It’s two from two for the number 22 so far in 2021, but next up Moto2™ heads for the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve and the CVs of the top three so far make for interesting reading. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), the aforementioned number 22, loves the place and took a podium even when injured in 2020, but the man on the chase is Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and he’ll arrive with even better memories after winning here last seaason. Impressive rookie Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), meanwhile, demolished the field on his way out the door in Moto3™ last year… and he’s already been on the podium in Moto2™. So who’s coming out on top?
First, Lowes. The Brit already knew Portimão from his former exploits as WorldSSP Champion, and when the paddock arrived at the venue last year for the first ever Grand Prix there, his pace was impressive from the off – and that’s despite some serious injury struggles. Battling through the pain barrier, Lowes nevertheless took a podium and was only 3 seconds off the winner, which is pretty good reason to believe the Brit may be even quicker as he arrives in history-making form and undefeated so far in 2021.
Gardner, however, has his own good confidence heading into Round 3. First, he got significantly closer to Lowes in the second race at Losail, and second, he’s shrugged off the pressure of being an expected contender so far, as well as the temptation of a reckless last corner lunge that could have easily dented his points total. Third, he’s the first Moto2™ winner at Portimão, and fourth, it was his first Grand Prix win as well… the one that prefaced an even more threatening rider turning up from the off in 2021. Fifth, for good measure, he won it in style with a nice margin in hand.
Raul Fernandez, meanwhile, is also a recent winner at the venue. “In style with a nice margin in hand” needs beefing up even further to describe the Spaniard’s Moto3™ win at Portimão last year as he signed off from the lightweight class on imperious form, and as he returns in Moto2™ it’s unlikely his speed will desert him after having witnessed his incredible adaptation so far. He’s also, to the delight of his competitors, already had a taste of the rollercoaster on intermediate class machinery – as have fellow rookies Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team).
Ogura was impressive in the Doha GP and will want to build on that as he arrives at the venue as a top five finisher, and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) wasn’t too far further back either. The likes of Arenas and Tony Arbolino (Dynavolt Intact GP) will be looking for a bigger step forward too as the rookie pack shuffles, with Raul Fernandez on top so far, Ogura and Vietti homing in and the rest looking to making up some ground.
Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) will also be expecting to get back in the podium fight after two solid rounds to open the year, as solid is not quite enough once you’re a race winner and title contender. Losail has never been his best hunting ground, so will Portimão see a bigger threat from the Italian? And what about the likes of Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), who’s making progress, and Petronas Sprinta Racing duo Jake Dixon and Xavi Vierge? Both weren’t where they want to be in the Doha GP and will be expecting much bigger things as the paddock arrives back in Europe.
This weekend it’s MotoGP™ before Moto2™, so make sure to stay tuned for the intermediate class at 14:30 local time, which is GMT+1.