It could be an intriguing weekend ahead, with the form book and momentum at odds on the way in…
When news broke that Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had been forced to have surgery on his hand after a cycling mishap, following a crash out at Silverstone no less, it seemed there had been two massive swings in favour of teammate and Championship leader Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in less than a week. But come race day at MotorLand, the only swings landing on his rivals came from the number 25’s incredible laptimes as he dominated despite the pain barrier, taking back five of those points lost at Silverstone as Gardner came home second. And instead, it’s Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) who arrive at Misano on the back foot after both crashed out. So what will the Adriatic bring?
Raul Fernandez will likely be strong again, as he has been everywhere, and despite the pain in his hand. And he’ll be more fired up than ever to keep cutting that gap, with the Spaniard having so far found the perfect answer when he’s needed to. He could also wrap up Rookie of the Year, although he’s had one hand on that for a while despite an impressive season of consistency from Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia).
However, Gardner hasn’t put a foot wrong this season and he’s still 39 points clear despite Aragon not being a circuit he loves, and he can now afford to take two paths: gloves off or very much on. The first because everything else is signed, sealed or delivered: the team are already Champions and his 2022 deal is inked. Nothing “except” the Riders’ title hangs in the balance, and 39 points is a big margin to play with.
Recklessness, or maybe something more akin to pushing the limits, hasn’t been part of Gardner’s vocabulary in 2021 so far though and it seems unlikely he’d start now, especially when he’s still won four races as part of his campaign. And the gloves remaining very much on option is that 39 points easily allows him to follow his teammate home in every remaining race this season and still wrap up the crown.
Despite the return of the Red Bull KTM Ajo domination at Aragon though, there are some interesting records at Misano for those looking to threaten the duo, especially for Bezzecchi. Riding on home turf is always something special and the Italian had two good races there last season, just off the podium but less than a second off the win in the first and duelling for victory throughout the race with then-teammate Luca Marini in the second. Now really needing to dig deep to get back on terms with Red Bull KTM Ajo, can the Italian come out swinging?
Lowes, too, is looking for redemption as the Brit crashed out at MotorLand – a venue where he’s had some serious success. He’s been there or thereabouts in Misano in recent seasons, although the results sheets from the first visit to the venue last year need an asterisk: he came eighth, 16 seconds off the win. But he also did so from pitlane, forfeiting the pole position he’d taken after a penalty from the Styrian GP. So how will his MotorLand crash affect his approach? Earlier in the season we saw the number 22 go for solid points when he needed to build back up but will the same be true this time around?
Lowes’ teammate, Augusto Fernandez, said that was his mission after a tougher start to the year too. And he’s seriously fulfilled it, now fifth overall in the Championship as his momentum keeps building. Since Assen, he’s outscored everyone except the top two and had more podiums than any other rider. Anyone remember Misano 2019? He and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) staged a spectacular showdown, so the number 37 has form at the venue and momentum in the season. Can he go better than third?
‘Diggia’, meanwhile, evidently has shown speed at the track but this season has seen the Italian’s early charge take a dip in the middle. The last two races have seen him back in the top six though, so can he get back in the fight for the podium? And what can the likes of Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) and Jorge Navarro (+Ego Speed Up) do on the Boscoscuro? Ogura, too, remains on a solid roll. The Japanese rider is less than a race win’s worth of points off the top five overall is on a good run of top tens, including that first podium.
Misano is always a classic and 2021 will be no different, with a chess match in the title fight and some eager home heroes looking to make life difficult. Tune in as Moto2™ take on the venue at 12:20 on Sunday – with another fascinating contest just around the corner!
Moto2™ Championship top five:
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 251
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 212
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 179
4 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 127
5 Augusto Fernandez – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 108
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