Photos/GIFs belong to Dorna Sports
Circuit: The Red Bull Ring
After this weekend, they should call it the Red Flag Ring.
Journey of the Jackass 2021, Chapter 10: Martinator, Judgement Day
As the Tokyo Olympics reached it’s climax, the MotoGP season resumed in the Styrian mountains, and this weekend would’ve been the weekend that the Finnish Grand Prix made a triumphant return to the calendar after 38 years away, but a few obvious things made it impossible and it went the way of the now-cancelled Australian and Thai legs of the Championship, so for the second year running, there was a double-header at the Red Bull Ring, which was seemingly great news for everyone who isn’t riding a Yamaha or a Suzuki, because the long straights of Austria usually exacerbates their straight line deficits against the big V4 bikes of Honda, Ducati and recently KTM, and Yamaha last year had enormous brake problems, which led to Maverick Vinales literally having to bail off the bike at high speed:
However, Suzuki had a hope for Joan Mir’s title defence, because they finally joined the other manufacturers in equipping the GSX-RR with a rear ride height device, which was costing them somewhere in the range of 0.4s a lap.
The season resumption also served as a blast from the past, because two familiar multiple race winners from this century made comebacks.
31-time race winner, MotoGP Hall of Famer and current KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa made a wildcard appearance on a factory Red Bull KTM with his familiar No.26, the first appearance for ‘The Samurai’ in MotoGP since he retired after the 2018 season, which meant this weekend was the first time in Dani’s career, stretching back to his 125cc debut as a 15-year-old in 2001, that he hasn’t ridden a Honda in a Grand Prix.
This was his 296th start – That’s actually quite amazing to think about.
The other familiar returning face was the recently departed Cal Crutchlow, who returned to Yamaha as a test rider for this season after his LCR Honda contract ran out, but will be riding for Petronas Yamaha SRT as the injury replacement for Franco Morbidelli, as the Italian continues his recovery from knee surgery, with Cal taking over from Garrett Gerloff who filled in for Franco at Assen.
On a brighter note for Franco, in light of Maverick Vinales deciding not to re-sign with the Factory Yamaha team next season, he’s pretty much set to get the call-up for 2022, while Top Gun appears to have an agreement with the rebranded Aprilia Factory Team to be Aleix Espargaro’s teammate for next season, but all those Yamaha movements paled into insignificance on Thursday….
The Rossi Retirement
The big news of the week, and indeed the season, is that Valentino Rossi will retire after the 2021 season, ending the longest and most storied career in the history of Grand Prix motorcycle racing after 25 years, highlighted by the 9 World Championships, 7 of them being Premier Class titles, with Rossi being the only rider to win championships with 5 different levels of engine displacement (125/250/500/800/990cc), then there’s the record total of 424 race starts, 115 race wins, including 89 in the Premier Class, and a record 235 podiums, with Vale needing just 1 more podium before the end of the year to bring up 200 Premier Class podiums.
To be honest, watching The Doctor this season in particular, it just felt like age had finally caught up to him – At the start of last year he was comfortably finishing in the Top 10, but then there was the hat-trick of DNFs, then he tested positive for the Coronavirus before Aragon, and ever since then he’s only had one Top 10 finish.
Unfortunately, history shows that World Champions and legends of the sport don’t usually get glorious endings to their careers (Think of Mick Doohan for one), and to don my Captain Obvious cape, this sport is not going to be the same without the presence of the larger than life Italian with his extravagant post-race celebrations, going hammer and tongs with riders like Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez, and I’d say the other sad facet to Rossi finally calling time is that he’s the lucky last bridge back to the big bad days of two-stroke 500cc racing, given he’s not only the last 500cc World Champion (2001), but the last rider from that era full stop.
For now, we’ll enjoy the last few rides of The Doctor, and here’s what Casey had to say when the news came on Thursday evening:
I have a feeling we’ll be waiting a while for Sete Gibernau’s message.
Jorge Martin had started on pole position at just his second MotoGP race back in Doha, but he’d been forced to slowly build himself back up since his massive accident in Portimao put him out of action for 3 races due to thumb, ankle and knee injuries, although the rookie Spaniard showed everyone he was back on Saturday afternoon in absolute style, upstaging fellow Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia to take pole position with a Red Bull Ring lap record 1.22.994, the first time any MotoGP rider has gone below 83 seconds on a lap of Austria.
To his credit, Bagnaia was only 0.044s off pole, with Fabio Quartararo completing the front row 0.081s behind, Jack Miller formed the Ducati sandwich with Fabio as the meat to start 4th, Joan Mir started 5th with the ride height device in place, Johann Zarco 6th, Aleix Espargaro 7th for Aprilia, Marc Marquez 8th as the fastest Honda, Maverick Vinales 9th, Taka Nakagami 10th, Alex Marquez 11th, and last year’s race winner Miguel Oliveira started down in 12th, as KTM had a horrible Saturday at their home track, further compounded by Oliveira suffering a bad hand injury after a highside in FP1 on Friday.
Completing the rest of the grid, Alex Rins couldn’t escape Q1 in 13th, Dani Pedrosa 14th on his return, Pol Espargaro 15th, Brad Binder way down in 16th, Valentino Rossi 17th, Luca Marini 18th, and completing the grid was Iker Lecuona 19th, Enea Bastianini 20th, Lorenzo Savadori 21st, Danilo Petrucci 22nd (Which wasn’t the only bad news of Danilo’s afternoon), and Crutchlow, somewhat unsurprisingly, was 23rd and stone motherless last.
It wasn’t surprising to see a Bologna Bullet starting on Pole Position in Austria…. But it was a surprise to see who was sitting on it!
Race 1 (Red Flagged on Lap 3)
The morning warm-up was anything but warm after heavy rain overnight meant the track was wet all the way through to the Moto3 race, although it dried out considerably when the lightweight class went around, which showed when the slick tyre runners were several seconds faster in the final laps, the Moto2 race was subsequently declared dry, and it was all good for the main event.
On the tyre front, most riders went Medium/Medium, Bagnaia went Medium/Soft, Marc Marquez went Hard/Soft, all 5 KTM riders (Pedrosa, Oliveira, Binder, Petrucci & Lecuona) went Hard/Medium, as did Lorenzo Savadori.
At the jump, Martin held the lead from Bagnaia, Mir got up to 3rd ahead of Quartararo, Miller sat himself up getting on the power at Turn 1, Vinales got into the Top 6 behind Marc Marquez, who came in very hot into Turn 1 and almost cannonballed Aleix out of the race, although it wouldn’t be the first time the two compatriots met at Turn 1 on Lap 1 on Sunday.
Mir initially took 2nd place from Martin, but went in too hot into Turn 4 and fell to 4th, which briefly got Marquez up into 3rd, before Mir did a textbook aggressive pass up the inside at Turn 6, bumping Marc back down to 6th, but he stayed in 4th because Quartararo got both of them!
However, just as the race was sprouting legs, there was yet another RED FLAG at the Red Bull Ring, when Turn 3 struck again as Pedrosa fell on his own in front of a heap of bikes, and an unsighted Lorenzo Savadori had nowhere to run and struck the fallen KTM, an accident that ignited both bikes and created a fireball, depositing a huge amount of fluid onto the racing line, the Red Flag was out straight away, as Savadori was taken off on a stretcher with what turned out to be a broken right ankle.
The red flag meant that under the rules, the race would be considered a fresh 27 lap event with riders in their original grid positions, which really helped Jack Miller’s cause, given he’d fallen from 4th to 10th, while it meant Vinales would drop from 5th back down to 9th, Pedrosa was also allowed to restart on the spare bike after receiving medical clearance, and the riders were also allowed to whack on a fresh front & rear tyre.
Another problem for Race Direction and the track marshals was that the fluid spilled from both bikes was right on the acceleration point of the slow corner, which meant we were in for a solid delay, which also brought the threat of rain into play, but it turned out to be nothing more than piss and wind.
As it turned out, everyone involved did a great job cleaning up the track within half an hour of the accident, and the pit lane was opened at 2:38, and the race restarted a few minutes after that.
The Race, Take Two (27 Laps)
After that superb start before losing it all due to the Red Flag, things got even worse for Maverick Vinales, because he stalled on the grid on the warm-up lap and had to start at the end of the pit lane!
Once the lights went out for take two, Miller made the most of the restart to challenge for the lead, which he got at Turn 3, while Marc and Aleix collided again even harder than before, dropping Aleix down to 16th and pissing him off even further, and after leading before the Red Flag, Bagnaia fell to 7th by the end of Lap 1!
Obviously that Espresso for Pecco during the red flag didn’t help.
Next lap, Marc Marquez overshot Turn 1 and fell down to 14th, teammates Alex Marquez and Nakagami were into 6th and 7th, both moving ahead of Bagnaia, Martin and Mir exchanged 2nd place a few times, and the title leaders Quartararo and Zarco completed the leading quintet.
Starting Lap 4, Miller overshot Turn 1 and Martin pounced to take the lead at the Turn 2 kink, Mir was up into 2nd by the end of the lap, and the two Spaniards wouldn’t relinquish the quinella positions for the rest of the afternoon.
Meantime, Bagnaia was still going backwards, falling down to 11th, and another rider taking advantage of the second restart was Brad Binder going into 8th place after starting 16th!
After getting hit by Marquez twice, Aleix Espargaro’s terrible day came to an inglorious end when he pulled off and retired due to a mechanical issue on Lap 5, and back up the front, Quartararo passed Miller for 3rd place at Turn 3 on Lap 7, but Miller was able to out-drag the Yamaha down to Turn 4 and briefly hold on, but the French rider made the pass stick with a simple move at Turn 6, although it appeared that was the best that Quartararo was going to do on Sunday, because Martin and Mir were now a second clear up the road, as several riders started receiving track limits warnings.
Vinales, Bagnaia and Rins all got warnings, and eventually Vinales was the first rider to get slapped with a Long Lap Penalty on Lap 13, and not long after, Enea Bastianini joined him.
Going back to the fight for the lead, and sitting at home, I felt it was a compelling game of strengths and weaknesses in the bikes – Martin would build a gap through the straights in Sectors 1 and 2 with the Ducati’s top speed, then Mir and the Suzuki’s natural corner speed advantage would be on full display through Sectors 3 and 4 to keep the gap at just over one tenth.
Despite the fact that the Red Bull Ring is supposed to be one of their weakest tracks, Suzuki have proven themselves to be extremely competitive at the Red Bull Ring in the last 3 races at the track going back to last year, when Rins led a portion of the Austrian race (Before he crashed) and Mir finished 2nd, and a week later Mir looked like he was romping away to victory before the Red Flag came out and he lost all momentum.
Further down, Miguel Oliveira fought through the pain of his hand injury to climb into the Top 10, but his afternoon was brought to an end on Lap 14 due to a mechanical/safety issue, which turned out to be massive chunks of rubber that had fallen off his front tyre, which is an enormous failure on the part of Michelin:
Deadset, if the French construct tyres like that, imagine how they’ll handle the Paris Olympics.
As the laps kept ticking down, there was absolutely nothing between Martin and Mir, and the pressure resulted in Martin picking up a track limits warning on Lap 17 for going wide at Turn 1, which would’ve brought back bad memories of losing last year’s Moto2 race when he ran wide on the last lap and was demoted to 2nd, while in the scrap for 3rd, Miller had built a bit of a gap to Zarco and was back on the rear of Quartararo, and Jack looked like he was setting himself up for another good podium in Austria, because he was the only rider in the Top 5 running a Hard tyre, and had plenty of time to line up the Yamaha for what would’ve been a good podium.
Another rider who appeared set for a good finish was Pedrosa, who was running in 12th place behind Marc Marquez and Bagnaia and comfortably lapping faster than the pair of them, which was quite a fantastic performance for a 36-year-old who hadn’t ridden in anger for almost 3 years.
Unfortunately from an Australian POV, Miller’s afternoon came to a crushing end when he pushed a bit too hard on the front tyre and lowsided out from 4th at Turn 7 on Lap 18, although he did get back on the bike to peel in to pit lane for his second consecutive DNF, and with that unforced error went any realistic hope of challenging for the World Championship.
Jack’s record in Austria is full of polar opposites – He missed 2016 after breaking his arm in the warm-up, DNF in 2017, 18th in 2018, DNF in 2019, then last year he finished 3rd in the Austrian GP, he finished 2nd a week later after Oliveira got him at the last corner, and now he’s back to another DNF.
Back at the front, despite having every reason to crack under the pressure, the rookie Martin had seemingly soaked up the best that Mir had to offer and was now building a solid lead, which got out beyond a second when Mir went in too deep at Turn 3 on Lap 22, then Martin tacked on another 4 tenths on Lap 24, and with that Desmosedici power underneath, all he had to do was stay on to record a memorable maiden win, and Mir appeared to accept reality that he’d just found one better on the day and settled for 2nd.
Further back, the Repsol Honda teammates joined the track limits party, as Marc Marquez got a warning, and Pol Espargaro, who was already having a dog’s breakfast of a race, copped a long penalty and fell out of the points.
With the podium decided, perhaps the most interesting scrap in the final laps was Zarco, Nakagami and Binder for 4th place, because Zarco’s decision to go onto a Soft rear tyre was hurting him in the final laps, Nakagami had clawed back a 3 second deficit to be right on the rear wheel of the Frenchman, while Binder was absolutely flying on the Hard/Medium combination after his poor Saturday, and on the final lap, Nakagami passed Zarco for 4th at Turn 3, then Binder whipped past Zarco on the brakes at Turn 4 to take 5th place, costing Zarco more points to Quartararo in the title race….
But that wasn’t the end of it, because Binder kept at it and passed Nakagami for 4th at the penultimate corner, although the pair of them very nearly didn’t see the finish after Taka tried cutting back and bumped Binder’s rear wheel in the process!
But in just his 6th start, after coming back from several major injuries and copping the blowtorch from the reigning World Champion, Jorge Martin was a MotoGP winner, and Pramac Racing, after 18 years in MotoGP, were winners at last!
I’d like to think they nicknamed Jorge ‘The Martinator’ because he walked up to Pramac Racing team manager Franco Guidotti and told him “Come with me if you want to win.”
Martin became the first rider to win from pole in Austria since Andrea Iannone in 2016, he became the 115th different rider to win a Premier Class race, and it was also the first time a satellite Ducati has ever won a MotoGP race – All 53 wins for the Bologna Bullets prior to this were with the factory Ducati Corse.
So Mir had to settle for 2nd on a very good afternoon for Suzuki even in defeat, Quartararo’s 3rd felt like a win considering he was well ahead of his title rivals and pushed his lead out to 40 points, plus Yamaha have barely threatened the podium in Austria since it returned to the World Championship in 2016, then came Binder making up 2 places on the last lap, Nakagami staying put in 5th and Zarco losing out to drop down to his starting position of 6th, Alex Rins was pretty much nonexistent on the day but still recovered to 7th, Marc finished of Alex in the Marquez family feud in 8th and 9th, while Bagnaia, who was leading the race before the red flag, finished 10th on the road, but was docked 3 seconds for not completing a long lap penalty, promoting Dani Pedrosa into a Top 10 finish in his wildcard appearance, a mighty fine performance considering his bike was turned into charcoal an hour earlier.
What a strange old afternoon for the Dukes – They win the race and get another bike in 6th, but neither factory bike finished in the Top 10 despite starting 2nd and 4th.
Completing the field, Enea Bastianini finished 12th, Rossi 13th, Marini 14th, Lecuona completed the points finishers, Pol Espargaro finished 16th and still had a better day than his brother, Cal Crutchlow was a fair way down in 17th, Petrucci 18th, while Vinales wasn’t classified after finishing the race where he started it – In the pits.
So there were 5 different manufacturers in the Top 5, which would please Dorna to no end, because it hasn’t happened in MotoGP since the 2008 Czech Grand Prix, when Valentino Rossi won for Yamaha, Toni Elias was 2nd on a Ducati, Loris Capirossi was 3rd on a Suzuki, Shinya Nakano was 4th on a Honda, and our own Ant West was 5th on a Kawasaki.
Oh Ant West… He’s a story in of himself.
For now, well done to The Martinator!
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
Moto2 Qualifying began with the news that Raul Fernandez’ rapid rise in Grand Prix racing will continue as he partners Remy Gardner at Tech3 KTM in MotoGP next season, a decision that appears to have been made by the KTM top brass out of fear of losing Fernandez, because while the Spaniard (And KTM boss Pit Beirer) has said he’d prefer to have another year in Moto2, the crew at Yamaha were seemingly prepared to pay half a million Euros to buy out Raul’s contract and get him on a rider-friendly Petronas Yamaha machine next season, which it appears Raul was pretty open to.
So the end result is that by filling their dacks and pulling the trigger first to avoid another Jorge Martin situation (He rode for KTM Ajo last season before Ducati signed him), KTM have now got a rider who doesn’t appear to be 100% happy with his bike next season and will probably look to move the minute his contract ends, plus they’ve probably got two pissed off MotoGP riders in Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona, who were totally left in the dark about the whole thing and now have to ride the rest of the season knowing they’re probably gone from Grand Prix racing in a few months.
Fair dinkum, I thought Ducati were the masters of stuffing up a relationship with a rider.
Practice & Qualifying
Pole Position looked like it would be a hard-fought contest between Championship leader Remy Gardner and 3rd-placed Marco Bezzecchi, with the pair split by only 0.075s on the combined practice times, but when it came down to Q2, the rookie Ai Ogura looked like he might take a maiden Moto2 pole position, but with just on one minute remaining, Gardner fired in a 1.28.668 to lead the grid by 0.121s ahead of the Japanese rider, and Bezzecchi completed the front row, just 0.022 off Ogura.
Raul Fernandez started 4th, Aron Canet 5th after looking very solid in practice, then came the Elf Marc VDS teammates Augusto Fernandez and Sam Lowes, former Moto3 World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta started in the Top 10 for the second consecutive race, Ogura’s teammate Somikat Chantra was 9th, Marcel Schrotter 10th, while Xavi Vierge and Fabio Di Giannantonio started just outside the Top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.
The Red Bull Ring seems to be a decent track of late for Remy, because he was right in the hunt for the win back in 2019, he also had a Pole and a 3rd placing last season, and now he’s picked up another Pole in 2021, and with the race to come, it looked like Red Bull KTM Ajo were on course to make it 6 consecutive wins in Moto2, which is quite the effort in a series where every team uses Spec tyres and engines.
Race (25 Laps)
With the ‘Wollongong Whiz’ Wayne Gardner watching in the Red Bull KTM Ajo pit box, the race was declared Dry before the Warm-Up lap, which wrecked the hopes of quite a few riders hoping for more rain in a bid to recover from the events of Saturday, namely Sam Lowes, and once the lights went out, Gardner got away well before his big frame seemed to bog him down, and from the opposite side of the front row, Bezzecchi cut up the inside and took the early lead, Gardner then braked deep into Turn 3 to try and reclaim the lead, but he went a bit too deep and lost 2nd to Raul Fernandez, Canet got ahead of Ogura, Somikat Chantra was into 6th as Simone Corsi became the first DNF of the race at Turn 3, Cameron Beaubier was up from 24th to 14th, and Joe Roberts went down at Turn 9, but he did rejoin the race, only to retire on Lap 9, making it a hattrick of DNFs for the American.
The alliterated Belgian Barry Baltus fell at Turn 1 to start Lap 2 as the track conditions seemed to be catching out riders, while Gardner retook 2nd from his teammate at Turn 3, with Canet joining in on the Fernandez gang-up at the downhill Turn 9 on Lap 3.
Lowes was up into 5th after Ogura went wide at Turn 4, as Raul Fernandez started losing touch with the Top 3 following the Canet pass, as Bezzecchi, Gardner and Canet were pretty much wheel to wheel, Human Centipede style, waiting for a mistake to come.
Said mistake came when The Bezz made a mess of Turn 1 on Lap 7, inviting Gardner up the inside, but the two almost clattered each other out of the race, and the end result was Canet got the pair of them to take the lead!
Gardner finally reclaimed the lead from Canet at Turn 9 on the same lap, and right as he’d been offered a window back into the race, Raul Fernandez entered the same corner out of shape, went well off the track and lost 3 places down to 7th, behind Augusto Fernandez.
Now in the lead, Gardner and Canet seemingly cut Bezzecchi loose with a pair of fastest laps, Ogura and Augusto Fernandez were back on the rear of Lowes, and Ogura was back into 4th to end Lap 9, and Gardner started firing in fastest laps in an attempt to break the back of Canet, while Raul Fernandez copped a track limits warning and was starting to lose all rhythm after those errors, and rather than trying to catch up to the unrelated Fernandez, Raul was falling into the clutches of the returning Hector Garzo in 8th on the Pons Kalex.
It was a strange race for Raul, who has been sensational this season, and perhaps as Matt Birt and Steve Day mentioned in the broadcast, all the news about his situation with KTM for 2022 could’ve been weighing on his mind, because he was nowhere near it.
Augusto Fernandez passed teammate Lowes for 5th on Lap 11, while at half race distance, Gardner hadn’t quite shaken off Canet, who was only 8 tenths behind, while Ogura was now the fastest rider on track and was closing in fast on Bezzecchi in pursuit of a maiden Moto2 podium!
Bezzecchi tried a lunge on Canet at Turn 4 on Lap 14, and although it didn’t quite work, Bezz got the job done to start Lap 15 and returned to 2nd place, right as Ogura behind him was given a track limits warning.
Lowes made a mistake at Turn 1 on Lap 16 and fell from 6th to 10th, Ogura passed Canet at Turn 1 on Lap 17 to take 3rd, but Canet took the inside line into Turn 3 to hold on to the final podium place, right as Bezzecchi started mowing down Gardner with the fastest lap on Lap 17, reducing the deficit to 0.377s.
In the moment of the race, Bezzecchi got a slipstream and took the lead from Gardner into Turn 1 on Lap 19, and Ogura passed Canet for 3rd at the same spot, but as if all four riders were watching each other, Bezzecchi went wide at Turn 3 and Gardner fought back down the back straight, and Canet passed Ogura at the same corner, but by the time Turn 4 arrived, both Bezz and Ogura kept their spots.
On Lap 20, in the moment that decided the race and the podium, Gardner braked too deep into Turn 4 trailing Bezzecchi and slid into the gravel, having to sit up to avoid falling, and although the championship leader stayed in the race, he’d dropped down to 5th and cost himself a decent chunk of points!
So with Bezzecchi looking good for his first win of 2021, Ogura was now up into 2nd and had a clean shot at the leader, but his hopes were slashed when he was given a Long Lap Penalty for going into the green one too many times, then when he went to serve his penalty on Lap 22, the Japanese rider appeared to go over the white line on the exit of the penalty loop, which meant he’d have to serve another penalty, but Race Control initially gave it the ok and Ogura stayed in 5th after dropping back behind Gardner, but a second look would bite Ogura on the arse before the end of the race.
So that meant Canet was set to finish no worse than 2nd unless he made an error, Augusto Fernandez was looking good for a second consecutive podium, and a few seconds behind, Bezzecchi’s VR46 teammate Celestino Vietti had rocketed up from 12th to 7th place in the space of a few laps, despite copping a big hip and shoulder from Marcel Schrotter earlier on, and there was every chance he could pass Raul Fernandez before the end of the race, which would’ve been huge for the Championship.
Still, the win wasn’t totally finished yet, because Canet was half a second faster than Bezzecchi, and after Ogura had fallen afoul of the stewards, the tatted-up Spaniard had a chance to win his maiden Moto2 Grand Prix, but Bezz responded and had a solid cushion ahead of the final lap, and with no bad luck to stop him, the Italian crossed the line to take his first win since last season’s European Grand Prix at Valencia, and his championship chances were well and truly revived!
He’s The Bezz, He’s The Bezz and The Bezz is back!
Canet took his third 2nd placing of 2021 thanks to another very good performance, and he celebrated by wearing a bowtie onto the podium, Augusto Fernandez made it consecutive podiums, a very good recovery after he hadn’t finished 4 out of 5 races prior to Assen, Gardner’s error consigned him to 4th, Ogura finished just behind and set the fastest lap in the last lap – a 1.28.922, but the Japanese rider was given another 3 second penalty for failing to properly complete the Long Lap Penalty earlier on, which had no effect on the final finishing order, Vietti did indeed catch Raul Fernandez at Turn 9 on the last lap to take 6th place, a crucial result for both Bezzecchi and Gardner, given it is a two point swing in a championship that’s still only separated by 35 points with plenty of races to come.
Somikat Chantra made it both Honda Team Asia riders in the Top 10 with 8th place, Xavi Vierge finished 9th, and Marcel Schrotter completed the Top 10, while Lowes fell down to 14th on the last lap when he tried to make a pass on Chantra for 8th, but ran wide onto the damp part of the track, almost crashed coming back on and subsequently only just scraped into the points.
So despite Remy missing the podium for only the second time in 10 races, he still finished a decent 4th and extended his championship lead to 35 points, as the revitalised Bezzecchi now trails Raul Fernandez by just 9 points, and to put things into perspective, last year Enea Bastianini won the title with 205 points in 15 races, while through 10 races of this season, Gardner has 197 points, which is more than what Luca Marini and Sam Lowes finished on in 2nd and 3rd – 196 points.
It should be noted the depth of the Moto2 field this season is slightly shallower than last year, but nonetheless, you’d expect Gardner will comfortably reach 200 points in a season for the first time in his career this weekend.
Next up: The Austrian Grand Prix this weekend!