Gardner emerges victorious as records tumble

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

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

Remy racing. Courtesy of: RemyGardner.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fight on track. Courtesy of: RemyGardner. com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15          Bo Bendsneyer (NED) – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of: Remygardner.com)

 

 

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).

Back-to-back victories for El Diablo

Controversy reigned in qualifying:

Local boy Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM – 88), took a tumble during the qualifying, which caused the yellow flags to be waved. During this time Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati – 63) was on his fastest lap and had also taken the lap record but it was taken away from him due to Oliveira’s accident, although the yellow flag was out of his peripheral vision at the time, rules state that his lap be removed.

Bagnaia was not the only rider to be unhappy with the qualifying results. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha -12) started in 12th, one position behind Bagnaia. Due to exceeding track limits by having both tyres on the green, although this was only by mere millimetres.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda – 93), returned this weekend after his explosive crash in July at the start of the 2020 season. He seemed to take a tow from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) which gave Marquez a brief third place on the grid. But, his time was not enough to keep him there and he started in 6th place.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha – 20) – took pole, from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati – 5) who took up the front row. A surprise 8th place for Luca Marini (Sky VR46 10) with reigning Champion Joan Mir (Suzuki – 36) in 9th and regardless of his crash Oliveira rounded up 10th place.

Rookie Jorge Martin had a massive crash which unfortunately resulted in him not being able to race on Sunday.

Portuguese Moto GP race:

Portimao, with it’s undulating bends and tight corners proved to be the place for Frenchman Quartararo to take back-to-back victories, in the third round of the championship.

Courtesy of: MCNews.com

Starting from pole, it seemed it was going to be a straight-forward race for Fabio, but he immediately went backwards to 5th place. Letting Zarco claim 1st into the first corner, leading from Rins and astonishingly Marc Marquez progressed to 3rd place. Mir also went up 6 places from the grid as did Brad Binder gaining 9th place for KTM.

With track temperatures now at 41 degrees the next 25 laps were sure to be sensational.

Quartararo was quick to put in a fastest lap, hoping to gain places back as soon as possible, taking 4th place from Miller. Only to have the fastest lap soon to be taken by Aleix Espargaro on lap three.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

The battle was heating up already, with riders trying to gain ground with Quartararo soon taking 3rd place on lap 4 and Rins who was hot on the heels of leader Zarco. The Suzuki rider soon secured 1st place but the Ducati power proved too much and on the straight it was taken back.

Lap five saw a mechanical failure for Pol Espargaro (Honda – 41) and sadly he made an early retirement from the race. Rins once again battled for first place, this time brakes won over power and he was able to hold onto it, while Quartararo took 2nd.

Braking too hard however, caused Miller to crash out of the race on turn 3, lap 6.

Sadly for local boy Oliveira turn 14 also saw him crash out on lap 7, but he managed to get back on the bike to finish the race in 16th place.

Hard rear tyres seemed to be the right call for the riders as Bagnaia passed Marquez for 8th place, making his way through the pack and Quartararo was hunting down Rins for 1st. Unfortunately, Yamaha rider Vinales could not do the same and was outside the top 15.

Into the first corner of lap 9, Fabio decided to take 1st place and pushed hard to break-away from Rins. Getting faster and faster sections the further into the laps he went. A brilliant ride from Binder saw him progress from 15th on the grid to 6th place by lap 11. With the two Marquez brothers claiming 9th and 10th.

Lap 13 saw Bagnaia take fastest lap (1:39:728), in 6th place. Closing down on Morbidelli. All the while Rins was putting pressure on Quartararo and trying to catch up enough to pass him.

Bagnaia making his way through the pack. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Quartararo responded with another fastest lap (1:39:680).

The battle between the Frenchman and the Spaniard continued to escalate and Rins regained fastest lap (1:39:598) on lap 15.

A bump in the circuit caused Rossi to crash out with 11 laps to the finish and track limit warnings were handed out to Morbidelli and Vinales, the latter had already fell fowl to them in qualifying.

Still fighting for 1st place, Rins took fastest lap yet again twice in a row and was pushing himself to his limits trying to catch Quartararo. Sadly, it proved to be to much for the number 41 and he crashed out with only 7 laps to the end. Zarco gained 2nd place with Bagnaia 3rd and Mir 4th. Creating the four riders to break away from the rest of the pack.

Moments after Bagnaia took 2nd place from Zarco, the Frenchman fell, seemingly from another bump in the circuit. Quartararo now lead Bagnaia and reigning champion Mir.

Quartararo seemed to be able to handle the hard rear tyre and use it to his advantage. Slowly gaining a 5.276 second lead ahead of the other two riders who followed behind.

This gap proved to be too big for any of the riders to close down and Quartararo took a very clean victory, with no mistakes, at Portimao. Mir looked to have one last attack in him for 2nd, but Bagnaia gave nothing away. They claimed the last two places on the podium. Morbidelli, with a return to form, just missed out and finished 4th.

Morbidelli back on form. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Marc Marquez made a herculean effort, even having to change his riding style for race-day and finished a respectable 7th place, remaining ahead of his brother.

Nakagami, who looked like he wasn’t going to be able to even start the race, due to injuries sustained in practice sessions managed to finish the race completing the top 10 riders.

Incredibly six different manufactures finished in the top 7 positions.

The championship standings:

  1. Quartararo (61 points)

  2. Bagnaia (46 points)

  3. Vinales (41 points)

  4. Zarco (40 points)

  5. Mir (38 points)

With two weeks to wait until the fourth round of the championship, will it be enough time for Marc Marquez to heal any further or has this race halted his healing progress? Will it be a third race win in a row for the number 20? Or will we see a new race winner in 2021?

 

Happy Birthday to Fabio Quartararo for Tuesday 20th April.

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website)