Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Losail:
Another hot afternoon at Losail meant that the intermediate class were just as successful as their junior colleagues in changing the combined top 14 configuration. So not at all. Sam Lowes started us off in familiar fashion at the top of the timesheets, where he spent quite some time until Aron Canet took over to close proceedings. With no improvements in the Q2 lineup, Lowes remained the fastest man over the three practice sessions, while FP3 leader Canet kept 14th place on the combined standings.
Qatar swapped day for night, sun for floodlights and Bezzecchi for Lowes but it was the same strong men at the top of the timesheets. After Bezzecchi claimed the afternoon session, Lowes took his turn in the lead for the evening, one tenth ahead of the Italian and another two tenths from the next closest challenger, Joe Roberts. Xavi Vierge stepped it up in FP2 to trail the leader by three tenths of a second, while Remy Gardner completed the top five.
Despite the excitement brought by having motorcycle racing back our screens, the intermediate class did not have much to learn from their first official session of the season. A hot dusty Losail predictably saw them significantly off their usual race pace but some names stood out from the start, in particular Sam Lowes and Marco Bezzecchi who gave a taster of the speed shown in testing by trading top spot in FP1. After Lowes led the way for most of the session, rival Bezzecchi took over in the closing stages and finished a mere hundredth of a second ahead of the Marc VDS rider.
The veteran crew chief knows better than anyone the work that went into Sam Lowes’ title challenge in 2020. The Frenchman speaks to Motomatters.com on keeping his approach simple and giving his rider the freedom to work on himself.
Sam Lowes at the Qatar Moto2 test - Copyright Marc VDS/Mirco Lazzari
On the eve of the 2021 season, it’s fair to say Sam Lowes’ hopes for round one are quite different compared to a year ago. Recruited to Marc VDS’ slick operation after two tough seasons in Moto2, the Englishman’s 2020 got off to the worst possible start when he suffered a fracture-dislocation of his right shoulder in a testing spill. It meant the Lincolnshire rider was forced to sit out the first race of the year despite riding in Friday’s sessions.
The turnaround from there was impressive and surprising in equal measures. From joining the Marc VDS team, Lowes worked on himself off the track, visiting a sports psychologist and reworking his approach. He worked on himself on the track, too, smoothing out his riding style and adapting his braking method. The results spoke for themselves. But for a free practice spill at the penultimate race, it is no exaggeration to say the 30-year old would have been entering this year as a reigning champion.
Not to worry. A productive, if short, preseason sees Lowes start 2021 as one of – if not the – preseason favourite for Moto2. He topped the times on the final night of testing in Qatar and showed a searing rhythm to boot. Marco Bezzecchi, surely another contender in this year’s fight, claims Sam is the “super favourite.” And after the end of a turbulent 2020, who could argue with the fuzzy-haired Italian?
Sam Lowes ends his preparation for the 2021 Moto2 season on a strong footing, the Marc VDS rider ending the final day of the test as fastest. But the competition was not far behind: Sky VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi and Red Bull KTM Ajo's Remy Gardner were just one hundredth and five hundredths of a second behind Lowes.
The second day of the Moto2 test at Qatar saw six riders end the day with nothing between them at the top of the timesheets. Xavi Vierge took top spot on Saturday, the Petronas Sprinta Racing rider leading Aron Canet on the Inde Aspar Boscoscuro bike, while Jorge Navarro of the MB Conveyors Speed Up Team put another Boscoscuro (the chassis formerly known as Speed Up) into third, three hundredths behind Canet.
Remy Gardner has finished the first day of the Moto2 test as fastest, the Australian making strong start to his switch to the Red Bull KTM Ajo team. Aron Canet finished second on the newly renamed Boscoscuro (formerly Speed Up), a quarter of a second behind Gardner.
While the MotoGP teams are already in Qatar ahead of the first test of the 2021 season, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams are spread across circuits in Europe to prepare for the new season at private tests. A large part of the grid in the junior classes has been at Portimão for the past two days, getting ready for Qatar.
In the Moto2 class, it was Remy Gardner who was quickest, the Australian continuing his dominance at the Portuguese circuit. Gardner was the only rider under the 1'43 bracket, adding the fastest time of the test to his race win, pole record, and race lap record at the track.