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What a talent Raul Fernandez is and what a title race we have in the Moto2™ Championship after the rookie Spaniard took victory, a sixth of the season, at the Octo Grand Prix of San Marino. The Spaniard leads yet another Red Bull KTM Ajo one-two on the podium, with teammate Remy Gardner finishing 0.402s behind and Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) rounding out the rostrum places.
Fernandez started on pole in Misano and any hopes he had of a breakaway win after taking the holeshot were quickly dashed, going wide at Turn 9 as he tried to fight off Sam Lowes’ (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) challenge, but the Brit nudged himself ahead and led at the end of the first lap. There were also strong starts from Canet, Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team) as they occupied the top five spots, with Gardner and front row starter Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) dropping further down the field.
After four laps, the race lost Simone Corsi (MV Augusta Forward Racing) after an incident with Jorge Navarro, which earned the Lightech Speed Up rider a long lap penalty. Further up the field, Canet showed he wasn’t here to just make up the numbers as he moved ahead of Fernandez and set a race lap record in the process, while he soon had Lowes’ number. A mistake from the Marc VDS rider let the number 44 through for the lead and the Brit dropped to third. Behind him was Aussie Gardner, who had been making moves to get himself onto the tail of the lead group.
As the laps were chalked off, the front four formed a breakaway group while the Red Bull KTM Ajos began to find some pace, with Fernandez eating away at Canet’s advantage until he eventually made what would prove the race winning overtake on the 15th lap, doing his compatriot on the brakes at Turn 1. This prompted Championship leader Gardner into action, the Aussie making his move on the outside of Lowes at the same corner.
Specks of rain began to fall but it didn’t affect the on-track drama, Fernandez responding to pressure from Canet with the first ever 1:36 lap around Misano. Despite his impressive speed, he couldn’t shake off the close attention of the men in P2 and P3, while the next few laps saw Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italatrans Racing Team) and Barry Baltus (NTS RW Racing Group) crash out of the race.
In the closing laps, the race leader extended his lead to nearly a second, and looked set to cruise to victory, but Gardner wasn’t having any of it, disposing of Canet on the penultimate lap and then began taking huge chunks out of his teammate’s time, and we were set up for a grandstand finish. The gap was down to less than half a second, and with a track limits warning not helping matters for Fernandez it was game on!
Gardner continued to close the gap until the decisive moment came at Turn 11, when the Aussie lost grip coming out of the exit and a wobble caused him to lose momentum, causing him to go from attack to defence as he clung onto P2 and 20 crucial Championship points.
Another win for Fernandez secures him the Moto2™ Rookie of the Year crown and sees him move to within 34 points of his teammate with four races remaining, meaning it is all to play for. Behind Lowes, Bezzecchi picked up another top five finish but is out of the Championship running, while Augusto Fernandez would have been hoping for more than a P6 finish after his strong weekend form.
Elsewhere, there were good point scoring results for Vierge, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46), who round out the top 10.
1. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) - 1:36.938
2. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.402
3. Aron Canet (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 0.569
4. Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) + 1.578
5. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 4.920
6. Augusto Fernandez (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) + 5.361
7. Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) + 6.236
8. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 7.468
9. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) + 7.562
10. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 13.230
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