2011 (5th on the grid). Apart from a fastest lap in race.

Yonny Hernández competed in a total of 31 races in Moto2 and up to now he has competed in 84 in MotoGP, with a 5th as a best result on the grid and a 7th place as final race result. His name had already been in the list of possible riders for the team, as he caught the attention of our former Sports Director Ginés Guirado (RIP).

Yonny Hernández: I Hope to Fight at the Top

“I’m very grateful and looking forward to be part of this team and this new project. I hope I will be able to fight to be on top. This is a new challenge for me, I hope things go well and we are able to do a good job together”.

Iker Burutxaga, Team Manager: We will confirm the next steps soon

“We’re very happy with this acquisition for next year. We’re sure that we have chances to be on top with Yonny. We’ll work hard to help him adapt as soon as possible. We are very happy with this first step of the AGR project for 2017, of which we’ll confirm the next steps in the next few weeks”.

Lowes reignites the championship hopes of Great Britain by taking Aragon Moto2 win

Team Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 rider Sam Lowes converted his excellent pace in practice and qualifying into a race winning performance at today’s Aragon Grand Prix, the 26-year-old Briton scoring his second victory of the season in style.

After a few laps Sam started to open a gap on the other riders and then he crossed the finish line with over three second over Spaniard Alex Marquez, second under the checkered flag. Thanks to this great result, Lowes has now 162 points in the standings, 40 points behind Championship leader Johann Zarco.

Lowes: I was really confident

“We worked really hard all weekend, making long runs in every practice session, so I was really confident for the race. That’s why I tried to get to the front as soon as possible and make a god rhythm. Once I had a bit of a gap I just tried to relax and keep my pace. This makes a change compared to the last few races, we have shown a good level of competitiveness and it’s nice. Now we are 40 points behind the lead in the Championship, so everything can happen and for sure we won’t give up. I feel good on the bike and we will take this confidence to Japan, where we will do our best!”.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Lowes “Determined to get a good result” in Aragon

The 2016 Moto2 World Championship resumes this weekend at Motorland Aragon, in Spain, with Sam Lowes and the Team Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 called to get a good result after the two setbacks suffered at Silverstone and Misano.

Despite the lack of results, in England and on the Adriatic Coast Lowes showed the potential to fight for a podium finish, therefore at Aragon the target is to fight once again for the top position, in order to collect important points for the standings, which now sees the 26-year-old British rider in fourth place with 137 points.

Lowes: The test at Valencia was productive

“We head to Aragon determined to get a good result: I like the track a lot and I can’t wait to be back on track and start working together with the team. After the race at Misano we moved to Valencia for two days of testing that proved very productive: we worked hard, trying many solutions together with Kalex and Ohlins, getting a good feedback and maintaining a good pace. Therefore we look with confidence to this weekend’s Grand Prix!”.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Binder and Oliveira Spearhead new Moto2 KTM Project

Red Bull KTM Ajo will increase their presence at Grand Prix level in 2017 with a new team in Moto2 and a new KTM bike. KTM will thus become the first manufacturer to have a presence in all three classes: Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. Alongside them as they take this important step, Red Bull KTM Ajo will run riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira in the project.

Red Bull, KTM and Ajo Motorsport join forces once again in 2017, building on their success in Moto3 with an expansion to the intermediate class. In their five years of collaboration to date, the team have taken a World Championship (2012), two runner-up spots (2014 and 2015) and a current lead of 106 points in the overall standings in Moto3. Red Bull KTM Ajo will also be the only team using the new KTM Moto2 bike, which debuts in the category. For Ajo Motorsport, this will be their third season in Moto2; last year they achieved the title, while this year they lead the standings with three points in the overall rankings.

The rider lineup will consist of familiar faces, who have come up through the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Binder, currently the Moto3 leader with 106 points, stays with the team and accompanies them on their exciting new venture. The South African, who came into the team last year, has a total of five wins and 11 podiums in five full seasons at Grand Prix level.

Miguel Oliveira returns to the structure with which he was proclaimed World Championship runner-up in 2015. The Portuguese, who this year debuted in Moto2, has six wins and seven podiums to his name, all in Moto3.

This new project, which has already enjoyed positive tests over the past year, will begin in earnest from November 16th, when the riders will get onboard the new KTM for the first time.

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “We’ve now enjoyed five years of successful collaboration with Aki Ajo in Moto3. We are very happy that he and our main sponsor Red Bull are offering us the perfect structure to move into Moto2 so we can have a presence in all classes of Grand Prix Racing in 2017. We see the intermediate class mainly as a platform for keeping riders in the KTM Family, which begins with the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and will run right through to MotoGP. The WP motorsports department has been fully integrated into KTM, and just as it is in Moto3 and MotoGP, the new Moto2 bike is being developed and built completely in-house. Brad Binder has had a very successful season this year and hopefully he will wrap up the championship. Now we’re happy that he can step up into the new Moto2 team. Also, we’re very pleased to welcome Miguel Oliveira back into the Orange Family after one year in Moto2.”

Aki Ajo, Team Manager: “Firstly, I am very happy to continue the cooperation with Red Bull and KTM and make this move together in Moto2. Now we will all be much closer to each other, working together in two classes and with the whole Red Bull KTM family in all three classes, which is something historic. We are very grateful to be part of this great project with KTM and Red Bull. It is also nice to start out with a pair of riders who we already know well. Brad (Binder) has spent two seasons with us and Miguel (Oliveira) had an incredible season last year in the team. Both have won races with us, so I cannot be more expectant than this. We have two riders who we know, who are young, eager, and with a positive attitude for this project.”

Binder: I learned a lot from Ajo in 2015 and this year

“First of all I want to say I am very grateful for this new opportunity given to me by the team in Moto2. I want to thank Aki Ajo and all the people and partners who have been helping so I could take this step up. After how this year has been, there is nothing that could excite me more than staying at Red Bull KTM Ajo and competing in Moto2. I really like this team; I like the respect between all the members and I know that the decisions they make are always the best to keep the team and riders on top. I know it will be very difficult, but I’m very motivated for this and I am already looking forward to it. It will be nice to start in a new class, with everything new and a lot to learn. My goal is to go out each day and give 110% to learn as quickly as possible. I am very happy to be back sharing a garage with Miguel (Oliveira), I learned a lot from him in 2015 and sure we will push each other; we will have fun. Everyone knows that if Red Bull KTM Ajo make a motorcycle, it will be good.”

Oliveira: I believe in this project

“I’m very happy to be returning to the Red Bull KTM Ajo family, and to a very professional team that brought me a lot of success. In fact, my most successful season to date came with them. I’m very happy and grateful to Aki (Ajo) and KTM for choosing me and for trusting in me to start this ambitious project with the KTM Moto2. I believe a lot in this new project, that I will have a very strong team alongside me, and that we will be able to get the best results possible. I will give my all in this new venture. I will be back sharing a garage with Brad (Binder), a very good person and rider, and I am sure that we will work very well together to gather the best data possible and take the KTM to the top.”

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Parc Fermé

In my latest weekly column Parc Fermé, I cast my mind back to a weekend of phenomenal bike racing and look ahead at what is to come. Let’s just hope it’s not a #93 world championship.

A weekend of Grand Prix motorcycle racing at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli and the British Superbike ‘Showdown Decider’ at Oulton Park.

Just that opening paragraph is enough to have you bouncing your knees in excitement and feeling the goosebumps develop all over your skin.

As soon as Jorge Navarro crashed out at Misano the commentators should just have declared there and then that Brad Binder is the 2016 Moto3 champion. He is now 106 points in front of second place Enea Bastianini. I don’t care what sort of rider you are, unless Binder is going to throw his bike at the scenery for the next five races (and I can’t see that happening) South Africa will be crowning itself a world champion. It is shame though. I really thought that Binder and Navarro were going to go at it hammer and tongs to the very last race. I even thought riders like Bastianini, Bulega, Antonelli and Fenati were going to mount a serious challenge. It wasn’t to be.

I know there are a few people out there who have said they find Brad a bit boring during interviews, but I like him. I like how he conducts himself and the way he keeps a cool, calm and collected manner about him. He is a worthy champion, of that I have no doubt.

After the furore of Silverstone (mostly from British fans) regarding Zarco and Lowes, it was time to see what would happen at Misano. Well, not much between them to be honest. Sam was unfortunately down again and I hate to say it, but I think that’s his championship hopes gone with his bike into the gravel.

Alex Rins. Well. Broke both collar bones and rode his bloody socks off, yet it was the hustling, determined and downright dogged Lorenzo Baldassarri who took the spoils. His performance, the way he hunted down Rins was exceptional. I won’t hide the fact that I was quite pleased to see Zarco drop like a stone, or as Julian Ryder quite eloquently put it “Zarco has been taken outside and beaten up.” Oh well, never mind. I was really pleased to see Rins and Baldassarri battling at the front for the win.

What I wasn’t expecting was a Dani Pedrosa victory in MotoGP. In fact I don’t think most people were expecting a Pedrosa win. Where the hell did that come from? I watched with interest as Rossi closed the gap down on Lorenzo, inch by inch the tarmac shortened and the sea of yellow in the stands erupted as the GOAT went into the lead. But hold on….wait a minute. What’s that in the background creeping up?

It was a Repsol Honda bike but not the bully boy #93 of Marquez, no it wasn’t. It was the #26 of Pedrosa.

I was ever so happy to see Pedrosa burst like a bullet underneath Marquez sitting him up as he went by. That’s the second time today I’ve been happy. Although I wasn’t expecting a Pedrosa victory it was a win that I don’t think anybody would deny him. He rode an absolutely phenomenal race.

The gap in the world championship is down to 43 points and if I am being honest I don’t mind who of the chasing pack wins the title this year, as long as it’s not the #93. I think that Marc Marquez is one of the most talented riders there has ever been. What he can do with a motorcycle is just unbelievable and he is without doubt a true great. I just don’t like his riding ethics and his smarmy, arrogant nature off the track. That’s the only reason I don’t want him to win the world championship. Nothing else.

The setting for the British Superbike ‘Showdown Decider’ was Oulton Park. Now, unlike the above, there is no superbike rider who I have glee in seeing dropping down the order. It was a real topsy turvy, roller coaster affair this one but I have to say the highlight of the weekend for me was witnessing racing history.

Three JG Speedfit Kawasaki riders locking out the podium positions, the first time in British Superbike history and this coming from a fan of another bike racing team as well. It is always a special moment watching racing history being made.

I did manage two rather large shots when I witnessed both Tommy Bridewell and Jake Dixon go down hard, their bikes catapulting across the grass to the fencing. Bridewell’s bike actually went over the fencing and on both occasions the fans were running for cover.

So, we have our final six riders for the Championship Showdown. Leon Haslam, Shakey Byrne, Jason O’Halloran, James Ellison, Dan Linfoot and Luke Mossey. Three Kawasaki’s, two Honda’s and a Ducati. It’s going to be some run-in to the end of the season, but where do I think the title will go.

As a fan, my heart says Shakey Byrne, as a Byrne fan and lifelong Ducati fan. My head says Leon Haslam, I just think he has hit a rich vein of form and looks the business at the moment. If I was going to pick a rider outside of those two I’d want Luke Mossey to win it. I like him, I like the way he conducts himself.

Whether it was Moto3, Moto2, MotoGP, British Superbikes or British Supersport, at the weekend I still managed to witness more excitement in one weekend than a certain racing series all season that I can’t be bothered to mention again.

The Grand Prix racers move to Aragon and the British Superbike riders go to Donington. In all of the series it’s just going to be one hell of an end to the season.

Until the next time. See you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Mixed race for AGR Moto2 Team

In the race, Marcel started from 13th and Áxel 16th. And there was a disaster. Pons crashed in the first lap, not by his fault, and Marcel had an off-track excursion in the second. The Argiñano & Ginés Racing Team was literally out and there was still a lot of the race left to go. Áxel returned to the garage and had pain in one hand, while Marcel took started a great recovery. The German rider of the AGR went from the 23rd to the 11th position, finishing just outside the top 10 that he wanted so much.

Schrötter showed that he had a better pace than many other riders. Some of them he passed easily, with others he had to work harder. He also benefited from some crash ahead. He crossed the Finish line less than two seconds.

Marcel Schrotter: I didn’t have much grip

“I must ask the team to forgive me. I did a good lap, but in turn 4 of the second lap I felt someone push me, I tried to hold the ground but I was hit and went off track. Under those conditions it was difficult to fight, but I tried to push in all laps until the end. During the warm-up we had tried something that went well, but during the race the conditions had changed a lot and I didn’t feel I had much grip. I think I fought well in the end, but I’m not happy with the times. We were able to gather some points”.

Áxel Pons: We had good pace

“No luck, I was hit in the second corner and the work of the whole weekend went away. We had good pace. It’s a pity. I’m already thinking about Aragon. We are competing at home, so we have to get a good result”.

Kiko Giles

MotoGP’s fight against Tragedy

Lorenzo Baldassarri’s victory in Sunday’s Moto2 race was a timely reminder that the MotoGP paddock goes beyond the world of sport, as the Italian was fully decked out in his Stars and Stripes livery.

The Forward Racing rider has been due a win for a long time, but the main reason for this feature is because of the sheer meaning and significance that the win had. On a day that 15 years ago would never be forgotten, nor could it have ever been predicted, it almost seems strange that we celebrate a tribute just like this.

It was almost scripted. Baldassarri’s home race. His first race win. And on a day that is so often associated with negative events, a breath of fresh air was hovering over to finally cheer something on. Good times were much needed too, after controversy in the Moto2 paddock last time out, it took the sting and all the bad thoughts from Silverstone.

But it was a much needed win for other reasons. Considering he was riding with the American Flag livery, and for the reason he was riding with it, it makes sense to link this to terrorism. The 9/11 attacks were sadly not the last atrocities on Earth, and that makes the win very fitting. This shows that no matter how much terrorism happens or what the political situation is in certain countries, it will always be the people on the side of the victims that show us just how to deal with it.

The victory for Balda today shows that MotoGP is standing up to terrorism around the world. That it isn’t going to let savages win and let innocent victims be forgotten. It shows that the best way to remember the lost and the families affected, is to do your best and win at what you’re good at. Try your best and if you don’t succeed then you keep trying because you don’t know what may happen tomorrow.

It was an emotionally draining event for everyone at Misano too. 6 years ago we lost Shoya Tomizawa and on Thursday, the late great Marco Simoncelli had his number 58 retired at the circuit that is named after the 250cc champion. Wayne Rainey’s career was cut short at this very circuit and on top of all that, Italy was still grieving after last month’s tragic earthquake. Which brings me on to the win from Lorenzo. It has reunited a country; remembered those we have lost to terrorism on a day that connotes tragedy; remembered Simoncelli in a way that he would have wanted and on top of all, highlighted that despite however many difficult periods this track has been through, and how many names are remembered at Misano, success is inevitable and that you have two extremes at each end of a scale. Travesty and terror at one, yet supremacy and delight at the other. A weekend that will be remembered for so many good reasons, a day that finally has something to celebrate. Lorenzo Baldassarri has really done the world proud.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Baldassarri Wins Moto2 Thriller at Home

Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing) took a stunning win at Misano World Circuit in his first appearance on the top step, after a game of cat-and-mouse with Paginas Amarillas HP 40 title contender Alex Rins kept Misano on their feet. After some chaotic early laps, Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) completed the podium for his third rostrum in a row at the venue, as championship leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) found himself knocked down to P4.

After a Moto3 race more tactical than the usual on-track dynamite, the baton was passed to Moto2 to switch things up a gear and the intermediate class did not disappoint. With fantastic Adriatic weather beaming down from the powder blue skies, Moto2 set up a thriller at Misano. Zarco and Nakagami got the best starts from the front row, before the Japanese rider took Turn 1 too hot and then pushed Garage Plus Interwetten rider Tom Luthi wide over the run off area. With the Swiss rider rejoining easily, Nakagami then had a moment and found himself down in P8 by the end of the first lap.

Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) had an aggressive first lap to tag onto the back of the leaders, with Luthi just ahead of him on track and Baldassari and Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) shadowing championship leader Zarco. After a lap full of drama, the reigning champion then found himself wrestled down to P5 – with title rival Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Racing Moto2) right behind him on track. Lowes got past the Frenchman as the Ajo rider’s tough start of the race continued, with Zarco then finding himself down in P6 with Friday’s fastest Nakagami glued to his rear wheel – and soon past him.

With Rins able to break clear and Baldassarri following on the chase, the podium battle behind got brutal as Lowes, Morbidelli and Nakagami battled it out ahead of Luthi and Zarco. Pushing just a bit too hard with 13 laps to go, Lowes then lost it and found himself sliding out of the race – and possibly the title fight.

Nakagami broke free to chase the leaders down, with Rins out at the front but the pace starting to waiver for the Moto2 title contender. With a healing collarbone after a training accident ahead of the British GP, the Spaniard pushed to retain his advantage – one that would have seen him lead the championship on the way to his home track MotorLand Aragon – and tried to hold on in a superhuman effort.

In front of the home fans however, a healthy Baldassari gradually reeled in the Paginas Amarillas HP 40 rider ahead of him. Rins’s defense was incredible as the Spaniard pushed to keep up the pace despite the injury, but on the penultimate lap the Italian pounced. Rins, who was left with the choice of play safe or fight back, still wouldn’t let him go and stuck to the Italian’s back wheel before trying a move on the final lap. With Baldassarri defensive and nearing the line for his impressive maiden win, Rins ran wide and settled for the P2 after his superhuman display.

Morbidelli crossed the line in P5, ahead of Silverstone winner Luthi. Petronas Raceline Malaysia rider Hafizh Syahrin had a solid ride to P7, just ahead of Intact Dynavolt GP duo Jonas Folger and Sandro Cortese. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) gained some more confidence back with another solid finish to round out the top ten.

With Lowes down, Zarco off the podium and Rins taking home a haul of 20 points, the championship gap at the top is now 3 points between the Frenchman and the Spaniard. Next up? Rins’ home turf as MotorLand Aragon beckons its local hero home.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

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