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Two thrilling races in the intermediate class have seen six different riders on the podium, but what does Austin hold?
The pre-season title favourites were back to their best in Argentina as they produced a thrilling four-rider battle for victory. Defending Moto2™ World Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) mastered the sub-prime conditions to take the tenth win of his career and get his title defence back on track. His victory promoted him to second in the championship, five points shy of the top. The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in 2015 saw Zarco secure second in the race, the first podium of 14 top three finishes on his way to the title.
Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) is the man who heads Zarco in the championship. Thanks to a seventh place finish in Argentina, Luthi retains the early championship lead with a total of 34 points and is aiming to return to the podium in Austin. In his two previous visits to COTA, Luthi has produced a sixth and 12th place finish.
The 2015 Americas GP winner, Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), will no doubt be a favourite come race day in Austin. Since joining the Gresini squad, the Brit has discovered an incredible level of consistency aboard the Kalex and missed victory in Argentina by just over a second. Small issues and misfortune have so far seen a second career victory evade him, but in both Qatar and Argentina he demonstrated he has the pace to challenge for victory.
Few would have expected Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) to sit fourth in the championship after the opening two rounds of 2016, but he has quietly gone about his World Championship apprenticeship and is starting to deliver consistent results. Both 2014 and 2015 saw ‘The Fish’ show off flashes of brilliance, particularly in the wet, and establish himself as a regular point scorer. In 2015 the Americas GP saw Syahrin take his best dry result of the year, sixth place. One to watch.
Of all the riders on the grid, Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) will be perhaps the most eager to find his 2015 form. Many had expected the talented Spaniard to blitz the field in 2016 but he has so far failed to finish on the podium. While his pace was impressive and often faster than the pace of the leaders in Argentina, a poor start saw him spend the race attempting to close down an impossible seven-second gap.
Rins will have the full attention of the Paginas Amarillas HP 40 team behind him, his teammate Edgar Pons forced to miss the race due to Hepatitis A.
Bitter disappointment awaited Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) in Qatar as second place finish was ripped from his hands due to a 20-second penalty. The race in Argentina proved to be yet more disappointing as he slid off while fighting for the podium towards the end of the race. As such the Italian sits 11th in the championship with just nine points, a full race win worth of points behind Luthi.
There’s no rest for the wicked as action starts at 10:55 Local Time on Friday the eighth of April as Moto2™ begin their Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas weekend with Free Practice 1.
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