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Federal Oil Gresini's Fabio Di Giannantonio put in a Moto2™ masterclass at the Red Bull Spanish Grand Prix to clinch a debut victory and honour the late Fausto Gresini in the best way possible. The Italian was untouchable from lights out to the chequered flag, eventually coming home two seconds clear of Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team).
Di Giannantonio took the holeshot from the middle of the front row of the grid, squeezing ahead of poleman Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) on the brakes into the opening corner. Bezzecchi held third place on the first lap but very nearly found himself in the Turn 6 gravel trap when he got it out of shape under braking. The Italian somehow missed Gardner's rear wheel but ran well wide to allow both Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) through.
It didn’t take long for remarkable rookie Fernandez to move into the podium places too with a smooth move on the Mallorcan into Turn 1. He then quickly closed on to the rear wheel of teammate Gardner, before disaster struck behind for Augusto Fernandez as the Marc VDS man crashed out at Turn 6. He was joined there by Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) as the front of the Italian's Kalex gave way in a very similar crash.
At the front, the Italian’s lead had moved out to 1.5 seconds as he laid down a pace that Jorge Lorenzo would've been proud of. Incredible consistency from Di Giannantonio meant nobody could get close to him. So attention switched to the fight for second and third, with Gardner having managed to get his nose in front of Raul Fernandez. Behind the pair of Ajo riders, Lowes was pushed back a further place to fifth as Bezzecchi came steamrolling through. The Brit got himself back in front of the Italian but, into Turn 1, the SKY VR46 man pulled off a carbon copy move to take fourth once more.
Raul Fernandez pulled off a brave overtake on teammate Gardner to retake second, all the while Di Giannantonio was streaking further clear; 3 seconds his lead with 15 laps of Jerez left. It went from bad to worse for polesitter Gardner as Bezzecchi pounced on the Australian’s apparent struggles, nudging him down a further place to fourth. Bezzecchi, meanwhile, was on a charge as he looked to make amends after his early error.
Further down the field there were a flurry of fast crashes as Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team), Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Simone Corse (MV Agusta Forward Racing) all hit the deck. The Thai and the Italian wrecking their Moto2™ machines at Turn 11, all three fortunately walking away unscathed.
A mistake then came from Fernandez as a serious bobble at the final corner forced him off line and gave a chance that Bezzecchi wasn’t going to turn down. The bushy-haired Italian moved through to second and got his head down in the closing stages. Only four laps remained and Gardner had found a second wind, as had Lowes too. The pair, who battled it out across both weekends in Doha, were piling the pressure on Raul Fernandez in the fight for the final place on the podium. Only a handful of laps were left and both Di Giannantonio and Bezzechi were comfortably clear in first and second.
A mistake from Gardner into Turn 6, whilst trying to find a way through on teammate Fernandez, saw Lowes slice through and into fourth. Onto the penultimate lap and the fight for third was really heating up. Lowes elbowed Fernandez out of the way into Turn 2, sending the Spaniard wide and allowing Gardner to pounce too. The Australian was trying to apply some pressure to Lowes but the Brit’s late-race pace was untouchable and third was his.
Di Giannantonio pulled a huge stand-up wheelie over the line to celebrate a maiden Moto2™ victory in style, with Bezzecchi and Lowes joining him on the Jerez podium. Gardner took fourth ahead of Fernandez in fifth, with the title standings taking a significant shuffle as a result. Heading to Le Mans in a fortnight, it's still Gardner that leads the way but Lowes now sits only three points adrift, with Fernandez a further three back in third.
Petronas Sprinta Racing's Xavi Vierge was pushed all the way by Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) for sixth place, with the Spaniard holding on by just over a tenth of a second to the best the Japanese rider to ten valuable points. Italtrans Racing Team's Joe Roberts took the chequered flag in eighth, ahead of Inde Aspar Team's Aron Canet in ninth. The fight for the final place inside the top ten was settled on the final lap when Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) crashed out whilst trying to find a way through on Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), meaning the German ended tenth.
1. Fabio DiGiannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)
2. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 1.722
3. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS) + 2.229
4. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 3.019
5. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 8.571
6. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 12.181
7. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) + 12.313
8. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) + 12.523
9. Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) + 14.407
10. Marcel Schrotter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 17.152