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

Stunning pole for Lowes in Moto2 Qualifying from Qatar

Sam Lowes lived up to his billing as favourite for pole position with a stunning performance in qualifying in Qatar. The Brit is aiming to take control of the championship as early as possible after missing out on the 2020 title through injury.

Marco Bezzecchi, Moto2 race, European MotoGP, 08 November 2020. Picture courtesy of Triumph

Lowes will be joined on the front row by rookie Raul Fernandez who was on pole six times last year in Moto3 on his way to fourth in the standings. Dutch rider Bo Bendsneyder will start third which is a huge improvement on his 2020 form when he only scored points in four races (one of which was Qatar).

Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi is tipped as a challenger to Lowes this year and will start from the head of row two alongside American Joe Roberts and Australian Remy Gardner. British rider Jake Dixon will start seventh after running as high as second at one point and was lucky that contact from his Petronas teammate Xavi Vierge didn’t cause a fall.

Fabio Di Giannantonio came through Q1 and qualified eighth and with Jorge Navarro ninth.

Both Simone Corsi and Marcos Ramirez will be sore tonight after heavy falls but both riders walked away from their falls in Q1.

1 – Sam Lowes – GBR – Marc VDS

2 – Raul Fernandez – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM

3 – Bo Bendsneyder – NED – Pertamina SAG

4 – Marco Bezzecchi – ITA – Sky Racing VR46

5 – Joe Roberts – USA – Italtrans Racing

6 – Remy Gardner – AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM

7 – Jake Dixon – GBR – Petronas Sprinta

8 – Fabio Di Giannantonio – ITA – Federal Oil Gresini

9 – Jorge Navarro – SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up

10 – Celestino Vietti – ITA – Sky Racing VR46

11 – Nicolo Bulega – ITA – Federal Oil Gresini

12 – Aron Canet – SPA – Inde Aspar Team

Moto2 Report: Oliveira Clinched Final Win After Marquez Crashes Out

After rain hampered racing all weekend, there was almost relief evident in the Moto2 riders as they lined up for the final round of  2018. All their setup time had been in the wet, so racing in those conditions was in some ways more straightforward.

That said, after the first two corners, Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) would have been extremely thankful that he had wrapped up the championship two weeks ago in Malaysia. The pole sitter, Bagnaia’s teammate Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46), locked the front tyre and his rider-less Kalex hit Bagnaia. This seemed to cause some substantial damage to the #42 bike, and later in the race (when he was riding in the lower reaches of the points positions), Bagnaia was visibly struggling with the stability of his bike. That first lap contact limited Bagnaia’s final Moto2 race into a 45-minute ride of honour.

Meanwhile, there was some strong battling out front in the early stages. Xavi Vierge, in his final race for Dynavolt Intact GP took the early lead, before Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) switched with him and took the lead.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had come up from tenth on the grid to third on the first lap, and had impressively taken the lead by lap two of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Other notable rides early on included Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) and Fabio Quartararo (HDR Heidrum – Speed Up) who had come from 21st and the back of the grid respectively to be within the points by the end of the first lap.

 

Marquez, Valencia, Moto2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS

 

After a brilliant start, Pasini started to fall back as the other riders at the front started to pick up the pace. However, as the veteran Italian was dropping back, Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was steaming forward with some very impressive pace. Lecuona was coming through at the same time, and soon after Marquez passed Oliveira for the lead on lap six, the #27 was pushing the #97 of Vierge up to the back of the Portuguese rider.

Vierge, though, couldn’t maintain his pace and crashed on lap 12, unleashing Lecuona on Oliveira. For a while it looked like the 18-year-old Spaniard would find a way past the Championship runner-up rider and possibly go on to set his sights on Marquez out front. However, Oliveira responded to the pace of Lecuona, and started to pull away, catching up to Marquez simultaneously.

Marquez tried to stabilise the gap before he crashed on the final corner of lap 16 and gifted Oliveira the lead, with a monstrous gap back to Lecuona in second. Such was the pace of the top three before Marquez’ crash, and the attrition rate, that the #73 managed to remount his Kalex in third place, just in front of Pasini, who he then pulled away from.

 

Lecuona, Oliveira, Marquez. Moto2, Valencia, 2018. Photo courtesy of Red Bull KTM Ajo.

 

Oliveira went on to take the final win of the 2018 World Championship season; his final Moto2 race before he moves to Tech 3 KTM next season in the MotoGP class. It was the perfect way for him to end his time in the class. Oliveira’s win also meant that there has not been a single Spanish victor in the intermediate class this season. Lecuona held onto second place for his first ever podium. The ex-supermoto rider will hope to be able to use this as a springboard for 2019, in which he remains with the SII team (although it is changing its name next season) and will be aiming for even more podiums. Marquez managed to clinch the final podium spot after his crash. 2018 has not been kind to the Spaniard, and the aim for him next year will be to turn things around with the regulation change and the move to Triumph motors.

Pasini took fourth in his final GP, from Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing), Quartararo, Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP), Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40), Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) and Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) who completed the top ten. Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) was 11th, ahead of Tetsuta Nagashima (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia), Steven Odendaal (NTS RW Racing GP), Bagnaia, and Jesko Raffin (SAG Team) who took the final point.