The fight for the crown goes down to the final round after a stunner of an intermediate class race sees four riders left in it with one round to go.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jorge Martin stole a last-gasp victory at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the Spaniard diving through on Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) in the final sector and able to hold off compatriot Hector Garzo (FlexBox HP40) on the run to the line to wrap up win number two of his Moto2™ career. Garzo beat Bezzecchi to second, although the Italian remains in mathematical contention and 23 points off the top in fourth. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) will take a 14 point lead to the season finale in Portimao, the title fight still between four riders as the final round appears on the horizon.
From the outside of the front row, it was Bezzecchi who got a great start but an aggressive Martin dived through from the second row at Turn 1 to take the the holeshot. Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) settled into second from pole, just ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) and then Bezzecchi, but at the start of lap two, ‘Diggia’ passed Manzi into Turn 2 as he saw Martin trying to spark an early escape. Two laps later, Bezzecchi was able to follow his compatriot through to demote the MV Agusta man back to fourth.
Coming out of the final corner both Martin and Di Giannantonio had rear-end twitches in perfect unison and that allowed Bezzecchi through to second. One lap later, and at exactly the same spot, the Sky Racing Team VR46 rider slipped up the inside of Martin to hit the front and, with Bastianini down in eighth, close the title lead down to 12 points. In a half a lap to forget for Martin, Di Giannantonio then found a way past the KTM man too.
A lead group of four was starting to form at the front and Garzo could see that, prompting a dive past Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) for fifth at the final corner. The fastest lap of the race at that time for the Spaniard saw him close in on the rear-end of Manzi and then move past the Italian to find himself in fourth and right in the podium fight on home turf.
Not long after, a mistake from Di Giannantonio out of the final corner saw Martin able to pull alongside him and edge in front but only for a split second, with the aggressive Speed Up braking as late as possible to hold on to second. That offered a chance to Garzo on the run up to Turn 2 and the Flexbox HP 40 rider took the chance with both hands, squeezing past Martin for third.
Stefano Manzi’s incredible weekend then came to an unfortunate end as the MV Agusta man crashed out of contention, doing a favour for compatriot Bastianini who moved up to seventh as a result and extended his potential title lead to 13 points. Marini was sat just ahead of Bastianini in sixth and a battered and bruised Sam Lowes was digging deep and picking his way through the field but still back in 18th.
The tension at the front was growing as the laps ticked away, with Di Giannantonio applying more and more pressure on Bezzecchi. With six to go Di Giannantonio then made his move, a cool and calculated dive through at Turn 11… before then making a costly error into the final corner that allowed Bezzecchi to retake the lead, as you were.
Martin’s late charge continued to gain momentum when he was next to make a move, diving past Garzo down the start-finish straight to grab hold of the final podium place. Could he home in on the Italians in the lead?
With two to go there was nothing between the duo at the front and Di Giannantonio then found a way through at Turn 11 once again, keeping it tidy through the final corner this time to lead the now four-way fight for victory over the line for the last lap. Bezzeccchi was starting to lose touch with the Speed Up and it looked like Diggia’s to lose – and unfortunately he did. Suddenly, only half a lap from the win, the Italian slid out at Turn 6 and was out of the fight, leaving a trio scrapping over the podium order.
That left Bezzecchi in the lead but it was far from a done deal. Martin could sense the chance and then pounced at Turn 12, forcing Bezzecchi wide, but the pair’s dive through Turn 13 had been compromised and that opened a door for Garzo. The Valencian dived through into second, demoting Bezzecchi to third in less corners. It would all go down to the final corner…
Martin kept the door slammed shut so the former MotoE™ frontrunner took a sweeping line as he tried to out-drag his compatriot to the line, and it came incredibly close. Less than a tenth close, as Martin took the win by almost nothing. Nevertheless, the home hero took his first Grand Prix podium in second, with Bezzecchi forced to settle for third.
Schrötter took fourth spot ahead of Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), who is now 18 points adrift of The Beast after the Italtrans man crossed the line just behind him in sixth. ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team’s Remy Gardner took seventh, eight tenths clear of Bo Bendsneyder who clinched NTS RW Racing GP’s best result. Italians Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP40) rounded out the top ten.
Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) took 11th ahead of Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo), with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crossing the line in 13th. And then came Lowes.
A super human effort sees the Brit take two points despite the after affects of his FP3 crash, and he remains Bastianini’s closest challenger although now 14 points down. Marini trails by 18 and Bezzecchi 23, leaving everything on the table in Portimao. Tune in again next weekend for another Moto2™ stunner – and a new World Champion!
1 Jorge Martin – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex 40:02.225
2 Hector Garzo – Flexbox HP 40 – Kalex +0.072
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex +0.204
Jorge Martin: “I started quite well from fifth to first in the first corner, that was great then with the wind it was difficult to be fast in front, the front tyre wasn’t the perfect temperature. Lap by lap I was improving before the middle of the race when I felt so bad, then when I saw I was catching Hector I thought, ‘come on you can do it’. I started to push, overtook him, then when I saw fighting between Bez and Diggia I said, ‘come on never give up, try your best’. When Diggia crashed I thought, ‘just one more overtake and you’ll do it’. I thought about this move last weekend and at Turn 12 you never expect it. I risked a bit too much but you have to take risk to win and I did it today. I’m super happy, thanks to my team, my family and all the sponsors.”
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