Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez is a Moto2™ winner in just his third attempt after producing some unstoppable late race rhythm at the Grande Prémio 888 de Portugal, the Spaniard beating second place Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) by 1.6s to become the first rookie since Maverick Viñales to win in the intermediate class. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) makes it three consecutive podiums in 2021 with P3 as former Championship leader Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) crashes at the opening corner.
We didn’t have to wait long for some monumental drama to unfold in the Moto2™ race. Having gotten a poor launch from pole position, Lowes was trying to make up some ground dropping into Turn 1. Late on the brakes, Lowes was careering straight towards Gardner’s rear wheel, the British rider picked his bike up but running wide, the rear end suddenly slid out. Lowes was launched into the stratosphere and was out of the race at Turn 1. Thankfully, after a huge crash, the British rider was up on his feet but it was a nightmare Sunday afternoon for the former World Championship leader.
Gardner was the race leader on Lap 1 but Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) was the man on the move in the opening exchanges and blasted past Gardner on the home straight. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) had made a good start from P8 to battle Gardner for P2, as the latter got out of shape coming out of Turn 1. Yet more drama unfolded in the Moto2™ race as we saw a huge crash involving Yari Montella (Lightech Speed Up) and Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP40) at the final corner, both bikes catching fire in the gravel trap. Montella, who highsided, was taken to the medical centre for a check-up and later declared fit.
At Turn 5, the two Idemitsu Honda Team Asia riders were down as Ai Ogura made contact with American Racing’s Cameron Beaubier. Ogura got out of shape and couldn’t help but crash into Somkiat Chantra, an unfortunate racing incident between the two teammates. Meanwhile, Bezzecchi had a healthy one second lead at the front but Canet was making moves here there and everywhere. Soon, Bezzecchi’s lead was cut to nothing as Gardner and the five other chasers reeled in the Italian, who looked like he was struggling.
Lap 11 saw Canet take the lead, but Roberts pounced at Turn 1 as Canet and Bezzecchi went wide. Bezzecchi slipped to P4 very quickly as Gardner also passed the Italian, but one of the pre-race favourites made a couple of mistakes in the soaring Portuguese heat. This saw the Aussie lose valuable ground as Canet and Roberts made a breakaway. The Spaniard and American scrapped it out for a few laps, with Canet having a track limits warning. But, there was a rookie on the prowl. Raul Fernandez was lapping far superior to his rivals and he soon picked off both Roberts and Canet to take the lead with four to go.
Raul Fernandez’s late race pace was supreme and the youngster pulled 0.7s clear in three laps, setting another fastest lap of the race on Lap 21 of 23 – a 1:42.864. His teammate Gardner was finding some late pace too in P4, the Australian was reeling in third place Roberts and Canet. Three personal best laps from Gardner was mega stuff but nothing was going to stop Raul Fernandez, on the final lap his lead was up to 1.2 seconds as attentions turned to the three-way scrap for P2 and P3.
Roberts magnificently lunged up the inside of Canet at Turn 11, Canet then dived back at Turn 13, Canet and Roberts ran slightly wide to give Gardner a sniff. Roberts switched to the inside for Turn 14 but the narrow line he took saw him open a small gap for Gardner to squeeze into. Contact was made between the two, this caused Roberts to start bunny hopping but he stayed on, however his podium dreams were ended at the penultimate corner. Rubbing is racing, as they say.
Up the road though, Raul Fernandez rounded the final corner to win his first Moto2™ race, at just the third attempt, in stunning style. Sensational from the young Spaniard who now sits P2 in the Championship, one point behind teammate Gardner. Canet cements his first intermediate class podium with a hard-earned P2, the Spaniard beats Gardner by three tenths as the latter heads to Jerez as a Championship leader for the first time.
Roberts was unlucky to lose out on a podium in Portimao but it was nevertheless a great ride from the American. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) backs up his Doha P6 with Portimao P5 as the Spaniard continues to find form in 2021, Bezzecchi eventually settled for P6 having led in the early laps. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was a second behind Bezzecchi in a solid P7, Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) earns his first points of the season in P8. Beaubier is a top 10 Moto2™ finisher after a brilliant ride to P9 on his first visit to the Algarve International Circuit, Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) completed the top 10.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team), Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team), Lorenzo Baldassarri (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Marcos Ramirez (American Racing) were the remaining point scorers.
Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed at Turn 8 unhurt, with Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) taking out compatriot Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) at Turn 1.
So, the Moto2™ Championship is shaken up after a Portimao stunner. Heading to Jerez, three points split Gardner, Raul Fernandez and Lowes – game on in the Moto2™ title race.
1. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) + 1.600
3. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) +1.968
4. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing) + 2.397
5. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 5.622
6. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 6.344
7. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 7.360
8. Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) + 12.540
9. Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) + 14.989
10. Marcel Shcrotter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 15.240