A ride as dominant as anything we’ve seen all year, title challengers lost at sea, and a tremendous ten-rider battle for the win… Moto2 and 3 threw up a host of talking points at the Teruel Grand Prix. Here we take a look at what went on.
Lowes in the driving seat
Having won only after his main rival crashed at the previous week’s Grand Prix, there could be no doubting who was the number one here. On the back of wins in France and Aragon, Sam Lowes put on an exhibition at the Teruel Grand Prix as dominant as anything witnessed in any class this year to take charge of the Moto2 championship.
Lowes was irrepressible from Friday afternoon. He smashed the lap record on his way to pole on Saturday, led four of the weekends six sessions ahead of the race and annihilated the field from the first lap. After his best start of the season, he was soon in the rhythm. His fastest lap the second time around was 0.6s faster than any other rider managed through 21 laps. His winning margin of 8.4s was the biggest recorded this season in any category.
Tyre supplier Dunlop had introduced a softer rear tyre compound for this weekend with the caveat: the rubber had to be managed in the closing laps. Yet Lowes made a mockery of those claims, maintaining his rhythm in the 1m 52s until the penultimate lap while everyone else suffered a drop.
It was yet further evidence of Lowes’ transformation this year, riding relentlessly and full of confidence. It also showcased the acumen of the Marc VDS team, a squad that has won three of the past six Moto2 titles. After the Aragon GP, the 30-year had noted how he lost time to Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi in Turns 2, 14 and 15. They were weaknesses no more, and by Friday he appeared to have a clearer understanding of Dunlop’s softer rear tyre compound than anyone.
“I had a little drop in the middle of the race but it dropped nearly less than the (harder compound) of last week, which was a bit surprising,” Lowes said. “Even though my style looks aggressive, I was able to be quite smooth, to pick up the bike and use the bigger part of the tyre. With the added grip I was able to run more corner speed and then pick the bike up – not using the edge of the tyre to find the lap time and this helped us save it a lot.”
Lowes has often said his setup in FP1 is more or less where it needs to be, testament to the relationships he has forged with, as well as the knowledge of, crew chief Gilles Bigot and data recorder Julien Robert. Twin brother Alex was also present here and provided useful feedback from trackside. “We analysed where Marco and Diggia were quicker and tried to improve in them areas. He went out on track. When he says something, I listen.”
He now stands three races away from greatness.
Canet key to Speed Up turnaround
This was another superb weekend for Speed Up and Fabio Di Giannantonio. The Italian made amends for his crash out of the lead in the Aragon Grand Prix with a solid ride to second, his best result since September, 2019. Had teammate Jorge Navarro not fluffed his start from second on the grid, we may well have seen two Speed Up chassis on the podium.
Both ‘Diggia’ and Navarro endured poor starts to the season as they struggled to find a setting to suit Dunlop’s bigger front tyre profile. But now they are finally pushing Kalex. And after the race Di Giannantonio revealed it was mainly down to a rider that wasn’t even present at Aragon – Aron Canet.
The Spaniard is recovering from a serious injury to his little finger, suffered at Le Mans. But his performances early in the year for Aspar’s team that runs Speed Up hardware were a stark contrast to those of the official team. It was after Canet scored a brilliant pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix in August that Di Giannantonio decided to consult – and then apply – the Spaniard’s setup to his own machine. It immediately clicked.
“Our problem at first was we didn’t understand the front tyre,” said the 22-year old Italian. “We didn’t understand how to set up the bike, how to (distribute the weight) on the bike to make the front tyre work. We’ve done a great step with the setup and I can ride comfortably and fast.
“It was in the warm up in Austria. We have just a few bikes on the grid – the Speed Ups are just four. We have the data from each other. Canet honestly was doing a great job since the beginning. We were struggling a lot with our setup from last year. We went in his direction in the warm-up in Austria and it was a great step. We were faster. But then in the race we struggled with the brakes.
“But we came back to Misano. At Misano we were stronger and we started to fight for the top ten. I think there is where I improved my feeling on the bike. When you just touch a few things on the bike you then focus on what you have to do – just ride, relax and try to be as smooth as possible with the tyres. From Misano we made a step then got the podium in Barcelona. That gives you a lot of confidence to retry to do it.”
The numbers show it. Di Giannantonio scored just three points prior to Misano. Since then he’s only finished in the top ten, with this latest podium proving he’s back to his best.
Marini waking from a nightmare
How to explain Luca Marini’s drop off in performance? It’s hard to pinpoint one issue that has led to the Italian blowing a 20-point championship lead. Having scored just five points from a possible 75, the one-time favourite must now overcome a 23-point deficit if he wants to graduate to MotoGP in 2021 as world champion.
Marini never looked comfortable in Teruel. He described his on-bike feelings on Friday as “very particular… I’ve never had these before” before adding “I’m confident I will wake up from this nightmare.” Yes, things were that bad. On Sunday he dropped out of the point-scoring positions before mounting a comeback of sorts to finish eleventh. Here he complained of his engine lacking grunt, causing him to lose in acceleration and get swamped by his rivals.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong. It’s without question that monster high-side suffered in FP2 at Le Mans is still having an effect, be it physically or mentally. That wasn’t a fall you can just shrug off. One of the dangers of 2020 is the schedule – the 23-year old has had little to no recovery time since then with two more races coming back-to-back.
You do wonder whether the furore surrounding his move to MotoGP next year, and all the wrangling behind the scenes it has caused, has been something of a distraction for Luca at this crucial stage of the season. Then there’s the relentlessness of his rivals: Lowes and Enea Bastianini barely let up at Aragon. No doubt, seeing Lowes so strong on Friday unnerved the Sky Racing Team VR46, with Marco Bezzecchi also falling away at Aragon 2.
The next week will provide crucial rest for Marini as he prepares for the critical final run.
Beaubier: no better time than now
At first the American Racing Team were taken aback when they heard rider Joe Roberts was leaving for Italtrans. The squad had been reshaped around him. It proved itself to be capable of pushing for podiums and race wins this year. And team manager Eitan Bitbul and rider coach John Hopkins also act as Joe’s personal managers.
But the signing of Cameron Beaubier to replace Roberts was as surprising as it is enticing. A move to World Superbike was slated for 2021 but with Yamaha’s seats all taken, the five-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion felt he had to pursue other options to get onto the world stage. At 27 years old, time was running out to do that.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” Beaubier told the Off Track with Carruthers and Bice podcast. “I think the bike, obviously I have a lot of adapting to do to new tracks, the bike, all this stuff, the team, the travel. But there’s no better time than now. I feel like I’m riding better than I ever have. The bikes right now are 765(cc’s), so they’re a little bit closer to the 1000 we’re on. Marelli electronics, Dunlop tyres. So, I think definitely it’s going to take some adapting, but hopefully I’m just going to try to do it as quick as I can and see what I have for the world guys.”
Hopkins revealed Beaubier had to take a substantial pay cut to move to Moto2 on a two-year deal but believes he can make a success of it if he doesn’t expect too much, too soon.
“Cameron is obviously a talented rider,” he said. “He’s determined to make the switch. He’s obviously talented. I believe in his riding style. I think he’s got potential to do well. It’s going to be tough. It’s a strong championship and he’s going to have to chip away at it, make small steps in the beginning and just build his confidence.
“You have to commend the guy. We can’t go into details but he has taken a huge pay cut compared to what he’s been paid and what he could be making in the next few seasons. He’s taken on the challenge. He’s seen what Joe’s doing over here, he’s seen what’s possible and that’s motivate him as well. It’s only going to be good for American racing. Fans of MotoAmerica and Cameron over the last few years are going to switch over (and watch Moto2). It’ll create a buzz. We’re using this team as a platform to get American kids over here.”
Jaume’s calmness of mind
It’s been quite the few months for Jaume Masia. During that time he’s had to watch team-mate Dennis Foggia win for Leopard Racing before him, announce a deal for 2021 that will see him leave for Aki Ajo’s KTM team in 2021, and saw victory challenges come undone on five previous occasions.
But in the space of a fortnight he has also launched an unlikely championship bid, become the 100th different rider to win a GP for Honda (at the Aragon GP) and in Teruel he became the victor of Honda’s 800th GP win. Not bad for a rider set to leave his current squad for Aki Ajo’s KTM squad in 2021.
For the second time in seven days, the Spaniard showed a new, clinical eye in a typically chaotic last lap scrap. Changing the lead with championship leader Albert Arenas through the last laps, Masia used the superior speed of his Honda to decisively pounce on the run to the final lefts. Two last-lap wins in seven days are a stark contrast to his showings in Austria, San Marino, Emilia-Romagna, Barcelona and France, where he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
So what’s changed? “For sure I keep myself more calm because I was really hungry to get the victory before and maybe I did some mistakes in the last two laps of those races,” he said on Sunday. “That’s what changed. Now I’m calmer, more focussed and without doing mistakes. I tried to read the race, to see where I was faster than them. I did the same strategy as last week: to be second on the back straight. And I won.”
From nowhere, Masia has sprung a late championship attack. In this form, a 24-point deficit doesn’t appear insurmountable.
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