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)

 

 

Fabio finishes first!

Qualifying:

Conditions were cold and cloudy at Silverstone during qualifying, which didn’t help with tyres. One man though seemed to revel in the weather and made pole for the first time in his Moto GP career – Pol Espargaro (Honda)!

It looked like it was going to be Jorge Martin (Ducati) who was going to ruin the celebrations as he put in the fastest lap with few seconds to spare, but the lap was removed as he exceeded track limits – he qualified 4th on the grid.

Pol lead Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) on the front row.

Pole felt like a win – P. Espargaro. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

The cloudy conditions remained in place for Sunday, with highest temperatures of just 22 degrees.

There was a sell-out crowd for round 12 at Silverstone, with many of the fans gathering to witness Valentino Rossi’s (Yamaha) final race at the iconic British track. They also cheered for Cal Crutchlow, who again came back from retirement to race at his home-track, this time on the factory Yamaha alongside Fabio. Team-mate to Rossi on the Petronas Yamaha, Jake Dixon made his debut at Silverstone.

Due to Covid restrictions last year, Moto GP did not attend Silverstone so audiences were hyped up to witness something special. In the last six years there had been six different winners, could there be a seventh in seven?

Tyres seemed to be an issue at the track and whilst waiting for the warm-up lap the top three riders in the championship all changed their tyre combination to a mixture of soft and medium.

Pol Espargaro got a great start from pole and was soon leading the race from Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Bagnaia quickly made it through to second place but it was taken back by Aleix.

A shocking move from Marc Marquez (Honda) on lap one meant that he took out Austria’s (race one) winner Jorge Martin (Ducati). Neither one of the riders were able to get their bikes properly started to rejoin the race.

But disappointment for two riders went to elation for two others. Both Espargaro brothers were first and second from Bagnaia in third.

Weighing up his options, Aleix tried to pass Pol for first on lap three, but to no avail.

With 18 laps to go, Fabio took 3rd place from Pecco and soon had his eyes set on the two brothers ahead. Fabio had the fastest lap and quickly took second place from Aleix. Pecco seized an opportunity to also gain a place from Aleix but the Aprilia rider was having none of it and regained 3rd back within quick succession.

Lap 5 of 20 saw Quartararo take the lead and the gap just slowly kept getting larger and larger. There was nothing the rest of the pack could do to catch him. With 15 laps until the end, the gap was already 1.007 seconds.

Fabio leads the way. Courtesy of Moto GP website.

But what could Austria’s second race winner – Brad Binder (KTM) pull out of the bag this weekend? He was in 13th place with 14 laps to go.

Quartararo was in his element, finding his groove and setting better and better lap times. He soon was 2.031 seconds ahead of P. Espargaro, A. Espargaro, the two Suzuki riders in 4th and 5th and the factory Ducati’s in 6th and 7th.

Tyres became a factor for many of the riders during the race and two names that felt this the most were Valentino Rossi and Francesco Bagnaia. By lap 8, Rossi had been overtaken by Alex Marquez (Honda) in 8th place and Bagnaia had gone into 7th position, having been overtaken by Jack Miller (Ducati). P. Espargaro had also been caught and overtaken by Alex Rins (Suzuki), for 3rd.

Extending his lead, Fabio was 2.617 seconds ahead of A. Espargaro, Rins, P. Espargaro and current Moto GP Champion – Joan Mir (Suzuki).

The British crowds roared loudly for their fellow riders – Cal Crutchlow and Jake Dixon, but for all their efforts they were unfortunately in 17th and 19th place. This didn’t dampen the fans though because they were both riding well.

We could get used to this sight – Dixon on Petronas Yamaha. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile Rins, who had propelled himself from 10th on the grid had taken 2nd place from A. Espargaro, who made a small mistake and went wide, with 9 laps to go until the chequered flag.

Lap 13 saw A. Marquez take 7th place from Bagnaia, who passed him with relative ease, as the Ducati’s tyres had worn out.

The race leader however, was managing his tyres extremely well and had extended his lead even further to 3.458 seconds. Rins was trying everything to get the gap down between himself and the Frenchman, but he just couldn’t break away from Aleix.

Unlike, Miller who was quickly closing the gap down between himself and Pol. Pol made an unfortunate mistake on lap 15, which meant Miller breezed past him to take 4th.

With three laps to go, things went from bad to worse for Bagnaia, who had gone from 9th to 12th place within a few laps and finished the race in 14th, gathering only 2 championship points. Sitting in second in the championship prior to the race, he has plummeted down to 4th.

The last lap was Miller’s last attempt to get onto the podium. He managed to pass A. Espargaro for 3rd but Aleix passed him right back for a last lap battle. It was Aleix’s time to step up onto the podium for the first time in Moto GP and for his Aprilia team.

A. Espargaro and Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website,

Fabio’s lead was too great and he took his 5th race win this season with a massive gap of 3.467 seconds ahead of Rins and A. Espargaro.

Despite his mammoth efforts, Binder finished a respectful 6th in the race.

Finally, for his last race on British soil, the eight-time World Champion, Valentino Rossi finished 18th, but still celebrated for the crowd.

Rossi celebrating for the crowd. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The pattern continued with a seventh winner at Silverstone in seven races and for the first time ever in Moto GP history, the top six finishers were all different manufacturers.

Top Ten Race Finishers:

1

F. Quartararo (Yamaha)

2

A. Rins (Suzuki)

3

A. Espargaro (Aprilia)

4

J. Miller (Ducati)

5

P. Espargaro (Honda)

6

B. Binder (KTM)

7

I. Lecuona (Ducati)

8

A. Marquez (Honda)

9

J. Mir (Suzuki)

10

D. Petrucci (Ducati)

Championship Results:

1

F. Quartararo

206 points

2

J. Mir

141 points

3

J. Zarco

137 points

4

F. Bagnaia

136 points

The 22 year old Frenchman dominated the field once more and took valuable championship points in the race. But the current champion now sits in second place, could we see a swing in the title-run and see Mir defend his number one spot?

 

Featured image: Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page.