Battle rages at the Cathedral of Speed

Going into the weekend Remy Gardner leads the Moto2 championship by 36 points from his teammate Raul Fernandez, but the rookie earns his fourth pole of the season, as an eventful race sees him dropping back to ninth then clawing his way back to emerge victorious in the 9th round of Moto2 2021.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Fernandez’s teammate Remy Gardner starts from 2nd place and Sam Lowes completes the front row, ahead of Aron Canet in 4th, Ai Ogura 5th and Jorge Navarro starting 6th.

Off the line it is Canet who gets the best start, forcing Raul out wide into the first bend, causing him to drop back to 4th. Della Porta who started 8th gets caught in the middle of the group into turn 2 – catches the rear wheel of Navarro and is spat off, fortunately avoiding the other machines as his bike is launched into the air from the centre of the pack.

Canet leads, Gardner in second is closely followed by Lowes in third. Tony Arbolino crashes out uninjured shortly after at turn 7, his bike flipping across the gravel.

Lowes moves up past Gardner, then takes Canet to lead at the end of the first lap – Lowes leads briefly before Canet reclaims the lead.

Ai Ogura and Augusto Fernandez pass Raul Fernandez. Raul runs wide through turns 6 & 7 and drops back to ninth as Schrotter passes him.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner passes Lowes out of the chicane, and Lowes gets back past Canet to move back into 2nd

Joe Roberts crashes out at turn 9, meaning that both Italtrans bikes are out of the race.

Augusto Fernandez moves up into 3rd, as Raul battles for 7th, then gradually works himself back up to 6th.

With 20 laps to go Lowes starts to close the gap on Gardner. Approaching the start/finish line Lowes slots past, the two almost swapping paint, but Augusto Fernandez spots his opportunity and passes both of them, taking the lead, making it a 1-2 for Elf Marc VDS Racing Team, Gardner in 3rd and Aron Canet in 4th. Meanwhile Raul Fernandez is back up to 5th, and DiGiannantonio moves up past Ai Ogura into 6th.

On lap 7 Raul passes Canet to move up to 4th, as Lowes, who is all over the back of Augusto, passes him to take the lead. A gap of just over a second separates Gardner in 3rd and Raul in 4th, giving Raul a clear space to push on.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner slots past Augusto into 2nd, and 3 laps later Raul catches Augusto, but Augusto takes Gardner to move back into 2nd.

On lap 14 Augusto Fernandez increases the pressure on Sam Lowes, passing him to take the lead, as Raul gets past his teammate Gardner to move up into 3rd.

Gardner starts to drop back slightly from the top 3, and shortly after Raul takes Lowes to move up into 2nd place. The leading 4 start to spread out as Lowes struggles to match Raul Fernandez’s pace, as DiGiannantonio crashes out at turn 9 from 6th.

Raul pursues Augusto, edging ever closer until he makes the move along the start/finish straight at the end of lap 17, with Augusto unable to come back at him.

Augusto runs wide, giving Lowes the opportunity to move up into 2nd. Raul is starting to stretch out his lead with a 0.8 second lead over Lowes.

Lap 20 sees Aron Canet crashes out of 7th place, sliding into the gravel at turn 3.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Raul leads by over a second, breaking away from Lowes, Augusto and Gardner. Into lap 22 at the end of the start/finish straight Augusto gets the drive past Lowes to move up into second. Lowes checks over his left shoulder into turn 1, as Gardner slips past on his right, dropping Lowes down into 4th.

At the end of lap 23 Gardner passes Augusto, who pushes hard but is unable to come back at Gardner.

Raul Fernandez takes his third win of the season, ahead of his teammate Remy Gardner, with Augusto Fernandez claiming the 3rd podium spot.

Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship narrows slightly to 31 points ahead of Raul Fernandez going into the summer break, Fernandez extends his lead over 3rd place Bezzecchi from 11 points to 25, and Lowes holds onto 4th place overall.  With ten rounds still to go can Gardner hold onto the lead or will rookie Raul Fernandez spring yet more surprises?

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

 

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA –  – 16

4              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 11

6              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 7

10           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 6

11           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 5

12           Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 4

13           Stefano Manzi ITA – Flexbox HP40 – 3

14           Thomas Luthi SWI – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

Rookie Fernandez Takes Second Win of the Season

All eyes were on the weather this weekend at Le Mans, with the 2.6 mile Bugatti circuit plagued by changeable conditions during qualifying. Saturday saw plenty of yellow flags, with damp patches catching out many. However, the weather improved enough overnight for Sunday to be declared a dry race.

At the start of the weekend only 6 points separated the top 3 in the championship, with Remy Gardner leading on 69 points, and Sam Lowes second with 66. Raul Fernandez, in his rookie season in Moto2, rounded out the top 3 on 63 points, after gaining victory in the third race of the season in Portugal.

Lowes went into the weekend having won the first two races of the season, at Qatar and Doha, and race 4 in Spain saw Fabio Di Giannantonio on the top step of the podium.

Another one to watch this weekend was the Brit Jake Dixon, who came so close to winning at Le Mans last year only to crash out four laps from the finish.

Sam Lowes started strong, setting the fastest lap in FP2 on the Friday, with just over a 10th off the outright lap record but it was Raul Fernandez who emerged victorious in qualifying, setting the fastest qualifying lap at 1’50.135 to gain his maiden pole in Moto2.

Bezzecchi, whose fastest lap was only 0.240 behind Fernandez, lined up second on the grid, and third was Joe Roberts, who had started from pole at Le Mans in 2020.

Lowes was nudged further down the order, starting from the fourth row of the grid in 10th place, and Jake Dixon was way back in 26th.

Bezzecchi made the best start off the line and led from the outset, R Fernandez taking second, and the American Joe Roberts in third.

Aron Canet, starting 4th, briefly moved up into 2nd, before crashing out at the Chemin ux Boeufs esses.

Lowes went out on the fifth lap, attempting to overtake into turn 8, catching a damp spot and collecting Vierge, resulting in Lowes retiring, unable to restart his machine.

Joe Roberts also left the race on lap 5, losing the front end at turn 9 and heading into the gravel.

Meanwhile at the front, Fernandez caught Bezzecchi and moved up into the lead, remaining there for the rest of the race.

Having dropped down the order early on, Remy Gardner worked his way back up, putting in the fastest lap of the race at 1’36.893.

By lap 16, Gardner was back up into 3rd and starting to close the gap. Bezzecchi runs slightly deep and onto the green paint beyond the track limits, and Gardner seized his chance to move up into 2nd.

Again, as on Saturday, the dark clouds started to gather, raising the possibility of the race being cut short, but the rain held off long enough to complete the full race distance.

Gardner can’t quite catch his teammate, with Fernandez maintaining nearly a one second lead to win the second Moto2 race in his rookie season. Gardner finishes a comfortable second, resulting in a team Red Bull KTM Ajo one-two on the podium. Bezzecchi takes the third spot, with Arbolino less than 3 seconds behind him in fourth.

Fabio Di Giannantonio, winner of the previous Moto2 race two weeks ago in Spain, finishes 8th and Jake Dixon is well off the pace, finishing 19th.

The weekend comes to an end with the championship even closer – Remy Gardner holds onto his lead with 89 points, but Fernandez is breathing down his neck with 88, and Marco Bezzecchi moves up into third with 72. Sam Lowes, his 66 points unchanged after a difficult weekend, moves down to fourth.

This leaves Lowes with plenty of work to do going into the 6th round at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in 2 weeks time. All eyes will be on the rookie Raul Fernandez, with Gardner facing a battle on his hands to keep hold of that top spot in the championship.

First fifteen riders:

1 Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2 Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20

3 Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 16

4 Tony Arbolino ITA – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 13

5 Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 11

6 Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 10

7 Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 9

8 Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 8

9 Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 7

10 Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 6

11 Lorenzo Dalla Porta ITA – Italtrans Racing Team – 5

12 Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 4

13 Nicolo Bulega ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 3

14 Marcos Ramirez SPA – American Racing – 2

15 Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 1

16 year old Pedro Acosta, Red Bull Ajo KTM, takes chequered flag in Qatar

The date 4th April 2021 may well go down in motorcycle racing history as the day that Pedro Acosta announced himself to the world. Still only 16 years old, the Spaniard pulled off one of the all-time great rides in any class in modern memory.

Pedro Acosta winner of the second round of the 2021 Moto3 Championship at Losail. Darryn Binder came second and in third place Niccolò Antonelli. Image courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)|KTM.

Fans look back at 18th August 1996 when Valentino Rossi won his first 125cc Grand Prix at Brno or 6th June 2010 when Marc Marquez took his first victory in the same class at Mugello. You have to wonder in years to come just how historic the second race of the 2021 season will be in the career of young Acosta.

A rookie winning a race is nothing new, even in only his second race. What stands out though is that Acosta started from the pit lane along with six other riders, some eleven seconds after the lights went out to start the race. As the eighteen laps ticked away, Acosta and Romano Fenati (who finished tenth) dragged the late starters up to the main pack with seven laps remaining. Once there, Acosta picked his way through each rider and when he hit the front, and you might think he had over-used his tyres, he still pulled away. Darryn Binder nearly caught him by the end but the Red Bull rider held on to win by 0.039 seconds.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Acosta will be a star of the future as it was a young Fenati that finished second in his debut at Qatar in 2012 before winning in Jerez at the next round and he’s still in Moto3 at the age of 25 (largely through issues of his own creation).

Binder often featured in the leading pack and was so close to his second ever win. He was lucky to avoid being taken out by an incident involving his teammate John McPhee and Jeremy Alcoba however. With four laps to go, Binder led into turn one from Alcoba  who nearly clipped the back of the South African. Alcoba went over the handlebars and his cartwheeling Honda took out the innocent McPhee who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Scot reacted badly to being taken out of the race two weeks in a row and squared up to the Gresini rider before aiming a kick at his Spanish crown jewels. Both riders will receive a pit lane start at the next round at Portimao in Portugal on 18th April, with McPhee penalised one thousand Euros and 10 seconds and Alcoba one thousand Euros and five seconds.

The last step on the podium went to Nico Antonelli who won here five years ago. The Italian started twelfth and positioned himself in the top six with a lap to go. Fortunately for him, last week’s winner Jaume Masia took Gabriel Rodrigo wide half way around the lap and Antonelli popped up to fourth. The 25-year-old then passed his compatriot Andrea Migno for third and beat him to the line by 0.032 seconds. Masia came home seventh while Argentine rider Rodrigo was only thirteenth.

Kaito Toba, who won here in 2019, finished fifth for his second top ten finish in a row with the rookie taking his best finish so far with sixth. Ayumu Sasaki took his best Losail result in seventh followed by fellow Japanese rider Ryusel Yamanaka who took his best ever finish with eighth in his twentieth start. With Tatsuki Suzuki finishing twelfth and Yuki Kunii fifteenth (his first points finish) there were five Japanese riders in the top fifteen for the first time since Jerez 2019.

RESULTS (TOP 15)

1 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25
2 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 20
3 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 16
4 – Andrea Migno – ITA – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 13
5 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 11
6 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 10
7 – Ayumu Sasaki – JAP – Red Bull Tech 3 KTM – 9
8 – Ryusel Yamanaka — JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 8
9 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 7
10 – Romano Fenati – ITA – Sterilgarda Max Husqvarna – 6
11 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 5

12 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 4
13 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 3
14 – Max Kofler – AUT – CIP Green Power KTM – 2
15 – Yuki Kunii – JAP – Honda Team Asia Honda – 1

STANDINGS (TOP 15)

1 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 45
2 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 36
3 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 32
4 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 26
5 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 19
6 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 18
7 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 14
8 = Sergio Garcia – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 13
8 = Andrea Migno – ITA – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 13
10 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 12
11 = Romano Fenati – ITA – Sterilgarda Max Husqvarna – 11

11 = Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 11
13 – Ryusel Yamanaka — JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 10
14 – Ayumu Sasaki – JAP – Red Bull Tech 3 KTM – 9
15 – Carlos Tatay – SPA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 4

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

Round two under the Qatar lights found some riders floundering and some soaring. If it was thought to be a repeat of last weekend then audiences were in for a shock.

The qualifying had the biggest surprise which came from the rookie, Jorge Martin who took pole! With a 1.53.106 second lap, snatching it from Vinales, who was confident he had done enough at the flag. Next position went to Martin’s team-mate and Vinales ended up 3rd to round off the front row. The Suzuki’s still seemed to have issues with qualifying and ended up in 8th and 9th. Rossi made changes to his bike which turned out to hinder his chances at getting another 4th in qualifying this time and ended up 21st on the grid.

Martin takes pole on Saturday. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All riders started Sunday on both rear and front soft tyres again, with the exception of Oliveira, Binder, Lecuona and Petrucci. Perhaps they had thought a different strategy may help them in the closing section of the race. Once again, the wind was blowing and causing sand to go across the track, meaning the tyres would degrade quicker.

The two front Ducati’s got a flying start, with Martin leading Zarco but it was Vinales that went backwards as Aleix Espargaro came through and took 3rd place from the Spaniard, a very surprising Oliveira, who was 12th on the grid, shot into 4th . The next 22 laps were sure to be exciting!

By lap three, Rins had already made the fastest lap, eager to make it to the front early on, now in 3rd place, he started putting pressure on Zarco.

Lap four was Bagnaia’s turn to take fastest lap. But it was the Suzuki’s that were looking menacing as Mir came through to 5th place and Rins took 2nd from Zarco. However, the Ducati took back the position on the straight.

Meanwhile the factory Yamahas were sticking to their plan, which was to conserve tyres and were in 9th and 10th place.

With 17 laps to go Martin was still leading, in only his second Moto GP race, from Rins and Zarco.

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Performing well in the flowing corners, the Suzuki was putting pressure on the rookie, but the straight, once again was the time for Zarco to pounce, re-gaining 2nd.

Trying to hunt down Martin, Rins took back 2nd place from the Frenchman on turn 10 – lap 8. He knew he had to breakaway from Zarco before the straight. With 13 laps to go Oliveira started to go backwards, unfortunately, the tyre choice didn’t seem to be any better.

The two Petronas riders were struggling as well – not even in the top ten.

The top nine riders however, were starting to breakaway from the rest of the pack and were creating their own race. Martin still lead, now half-way through the 22 laps, whilst Vinales was bringing up the rear. The first six bikes were all four Ducati’s and the two Suzuki’s. Espargaro on the Aprilia, was the only bike not with it’s teammate, out in front of the two factory Yamaha’s.

Mir and Miller were battling for 5th place on lap 13, Mir touched Miller going underneath him to take the position. But, coming onto the straight Miller (43) went wide and and seemed to go straight into Mir, forcing him to go all the way back to 9th. There was an investigation from the stewards but both times were seen as racing incidents.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Marquez who had a second DNF in a row as he crashed on lap 14.

However, things were looking good for Quartararo (20), who was moving through the front pack and was now 4th, behind the Ducati’s, with 8 laps till the end. Battling for the position alongside Rins, he knew he had to create a chance in order to get on the podium. His teammate was now in 7th with Mir still in 9th place. It seemed the Yamaha’s tactic was paying off.

With six laps till the end, 20 took 3rd place from 43, it was taken straight back on the start-finish line but a mistake going into the first corner from Miller meant Quartararo re-took 3rd once more. The battle for the podium was heating up.

The two Frenchmen then fought for 2nd on lap 18. Zarco tried to defend but Quartararo’s Yamaha had conserved tyres better and was stronger on the corners, meaning he was able to take 1st place as well on turn 14, leading into turn 15, from Martin. The rookie had shocked everyone by leading for most of the race. Martin wasn’t going to give his position away easily and on the straight the Ducati roared past the Yamaha. But, Quartararo re-gained first place soon after.

With four laps to go it was anyone’s call who would win. Quartararo now lead Martin, Zarco and Vinales.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Top Gun’ briefly took 3rd place from Zarco, which took Zarco out of the top three for the first time the whole race.

‘El Diablo’ started to pull away from the two satellite Ducati’s and with Vinales putting pressure on Zarco, Zarco decided he needed to try and make a pass on his teammate. Martin went defensive with two laps to go, not wanting to give away his position. Vinales couldn’t keep up with number 5 and Rins took 4th place from him into turn one on the last lap. The penultimate corner of the last lap was Zarco’s last shot at 2nd, after admitting in the post-race interview he was acting as a “… bodyguard for Martin…” he decided to over-take his team-mate to finish 2nd.

It was Quartararo that took the chequered flag, taking his fourth Moto GP victory alongside fellow Frenchman Zarco. The first time in 67 years that two Frenchmen have stood first and second on the podium in the premier class. Martin finished an impressive third to round off the podium. Fourth was Rins, fifth Vinales, sixth and seventh place were the factory Dukes and Mir managed to make up two places since the collision with Miller to finish seventh.

Zarco stood on the podium for the 50th time and now leads the championship with 40 points. Proving to be consistent with two second places in a row.

This thrilling battle was the closest Moto GP race in 73 years. Teams learnt from last weekend and everyone seemed far stronger.

There is now a two week gap until the next event, but the big news is Marc Marquez is said to be making a return in Portugal, which leads into the many European races. Will we see a fit, strong and hungry Marquez? Will the other riders be too far ahead of him? Or will we witness a masterclass performance?

Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be a thrilling ride.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Dream double-header making History for Brit in Qatar

It was a Qatar dream to end the double-header for British rider Sam Lowes in the jam-packed Moto2 race at the Losail International Circuit.

Sam Lowes, Winner of the second round of the 2021 MotoGP championship. Remy Gardner second and Raul Fernandez. Image courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)|KTM

Sam became the first British rider since Mike Hailwood to win the opening 2 rounds of the season in the intermediate class since 1966.

Despite the victory, challenging weather conditions throughout the entirety of the weekend made it challenging for teams across the board – battling against the Doha winds and dust in order to find the pace and comfortable set-up for race day.

The Adriatic man Marco Bezzecchi lead the race for the opening laps after getting a fantastic start, however it wasn’t enough for the Elf Marc VDS rider to sit and watch behind him – as with 17 laps to go Sam was able to overtake and held on comfortably for the entirety. It wasn’t particularly peachy for all riders though, as things soon turned sour for a number of laps as the pressure was heightened. 

One of the victims of this was John Hopkins’ apprentice Joe Roberts who, although finished a respectable 6th last weekend under the lights – on the 8th lap tucked into a slide. This was also bad news for Ai Ogura, who in order to avoid Robert’s sliding machine had to run far wide off track. 

Joining fellow American rider was Cameron Beaubier who with 12 laps to go came off his machine. Cameron had been strong all weekend with the American Racing Team, last weekend finishing 11th. It had been a positive weekend for the team with Beaubier getting to grips with the track, bike and team despite the challenging conditions.

It wasn’t all sunshine and positive endings for the Brits today. Petronas SRT rider Jake Dixon suffered a fairly mystical accident with 7 laps to go today, looking upon inspection taking Marcel Shrötter down with him. The crash was not actually shown live, but instead panned to imagery of both riders and their machines down. Liqui Moly Intact GP rider Shrötter appeared up and unharmed during the live race, however Dixon was still down. Later reports confirmed that it was a solo racing incident on behalf of the Brit that unfortunately couldn’t be avoided by Shrötter. Thankfully, Jake confirmed on his Twitter account that although gutted with ending the weekend with a DNF he was feeling okay after the crash.

Following last weekends’ penalty involving team mate Xavi Vierge, it’s fair to say Jake is looking ahead to Portimao with a clean, fresh head with the focus to maintain the fantastic pace he’s shown in the opening two rounds of the championship.

Towards the end of the race Solunion Aspar Team rider Canet ended a tough weekend for the team in the gravel – following not far behind by SAG Team rider Thomas Luthi who has been fairly under the radar this weekend. The initial incident for Luthi made for worrying viewing, however the rider was up and unharmed.

It was a stunning race for Red Bull Ajo KTM team with last weeks’ runner up Remy Gardner showing no defeat this weekend. He consistently held good pace not letting Lowes get away. Smashing Luthi’s all-time lap record at the circuit in the final lap, Gardner walked away with another 20 points in the bag. Orange plastered the podium as joined beside his team mate was rookie Raul Fernandez who has shown great pace all weekend, proving that not all rookie’s need time to settle! 

Personal special mention to Stefano Manzi who, to say the least has had a few seasons of finding his feet again in order to find the right bike for him. He held strong and consistent pace today which was reflected highly in his lap times and ultimately his finishing result of 8th position. A fantastic result for himself and the Pons Racing team.

FIRST FIFTEEN RIDERS

1 – Sam Lowes

2 – Remy Gardner

3 – Raul Fernandez

4 – Marco Bezzecchi

5 – Ai Ogura

6 – Augusto Fernandez

7 – Celestino Vietti

8 – Stefano Manzi

9 – Xavi Vierge

10 – Fabio Di Giannantonio

11 – Tony Arbolino

12 – Bo Bensnyder

13 – Jorge Navarro

14 – Lorenzo Dalla Porta

15 – Albert Arenas  

Overall, what a way to kick start the season. This weekends’ racing is an absolute credit to all those working hard to ensure us viewers have access to a safe season of racing. The upcoming Portimao race leaves Lowes ahead of the game with 50 points in the bag, Gardner only shy behind with 40.

As they say where our bikes land next, vejo você em breve!

Sam Lowes takes first win of the season in Moto2 in Qatar

Sam Lowes became the first British rider since the late, great Barry Sheene to win an opening grand prix of the season. Although Sheene’s last opening day victory was in 1979, he did win the opening races in both his title years 1976 & 1977 and Lowes will hope for the same success by the end of the season.

Sam Lowes, Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

The 30-year-old was in commanding form all weekend, second in FP1 and fastest in FP2 before taking pole position on Saturday. Although he was passed by both Bo Bendsneyder and Marco Bezzecchi at the start he soon took the lead and controlled the race from the front. After missing out on a challenge for the 2020 title through injury, the 2013 World Supersport champion will be hoping every race weekend goes as smoothly as this one.

Remy Gardner finished second for Red Bull KTM Ajo after passing his teammate Raul Fernandez with twelve laps to go. Although the Australian rider could not catch Lowes, he did finish three seconds ahead of third place after a solid ride. Fernandez dropped down to fifth place in the end but should be delighted with his showing over the weekend, especially qualifying on the front row on his debut.

The battle for the last step on the podium was a great one between Italian riders Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi. In the end, Gresini rider Di Giannantonio came out victorious and it was a great tribute to the late Fausto Gresini to see one of his riders on the podium. It was the fifth podium for the 22-year-old who is still chasing that first elusive win. Bezzecchi was fourth overall last season and is expected to be the main challenger to Lowes this year but missed out on the podium by just 0.013 seconds.

Joe Roberts and Jake Dixon were in close company for much of the race on Sunday. Dixon in particular can be pleased with his performance as he is still recovering from a wrist injury which will have hampered his ability and certainly his stamina. It can surely only be a matter of time before the Brit takes his first podium finish.

Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Germany’s Marcel Schrotter finished eighth ahead of Bo Bendsneyder who achieved his second-best finish in Moto2. The Dutch rider looked much better on the Kalex chassis after riding Tech 3 and NTS since he graduated to the class in 2018. Jorge Navarro came home tenth on the first non-Kalex bike, the Boscoscuro which is a re-branded Speed Up.

American Cameron Beaubier had an impressive first race in Moto2. The five-times AMA Superbike champion qualified 22nd but made steady progress throughout the race and finished eleventh in front of rookie Celestino Vietti.

FIRST FIFTEEN RIDERS

1 – Sam Lowes – GBR – Elf Marc VDS Racing – 25 points
2 – Remy Gardner – AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 – Fabio Di Giannantonio – ITA – Federal oil Gresini – 16
4 – Marco Bezzecchi – ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 13
5 – Raul Fernandez – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 11
6 – Joe Roberts – USA – Italtrans Racing – 10
7 – Jake Dixon – GBR – Petronas Sprinta – 9
8 – Marcel Schrotter – GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 8
9 – Bo Bendsneyder – NED – Pertamina SAG – 7
10 – Jorge Navarro – SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 6
11 – Cameron Beaubier – USA – American Racing – 5

12 – Celestino Vietti – ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 4
13 – Aron Canet – SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 3
14 – Augusto Fernandez – SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing – 2
15 – Thomas Luthi – SUI – Pertamina SAG – 1

Red Bull top of table after Race 1 in Moto3, Qatar

Jaume Masia won an exciting race to start the 2021 season, winning in Qatar ahead of his Red Bull teammate Pedro Acosta. The pair had spent the majority of the race near the front of the leading pack and took first and second at the start of the last lap. For Masia it was his fourth win in Moto3 and he has now won three of his last six races after he won both rounds at Aragon last year.

Jaume Masia Winner of the 2021 Moto3 Grand Prix of Qatar. Pedro Acosta second. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Rookie Acosta qualified eleventh but worked his way forward early on to work well with his teammate, especially when trying to break away from Darryn Binder who finished third. The sixteen-year-old Spaniard proved he is one of the rookies to look out for this season with a confident ride. Another rookie worth noting for the right reasons is Izan Guevara who qualified on the front row for the new Gas Gas team and finished seventh in the race.

One rookie with a race to forget was Xavier Artegas after he took out three riders as well as himself on the second lap with a move which could be described as optimistic or adventurous at best, or likely in less polite terms by the riders he retired. Coming into the heavy-braking left hand corner he tried to go up the inside but had too much speed and too little grip to make it work. His move took out Jeremy Alcoba, Andrea Mignoe and one of the pre-race favourites John McPhee. The Brit had qualified on the front row with his new teammate Binder on pole position.

Binder had a solid race from the front row, riding in his usual aggressive style with late-braking passes and was in the top three for many of the eighteen laps. In the end though he could not catch the breakaway from the Red Bull riders on the last lap and settled for his fifth career podium.

The entire race was a typical Moto3 affair with places changing every lap and plenty of riders going three or four wide into turn one. In the penultimate lap though there was one fantastic rear-facing onboard shot showing the riders going six-wide into one right hand turn and all coming out unscathed. It was a perfect example of the combination of skill and madness required to race at this level.

Guevara’s teammate Sergio Garcia had a solid race on the Gas Gas, running in the leading pack throughout and staying out of trouble. He just did not have enough at the end to reach he podium. It was very similar for Argentine rider Gabriel Rodrigo although at one point it did look like his chance of a high finish had gone when he clipped Masia’s rear wheel and ran wide. The 24-year-old pulled himself back up from outside the top ten to finish fifth in the end.

Jaume Masia Winner of the 2021 Moto3 Grand Prix of Qatar. Pedro Acosta second and Darryn Binder third. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM1

Nico Antonelli qualified tenth and was largely unnoticed in the early stages of the race but in the final third he worked his way through to the front and led shortly before the final lap. He dropped back to sixth by the chequered flag.  His 2020 teammate Tastsuki Suzuki finished eighth with Gueveara between them. The Japanese rider started dead last after failing to set a qualifying time in Q1 so a top ten finish was a great result.

2019 winner Kaito Toba finished tenth ahead of Jason Dupasquier who took his first points finish. Romano Fenati made his name here in 2012 on his debut with second place but struggled around to eleventh ahead of Carlos Tatay.

TOP FIFTEEN RIDERS

1 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points
2 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 16
4 – Sergio Garcia – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas – 13
5 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 11
6 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia KTM – 10
7 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas – 9
8 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 8
9 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 7
10 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 6
11 – Romano Fenati – ITA -Max Racing Husqvarna – 5

12 – Carlos Tatay – SPA – Avintia KTM – 4
13 – Filip Salac -CZE – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 3
14 – Ryusei Yamanaka – JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 2
15 – Max Kofler – AUT – CIP Green Power KTM – 1

It’s a first for Top Gun

After not being able to race at Qatar in 2020, audiences were eagerly awaiting the first Moto GP race of 2021.

But, did it live up to everyone’s expectations? Under those amazing bright lights, we got to see the new glistening colours of the teams, the glittering helmets of the riders and one intriguing race.

All teams chose to start with both front and rear soft tyres, which would always be an interesting factor as the laps progressed.

The Ducati’s, who had dominated Qatar in 2019 and 2018, got an amazing start with four of their bikes leading the pack from the beginning. Bagnaia was out in front from Miller, who was participating in his 100th Moto GP start, following him were Zarco and Martin. Martin managed to make up an impressive 10 places from the grid and Zarco made up four. The Ducati power was definitely something to witness, three Yamahas then followed suit.

Sand being blown over the track due to the high winds caused Petrucci to be the first to fall on lap one.

By lap two Zarco had passed Miller to take second place. However it was Bagnaia that managed to clinch fastest lap by lap 3. Quartararo was also pushing hard and managed to get fourth place in the same lap. Last year’s champion Mir, was now pushing through the pack and was behind Rossi in ninth.

Fastest lap went to Quartararo on lap 4, who was behind his teammate at the time.

Martin in his first race in Moto GP, battled hard to keep his position but the Yamahas proved to much for him and he went to sixth place on lap 5. Vinales then took fastest lap from his teammate, whilst taking his new position past Martin.

Bagnaia, Miller, Quartararo and Vinales managed to break- away from the pack and create their own race. With Aleix Espargaro slowly hunting Valentino down, who was on the next Yamaha along, in his new team Petronas. Espargaro managed to pass him on lap 7. In the meantime Rossi’s new team mate, Morbidelli had fell to position twentieth.

Unfortunately for last year’s pole man and Honda’s top qualifier this year – Nakagami crashed out on the same lap. Meanwhile, Rins and Mir, on the two Suzuki’s, carried on tracking down the front five.

By lap 12, Vinales had made it to second place and was showing Bagnaia that he meant business. His teammate (20) went backwards to sixth place.

Martin had gone backwards as well to thirteenth place on lap 13. Zarco was remaining steady in third.

By lap 14, Vinales was pushing Bagnaia, but neither one was willing to give in. Alex Marquez then finished LCR’s hope to get any points during the race by also crashing out. Both riders were un-hurt.

A new contender for the front was appearing, Rins seemed to be the one to watch. With 8 laps until the end he and Miller were battling on the track.

Lap 15, Vinales took the opportunity and passed Bagnaia for prime position. He pushed straight away and managed to make a gap from the super-quick Ducati’s.

Reigning champion Mir, was still slowly progressing and took fifth place from Miller on lap 16.

On the first corner of lap 17, Zarco on the satellite Ducati passed the full factory Ducati rider Bagnaia, whose tyres may have been degrading faster then others by this point, having lead for most of the race.

Vinales now lead Zarco, Bagnaia and the two Suzuki’s. Had the Suzuki’s qualified better, they may have been further up the pack quicker and would have been fighting for the all important podium positions.

With five laps to go Rins looked menacing behind his teammate Mir. But it was Mir that lined up to pass Bagnaia and finally took third place on lap 20. But Bagnaia didn’t want to give up the place easily. Mir who had been steadily chipping away, coming from 10th on the grid was now in third place, with Zarco still in second and Vinales leading.

Into the final lap, Mir passed Zarco on turn 15, for second place. Fighting constantly against the raging winds, the two Ducati’s were now following as he tried to get away, but he missed the apex into turn 16 and went slightly wide. Mir held firm but as the Dukes shifted into third gear, the speed proved to be too much again for the Suzuki and they passed the number 36 on the final straight. A crest-fallen Suzuki team and many fans had their hearts in their mouths while witnessing yet again the might of the Red Devils.

Top Gun, who proved to be super smooth, won the opening race with Zarco (who had not left the top three from lap one – remaining constant throughout) and Bagnaia taking third on the podium.

Last points scorer went to Martin.

Bagnaia commented at the end of the race “…my bike saved my podium…” with Vinales saying that the “…Ducati’s are unbelievable…”. Is this the first glimpse of Ducati’s come-back?

Qatar will once again host the Moto GP race next weekend at the same time. Will we see the same people battling it out at the front? Or have people shown their hands? And how will others respond?

 

Courtesy of: GresiniRacing.com

Lastly, it was with great sadness to hear that recently Moto GP lost someone very special – Fausto Gresini. He will be greatly missed within Moto GP, Moto 2 and 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Yamaha Racing