The intermediate class heads for Portimão with some new podium players and the two early favourites looking to bounce back.
The Circuit of the Americas saw some milestones for two Moto2™ riders: Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) took his Moto2™ maiden win – incidentally also his first visit to the rostrum in the class – and Jake Dixon (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) took a maiden Grand Prix podium in any class. Arbolino has been quick before as a rookie but has taken a definitive step forward this season, and Dixon has been there or thereabouts a few times before bad luck and trouble put paid to the podium. This time, the battle between bringing it home and pushing on to fight it out – in this case with Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – saw the Brit tick the box and complete an impressive trajectory from British Superbike to Moto2™ podium.
That makes for an interesting conundrum as to what to expect on the Algarve. Arbolino and Dixon will arrive with a shot of confidence, and the latter certainly has a weight off knowing that first part of the job is done. So can they fight at the front again? It wasn’t just COTA where they were quick, so all signs point to yes. Dixon, in fact, eyes Portugal as a good chance to achieve even more.
Ogura can’t be counted out either. The Japanese rider has made a habit of bothering the podium fight all year and if in doubt, will send – having also unburdened himself fairly early of the need to tick that first Moto2™ podium box. He’s now second in the standings too, although he seems to want a win more than much else, so if in doubt, will still send. Teammate Somkiat Chantra, meanwhile, arrives from a little too much send as the Thai rider came crashing back down to Earth from a stunning first couple of races, and he’ll want to bounce back and overcome his Long Lap Penalty given for that incident as quickly as he can. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), one high profile name caught up in it, will also be keen to head back onto familiar turf and stake a claim back on the frontrunners.
Speaking of bouncing back, Fermin Aldeguer (Lightech Speed Up) is on a mission to do the same having similarly overcooked it in Texas, although having been judged to have had a lot less time to react after the Chantra incident ahead. It’s now a lot of speed and a lot of bad luck for the 54 so far in 2022, but the key is the first bit because the second seldom lasts forever. Portimão is turf he knows much better too, so that is a warning sign for the rest if ever there was.
And now, Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40). Having tipped themselves favourites to fight for the crown throughout the season, Texas was the first big hurdle for both. First, it seemed like Canet’s lucky day in the standings as his main rival faced his first DNF of the season, and then the pendulum swung swiftly back and the chance was lost – of gaining serious ground and of taking that first Moto2™ win. It’s likely both will be straight back at the sharp end though and Vietti still leads the standings, with the gap between the two unchanged but a few riders gaining ground in between. What can they do on the Algarve? Their past form at a venue seems to matter little so far in 2022, although Canet has already visited the podium, so don’t bet against it.
Finally, Red Bull KTM Ajo. 2022 has been a far cry from 2021 so far, but the season is early and the time is plenty. Augusto Fernandez will likely be looking for a points haul in Portugal and to keep it within the limits as he looks to rebuild some consistency, and rookie teammate Pedro Acosta will be an interesting watch. This is the venue the number 51 blitzed in pre-season, and a venue he’s already more than mastered in Moto3™. If the more difficult start to Moto2™ has left Acosta feeling he needs to pull a rabbit out the hat, the Algarve seems to set a good stage for him to try.
Moto2™ race last this time around, with the schedule a little different to the usual. The lights go out for the intermediate class at 14:30 local time, which is GMT +1 as summer time begins – an hour behind much of Europe as Lisbon lines up with London.
Moto2™ CHAMPIONSHIP: TOP 5
1 Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – Kalex – 70
2 Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – 56
3 Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) – Kalex – 54
4 Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40) – Kalex – 49
5 Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – 45
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