Marini Fends Off Lowes To Extend His Championship LeadThe Italian comes out on top in a two-man Moto2™ tug-of-war at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Di Giannantonio completing the podium.

Sky Racing Team VR46’s Luca Marini produced some Montmelo magic to see off the hard-charging Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the closing stages of the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, taking what could turn out to be a vital victory in his quest to be crowned Moto2™ World Champion in 2020. Lowes was forced to settle for second, with the podium completed by Fabio Di Giannantonio (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) as the Italian was back on the rostrum for the first time this year,

Marini would take the holeshot from pole position, with Di Giannantonio diving past his teammate Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) to take second into the opening corner. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), meanwhile, was already inside the top five and trying to help his own Championship cause after starting from tenth on the grid, left with some Sunday work to do.

At the end of Lap 1, Lowes attacked Bastianini to take fifth, with the Italian slipping further back four corners later when Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) found a way through as well. At the front, meanwhile, the leading trio were already showing that they had the pace to break away with a gap starting to form from Navarro back to Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) in fourth.

A lap later Lowes was aggressive again as he lunged past Bezzecchi, but he couldn’t get the bike stopped and allowed the Italian back through. The Brit got the job done moments later though, putting in the fastest lap of the race as he started to close in on the three men ahead. It didn’t take long for the six-wheeler at the front to become an eight-wheeler, and once on the scene Lowes caught and then passed Navarro in one fell swoop to take third.

The front trio were locked together, but Marini seemed a threat to breakaway and Lowes was next looking for a way through on ‘Diggia’. The Brit then got totally out of shape into Turn 10 trying to get past, keeping it together but sending the pair of them wide. Was this the chance for Marini to bolt at the front? The Italian had just over a second in hand as they came across the line to complete Lap 8, but Lowes was unperturbed and he then dispatched the Speed Up ahead before setting another fastest lap. That put him within a second, but Marini remained in his rhythm…

Lowes was too though. Churning through the deficit to tag back onto the Sky Racing Team VR46 machine in the lead, the Brit looking threatening as he hovered in Marini’s shadow. By seven to go, Lowes decided the time was now as an inch-perfect attack into the opening corner saw him take the lead. Marini wouldn’t allow him to escape, however, and as the laps ticked by, the Italian continued to apply the pressure.

Marini waited for the penultimate lap to pounce, and pounce he did. A carbon copy of the move that saw him lose the lead then saw the Italian regain it at Turn 1 as he sliced back through, hammer down immediately as the last few kilometers ticked on. Lowes tried to stay with him, but the Brit was then too hot into Turn 6 and lost ground, left watching Marini escape just enough to secure the win.

That third win of the year for Marini could prove to be his most pivotal yet, as his World Championship lead stretches out to twenty points. Lowes’ four-year wait for an intermediate class win continues, but another podium finish made for some solid points to gain ground on Bezzecchi in the title fight. Di Giannantonio, meanwhile, managed to keep himself in some clear air to take his first podium of the season after what’s been a difficult start to the year.

The good news continued for HDR Heidrun Speed Up in fourth. After a near race-long battle with Joe Roberts, Navarro finally got the better of the American on the final lap to take fourth place. Roberts completed the top five, with Bastianini forced to settle for sixth as his Championship hopes got a slight dent, and the same could be said for Bezzecchi as he came across the line in seventh, ending a run of three podium finishes.

Inde Aspar Team Moto2’s Aron Canet was up there challenging for one before a late mistake saw him drop back to eighth, with Marcos Ramirez (Tennor American Racing) and Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) rounding out the top ten.

Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed out of contention for a solid finish, as did Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was also forced out of the top six fight with a mechanical problem, the Brit on song but short on luck in Barcelona, as was the returning Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as he retired from the race.

Now it’s on to Le Mans and another reset. Can Marini do it again, or will the ‘Beast’ Bastianini strike back? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks!

Moto2™ podium
1 Luca Marini – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex 38:11.103
2 Sam Lowes – EG 0,0 Marc VDS – Kalex +0.981
3 Fabio Di Giannantonio – HDR Heidrun Speed Up – Speed Up +4.399

Luca Marini: “It was a very good weekend because starting from Friday the feeling was great with the bike, it wasn’t easy and I didn’t expect it because compared to Misano it’s a totally different track but we made the right changes on the bike for here. The race was nice, with the low temperatures it was easy to push every lap, I also tried to manage the rear tyre a bit because I knew that was important, we worked a lot on the engine braking all weekend to try and save the tyre. Sam was so fast, I was worried when he overtook me because I was struggling a bit with the rear tyre, but when he overtook me I tried to push a litlte bit more, fortunately I had something more at the end and I could overtake him again. It was important for me to win this race because the feeling on the bike was very good and when I didn’t win in Misano I was a bit angry because there the feeling was great too, and I said… here I need to win!”

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