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

Magnificent Seven for Marquez!

Qualifying:

Moto GP was back in America!

Viewers would have noted that Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) was missing from the Qualifying sessions (and indeed the race) as he took compassionate leave due to the tragic passing of his cousin Dean Berta Vinales, last weekend.

Q2 saw a surprise lap from Luca Marini (Ducati), which took him through to Q1 where he finished 9th on the grid.

But it was a third pole in a row for the other impressive Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia. Putting in a time of 2:02.781 over Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) in second and Marc Marquez (Honda), who took last place on the front row of the grid.

Race:

It was the first time back on American soil since the pandemic struck. It should have been wonderful news but for many riders it caused some grievances – mainly due to the ever-deteriorating track conditions. It had become even more bumpy and the track surface even poorer, with visible differences in tarmacked sections. Some riders had even gone so far as to say that if the track wasn’t fixed they would not return next year.

Regardless of the track conditions, Marc Marquez was determined to win again at the Austin track. He gave himself the very best of starts, flying straight into first from third. Leading Quartararo and Alex Rins (Suzuki).

Marquez in a lead of his own. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 2 of 20, saw Jorge Martin (Ducati) pass fellow Ducati rider Bagnaia and gain fastest lap in the meantime. At the other end of the pack though Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) took a tumble on turn 12, but managed to continue on into the race, finishing 17th.

Lap 3 saw Jack Miller (Ducati) pass Brad Binder (KTM) and Joan Mir (Suzuki) for a place behind teammate Bagnaia, taking fastest lap from Martin soon after. Would Miller decide to remain behind Bagnaia or try to pass?

Gaps started to appear quite early on in the race with the Spaniard out on his own from Frenchman, Quartararo, then Martin and Rins. Marquez was out to prove that he could still conquer at COTA.

The leading riders had all chosen to use hard front tyres and soft rear tyres, except the Australian Miller, who had opted to ride with two hard tyres. Was there something that Jack knew and the others didn’t? Or was he gambling on his tyres having something extra towards the end?

Lap 5 saw Johann Zarco (Ducati) leave his race early and crash out turn 1. While teammate Martin passed Rins again, after losing an earlier battle between the two. He quickly started to pull away from the Suzuki and put some pressure on Quartararo, who was still in 2nd.

Second to third. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was then time for Miller to make his decision and on lap 6 he passed Bagnaia. Could he use his tyres and get near to the top four? Rins was soon in his sights and Miller quickly passed him for fourth place.

With 12 laps remaining the gap grew bigger still between first and second, with Marquez constantly doing metronomic laps from Championship leader Quartararo. The gap became 1.736 seconds.

It was a disastrous weekend for Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro, after having crashed numerous times over the weekend, he crashed once more- lap 10, turn 13, ending his race early.

Also half-way through the race Bagnaia passed Rins for 5th, knowing he needed to gain some more points on Quartararo for his championship hopes to stay alive. Was it too little too late?

Meanwhile, still leading, Marquez was busy proving all the doubters wrong about his physical abilities and was still gaining a lead over Fabio. Having created a 2.930 second lead. Quartararo stated that “it tastes even better than a victory” to remain in 2nd, knowing that he still had a lead over closest championship rival, Bagnaia.

Lap 13 saw Jack be the ultimate team-player and let Pecco past for 4th place. Having the precious championship points in mind for both Ducati and Bagnaia. Perhaps he was also having tyre issues with his choice of both hard Michelins, as soon after Rins passed him for 5th.

Miller lead Bagnaia before letting him past. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Continuing to put in impressive laps, Marc was stunning audiences with his continuous lead extension, up to 3.499 seconds from Fabio.

Bagnaia had another Ducati rider in front of him by lap 17, in the form of Jorge Martin. Speculation occurred when Martin went wide and soon after Bagnaia passed him to get the last podium position. Was this a purposeful maneuver from Martin? Or just a simple mistake? Whatever the reason Bagnaia went through while Martin received a long-lap penalty for cutting turns 4 and 5.

Last Lap:

Marquez had increased his lead even further and was 4.512 seconds ahead of Quartararo, who was also 4.513 seconds ahead of the two Ducati’s of Bagnaia and Martin. Martin decided to take his long-lap penalty and came back on track behind Rins for 5th place. Becoming the top independent race finisher. Mir nudged past Miller and in doing so Enea Bastianini (Ducati) passed them both to take 6th spot.

Marquez sailed over the finish line for his 7th win at the Circuit Of The Americas and for Honda’s 450th Premier Class podium. Celebrating in style with a tribute to the late Nicky Hayden #69.

Marquez celebrates victory with team. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Marquez was certainly back on form and was impressive from lights out.

Race Results (Top Ten):

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

F. Bagnaia

4th

A. Rins

5th

J. Martin

6th

E. Bastianini

7th

J. Miller

8th

J. Mir

9th

B. Binder

10th

P. Espargaro

Even though Mir passed Miller on the last lap, the stewards demoted Mir one place for irresponsible riding (results above include this decision).

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) also picked up the last point and set fastest lap during the last lap.

Championship Results Update:

1st

F. Quartararo

254 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

176 points

4th

J. Miller

148 points

With only three races left until the end of the season. Could we see Quartararo wrap up his championship next time out? Will Marquez continue to improve? Or will we see another new race winner for the year?

 

(Featured image- Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page).

 

 

 

Dean Berta Vinales. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

Always in our thoughts: Dean Berta Vinales. Taken too young. 

Perfect Pecco at Misano!

Qualifying:

A few unexpected crashes from Marc Marquez (Honda), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) during the qualifying session meant yellow flags had to be waved and some riders were caught out by this, by not putting in a good qualifying lap.

One rider not to be caught out was Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) who bagged a second pole in a row. Also claiming a second, second place was team-mate Jack Miller (Ducati) from Quartararo in third, taking the last spot on the front row.

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) had yet another team-mate, this time with former Moto GP rider Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha). He also had another helmet design, following on from last years design (Viagra pills) being substituted for a pink bow in honour of the announcement of his soon-to-be baby girl. Would this helmet bring him any luck for the race on home ground?

Rossi with new helmet for Misano. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

With the riders getting prepped on the grid, grey clouds started to loom above them and the temperature at the track dropped but it was declared a dry race by the start.

Grey clouds over the grid. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

When the lights went out it appeared that Bagnaia may have had a jump-start but stewards quickly assessed the situation and he just started as he meant to go on – perfectly.

Marc Marquez was quick off the line and was soon in fourth place with Jorge Martin (Ducati) close behind, who had passed A. Espargaro.

Starting from 12th place – Bastianini had quickly made up places and was soon in 9th. Would he be one to keep-an-eye on?

Bastianini starting to make ground. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Pecco created a gap straight away from Jack and Fabio, already 1.231 seconds ahead and secured fastest lap in the process. While Fabio and Jorge Martin scrapped for third position behind. But it was not to be for Martin, who crashed out on lap 3, turn 14.

The man to watch (Bastianini) flew through the field and soon passed A. Espargaro for 5th place. While Miller took fastest lap behind his team-mate, in the lead.

Next up on Bastianini’s list was M. Marquez, they had a fight for 4th position but the Ducati man came out the victor. Could he make it to a podium place? The gap between himself and Quartararo was 3.486 seconds – it seemed it could be done with 11 laps to go.

Both front Ducati’s had chosen to race with hard front Michelin tyres and soft rears, compared to Yamaha which had front hard and medium rear. Would the soft tyre choices prove to be effective for the Dukes? Or would the Yamaha conserve tyres more effectively?

While it was elation for the factory Ducati’s in 1st and 2nd, it was deflation for the Pramac Ducati’s. In quick succession both Pramac Ducati riders soon had long-lap penalties. But for Martin, who had managed to get back on his bike, found himself in last place and took his penalty but soon after retired out of the race.

Pecco continued to extend his lead from Miller while Quartararo continued to stalk him for 2nd place. With 14 laps till the end Quartararo took a stop to the Ducati dominance and passed the Australian for 2nd, trying to claw back the lead that Bagnaia had created, which was 2.818 seconds ahead.

It appeared that Miller’s rear tyre may have degraded as Bastianini had him in his sights by lap 16.

The young Italian was on a mission – he claimed fastest lap on lap 17 and again on lap 18. Closing the space between himself and Miller to under a second. Whilst Alex Rins (Suzuki) crashed out in sector one, Bastianini claimed a third fastest lap in a row. He was just 0.180 seconds behind Miller. But the number 43 couldn’t hold off the number 23 any longer and on lap 19 Enea passed Jack to take a podium place.

Third for Enea. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The gap between Bagnaia and Quartararo was closed down to 1.254 seconds. Did Bagnaia have the same tyre concerns as Miller? With just 5 laps until the end the gap was down to 1.089 seconds.

But then the gap was suddenly increased again to 2.628 seconds – maybe Bagnaia had been conserving his tyres all along? Or had Quartararo made a small mistake?

The pressure was building between the Italian and the Frenchman as Quartararo seemed to find something last minute as well and was soon back behind Bagnaia. But as Bagnaia had proven last weekend, he was ready for a fight, with the taste of one victory, he wanted more.

Bagnaia defends first. Courtesy of Moto GP website.

With two laps to go Fabio appeared to be setting himself up to pass Pecco. The gap had decreased to just 0.271 seconds. But Bagnaia managed to hold off his advances and took back-to-back wins from Quartararo and Bastianini – who rode an incredible race and took his first podium in Moto GP on a 2019 Ducati.

Marquez and Joan Mir (Suzuki) managed to pass Miller, who couldn’t quite defend 4th place, on the last lap. But Miller was soon promoted to 5th place as Mir had exceeded track limits on the last lap.

It was the perfect weekend for Pecco – taking back-to-back poles and back-to-back wins!

Misano Podium 2021. Courtesy of: Misano World Circuit, Twitter Page.

Top ten race finishers:

1

F. Bagnaia

2

F. Quartararo

3

E. Bastianini

4

M.Marquez

5

J. Miller

6

J. Mir

7

P. Espargaro

8

A. Espargaro

9

B. Binder

10

T. Nakagami

Championship results:

First

F. Quartararo

234 points

Second

F. Bagnaia

186 points

Third

J. Mir

168 points

Fourth

J. Zarco

141 points

What can we expect for the next round in two weeks time at Austin, Texas? Will Quartararo be in a comfortable position to claim the World Title? Will there be a 9th new winner? Or will the Ducati’s reign supreme once more?

 

(Featured image – Courtesy of Moto GP website).

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

From pole to maiden win!

Qualifying:

Warm weather and good track conditions saw Ducati dominate in Spain.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took an all-time lap record for pole position and Ducati’s 50th pole in the Moto GP class while his team-mate took a sensational second. From Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who rounded off front row in third.

Ducati one-two in qualifying. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Aragon saw the return of Maverick Vinales, on an Aprilia (his new team for 2022) and last weekends two Brits – Jake Dixon, riding for Petronas Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow, riding for the factory Yamaha.

Race:

Track temperature remained at a high level, reaching 42degrees by lights out. The Ducati’s had been superb in qualifying but Marc Marquez (Honda) was on home-ground with numerous victories already in place at the Aragon circuit. Starting from fourth on the grid, on a track better suited for his injured shoulder, could he perform at his best once again to take two victories this season?

Bagnaia was quick off the line but it was Marquez who soared up to 2nd place, ahead of Jack Miller (Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Unfortunately, luck was not on Alex Marquez’s (Honda) side and he took a tumble on the first lap.

Fabio’s luck didn’t go too well for him either and he went from 3rd to 7th. Could he work his way back through the pack?

Good luck however was on the side of last years race winner Alex Rins (Suzuki), who had risen 5 places from where he started on the grid.

Lap two saw Britain’s Jake Dixon crash in sector 2, bringing an early end to his second Moto GP race.

Soon Quartararo and Brad Binder (KTM) were scrapping for 7th place but while that was happening Bagnaia claimed fastest lap. Putting in a lot of effort to try and break free of Marquez, but Marquez never released him and constantly sat on his rear – watching.

Binder. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

By lap five, Rins had made good progress and was up to 12th place and there were mini battles forming throughout the pack – Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) fought for 14th place, while Iker Lecuona (KTM) and Brad Binder (KTM) fought for 8th place.

Marquez soon stole fastest lap from Bagnaia, all the while watching and formulating a plan.

Bagnaia leading. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

All the riders, apart from Zarco, had chosen to use hard front Michelin tyres and soft rear. Did Zarco know something the others didn’t? Would we see a change in pace later on in the race?

First and second started to break away from Miller in third and 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th created their own group.

With 12 laps to go Miller went wide and A. Espargaro and Joan Mir (Suzuki) took advantage and passed but Mir went one further and also passed Espargaro for last place spot on the podium.

With all this happening behind them, Bagnaia and Marquez extended their lead even further to 3.405 seconds.

Rookie Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and Quartararo battled it out for 9th place, which brought Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) into the fray. But it resulted in Nakagami passing both Bastianini and Quartararo on lap 14 of 23. The fight then switched between Nakagami and Bastianini, with the Japanese rider winning the place.

The gap between the leading pair extended further still with 4.226 seconds between them and Mir.

Fabio was back up into 8th place after Iker went wide on lap 18.

Predator mode was fully activated for Marquez with four laps until the chequered flag, as he closed down further on Bagnaia, all of his waiting, watching and planning were put into action.

Bagnaia was warned of his proximity and rode defensively, keeping him at bay.

With 3 laps to go:

Marquez passed Bagnaia but the Ducati rider took the position straight back and rode defensive into turn 12.

Marquez passed him again, but again Bagnaia re-took the lead.

2 laps to go:

Marquez tried once again, but once again Bagnaia out-braked Marquez and remained in 1st.

Another pass from Marquez, saw Bagnaia pass right back.

The lead was momentarily Marquez’s for the 5th time but for the 5th time Bagnaia took it back.

Last lap:

Turn one saw Marquez go back into the lead but it was taken straight back by Bagnaia.

Marquez passed again soon after but he went wide and Bagnaia needed no invitation and re-took the lead again.

The final attempt on turn 12 saw Marquez pass again, he got into the lead but went wide and in doing so exceeded track limits. Bagnaia fought a hard but respectful battle and beat Marquez to victory, to claim his maiden win in Moto GP. A healthy 25 points meant he climbed up the championship ladder into second place and he became the 8th different winner for 2021.

It was an even sweeter day for Ducati as it was not only their 50th pole position in Moto GP which accumulated into a win but it was also their 50th anniversary of their first entry into the Moto GP championship (12th September 1971 – Monza).

Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

Top Ten Riders:

1

F. Bagnaia

2

M. Marquez

3

J. Mir

4

A. Espargaro

5

J. Miller

6

E. Bastianini

7

B. Binder

8

F. Quartararo

9

J. Martin

10

T. Nakagami

The only Yamaha rider to gain any points during the race had relatively poor finish but it still sees him leading the championship:

Championship top four:

1

F. Quartararo

214 points

2

F. Bagnaia

161 points

3

J. Mir

157 points

4

J. Zarco

137 points

Making history for Ducati and himself, Bagnaia proved he has what it takes to be a Moto GP winner. Will we now see a new championship contender for 2021?

 

 

Featured image. Courtesy of: Ducati Course Twitter.

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

 

Rookie reigns in Austria

Qualifying:

With the five week break finally at an end, the qualifying saw Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) snatch pole from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), in the closing minutes. Only seconds later to find that he transgressed track limits on turn nine, which resulted in him ending in third.

Marc Marquez (Honda), was on a hot-lap but crashed out and finished in eighth.

But it was the rookie Jorge Martin (Ducati) who claimed pole, for the second time this season. Riding a sensational lap of 1:22.994, bagging pole and a new all-time lap record along with it.

The front row was now: J. Martin, F. Bagnaia and F. Quartararo. The Ducati’s looked dominant in Austria, with all four bikes on the front two rows. Jack Miller (Ducati), Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) rounded off the front.

Grey clouds over-head. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

If fans were getting withdrawal symptoms from bike racing then this race was sure looking like it was going to quench that.

Race One:

All eyes may have been on Jorge Martin, in pole but all hearts were with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who, on just Thursday, had announced this was going to be his final season racing.

With rain clouds looming large overhead, the Styrian Grand Prix was about to be on its way, after being declared a dry race.

Bagnaia got a great start from Martin, but Martin was quickly leading the race. Marc Marquez (Honda) chose a more aggressive tactic, after having a poor start and trying to gather positions quickly, he made a move past Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), nudging him in the process, causing him to go wide and also pushed past Quartararo to go into fourth place. This caused an on-track argument between the two Spanish riders later, on track.

The pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Mir reacted well and quickly went from fourth to second as Bagnaia re-claimed first. Marquez seemed to be in all-out attack-mode but fell back to sixth place after his fiery start.

The championship leader, Quartararo picked up the pace and soon had fastest lap moments before red flags began to wave.

Flash back to 2020, Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco collided, causing their bikes to hurtle through the air, across the track and land cartwheeling in-front of the path of then team-mates Rossi and Vinales, understandably shaking both riders up before they re-started the race, after a red flag.

Since then, the track has been slightly modified. That should have been the only an odd occurrence however, this track seems to entice odd occurrences, only this time, lap 3 of 28 saw the wildcard and ex-Moto GP race winner Dani Pedrosa (KTM) fall leaving his bike stranded in the way of on-coming riders. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) rode straight into the KTM, causing both bikes to immediately erupt into flames. The race was red-flagged, signaling an end to proceedings. The marshals were quick to respond and fortunately neither rider nor marshal were hurt.

Just another freak accident in Austria, has made some question the suitability of this track for racing.

All bikes returned to the pits as fire extinguishers, brushes and man-power set about cleaning up the mess caused on track.

Race officials check the track is okay for the re-start. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

As the race was only on lap 3, it was re-started with just one lap being removed. The stewards allowed Pedrosa to start again but unfortunately for Aprilia, Savadori could not re-join.

A quick-start procedure took place during the second attempt, which meant pit lane re-opened for 60 seconds ahead of a sighting lap where all riders took their original grid positions and one mechanic met them at their lines. They then went out for their warm-up lap and the race continued thereafter.

Although, it was a disaster for Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), who stalled prior to the sighting lap on the grid and had to start his race from the pit lane, going from ninth to last.

Race Two:

The dark grey clouds still overhead had refrained from raining and continued to watch alongside the few spectators at trackside for take-two of the Styrian Grand Prix.

It was the Ducati power both times, this time Martin got another great start but Miller soon took the lead.

Quartararo nudged past M. Marquez, who in-turn nudged into none-other than Aleix Espargaro again and again he went wide.

Mir looked like he was on a mission, wanting to break up the Ducati rule. He was soon on the back of Martin and took second place on lap 2.

Mir hunts Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 3 saw Martin re-take second and Bagnaia went backwards into eighth place. The re-start did not go the same way for him.

With 24 laps to go, Martin re-took the lead from Miller, Mir and Quartararo.

Things went from bad to worse for A. Espargaro, on lap 6 he pulled to the side of the track and had to retire due to a mechanical failure.

Miller and Quartararo had a mini battle between themselves. And soon all five front riders took fastest lap within quick succession of each other.

Martin and Mir broke away from the pack as did Quartararo, Miller and Zarco, creating their own group. The gap between the two groups quickly extended to over 3 seconds.

Vinales also couldn’t turn his luck around and ended up getting a long-lap penalty, putting him back to last place again, in 21st, due to exceeding track limits. Track limit warnings were thrown about to all sorts of riders, including the race leader Martin, who was still leading with 11 laps to go.

With 10 laps to go, Miller looked set to strike on Quartararo, closing him down on every corner. But then, he crashed out on turn 7. He returned to the track but had to end his race sooner than expected and pulled into the pits, leaving Fabio in third position, to race alone.

Another long-lap penalty was handed out to the other Espargaro brother – Pol, for also exceeding track limits.

Having led for most of the race, Jorge Martin, the rookie reigned supreme and took victory for the first time for himself and Pramac Ducati in the Moto GP class. Having come from a hospital bed earlier on in the season, due to an accident which left him with numerous broken bones he was now on the top step of the podium. Securing both the pole and the win! He is now the 6th different winner in 2021.

Take a bow – Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Brad Binder (KTM) rode a sensational last lap and finished an incredible fourth place, passing Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) on the way to the line.

Bagnaia however was given a 3 second penalty on the last lap, for also exceeding track limits and was demoted out of the top ten, promoting Dani Pedrosa into tenth.

Top ten finishers:

1st

J. Martin

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

F. Quartararo

4th

B. Binder

5th

T. Nakagami

6th

J. Zarco

7th

A. Rins

8th

M. Marquez

9th

A. Marquez

10th

D. Pedrosa

Current Championship Standings:

1st

Quartararo

172 points

2nd

Zarco

132 points

3rd

Mir

121 points

4th

Bagnaia

116 points

Moto GP will be returning to Austria again next weekend, as will British rider Cal Crutchlow (Petronas), who even though didn’t produce a spectacular race result this weekend after stepping in for injured rider Franco Morbidelli, he will do so again for the next two races. Will we see a top ten or podium finish for fan favourite Cal?

 

(Featured image: courtesy of Moto GP website).

Moto GP season update

The massive five week gap is finally at it’s end. Moto GP is soon to return to our TV screens this Friday 6th August, with the qualifying on Saturday 7th and race on Sunday 8th.

Even though racing was on a break, news stories kept on coming in.

Since the fantastic Assen weekend with the two Yamaha teammates finishing first and second, one of them decided to pull out of his contract with Yamaha earlier than expected. Maverick Vinales will be parting ways with the factory team at the end of the 2021 season. Unfortunately, this may not come as much of a surprise as Vinales has been quite open about his feelings within the team recently and has been seen to be dejected many times in interviews. It has been rumoured that he will be joining Aprilia in 2022, as of yet, nothing has been confirmed or denied.

Vinales (courtesy of Moto GP website).

More news from Yamaha, but this time from Petronas Yamaha. It was announced that Franco Morbidelli will not be competing in the next three rounds due to a knee injury, sustained in a training accident, prior to the Assen race. Morbidelli has had knee trouble in the past, hopefully this time the injury can be corrected for good. Wishing him all the best of luck in his recovery.

Morbidelli is not expected to return to racing until September at Aragon

With Morbidelli out for three races, Petronas Yamaha have recruited British racer Cal Crutchlow. Having retired from Moto GP last year in 2020, Cal has been a test rider for Yamaha, so it did seem like the obvious choice. Crutchlow is a massive fan favourite and an all-round good guy and rider. He will be racing in Styria, Austria and his home track at Silverstone. So be sure to show your support for him.

When Franko returns to the paddock there will be some changes to the 2021 calendar:

For the second time in a row Australia and Thailand will not feature in the Moto GP season. Due to the on-going Covid 19 pandemic and travel restrictions, creating difficult decisions to be made. As a result of this the Malaysian Grand Prix has been brought forward a week, Portimao replaces Phillip Island and the Algarve GP has been added in November, for a second year in a row.

Updated 2021 Season Calendar (courtesy of Moto GP website).

This weekend though also sees the return of the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa. After, retiring back in 2018 from Repsol Honda, Dani has been a test rider for KTM ever since. He has been hailed as a massive part of their recent success in 2020 and 2021. He will be stepping in as a wildcard rider for the one-off race. Could this be the first of many appearances from the number 26?

From retirements to returns there has been one consistent in the whole of Moto GP for the past 25 years. The nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi will be celebrating this amazing anniversary.

Young Rossi on the podium in 1996 (courtesy of Gazetta).

Sunday 15th August will be the Austrian GP and in 1996 Rossi took his first ever podium, in third place, competing in the 125 class. His 200th podium is still eluding him though, will we finally witness history being made in the second part of this season?

Reminder of the current championship standings as of the last race weekend at Assen:

First

Quartararo

156 Points

Second

Zarco

122 Points

Third

Bagnaia

109 Points

Fourth

Mir (Current Champion)

101 Points

All information is current and correct on date of publication – 04-08-21

 

Featured imaged (courtesy of Moto GP website).

Yamaha Whitewash at the Dutch GP

Qualifying:

At the newly resurfaced Assen track the Yamahas were flying high. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) claimed pole position and took the new lap record (1:31.814) in the process.

Both Vinales and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) were on the front row in first and second. With a surprise 3rd from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) taking fourth.

Smiles for the pole man. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

While the factory boys were settled on the front row Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) was not to compete in the qualifying or the race as he had again injured his knee and would need to undergo surgery for it. Stepping into his shoes was Garrett Gerloff from World Superbikes.

During Friday’s practice, last weekend’s race winner – Marc Marquez had a mechanical failure which saw him propelled from his Repsol Honda. The Spaniard succumbed to no further injuries and was cleared to race on Sunday. But, his qualifying result would make it hard to compete, starting from 20th on the grid.

Race:

With 26 laps at the Dutch circuit and clear conditions, it looked like it would be a Yamaha victory for sure. But which Yamaha rider was going to step onto the top step of the podium?

Vinales took an interesting approach, being the only rider who chose to have a soft front tyre. All the other riders lined up on the grid with either medium or hard. As the lights went out Vinales was swamped. He had gone from pole to 5th, whilst his teammate went to first from 2nd.

Vinales knew he needed to make a good start to fight for the win. He soon passed Alex Rins (Suzuki) for 4th place, putting him behind Nakagami and Bagnaia. A tussle soon broke out between Fabio and Pecco for 1st . Bagnaia eventually took the lead.

The Ducati lead the race, all the while with Quartararo watching, waiting for the right time to pounce – taking fastest lap in the process.

The fastest lap and the new lap record soon were beaten by Johann Zarco (Ducati), in 5th place.

Bagnaia struggled to get any gap from Quartararo and on lap 6, turn 11 – Quartararo took the lead. Straight away he broke away from the pack with 20 laps to go. The space was soon 0.575 seconds. He then gained fastest lap and with the clean air in front of him furthered his lead to 0.900 seconds.

Quartararo out in the lead. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was unfortunately an early race finish for Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who crashed out turn 7, lap 8.

Beating his own fastest lap, Quartararo kept pushing himself and pumped out quicker and quicker laps. Trying to gain an advantage over Bagnaia, who was now in a race of his own too with a gap of 1.336 seconds to Quartararo and 0.506 seconds to Nakagami behind him.

Starting from 20th on the grid Marc Marquez rode a very impressive race and by lap 10 he had secured 10th place. Due to it’s many right-hand corners, Assen was never going to be a track that would favour the Honda or Marc’s injured arm.

Assen race track. Courtesy of: Asphaltandrubber.com

Nakagami’s Honda soon caught up to Bagnaia’s Ducati, they tussled for 2nd place and during this Bagnaia received a track limit warning. The gap increased between them and Quartararo to 2.941 seconds. They continued to fight for the podium place, letting Fabio increase his lead further to 3.272 seconds, just over the half-way point in the race.

On lap 14 Bagnaia’s warning turned into a long-lap penalty for continuing to exceed track limits. He decided to take this on the next lap, rejoining the race in 7th place.

Meanwhile, Nakagami had a terrible time and suddenly ended up in 6th place, getting passed by 3 riders. His luck went from bad to worse and soon he was in 9th place, behind Marquez and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). To further add to his torment he also received a track limit warning.

Jack Miller’s weekend wasn’t going well for him either and he crashed, turn 15. He managed to rejoin the race, but later his Ducati had mechanical issues and was told to retire.

Miller having to retire due to mechanical faults. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The gap between the top two Yamaha’s had reached over 4 seconds and there was no chance that Vinales could catch Quartararo. There was however battles behind them, between Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Zarco for 3rd place and M.Marquez and A.Espargaro for 7th.

Lap 20 saw Iker Lecuona (KTM) crash in the final chicane, leaving his bike floundering on the track. The marshals were quick to respond though.

The few fans present at the track were seeing a masterclass race by the young championship leader. Even though the gap between him and Vinales had reduced, with 7 laps to go Fabio was on for his fourth race win of the season. The reigning world champion was in 3rd place having started from 10th on the grid.

Mir, Zarco and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) had created their own group and fought for that last podium spot with Bagnaia, Marquez and Espargaro behind them. Marquez looked set to pass Bagnaia but it was a surprise pass by Aleix that took him to 7th in-front of Marc.

The final lap: Quartararo comfortably secured 25 more precious championship points, ahead of a dejected Vinales and an elated Mir (who took his third podium this year).

Mir takes the third place trophy. Courtesy of: Team Suzuki Ecstar.

Top Ten Race Results:

First

F. Quartararo

Second

M. Vinales

Third

J. Mir

Fourth

J. Zarco

Fifth

M. Oliveira

Sixth

F. Bagnaia

Seventh

M. Marquez

Eigth

A. Espargaro

Ninth

T. Nakagami

Tenth

P. Espargaro

Top Four Championship Positions:

First

Quartararo

156 points

Second

Zarco

122 points

Third

Bagnaia

109 points

Fourth

Mir

101 points

Going into a 5 week summer break, the Yamaha’s seem unbeatable and yet there is speculation within the Vinales team that he may choose to leave them. Can this break re-kindle their relationship? Or will there be a breaking news story in the meantime? Join Moto GP for more action on Sunday 8th August.

 

 

(Featured image, courtesy of: Moto GP)

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