Moto2: Maiden Pole for Acosta at Le Mans

Having previously never started a Moto2 race from the front row, rookie Pedro Acosta will have the honours of leading the field off the line for tomorrow’s race as he clinched his maiden pole. He will be joined on the front row by Jake Dion and Augusto Fernandez, as Sam Lowes and Ai Ogura both crash out.

Before the 2022 Moto2 season had begun, many had their sights set on rookie rider Pedro Acosta and predicted he would be a title contender. However as the season kicked off Acosta was nowhere to be seen, unable to qualify higher than 10th or finish a race higher than seventh.

With the sun shining down on the Le Mans circuit, it seemed that today would be Acosta’s day. He hit the top of the timing sheets with over three minutes remaining in Q2, with a time of 1:35.803 that no one was able to challenge.

Joining him on the front row will be Jake Dixon, who was able to put together a brilliant lap despite seeming to struggle to find his flow all weekend, and Augusto Fernandez.

Lining up in sixth for tomorrow’s race will be new boy, Alonso Lopez, who is replacing Romano Fenati. On his first step up from Moto3, he laid down an impressive performance to secure a second row start for tomorrow.

It was a much trickier day for Sam Lowes and the two Honda Team Asia riders, Ai Ogura and Somkiat Chantra, as all three riders crashed during Q2. However, thanks to some early banker laps, they will start tomorrow’s race from fourth, eighth and 11th respectively.

Our championship leader, Celestino Vietti, has struggled for pace all weekend, forcing him to join the Q1 group. These woes continued throughout the session as he failed to sit within the top three even once in the session. He was unable to progress to Q2 and will start tomorrow’s race from the lowly 19th spot on the grid.

Image Credit: MotoGP
QUALIFYING 1

As everyone completed their first flying laps of the session, it was Manuel Gonzalez who jumped to the top of the timing sheets first. He set an initial benchmark of 1:36.645. Behind him was Lorenzo Dalla Porta in second, Jorge Navarro third and Vietti in fourth – all had provisionally booked a place in to Q2.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Alessandro Zaccone crashed at Turn 8, bringing out yellow flags in Sector 3. Less than a minute later, Sean Dylan Kelly crashed at Turn 14 to bring out yet more yellow flags, this time in at Sector 4. The biggest looser from they yellow flags seemed to be Joe Roberts who was just appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

With just less than five minutes of the session remaining, Niccolo Antonelli became the next victim of the tricky Le Mans circuit, as he crashed at Turn 8. Lucky he was unscathed as he returned to action following surgery for arm pump earlier in the week.

At this point in the session, Dalla Porta was at the top of the timing sheet with Fermin Aldeguer, Bo Bendsneyder and Navarro just behind him. There was just 0.04s covering there top four riders and everything was still to play form.

Sitting just outside the top four was Vietti who returned to tack for some final flying laps with four minutes left in the session. He had just enough time to complete three flying laps and, whilst each was an improvement on the last, he still wasn’t able to break in to that elusive leading group. Whilst his lap times were fastest that most in sectors one and two, he was loosing out considerably in sectors three and four.

The checkered flag fell and with no one able to improve on their lap times or challenge the top four, it was Dalla Porta, Aldeguer, Bendsneyder and Navarro who progressed to Q2.

QUALIFYING 2

The first flying lap of Q2 was set by Lowes on the Elf Marc VDS machine. He then improved on his early banker lap with a 1:36.071. In hindsight, this lap would prove vital as with nine minutes left on the clock, he suffered a horrible highside at Turn 8. The rear of the bike stepped out as he exited the corner, causing a highside which threw him down on to his shoulder before the bike hit him in the back.

Just moments before this incident, Ogura also crashed at Turn 8 – in an uncharacteristic move, the bike slid from underneath him as he touched the throttle to exit the corner. This combination of incidents resulted in yellow flags waving across both Sector 2 and 3.

As the session continued, and with just seven minute remaining, a number of riders seemed to pick up the pace – this included Acosta and Dixon who were setting flying sector times. As Acosta jumped up to third, the provisional grid was lead by Lowes, Albert Arenas and Acosta. Lopez, on his first Moto2 outing, was in provisional fourth ahead of Ogura in fifth.

With three minutes to go, Fernandez leapt to the top of the timings, only to have provisional pole snatches away moment later, as Acosta crossed the line. The next bike across the line was Dixon, who split the leading pair to take second. Lowes had now been shuffled off the front row and had no way to fight back as he sat in the garage.

As the checkered flag fell, no one looked to be able to improve on their times or challenge the leading pair. The final nail in the coffin came when Chantra suffered a fast front end crash at Turn 10 bringing out the yellow flag at sectors 3 and 4 and halting anyone from challenging Acosta.

Further down the grid, Aron Canet took seventh after a quiet and difficult weekend. Bo Bendsneyder was the best Q1 progressor in ninth, just ahead of Tony Arbolino in tenth.

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

Moto2: Reactions to the Qatar GP

The first race of the 2022 season was entirely dominated by Celestino Vietti on the VR46 Racing machine, there have been plenty of talking points. Below are a few key thoughts from the riders.

The start of a new season is always rife with speculation, anticipation and excitement. Thankfully, the first race lived up to that with some dominant performances from those on the podium and mixed fortunes for others further back in down the grid.

You can read our full race report here. Below are some key thoughts from the riders as they reflect on the weekend’s actions. The grid will be back in action on the 18th to the 20th of March in Indonesia.

P1 = Celestino Vietti, Mooney VR46 Racing Team

Vietti cruised to a maiden Moto2 win, having secured pole the previous day. He led every lap and came home more than six seconds ahead of his competitors.

Image Credit: MotoGP

“It was very unexpected because [during qualifying] we were fast, but we didn’t have this race pace. We didn’t plan on doing a race like this, but during [Sunday] morning we made some adjustments to better manage the tire and assure a better consistency. The bike worked well and the team did a good job, so this result is for them.

We have to remain calm and continue to work in this way. It is a good way to start the year, but we know that we have very good rivals and it will certainly be a difficult year. We’re going to have to fight hard, so we have to stay focused and work well.”


P3 = Sam Lowes, Elf Marc VDS Racing Team

Lowes was plagued with tendonitis during pre-season testing, which saw him missing out on a lot of track time. However, he enjoyed a race-long battle with Ogura, Fernandez and teammate Arbolino on his way to a podium finish. After winning both races in Qatar in 2021, he will have been keen to start 2022 in an equally positive way.

Image Credit: MotoGP

“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. But we had a good qualifying [on Saturday] and a podium [on Sunday]! The race was difficult. There were a couple of guys that were stronger than me, but it was a nice battle even though I couldn’t ride how I wanted to ride. So, to get some points on the board is good and to get the podium at the end is fantastic.”

 


P4 = Augusto Fernandez, Red Bull KTM Ajo

Fernandez spent much of his race, like Lowes, battling for the final podium place, which he was on track to secure before Ogura knocked in him a few laps from the end. He will have, undoubtedly, been disappointed to miss out on his first podium with the KTM team.

Image Credit: MotoGP

“We end the weekend with a bittersweet taste in our mouths. However, we must be happy to have finished, since, after the setback on the last lap, it could have been worse. Besides this, I’m satisfied with how I felt on the bike. During the weekend we showed that we had the pace to be up at the front and we gave our all to win the battle in the chasing group. Finally, the podium got away from us due to that incident, but we were lucky enough to be able to cross the finish line.”


P11 = Jake Dixon, GASGAS Aspar Team

Dixon had a fairly solid day on Saturday, qualifying in seventh, but an issue on the first corner of the first lap sent him tumbling down the order. This forced him to spend much of the race recovering and trying to salvage as many points as possible.

Image Credit: MotoGP

“Turn 1 and 2 was a disaster! Being that far back – outside the top twenty – on the first lap meant it was so hard to try and come back. I had to pass 10 or 11 riders and it took a long time. I think I lost ten seconds and if you take that away from the final race time then we would have been battling for the podium. So, we had the pace but the first lap held me back. It’s a long season and this is just the start.”

 


P12 = Pedro Acosta, Red Bull KTM Ajo

After laying down the gauntlet in pre-season testing, Acosta crashed out of his first Moto2 qualifying and started the race in tenth. He then faced a similar issue to Dixon after a first corner incident sent him backwards early in the race. Many will have been expecting to see more from the young prodigy during his first Moto2 outing.

Image Credit: MotoGP

“Today we accumulated kilometres and very important experience. The important thing is that we had a very consistent race and that our pace was enough to be fighting with the riders in front. The start of the contest didn’t go as expected, but this can happen in your first Grand Prix in a class.”

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

Moto2: Pre-Season Testing Round-Up

The only official test for the Moto2 grid took place last week with a number of riders laying down an early gauntlet and smashing the previous lap record.

The three-day test saw every rider from both Moto2 and Moto3 on track at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao to make final preparations ahead of the first race of the season. This comes after two private testing sessions which were led by Sam Lowes and Ai Ogura respectively.

Overall, the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down by the sensation that is Pedro Acosta. The 2021 Moto3 Champion has clearly stated his intentions before his rookie season has even begun, thanks to laying down a time of 1:41.552 on the final day. This smashed the previous lap record by almost half a second.

Not far behind Acosta was his team mate, Augusto Fernandez – however, he was a distant 0.154s behind his colleague on day three.

Aron Canet enjoyed a hugely consistent test, sitting within the top three at the end of each day of testing.

Trouble plagued Lowes, who missed the afternoon sessions of the first and second test, before then entirely missing the third day. He has been struggling with tendonitis which seems likely to hamper the start of his season, which is fast approaching.

 

Jake Dixon – Image Credit: MotoGP

Day 1

The first day of testing, made up of three sessions, saw Jake Dixon, on the GASGAS Aspar Team machine, posting the fastest with a 1:43.169. Overall, the final times were very close with the top four riders covered by less than a second.

Canet’s Flexbox HP 40 ended the day with the second-fastest time – just 0.075s behind Dixon. Fernandez on the Red Bull KTM Ajo machine was fastest in the first two sessions of the day. However, he decided to not run in the final session of the day. His time from the second session – a 1:43.258 – was enough to finish the day with the third fastest time.

Fernandez’s team mate, Acosta, also chose not to run in the final session. He finished the day in fourth, rounding out a successful day for the KTM team.

 

Aron Canet – Image Credit: MotoGP

Day 2

The second day of testing saw the riders finding more time around the Portimao circuit – so much so that four riders were able to beat the 2021 pole time set by Fernandez.

The honours for the day went to Canet who was able to go one better than day one. His fastest lap time was a 1:41.892, beating the previous lap record. Rookie Acosta secured the day’s second fastest time, a mere 0.037s off the pace. His team mate, Fernandez, was third with Dixon dropping to fourth.

A number of drivers faced a struggle on the second day, with Keminth Kubo, Marcel Schötter and Fermín Aldeguer crashing in session one. That was followed by another crash from Kubo in session two, as well as tumbles for Ogura, Acosta, Sean Dylan Kelly and Lowes.

For the second consecutive day, Lowes chose to sit out the final session of the day. This may have been caused by Lowes’ struggles with tendonitis.

 

Pedro Acosta – Image Credit, MotoGP

Day 3

The final day of testing was “The Acosta Show” as the rookie smashed the lap record and set the fastest lap of the day. Thanks to this enormous lap, the top riders were a little more spread out on the final day. Acosta’s team mate rounded out a KTM 1-2, with Canet setting the third fastest time. All three have enjoyed consistently fast times across the entire test.

Aldeguer put his day two crashes behind him to set the fourth fastest time of the day. Albert Arenas was fifth and Ogura was sixth.

There were another series of serious crashes in the final day which led to Schötter visiting the medical centre for checks on his hand and Bo Bendsneyder breaking his collarbone. There were further crashes for Arenas, Canet and Dixon, among others.

Feature Image Credit: MotoGP

Pedro Acosta – A star is born

Acosta

There aren’t many riders who enter their rookie season in Moto3 and blow both the fans and opposition away. But Pedro Acosta has done just that.

The young Moto3 rookie entered the category this year with an already impressive resume, winning the Red Bull Rookies Cup in 2020 and finishing as runner-up in the FIM CEV Moto3 Junior Championship in the same year.

At the tender age of 16, Acosta made his Moto3 debut in March with a strong and heavily experienced team of Red Bull KTM Ajo, meaning he had the equipment to run at the front.

It usually takes riders a few races to get up to pace with the close nature of Moto3; it can even take some a year and very often riders find themselves struggling to get up to speed at all.

It took Acosta just one race.

The Spaniard impressed everyone when he topped both FP1 and FP2 of the Grand Prix of Qatar and went one step further as he battled his way through the pack to finish second in the race, just 0.042s behind race winner Jaume Masia.

The paddock already knew he was the real deal, with Jack Miller even making what then seemed like a bold prediction that Acosta would win the championship.

Acosta
Credit: Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM Media Library

The now 17-year-old couldn’t stop impressing as he stunned everyone with a victory in the second round of the year, this time starting from the pit-lane and charging his way up the field to the front – something no Moto3 rider had accomplished beforehand.

Another two wins in Portugal and Spain saw Acosta become the first rider in Grand Prix history to achieve a podium in his first four races.

Acosta remained a regular front-runner from then on but only achieved a further four podiums, with his last coming in the Algarve GP, the race where he was crowned champion.

Ending off the season with 259 points – 43 points ahead of his nearest rival Dennis Foggia – Acosta has cemented himself as one of MotoGP’s future stars.

Moving into Moto2 for the 2022 campaign and already being linked to a MotoGP ride, the Spaniard will be looking to continue the already incredible form he has shown this season.

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

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