Despite a late crash, Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) remains unbeaten on a Saturday in 2021 thanks to a 1:42.901 in Moto2™ Q2 at the Grande Prémio 888 de Portugal, as the British star and Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) go into battle once again. The Australian ends qualifying just 0.023s behind the World Championship leader, while third place Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is 0.174s from pole – the Spaniard securing his first front row start since the 2020 European GP.
Lowes was the early leader in Q2 as the first laps of the second part of qualifying were fired in, but Gardner soon held the P1 baton after setting a 1:43.032. However, the fight between Gardner and Lowes had already begun. The British rider was back on top by 0.114s after two flying laps, with the number 22 having a hairy moment heading into the tight Turn 5 left-hander on his third flyer. Responding, Gardner improved his lap time to lie 0.006s behind Lowes.
Q1 graduate Vierge was in P3 having shown some impressive pace in the early stages of Q2, the Spaniard was ahead of two rookies in the form of Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and another Q1 graduate Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team). The reigning Moto3™ World Champion was shuffled down to P7 rather rapidly though as Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) moved to P5 and P6 respectively.
Another great lap from Lowes was set and his advantage over Gardner was now 0.023s – not a lot. Lowes was then down at Turn 11, unhurt, but that was his session over as the chequered flag was out. In the end though it didn’t matter, no one was able to trouble the Brit from taking his third-straight pole position of 2021, but once again Gardner runs him close in P2. The top two in the title race will launch from P1 and P2 again, with Vierge joining them on the front row.
Fourth place for Ogura is the Japanese rookie’s best Moto2™ qualifying performance, just 0.220s down on Lowes around Portimao is a phenomenal effort. Bezzecchi and Augusto Fernandez join Ogura on Row 2, that’s Fernandez’s best Saturday result of the year. Arenas is another rookie to bag his best Moto2™ qualifying in P7, the Spaniard beats one of the pre-qualifying favourites Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) by 0.010s in Q2. The American is P8 on the grid, just ahead of Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) and a disappointed looking 10th fastest Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo). To be disappointed with P10 shows the form Fernandez is in, the rookie sensation will be hoping to bypass the two rookies – as well as others – ahead of him on Sunday.
Three for three from Lowes on a Saturday this year, now a hat-trick of wins awaits on Sunday. Will it be a straight Lowes vs Gardner shootout for victory again? Find out when the Moto2™ riders go racing in Portimao at 14:30 local time (GMT+1) on Sunday afternoon.
1. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) – 1:42.901
2. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.023
3. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.174
4. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) + 0.220
5. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.269
6. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 0.358
7. Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) + 0.403
8. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) + 0.413
9. Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) + 0.458
10. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.488