Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) became the first British rider to win an opening round Grand Prix since the great Barry Sheene in 1979 after producing a faultless ride at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. The polesitter kept a hard-charging Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) at bay as the Australian takes P2 from Round 1, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) coming out on top of a last lap duel with Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) to hand Gresini Racing an emotional podium.
A lightning start from Row 2 saw Bezzecchi grab the holeshot with both Lowes and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) slow from P1 and P2. Third place Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) got a good launch from the outside of the front row and slotted into P2, with Lowes getting past a wide Fernandez at Turn 1 to recover to P3. Lowes then made light work of Bendsneyder at Turn 6, with Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) rising to P5 from P10 on the grid on the opening lap.
Lap 2 saw Fernandez also pass Bendsneyder for third place as the leading eight riders locked horns. Lowes showed a wheel to Bezzecchi at Turn 6 but at Turn 1 on Lap 3, the British rider was through and leading, with seventh place Gardner setting the fastest lap of the race. Straight away, the poleman was enjoying a half-second lead, with Fernandez swarming all over the back of Bezzecchi – and making a Turn 1 move stick on Lap 4. Super stuff from the rookie.
Fernandez’s teammate Gardner was the man on the move. The Australian slipped by Dixon for P4 but a small error saw Gardner lose the time he’d made up, he was back down to P5. Sixth place Di Giannantonio was then wide at the final corner, the Italian slipped to P8 as Lowes set the fastest lap of the race. His lead was now up to one second.
Not for long though. Fernandez was back to within a couple of tenths of the race leader, Lowes making a mistake somewhere to allow the rookie to close him in. Meanwhile, a regrouped Gardner was now ahead of Dixon and set the fastest lap of the race again, with Bezzecchi having the number 87 very close for company. And with 13 to go, Gardner chose Turn 4 as his passing place and made a move stick on Bezzecchi.
With 12 to go, Fernandez was losing touch on Lowes and Gardner sensed it. The latter was through on his teammate and now had 1.2 seconds to bridge if he wanted to win his second Moto2™ race in succession. However, Lowes set the fastest lap of the Grand Prix – a 1:59.529 – and was in a very commanding groove.
A few laps passed by and the gap remained at just under one and a half seconds between the leading duo. Fernandez continued to keep his teammate honest with Bezzecchi sitting 1.2 seconds behind the young Spaniard, as Di Giannantonio, Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and Dixon were riding not far behind the podium fight. Gardner, on Lap 13, set the fastest lap of the race – but Lowes set his personal best too and on the next lap, the race leader was three tenths quicker than Gardner and the gap was now up to 1.6 seconds.
With three laps to go, Lowes’ lead crept up to two seconds but the battle for the podium was in full swing. Bezzecchi tucked in behind Fernandez’s tailpipes down the home straight and took third place away from the star rookie, with Di Giannantonio making it a six-wheel scrap for the podium. The Italian followed Bezzecchi through and the Gresini rider locked his radar onto third place Bezzecchi.
Lowes – who received a track limits warning – had a comfortable 2.2 second lead over Gardner, who in turn led Bezzecchi and ‘Diggia’ by 2.4 seconds. The final place on the podium was between the two Italians and Di Giannantonio sliced up the inside at Turn 11, a classy move pulled off. Up the road, Lowes took a sensational and commanding victory as Gardner took a well-earned P2, with Di Giannantonio holding P3 to the line by 0.013s to hand himself and Gresini an emotional rostrum. The first for Gresini Racing in Moto2™ since Lowes in 2016 at the Aragon GP, and a fitting way to remember the late, great Fausto Gresini.
Bezzecchi loses out on a rostrum by the slimmest of margins but a P4 is far from a disastrous way to open your 2021 account. Fernandez couldn’t hold onto a podium place in his first Moto2™ race but it was nevertheless a phenomenal ride from the Spaniard, who beats sixth place Roberts by 0.6 seconds, the American, in turn, beating a heroic Dixon by a couple of seconds at the flag. The top seven will be pleased with their opening run outs of 2021.
Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) eventually got the better of Bendsneyder as the German, Dutchman and Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) completed the top 10. 11th place Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) produced a fantastic debut Moto2™ race in a heated battle for the remaining point-scoring positions. Fellow rookie Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) also had a solid ride to finish 0.142s behind Beaubier in P12, they both get the better of the more experienced Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team), Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) – the latter trio completing the points.
Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40), Lorenzo Baldassarri (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed out, riders ok.
Lowes did the business after a Warm Up mishap, the British rider starts the year with a perfect performance. Gardner and the chasing pack will be hoping to make up ground when the riders attack the Losail International Circuit again next weekend, who will come out on top in Doha in seven days time?
1. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing)
2. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 2.260
3. Fabio DiGiannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Racing Moto2) + 5.228
4. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 5.241
5. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 6.145
6. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) + 6.786
7. Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 8.721
8. Marcel Schrotter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 10.911
9. Bo Bendsnyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) + 12.493
10. Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Belt Speed Up) + 16.800