Red Bull KTM Ajo's Jorge Martin marched to a debut Moto2™ win, to the delight of the orange brand, at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix in a race that was shortened to 13 laps following a horrific incident including previous World Championship leader Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Hafizh Syahrin (Inde Aspar Team). The Spaniard was joined on the podium by new intermediate class points leader Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Marcel Schrötter.
Martin took the holeshot after a long wait for the lights to go out from the middle of front row whilst poleman Remy Garnder (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) settled into second. However, the Australian quickly dropped to third as Schrötter squeezed through into Turn 3. Championship leader Bastianini was in fifth place on lap five when he highsided out of Turn 1, leaving his bike strayed in the middle of the track. In a real hearts-in-mouth moment, Moto2™ riders swerved left and right to avoid it before Syahrin, unsighted by sitting behind another rider, was left with nowhere to go but hit the bike in a frightening incident.
Both Edgar Pons (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Andi Izdihar (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) were caught up in the crash and were fortunately OK. As is Syharin too, with the latest from the Red Bull Ring stating that after a first scan, the Malaysian doesn’t have evidence of a big fracture, and, as a result of heavy pelvic bruising, he will go to the nearby hospital for further observations and checks. We wish Hafizh a speedy recovery following the horrific incident.
At the restart, Martin once again took the holeshot with Marini, who was up to third at the time of the red flag, settling into second. Again, Schrotter and Bezzecchi were in contention in third and fourth. Beta Tools Speed Up's Jorge Navarro went down at the end of lap one at the final corner, with the rider walking away, before Bezzecchi whilst looking to take third at Turn 3 went extremely wide. Poleman Gardner was the ultimate opportunist and squeezed through on Schrötter and the wide Italian to take the vacated space and therefore third.
The fight for the final podium place allowed Martin and Marini to escape at the front, the pair a second clear at the end of the second lap. Bezzecchi then made the same mistake again just one lap later and dropped right out podium contention as a result. Former World Championship leader Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) crashed out at Turn 1 at the start of lap 4 as his title aspirations took another huge blow.
At the front, Marini was stalking Martin with ten laps left. The Italian looking ominous behind the former Moto3™ World Champion. Behind them, though, the podium fight took a big twist as Gardner tucked the front into Turn 1 and threw away his chances of a Red Bull Ring rostrum. Schrötter was promoted to third as a consequence and the German now had a comfort buffer of over one and a half seconds to Lowes in fourth. The Brit didn't hold that position for long though, with Petronas Sprinta Racing’s Xavi Vierge diving past and into the 13-point position. The pair had company too with resilient rookie Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) putting himself in contention for another top five finish. The quartet was completed by the recovering Bezzecchi and they certainly didn’t assist their podium chances as the battling continued for the next couple of laps.
A near highside from Lowes dropped him to sixth with now just five laps left but he regrouped quickly to get back into the fight. With four laps to go, Martin was now over a second clear of Marini after the Italian’s pressure failed to pay off. Despite never having won an intermediate class race, the Spaniard has won plenty of lightweight class races before and he looked to be in a race-winning mood.
Two laps now remaining and Lowes was back ahead of Vierge in the fight for fourth. The Briton went defensive into Turn 3 and consequently sacrificed all of his drive down the back straight and was forced to hand back the place he’d only just gained. As the trio fighting for fourth entered the final lap, Bezzecchi got his elbows out down the back straight in an attempt to get past Lowes. The chequered flag was ready, though, and it was taken by Martin for a career-first Moto2™ win. Martin clinched second and the Championship lead too, now five points clear of compatriot Bezzecchi who will get another chance in Austria next week, with the pair joined on the podium by Schrötter.
Lowes' squabbling with Bezzecchi didn't halt his progress in the final half a lap and he was able to pounce on a late Vierge mistake to take fourth, ahead of the Catalan and Bezzecchi. Liqui Moly Intact GP's Tom Lüthi got the better of Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in a fierce fight for seventh, before the top ten was completed by Canet and podium finisher last time out, Tennor American Racing's Joe Roberts.
1. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 2.195
3. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 4.782
4. Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 7.249
5. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 7.325
6. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 7.771
7. Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 9.405
8. Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 9.598
9. Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) + 10.023
10. Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) + 10.890