Moto2 Qualifying: Lowes Sets a Lap Record Around Le Mans

After leading the way yesterday, Sam Lowes set the fastest-ever lap around the Le Mans circuit on a Moto2 bike on his way to claiming pole position. He will be joined on the front row of the grid tomorrow by Alonso Lopez and Tony Arbolino.

As expected in Q1, no rider was certain to make it through to the second round of qualifying, but Jeremy Alcoba, Dennis Foggia and Fermin Aldeguer hoped they could secure a top-four position in Q1 to get them onto the front six rows of the grid. Few riders were able to test out the track with slick tyres this morning due to the track conditions.

Lukas Tulovic set the early pace with a 1.36.539 and this remained the top time until the final moments of the session when Fermin Aldeguer went 0.1s faster around the Le Mans circuit. Along with the Speed Up Racing and Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP riders, Barry Baltus and Bo Bendsneyder made it through the second round of qualifying.

In the second part of qualifying, Filip Salac and Celestino Vietti were topping the time sheets early on with a 1:36.135 and 1:36.178 respectively. Pedro Acosta struggled with the bike towards the start of the session, slotting into sixth place just over two-tenths off the pace set by Salac.

With just under eight minutes to go, Bendsneyder went down in the fourth sector. This cancelled the laps of multiple riders but also allowed them to regroup and plan their attacks for the rest of the session.

Arbolino, Jake Dixon and Lowes were following each other on the track with five and a half minutes to go, setting fastest sector after fastest sector. The tow provided by the two riders in front of Lowes, allowed the ELF Marc VDS Racing Team rider to set the fastest lap around the circuit on a Moto2 bike with a 1:35.791.

Tulovic and Dixon went down at the same time at turns nine and seven respectively causing yellow flags in sectors two, three and four with just over two minutes left on the clock. Luckily, these flags were cleared quickly.

With five seconds left, Lopez crossed the line to go second fastest with a 1:36.036. He was about to start his final flying lap before Aron Canet crashed and caused a red flag. The red flag was due to Canet’s bike being in the middle of the track.

Following the red flag, the session did not restart as there were only a few seconds left on the clock. This means that, for the second race in a row, Lowes will start with no other rider in front of him. Championship leader Acosta starts the race from the middle of the second row with Salac ahead of him and Vietti behind.

2023 FRENCH MOTO2 GRAND PRIX, LE MANS – QUALIFYING RESULTS
POS RIDER NAT TEAM BIKE TIME
1 Sam Lowes GBR Elf Marc VDS Racing Team (Kalex) 1m 35.791s
2 Alonso Lopez SPA Lightech SpeedUp (Boscoscuro) 1m 36.036s
3 Tony Arbolino ITA Elf Marc VDS Racing Team (Kalex) 1m 36.053s
4 Filip Salac CZE QJMOTOR Gresini Moto2 (Kalex) 1m 36.135s
5 Pedro Acosta SPA Red Bull KTM Ajo (Kalex) 1m 36.169s
6 Celestino Vietti ITA Fantic Racing (Kalex) 1m 36.178s
7 Somkiat Chantra THA IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia (Kalex) 1m 36.180s
8 Jake Dixon GBR Inde GASGAS Aspar M2 (Kalex) 1m 36.225s
9 Manuel Gonzalez SPA Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 (Kalex) 1m 36.354s
10 Barry Baltus BEL Fieten Olie Racing GP (Kalex) 1m 36.437s
11 Fermín Aldeguer SPA Lightech SpeedUp (Boscoscuro) 1m 36.474s
12 Albert Arenas SPA Red Bull KTM Ajo (Kalex) 1m 36.537s
13 Aron Canet SPA Pons Wegow Los40 (Kalex) 1m 36.686s
14 Bo Bendsneyder NED Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team (Kalex) 1m 36.726s
15 Lukas Tulovic GER Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP (Kalex) 1m 36.794s
16 Ai Ogura JPN IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia (Kalex) 1m 36.998s
17 Joe Roberts USA Italtrans Racing Team (Kalex) 1m 37.005s
18 Sergio Garcia SPA Pons Wegow Los40 (Kalex) 1m 37.060s
19 Sean Dylan Kelly USA American Racing (Kalex) 1m 36.726s
20 Jeremy Alcoba SPA QJMOTOR Gresini Moto2 (Kalex) 1m 36.836s
21 Marcos Ramirez SPA Forward Team (Forward) 1m 36.959s
22 Zonta Vd Goorbergh NED Fieten Olie Racing GP (Kalex) 1m 36.966s
23 Dennis Foggia ITA Italtrans Racing Team (Kalex) 1m 37.123s
24 Senna Agius AUS Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP (Kalex) 1m 37.134s
25 Lorenzo Dalla Porta ITA Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team (Kalex) 1m 37.426s
26 Rory Skinner GBR American Racing (Kalex) 1m 37.642s
27 Borja Gomez SPA Fantic Racing (Kalex) 1m 37.827s
28 Izan Guevara SPA Inde GASGAS Aspar M2 (Kalex) 1m 37.879s
29 Alex Escrig SPA Forward Team (Forward) 1m 38.500s

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

Moto2: Stunning Home Win for Ai Ogura at the Japanese GP

Ai Ogura and his Honda Team Asia machine have taken a home win at the Japanese GP. He took the lead at the half-way point in the race and never looked back. Joining him on the podium was championship leader, Augusto Fernandez and early race leader Alonso Lopez.

The tears were flowing in the Honda Team Asia garage today as Ai Ogura took a stunning home victory at the Japanese Grand Prix. He is the first rider to do so since 2006 and was greeted like a hero in parc ferme.

Whilst his win felt dominant, it was hard fought as he made his way through the pack from 13th on the grid. He made a brilliant start, leaping up to 6th in the first few corners, and never looked back.

Our championship leader faced a similarly brilliant day, coming home in 2nd despite starting in 11th. However, Augusto Fernandez will be disappointed to have not been able to catch Ogura today. He certainly had the pace to do so, evidenced on his journey up through the field.

The final podium spot was taken by Alonso Lopez who enjoyed spending much of the first half of the race in 1st. The Spanish rider enjoyed a strong race today but his performance dropped off a little too much in the final laps for him to improve on 3rd.

It was a difficult day for both Aron Canet and Fermin Aldeguer who qualified in 1st and 2nd respectively. Firstly, Aldeguer crashed out on lap 3, with Canet facing a similar fate just one lap later. Both were visibly frustrated but today felt like Canet’s race to lose. He was enjoying a comfortable lead with 1.8s of clear track behind him when he hit the gravel.

 

AS IT HAPPENED

As the lights went out, it was Aldeguer who flew off the line and quickly took the lead away from pole-sitter Canet, coming out on top as they existed turn 1. Just behind them, Somkiat Chantra overtook Jake Dixon for 3rd. However, Chantra faced a moment in the early corners and this put plenty of clear air between himself and the two leading riders and the rest of the pack. By the end of the first lap this gap was up to 0.9s, giving Canet and Aldeguer a comfortable lead.

Other strong starts were enjoyed by Cameron Beaubier as he leapt from 8th to 4th, Ogura who flew from 13th to 6th and Acosta who jumped from 18th to 13th. Sadly, after losing 3rd to Chantra, Dixon was then swallowed even further by the grid and eventually ended up in 9th, having started in 3rd.

By the end of the first lap, Ogura continued to climb and was battling hard with Beaubier for 6th. As Ogura rose up the ranks, his title contender Fernandez was still stuck down in 12th and unable to make waves in the early laps.

As Chantra struggles to close up to the leading pair, Ogura overtakes Tony Arbolino to take 4th. In doing so, he also sets the fastest lap of the race so far.

At turn 5 of lap 3, Aldeguer crashes out of the race from 2nd place. The front wheel slides from under him and he is left clearly heartbroken, dejectedly leaning on the tire wall as the marshals remove his bike from the gravel. With Aldeguer out of the race, he gifts a 1.8s lead to Canet who goes on to set the fastest lap of the race so far.

As Canet continues to push, possibly pushing too hard, he then goes down himself and crashes at turn 9 of lap 4. He is able to rejoin the field but is way down at the back of the grid before eventually retiring after a second crash on lap 16.

As the riders complete the fourth lap of the race, Chantra is leading from Arbolino in 2nd and Lopez in 3rd. Arbolino seems to struggle on lap 5 as he loses 2nd place to Lopez and, a matter of corners later, then loses 3rd place to Ogura.

Fernandez, knowing his championship contender had made his way up to the podium places, was finally starting to make waves and manages to get himself up to 6th in response. He then tries a move on Dixon for 5th but the Brit rider aggressively fights back and firmly shuts the door on him.

On lap 7, whilst leading the race, Chantra has a moment and goes wide at turn 5. This allows Lopez and Ogura to overtake him and take 1st and 2nd respectively. As he recovers from the mistake, Chantra then loses 3rd to Arbolino, leaving him stuck down in 4th having lead the race just moments earlier.

Celestino Vietti, who led the Moto2 championship for much of the first half of the season, has struggled all weekend. He qualified in 18th and then crashes out of the race on lap 8. He tries to rejoin the field but retires two laps later.

At half distance, things seemed to have settled down a little with gaps forming in the leading group. Lopez was still leading, ahead of Ogura in 2nd, Arbolino in 3rd, Chantra in 4th, Fernandez in 5th and Dixon in 6th. On lap 11, Lopez seems to start to lose some pace and Ogura is quickly hot on his tail. The gap, which had been 0.4s on the previous lap, quickly reduced down to 0.1s.

Image Credit: MotoGP

The top two riders spend the next two laps battling for 1st and, eventually, on turn 11 of lap 13, Ogura snatches and retains the lead. At the same time, his title rival, Fernandez is fighting with Arbolino for 3rd and eventually comes out on top, besting the Italian rider.

On all 14, the gap begins to grow between Ogura and Lopez, causing Lopez to fall into the clutches of chasing Fernandez. The two Spanish riders remain close for all of lap 15 and are almost side-by-side as they cross the line to start lap 16. This pressure then causes Lopez to go wide at the start of lap 16, which finally allows Fernandez through. They continue to battle for the following few laps which allows Dixon, in 4th, to catch up to them.

Everything calms down again by lap 17 as Ogura pulls out a 1.8s lead over Fernandez. After their hot battle, Lopez in third drops back to 1.1s behind Fernandez and remains 0.9s ahead of Dixon in 4th. A further 2.6s behind him is Chantra, Arbolino and Acosta.

Aware that his title rival is just one place ahead of him, Fernandez now sets the fastest lap of the race. On the following lap, in reaction to this, Ogura shaves 0.4s off his lap time. Similarly, in response to Dixon’s chasing, Lopez cuts 0.6s off his lap time. With no one able to significantly close any gaps, the riders all keep their heads and cross the checkered flag in this same order.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

With just four races left of the 2022 season, everything is still to place for in the championship and a single error could be the difference between hero and zero.

After righting his way up to 2nd place today, Fernandez remains at the top of the standings. However, today’s race win has allowed Ogura to close to the gap to just two points!

After a DNF today, both Canet and Vietti’s title fights appear to be over. Canet is 57 points behind Fernandez and Vietti is an enormous 72 points away.

Image Credit: MotoGP

Moto2: Ogura Takes Pole For Austrian GP

Ai Ogura has taken pole ahead of tomorrow’s race at the Red Bull Ring. He will be joined on the front row by Alonso Lopez and Augusto Fernandez.

Japanese rider, Ai Ogura, will start tomorrow’s Austrian GP from pole position after setting a stunning qualifying lap time of 1:33.933. Just 0.048 seconds behind him was Alonso Lopez taking 2nd place. Championship leader, Augusto Fernandez, will line up 3rd for tomorrow’s race.

The top five were covered by less than 0.2 seconds with Jake Dixon in 4th and Somkiat Chantra in 5th.

After being declared fit to race on Thursday, the returning Pedro Acosta made it to Q2 and took an impressive 6th for tomorrow’s race. Just behind him was Celestino Vietti who will be looking to make significant improvements after his recent poor performance.

Marcel Schrotter was forced to make his way through Q2 but eventually took 8th ahead of Albert Arenas and Lorenzo Dalla Porta who took 9th and 10th respectively.

After topping the time sheets in Q1, Cameron Beaubier took 11th in Q2. Fermin Aldeguer was also a Q1 progressor and, despite sitting at the top of the timing sheets in the early stages, took 12th as the session ended.

Aron Canet struggled during the session. With 3 minutes left on the clock and provisionally sitting in 11th, he crashed out of the session and was eventually shuffled back to 17th.

Tony Arbolino, who starts his 100th race this weekend, will line up in a slightly disappointing 15th. He lines up just ahead of the final Q1 progressor, Bo Bendsneyder in 16th.

Jeremy Alcoba and Joe Roberts were achingly close to a place in Q2 thanks to their final flying laps in Q1. However, they are forced to line up 19th and 20th respectively for tomorrow’s race.

All the race action will be available on Crew On Two so stay tuned for all the details!

Feature Image: MotoGP

Moto2: Fernandez Wins Action-Packed Dutch GP

Augusto Fernandez has taken back-to-back wins after taking victory in Assen. Ai Ogura enjoyed a phenomenal race as he fought his way back from 16th to 2nd. The final podium position was taken by our pole sitter, Jake Dixon, enjoying only his second ever Moto2 podium.

This year’s Dutch GP in Assen was a true spectacle with 24 laps full of action. For much of the race, we had a 7-way battle for the lead with no idea who would cross the line in the podium positions.

Augusto Fernandez eventually came out on top, enjoying back-to-back wins for only the second time in his career. With a clinical performance and well-timed moves, he took the lead on lap 17 and never looked back.

Second place went to Ai Ogura who was, arguably, the rider of the day. He faced two scary moments in the opening stages of the race, causing him to drop back to 16th.

The final podium spot went to this weekend’s polesitter, Jake Dixon. After struggling in the early stages, he found his rhythm in the latter stages and secured his second career podium.

It was a difficult day for Marcel Schrotter and Albert Arenas who had been part of the leading pack for most of the race. On lap 12, Schrotter crashed out from the lead, missing the opportunity for his maiden Moto2 win. Two laps before the checkered flag fell, Arenas also crashed out, missing out on his maiden Moto2 podium.

Despite starting on the front row, Sam Lowes also faced a difficult race. He was forced out wide on the first corner of the first lap, meaning he tumbled down to the back of the grid, before then crashing on lap 4.

Our championship leader Celestino Vietti, having started the race in 11th, was able to capitalise on these misfortunes to come home in 4th. He brought with him the home hero, Bo Bendsneyder, who crossed the line in with a career-best 5th.

Alonso Lopez, after flying off the line at the start of the race and enjoying a strong battle with the leading pack, slipped back down the grid in the latter stages of the race and ended the day in 6th.

Rounding out the top 10 was Tony Arbolino, Joe Roberts, Manuel Gonzalez and Filip Salac who all enjoyed a relatively quiet race in comparison to the leading group.

The weekend’s action was missing Aron Canet, who is still struggling with consistent nose bleeds after a car crash a few weeks ago, and Pedro Acosta, who is recovering from surgery after a training crash a few days ago.

As we head into the 5-week summer break, momentum is clearly with Fernandez. However, the battle will be hot when the grid returns in Silverstone, as the top three championship contenders are covered by just 1 point.

 

As It Happened

As the lights went out, Dixon and Lowes got a brilliant start, flying off the line. Lowes came up alongside Arenas and looked set to steal 2nd from him. However, as Lopez switched to the inside of Turn 1, he pushed Lowes wide and sent him tumbling down the order. It was a late and aggressive move from Lopez which saw Lowes sent to the back of the grid. A few corners later and Lopez was back at it again, making another aggressive move past Arenas to take 2nd.

Dixon, who had maintained the lead after his pole position start, was next on Lopez’s list. In a move that seemed to come from nowhere, Lopez snatched the lead away from the Brit rider and was leading the pack for the first time in his Moto2 career. As the grid crosses the line for the first time, Lopez was 1st, ahead of the Aspar duo of Dixon in 2nd and Arenas in 3rd. Schrotter was just behind in 4th, having started in 10th, with Ogura in 5th.

Image Credit: MotoGP

On the second lap, Ogura faced the first of two scary moments which forced him up and out of his seat as the bike wobbled beneath him. He dropped down to 9th before a similar issue on the following lap then caused him to drop further down to 16th. It appeared that his tires were not quite where he needed them to be.

On lap three, British rider Sam Lowes went down from the back of the grid to end a terrible race in the worst possible way. He will be undeniably disappointed after his strong qualifying performance.

Meanwhile, at the front of the grid, Schrotter was closing in on Lopez and looking like he wanted to challenge for the lead. On the following lap, Arenas made a move past his team mate, taking 3rd from Dixon. On lap nine, Dixon then loses 4th place to Fernandez. He thinks about fighting back and eventually makes a move a few corners later, only to move too late and almost lose 5th place to Bendsneyder. Dixon quickly swaps to defence mode and is able to remain in 5th.

On the following lap, Arenas makes a move past Lopez to take second place. Shortly after, Fernandez is also past Lopez, as the Spanish rider loses two places in as many corners.

At this point in the race, with 10 laps completed, the top five places were held by Schrotter in 1st, Arenas and Fernandez in 2nd and 3rd, followed by Lopez and Dixon in 4th and 5th. Just behind them, home hero Bendsneyder was able to squeeze past Arbolino in the final sector to take 6th. All this fighting allowed our championship leader, Vietti who was back in 8th, to catch up to the leading pack of seven and join in the fun. In the space of one lap, the gap ahead of Vietti dropped by half a second.

On lap 11, Schrotter crashed out of the lead, losing the opportunity to claim his maiden win. He went wide at Turn 5 which put him off the racing line. As he tried to correct the error, the bike dropped from underneath him. Meanwhile, Lopez and Fernandez were battling hard for second place, which they had inherited from Schrotter’s crash. The pair were swapping positions for most of lap 12 before Lopez came out on top.

Ss they started lap 13, it was Arenas in the lead, ahead of Lopez in 2nd and Fernandez in 3rd. Dixon was just behind in 4th with home hero Bendsneyder in 5th. Vietti was still in 8th with Ogura, his nearest championship rival, quickly catching up to him in 9th.

The battle for 8th was quickly hotting up with Vietti and Ogura swapping positions at every corner. Eventually, it is Ogura who comes out on top. Lopez’s struggles continue as he was forced to sit up at turn 1 of lap 16, sending him tumbling down the grid from 2nd to 6th. He is soon caught by Ogura whose pace was rapid.

On lap 17, we had another change at the front of the grid as Fernandez takes the lead from Arenas. With numerous battles going on behind them, the leading pair quickly find themselves with a 0.9-second lead.

With just four laps remaining, and plenty of on-track action going on, Fernandez is still leading the race, with Dixon now up to 2nd and Ogura in 3rd. Arenas had now slipped back to 4th but was still fighting for his maiden podium finish. Vietti was up to 5th, just ahead of Bendsneyder and Lopez. On the following lap, Ogura makes it past Dixon and into 2nd. The battle gifted Fernandez a 0.4-second, and a seemingly unbeatable, lead.

With just two laps remaining, Arenas cracks under the pressure and crashes at Turn 9. That first podium finish remains elusive for the Spaniard.

On the final lap, Fernandez had a 0.5-second lead ahead of Ogura and Dixon. With Vietti now in 4th, he made a late lunge, attempting to steal 3rd from Dixon. The pair met the checkered flag side-by-side but it was Dixon who came out on top.

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

Moto2: Dixon takes a Dazzling Pole in Assen

Brit rider Jake Dixon has taken a fantastic pole ahead of tomorrow’s Dutch GP. He is joined on the front row by his teammate, Albert Arenas, and fellow Brit, Sam Lowes.

Tomorrow’s Dutch GP will see an Aspar 1-2 for the start of the race. Brit rider, Jake Dixon, secured pole with a time of 1.36.736 – his final lap of the session. His team mate, Albert Arenas, was just 0.01-seconds off the pace and will start tomorrow’s race from second.

A second Brit will also be on the front row, as Sam Lowes takes third for tomorrow’s face start. Just behind Lowes with be Ai Ogura in 4th and Alonso Lopez in a brilliant 5th. Home hero, Bo Bendsneyder will start the race from a strong 8th.

Further down the grid, Celestino Vietti, our championship leader, faced a challenging day. He crashed out during Q2 and was forced to settle with 11th for tomorrow’s race.

Image Credit: MotoGP
Qualifying 1

As the session started, Fermin Aldguer quickly faced an issue and was forced to head back to the pits. Having enjoyed a strong weekend so far, it was clear he was keen to get back on to the track as soon as possible.

As the first flying laps were completed, it was Jorge Navarro who topped the timing sheets with a 1.37.670. Manuel Gonzalez, Marcos Ramirez and Lorenzo Dalla Porta slotted in behind him, taking the provisional Q2-progression places. However, it should have been Barry Baltus at the top of the timing sheets – after taking a shortcut at the end of his outlap, his first flying lap was cancelled due to track limits. He cut the final chicane as a shortcut to give him extra speed at the start of the next lap.

With just less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Navarro improves, staying at the top of the timing sheets, with a 1.37.285. Ramirez jumped up to second and Dalla Porta leapt up to third, meaning that Gonzalez was shuffled down to fourth. Baltus, who was able to keep his next lap time on the board, was only able to slot in to 12th.

Aldeguer was back on the track and clearly pushing the bike to its very limits – the machine was twitching underneath him at the end of Sector 2. It took him a good few laps to get back on the pace, with his first lap only putting him in ninth.

With just over seven minutes to go, Dalla Porta improved on his time again. However, it wasn’t quite enough and he was soon shuffled down by Alessandro Zaccone, Gonzalez and Baltus who put themselves in 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.

With 5 minutes left on the clock, Aldeguer temporarily leaps up to 2nd, only to have his lap time deleted for a track limits violation. He is clearly pushing as hard as he can after the mishap he faced at the start of the session. He keeps pushing and, with just over 3 minutes left of the session, he is able to jump to 2nd again – and this time it sticks! He pushes Baltus out of the top 4. Dalla Porta is the next to improve, jumping up to 3rd and pushing Gonzalez out of the top 4.

As the session draws to a close, Gonzalez makes up time in the final sector to jump up to 3rd. This pushes Aldeguer down to 5th with no opportunity left to improve. Finally, Baltus is able to steal 4th away from Dalla Porta in the final moments of the session.

Those progressing to Q2 are Navarro, Zaccone, Gonzalez and Baltus.

Qualifying 2

As the session starts, Baltus is the first out on track, clearly feeling in good form after his Q1 performance.

Bo Bendsneyder was also feeling in good form as he quickly went up to 2nd, with a 1.36.986. He sat just 0.1-seconds behind our early leader, Navarro. Dixon then slots in to third with his fastest lap of the weekend so far.

With 8 minutes left on the clock, championship leader Celestino Vietti crashes at turn 3. He locked the front, spun around and ended up in the kitty litter. He briefly considered getting back on the bike but the damage ended his session early. When his session ends, he is currently set for a second row start in tomorrow’s race. But just 1 minute later, he is shuffled back to the third row, leaving Vietti with a nervous wait in his pit box.

5 minutes are left on the clock when Joe Roberts leaps up to 2nd. Moments later, he is shuffled down to 3rd when Lowes takes provisional pole with a 1.36.767.

Augusto Fernandez then makes a risky move as he comes into the pits to change his tires with just 4 minutes remaining. With such little time on the board, he may struggle to get the tires up to temperature and into their sweet spot.

As the session draws to a close, Arenas takes pole away from Lowes, despite hitting traffic at the end of his lap. Ogura slots in to provisional third before Dixon crosses the line to leapfrog them all and snatch pole. Fernandez and his new tires are unable to secure a spot higher than 8th.

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

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