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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 was certainly back on form and was impressive from lights out.
Race Results (Top Ten):
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:
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).
Always in our thoughts: Dean Berta Vinales. Taken too young.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Top Ten Riders:
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:
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.
Jorge Martin (Ducati) and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) made the top ten and went through to FP2.
It looked like Quartararo had secured pole but Martin put in an all-time lap record (1:22.643) and stole pole in the last few seconds. Pushing Fabio to 2nd, Franceso Bagnaia (Ducati) went to 3rd and Johann Zarco (Ducati) 4th.
The big news that was announced was: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) had been suspended from racing, due to last weekends antics on track. It was discovered that he had tried to blow up his Yamaha M1 engine, possibly causing serious danger to both himself and others. It is believed that he will not compete in any further races this year.
The weather was hot and humid in Austria, with massive black rain clouds looming above the track. The race was declared dry and would be a flag-to-flag affair. But, if hopes for a repeat of last weekend’s Austria race were anywhere near, they were soon to be dashed.
Martin sat in pole and got a fantastic launch, quickly leading Bagnaia, Zarco and Quartararo. Immediately, as all four riders went into turn one, the white flags started to wave signifying that bikes could then be swapped.
Bagnaia soon took the lead and Martin and Quartararo tussled for 2nd. Marc Marquez (Honda) was also battling at the front, gaining 4th and then 3rd place by lap 3. By lap 4, he had made it into 2nd. He was the only rider to have a soft (rear) tyre.
By lap 6 all top five riders kept swapping positions, none of them wanting to give an inch.
With the black clouds heavy with rain above them, a few rain drops suddenly started to appear and thunder rumbled in the distance. It was then the time for white and red flags to be waved on turn 2, meaning there was rain in that sector.
Lap 8 of 28, saw Quartararo take the lead, but it was quickly taken back by Bagnaia on the start-finish line. Bagnaia took his chance and soon started to gap from the pack. By the half-way point in the race, there were more gaps appearing between the riders.
Meanwhile the black clouds continued to gather and then drama ensued:
The start of the second part of the incredible entertainment came from Enea Bastianini’s Ducati. The fairing suddenly broke free and flew off onto the side of the track, causing him to have to retire.
Zarco then crashed out of the race on turn 9. Marquez and Quartararo continued to fight with each-other for 2nd place, behind Bagnaia and in-front of last weekends winner in 4th. But an unusual mistake from Fabio meant Marquez was suddenly on the back of Pecco. On lap 22 he took the lead with a sensational maneuver, but Bagnaia was quick to respond and re-took first within seconds. That of course brought Quartararo back into play.
7 laps to go, the rain became heavier, causing Oliveira to crash on turn one. Everyone was becoming more and more tentative into the corners. Jack Miller (Ducati) and Alex Rins (Suzuki) decided that was their moment to enter the pits and swap their bikes. Would this prove to be effective, with very little race left?
Racing like they were on ice, all front five riders continued to circulate on slick tyres and not only that, they continued to fight for positions!
Marquez led Quartararo, Bagnaia, Martin and Binder. Incredible passes upon passes continued. Hands were being thrown in the air, regarding the poor weather conditions but the race was not going to be stopped as it was a flag-to-flag event.
Then with no hesitation all 5 front leading riders went straight into the pits to change to their wet weather bikes, leaving the KTM rider, Brad Binder alone to lead the race from Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Only nine riders remained on slick tyres, on a very wet track.
It was hard to believe that then there was only three laps remaining until the end. Binder was riding an incredibly brave race, skidding and sliding in ever-increasing hazardous conditions.
Marc Marquez crashed out on lap 26, turn 1. He had been riding all-in and unfortunately couldn’t quite pull it off. He managed to get back on the bike and later said “this is my best Sunday of the year”… “it’s only one championship point but I really enjoyed getting it”. Meanwhile, Binder was doing the unthinkable and started to break away from the rest of the riders, with only 2.6miles of track to the line. Could he hold on? Could he bring KTM’s first win at their home track in Moto GP?
The riders behind Binder were racing incredibly slowly – most of them having stayed out on slick tyres. A. Espagaro and Iker Lecuona (KTM) battled for 2nd. Luca Marini (Ducati) passed his brother (46) and Espargaro. But it was the ‘Bagnaia Bullet’ that came from no-where and passed everyone to gain 2nd place! Following close behind were Martin and Mir. Leaving Binder to get his second victory in the premier class. He was given a 3-second penalty for exceeding track limits on the last lap, but he had hardly any control over his bike in the treacherous conditions. The penalty didn’t effect the result though, in the end he managed to gain 12 seconds from his nearest rival, even with Bagania racing through to gain 2nd. Brad’s gamble had indeed paid off!
The number 33 became the 7th different winner in 2021 and the rookie Martin secured not only his 2nd pole in a row but his 2nd race podium as well.
Top Ten Race Results:
Updated Championship Reults:
What a race?! The championship hunt is hotting up once again, with Quartararo’s lead now less and Zarco unfortunately dropping to fourth. Bagnaia and Mir are now on equal points. Could we see Mr. Consistency rise in the ranks once again and fight to remain World Number One?
What will we witness next round at Silverstone in two weeks time?
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.
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.
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
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.
If fans were getting withdrawal symptoms from bike racing then this race was sure looking like it was going to quench that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Current Championship Standings:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
Mir (Current Champion)
All information is current and correct on date of publication – 04-08-21
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Top Ten Race Results:
Top Four Championship Positions:
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.
During the qualifying Johann Zarco (Ducati) took pole breaking Fabio Quartararo’s (Yamaha) row of poles. He then took a tumble on turn 4, with just over a minute of qualifying left. Moments later Takaaki Nakagami also fell – turn 1. Both incidents caused the yellow flags to be waved meaning that Zarco clinched pole from Quartararo, Jack Miller (Ducati) and Marc Marquez (Honda).
Although being hot and humid at the Sachsenring Circuit, there were clouds above which caused concerns that it might turn to rain, but the race was not declared a wet race.
The 30 lap circuit, with it’s mainly left-hander corners, along with the weather conditions could potentially play into Marquez’s hands – but was this too much to ask?
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) led from the line, getting ahead of Marquez and Zarco. Whilst Marc went forwards, the championship leader went backwards. But it was Brad Binder (KTM) who gained the most places from the grid going up 6 places by lap 2.
M. Marquez soon took the lead from A. Espargaro, but Aleix didn’t want to give up the position easily and fought Marc for it. Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati) and Quartararo had a tussle for 4th behind them.
It was the reigning champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) who quickly got the fastest lap, but it was soon taken by Marquez, who was all to happy to start gaining a lead on Aleix.
It wasn’t long until Miguel Oliveira (KTM) stole fastest lap, twice in a row and also passed Quartararo for 5th place. He was picking up the pace and fast. He knew he couldn’t let Marc get too far ahead, whether or not Marquez was 100% fit or not.
Lap 5, turn 1, during a racing incident, both Alex Marquez (Honda) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) fell into the gravel.
On the next lap, it was Lorenzo Savadori’s (Aprilia) turn to end his race early.
Seeing Marquez eek his lead out further Miller decided he needed to make a move on Zarco and passed him with 23 laps to go, into 3rd place.
But then, it seemed the weather had took a turn and the white flags started to be waved, which meant that riders could come into the pits to change their bikes should they wish to – in preparation for rain. However, lap 10 saw the white and red flags being waved, signifying rain. The clouds never picked up momentum though and no rider came into the pits to swap their bikes.
The number 93 knew some riders who saw drops on their visors may slow down and he saw this as his moment to really push forward. The gap between him and Miller soon became 1.417 seconds with 21 laps to the end.
All bikes had medium and hard tyre combinations except Nakagami’s Honda which had a soft rear tyre. It was either going to be a masterstroke or a disaster, it was not the former.
As the rain became a little harder A. Espargaro went from 2nd to 4th and Fabio passed Johann, to take 5th place. It was now Marquez leading Miller, Oliveira and A. Espargaro, going into lap 12.
It wasn’t long into the 12th lap that Oliveira secured 2nd from Miller and went straight into hunting down Marquez. The gap between the two was 1.669 seconds.
Oliveira soon managed to get away from the rest of the pack and secured another two fastest laps in a row, trying to hunt down the King of the Ring, but Marquez responded with another fastest lap and extended his lead to 1.989 seconds, half-way through the race.
Meanwhile, at the other end of group – Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) were having an awful weekend, fighting to not be in last place.
Mini battles started to form, mainly between Binder and Zarco for 6th place and Quartararo and A. Espargaro for 4th.
The gap between Marquez and Oliveira slowly declined to 1.411 seconds, with 12 laps to go – could Miguel catch Marc?
Digging deep with 11 laps to go Marquez kept his consistent lap times and still led Oliveira, but Fabio and Jack had swapped positions in 3rd and 4th behind him.
A. Espargaro couldn’t hold onto his 5th place any longer from Binder, who needed to try and aim for a podium finish.
The gap dipped to just under one second between the Honda and the KTM in 1st and 2nd, with 5 laps to the chequered flag. But, Marquez responded in typical Marc-of-old style and found some energy and picked the pace up again and soon extended his lead to 1.095 seconds, which soon became 1.931 seconds with 3 laps to go.
During this time Zarco was passed by Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), handing Fabio some more precious championship points and Binder passed Miller (whose tyres were starting to show signs of wear) for 4th place.
Last lap of the race and all Moto GP fans, regardless of who they follow or what team they support – were behind Marc Marquez to just stay on his Repsol Honda and win. And that was just what he did! For the first time in 581 days Marc Marquez passed the finish line in first place! Keeping his winning record at the Sachsenring going, this was his 8th victory in a row in the Premier Class at the German circuit and the 11th win in a row from all classes. Marquez also took his 57th Moto GP victory.
Holding himself together in the interview after the race he stated that he wanted to try and fight for a podium finish and that he wasn’t sure he could go for the win, saying …”it was really hard to concentrate…”.
Oliveira finished 2nd taking three podiums in a row for KTM. In his post-race interview he said …”I’ll take a second anyday at Sachsenring to him…” and Fabio Quartararo took the last podium position securing important points for his championship lead.
There was nothing but respect for Marc in Parc Ferme from all the riders – they all know and understand what he has gone through and what he has had to do to get back to where he is now.
It is undeniable that Marquez is King Of The Ring!
Race results: Top Ten:
Championship results: Top Four:
The championship is still extremely close and hard to predict. What will happen in the next round at Assen? It is a typically good track for Yamaha, but will the race mirror this?
It is a home track for many of the riders but it was a Frenchman that claimed pole.
During Q1 Marc Marquez (Honda) decided to follow and gain a tow from Jack Miller (Ducati). Unfortunately, given his best efforts, this didn’t help Marquez and he couldn’t manage better than 13th place.
Miller on the other-hand made it all the way through and finished on the front row. Even a crash didn’t interfere with his result.
Viewers may have noticed that Alex Rins (Suzuki) wasn’t out on track, this was due to a cycling accident that occurred off-track where he went into a Dorna vehicle and hurt his wrist. He would also not participate in the race.
Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) would start from pole (his fifth pole in a row this year). Miller second and Zarco third – finishing the front row.
The Catalan circuit always produces some entertaining races and this one was no exception. But there was a twist in the script book, which saw it be thrown completely out of the window.
Prior to the race, Jorge Martin (Ducati) had an accident and was made to start from the pit-lane, from 15th slot on the grid.
Once the lights turned green it was all go – Miller and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) managed to get past Quartararo on the straight. Knowing they had to make a break for it and disrupt Fabio’s rhythm.
All riders were so close together, quickly creating battles between: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Brad Binder (KTM). Miller and Quartararo. Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).
Mir got a fantastic start and went from tenth to fourth by turn seven, lap one.
All within the first three laps Quartararo and Miller tussled for second place but Quartararo came out worse and made a mistake causing the other riders to take full advantage, pushing him down to fifth. Mir passed Espargaro. Oliveira got fastest lap. Zarco passed Quartararo. Bagnaia then took fastest lap. Quartararo re-took fourth position back from Zarco and Binder went into the rear of Vinales – both riders remained on the track and un-hurt and finally fastest lap went back to Oliveira.
Quartararo soon gained his composure back and started to hunt down the riders in front. He passed A. Espargaro and Mir was next on the radar. On the same lap, Pol Espargaro (Honda) crashed out of the race, turn 5, lap 5.
All the riders knew they had to conserve their tyres as much as possible but it was hard to think this was in the fore-front of their minds as all top 6 racers (bar Oliveira) were constantly battling for positions. By lap 7, Quartararo re-gained second place, managed to get fastest lap in the process and was soon hot-on-the-heels of the KTM.
Meanwhile, Danilo Petrucci (KTM) crashed turn 9.
Riding well was Marc Marquez, with 17 laps left in 7th position chasing A. Espargaro and Zarco down. But then disaster struck and he crashed out (for the third time in a row) on the infamous turn 10. With Pol, his team-mate already out, neither factory Honda riders gained any points at their home race.
It went from bad to worse for Honda, with Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) receiving a long lap penalty for taking a shortcut through turns one and two. Alex Marquez (Honda) would take the best finish result for the manufacturer in 11th.
With 15 laps to the chequered flag Oliveira still led Quartararo, Mir, Miller and Zarco.
The next local boy to have a DNF was A. Espargaro, same turn as Marquez a few laps earlier.
Meanwhile at the front of the pack positions were being swapped again. Quartararo passed Oliveira on turn 5, half-way through the race. But the Portuguese rider had other plans and soon re-took the lead. Zarco passed Miller for fourth and Miller and Mir had a mini battle which saw Miller win.
Turn 10 soon took out yet another rider, this time it was the nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who took to the dirt, with 8 laps until the end.
Iker Lecuona (KTM) then tumbled, turn 13, lap 18.
Six laps until the race finish gapping had started to appear between the racers. Oliveira and Quartararo were out on their own in 1st and 2nd. Zarco, Miller, Mir and Vinales were in another group fighting for the last podium position.
The number 88 (Oliveira) started to pull away from 20 (Quartararo) and Zarco was soon on his rear. Lap 22 Zarco passed his fellow Frenchman on the start-finish straight. Moments later Fabio lost the front of his bike a-little and he went off track but rejoined in-front of Miller. Slotting into third.
Then a very unusual thing happened, Quartararo’s leathers were suddenly open and he had pulled out his chest protector. Both things had become a safety issue but the race officials did not bring out a black flag for the rider. Instead he was allowed to carry on racing. The rules clearly state that “…equipment must be worn, correctly fastened, at all times during on-track activity”. This has caused controversy already. When asked at the end of the race Fabio was hesitant to give an explanation and said that enquiries were already being held on the matter and that the incident wasn’t his fault.
However, on the last lap he received a three-second penalty for a different rule-break – a shortcut on turns one and two, just like Nakagami earlier on in the race. Meaning that his position in third was given to Miller.
Oliveira went on to win his third ever race in Moto GP, from Zarco and Miller.
As there were only 15 riders to finish the race, everyone got at least one point towards their championship positions.
Sachsenring (Germany) is next on the calendar – Sunday 20th June – Marc Marquez has never been beaten there. Will we see a miraculous win from the Spaniard or will there be a new King of the track?
Wishing all the best to Alex Rins and Suzi Perry in their recovery.
(Featured image: Celebrating with the fans – Courtesy of Moto GP)