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

Interview: Can Oncu on his 2018 win and what his plans for 2019

Can Oncu, Moto3. Photo curtesy of Red Bull KTM Ajo

 

After a whirlwind last Moto3 race of 2018 in Valencia, Can Oncu solidified his place on the grid with an impressive debut and a record-breaking win. The 15-year-old Turk became the youngest GP winner and the first Turkish winner of a GP, smashing many more records along the way. Winner of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (with his twin brother Deniz securing second place) and finishing 24th(out of 36) in the Moto3 standings after only one race – the trophy cabinet will be well stocked in the Oncu household after this year. Oncu’s 2018 might have ended in spectacular style, but his 2019 season will continue with Red Bull KTM Ajo as he races for the Finnish team in Moto3 and chases down even more podium finishes. A new flurry of Moto3 riders will be filling the grid in 2019, as Jorge Martin, Fabio di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi, Nicolo Bulega and Enea Bastianini all head for debut Moto2 seasons. However, the Turk will have competition from Aron Canet, Gabriel Rodrigo and Lorenzo Dalla Porta, as well as newer riders like Celestino Vietti. Jade du Preez put some questions to the youngster, to find out how you celebrate such a historic win, and what’s next for the rookie to accomplish.

 

Jade du Preez: How do you feel after your first win?

Can Oncu: I really wanted race with Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi before they went to Moto2. I was lucky and my wish was fulfilled. Martin was my favourite all year long. That I can get involved in the front I spotted FP2 and FP3 and after qualification it was clear. Martin and Bezzecchi brought a very good performance all year. I was very surprised that I won. When I heard after the race that I had broken some records I could not believe it – the youngest Moto3 rider of all time, the youngest Moto3 rider to win a race, and more. Everyone from the paddock congratulated me. Except from the north pole and south pole, congratulations were sent to me from all over the world. The feeling of happiness is really indescribable. I thank everyone who supports me.

 

JdP: What are your goals for 2019 since you’ve already won a race?

CO: I know that I am not perfect, that I still have much to learn and I try hard to do so. Aki Ajo and my race team help me and my brother. I will try to be in the top 10 at the end of the year.

 

JdP: How did you celebrate your win in Valencia? Did you cheat on your diet, hangout with friends, etc.?

CO: I was celebrating with my entire team and eating delicious food in Valencia. I do not like alcohol, I like fruit juices. When I arrived at home in Alanya I was immediately visited by many friends and suddenly we had a party.