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Two different tracks, but the same major players at the top of the Moto2™ grid once again ahead of Saturday’s race at ‘the Cathedral’.
The trio of Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Sam Lowes (Speed Up Racing) have been the most consistent riders towards the front so far this season. The likes of Jonas Folger (AGR Team) and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) have had flashes of brilliance and taken the fight to them, but the challenge has not been steady. Flashes of brilliance and dramatic race wins are fantastic to witness but it is consistency that wins championships and races.
Consistency over race pace is the main aim for these Moto2™ riders this weekend, during FP3 the trio all only entered the pits once and focused on assessing the tyre options over race distance. Qualifying was a similar story with them setting some of the longest runs in the class during the session. Zarco expanded on this idea in the press conference at the day’s end: “To be consistent is the main target in Moto2 always. I want to be like I was in Catalunya, in first position for the race so I can relax a bit. In Qualifying Tito was fast in the beginning. I knew I could do it and with the second tyre I said to the team we can do more, then I did it!”
These top riders are not only consistent, but also fast. The aforementioned trio are the only Moto2™ riders to drop into the 1’36 range, setting them at least half a second clear of the rest of the field. Capitalising on the extra performance from a fresh Dunlop tyre was critical in Qualifying, as it will be in the race as Sam Lowes expanded on, “They found a lot on the new tyre which I couldn’t do. In the dry race I’ve got the pace 100% to fight for the win, Tito’s got a great pace but I feel like I can keep with him.”
Of the three Rabat is perhaps the most famous for his unrelenting pace, the Spaniard setting a string of 17 mid 1’37 laps in FP3, a pace strong enough to crush his two closest opponents. Rabat also has the advantage of being the most experienced out of the three, having ridden the Kalex for multiple seasons and now entering his second season with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team. With the playing field so level in Moto2™, especially with the high number of Kalex machines, the importance of a strong and experienced team can often go over looked even though it is capable of making the most difference.
While Lowes has also spent two years with his team he is on the Speed Up frame and with only two other permanent Speed Up riders on the grid data is limited. Lowes has suffered in hot conditions on the Speed Up but seems to encounter few, if any, problems in the cooler conditions we’ve seen at Assen.
With the same main riders, and championship challengers, towards the top in Assen we may see a Catalunya repeat; Zarco and Rabat battling for the lead for much for the race as Lowes sits slightly further behind. Or track temperatures may play into the Brits hands and his chassis may give him an extra edge.
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