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Another race weekend, another ace for Red Bull KTM Ajo. But it's far from boring watching Championship leader Remy Gardner grapple with teammate Raul Fernandez at the top of the table, with the two embroiled in a chess match modern classic of a season. Gardner retains a sizeable 34-point lead over his rookie foil but Fernandez arrives from two wins on the bounce... just, as the veteran Aussie made a late charge at Misano. So can anyone catch them at COTA?
Moto2™: Fernandez makes it back-to-back wins in Misano
Since the form book has had little respect from the duo thus far, they must remain the favourites. Gardner could have a small edge from experience, too. But as easy as they've made it look at times, it's far from it on track... and a likely suspect for some good speed to rival them could be Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). The Brit took his first ever win at the track and has another podium, so there are some good memories.
Lowes though, like Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) ahead of him, will need to find some time to break the Red Bull KTM Ajo deadlock at the top. Bezzecchi was the last to do it at the Styrian GP, but then you need to rewind all the way to Jerez for the last time a non-Ajo machine was at the front in parc ferme, which is pretty staggering. So it's an ask. For Bezzecchi it's also likely crunch time to stay in contention, with 75 points available after Austin and his deficit to Gardner currently 81. Lowes, meanwhile, is already ruled out from the crown.
There's a tight fight for fifth overall too, and it could still gain on Lowes for fourth, as Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) locks horns with Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). Canet took a podium last time out as the number 37 had a tougher race, but both have been threats at times. Canet's shown speed at COTA too, something that bodes well, and he arrives on form.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), meanwhile, isn't far off that battle and he's the aforementioned winner at Jerez. He's also shown some pace in the Lone Star State, and will want to move back up as his move to MotoGP™ gets closer and closer. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) remains barking at the heels of the veteran too, no mean feat for a rookie, and it'll be interesting to see what he can do in Texas.
On home turf though, there's a lot on the line for Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and compatriot, and rookie, Cameron Beaubier (American Racing). Roberts' best so far this season is a fourth - denied a podium by a penalty - and he needs an upturn in form after a tougher run after summer break, but he knows the sharp end. Beaubier's best of P8 at Mugello and another top ten in Germany are impressive too for the American, but it's been a tougher run thereafter. With some home knowledge and the home crowd cheering them on, what can they do at COTA?
"It's mindblowing" - Gardner and Fernandez on MotoGP™ debuts
34 points is a good margin for Gardner, but it's still only one DNF on a good day for his teammate for a single podium to cover the difference. But on the flip side, 34 points is a big ask for a rookie to make up in four races - even if said rookie is equalling some of Marc Marquez' records in the class. Will COTA be another incredible Red Bull KTM Ajo rodeo, or could we see a shake up? Find out on Sunday the 3rd of October at 12:20 (GMT -5) as the lights go out in Austin for Moto2™.
3 weeks ago