There’s something about Red Bull KTM Ajo rookies in 2021, isn’t there? Moto2™’s Raul Fernandez clinched his maiden intermediate class pole position thanks to a 1:50.135 in damp SHARK Grand Prix de France Q2 conditions. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Q1 graduate Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) line up on the front row as we see yet more unpredictable conditions at Le Mans.
A dry Q1 saw Roberts, Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Simone Corsi and MV Agusta Forward Racing teammate Lorenzo Baldassarri earn themselves a shot at pole position in Q2, but a spanner was thrown in the works before the green light. Rain once again started to fall at Le Mans, but once more, it didn’t stay around for long. Rain was in the air, the surface was damp but there was confusion as to which tyres were the best ones to go out on.
Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was out on slick tyres, his closest Free Practice challenger Raul Fernandez initially went out on wet tyres, then got a box call, but the Spaniard went straight back out on the wet tyres. Roberts ran straight into the gravel at Turn 8 as Lowes pulled into pitlane – wet tyres we’re being fitted. On track, Gardner was the early pacesetter from Ogura, but things were going to change constantly.
Ogura then crashed unhurt on the exit of Turn 7, Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) was down at Turn 14 shortly afterwards. Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) was the next to crash at Turn 8, Raul Fernandez was just behind his compatriot and ran straight on. Meanwhile, Roberts was provisional pole, before Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Corsi the latest riders to crash.
Raul Fernandez then went 1.2s quicker than Roberts with four and a half minutes to go, but the American returned the favour to go back to P1 by 0.6s. Roberts improved his lap again and was now over a second clear of the competition, but Gardner landed the best lap of the session to demote Roberts to P2. Lowes, out on the wet tyres now, placed himself P3 but that was soon P4, because Raul Fernandez was nearly seven tenths clear at the summit.
With conditions continually improving, Roberts slotted into P2. Gardner made a mistake in the third sector to end his hopes of a pole position, his teammate Raul Fernandez went quicker again before Bezzecchi shot to P2 on his final flying lap to shove Roberts to P3. No one had an answer for Moto2™ rookies sensation though, in very difficult conditions, the young Spaniard claimed his first intermediate class pole position. Bezzecchi grabs his best grid slot of the season in P2, as does Roberts – that’s his first front row of 2021.
Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) left it late to claim P4 in qualifying, the Spaniard is joined by compatriot Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) on the second row. Gardner slips down to P7 in the closing stages as the Australian finishes over a second adrift of his teammate after running wide at Turn 8 on his last lap, Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) recovered from his big Friday crash to pick up a best Saturday result of the season. His teammate Stefano Manzi is P9 ahead of 10th place Lowes, work to do for the man second in the Championship after his worst Q2 of the season.
Make sure your eyes are glued to your TV screens at 12:20 local time (GMT+2) on Sunday for the Moto2™ French GP.
1. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – 1:50.135
2. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.240
3. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) + 0.379
4. Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) + 0.647
5. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 0.661
6. Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) + 0.997
7. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 1.011
8. Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) + 1.080
9. Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP40) + 1.225
10. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 1.896