Austin Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Moto3 Mayhem, Gardner's First Mistake, Fenati On Moving Up, And Beaubier Finding His Feet

After a dramatic weekend, we look at some of the big stories coming out of the Grand Prix of the Americas in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Moto3 – time to draw the line

As the Moto3 near miss was covered in some detail in David’s subscriber notes piece earlier this week, I’ll keep this brief. The two-race suspension handed out to Deniz Öncü came at a time when motorcycle racing had been thrown into a period of introspection. The deaths of Dean Berta Viñales in the World Supersport 300 race at Jerez the previous week, Jason Dupasquier in Moto3 qualifying for the Italian GP in June and Hugo Millan at a European Talent Cup meant three teenagers lost their lives in four months.

For this to happen in 2021 is unsustainable. We can’t be in a situation when events like these are happening with the kind of regularity we’ve seen throughout this season. The FIM Stewards had been scratching their heads to find a solution to irresponsible riding for years. Disqualification or suspensions were always the last resort. But, as Valentino Rossi said, “the situation is out of control.” Therefore, it must be dealt with in the strongest possible way.

It’s clear Öncü didn’t intend to wipe Jeremy Alcoba out when moving to the left suddenly on the back straight three laps into the restarted Moto3 outing. But the consequence of his move has been punished accordingly. And the Stewards should not hold back if this kind of riding continues. Serving up a period of painful introspection is a surefire way to make teenagers think twice about making such movements in the future.

This week footage emerged courtesy of Jaume Masia’s Instagram page of Alcoba making a similar dangerous move across his front wheel when braking for turn twelve at the end of the back straight. I see no reason why this shouldn’t be punished with the same severity witnessed in Öncü’s penalty. Without that, can we really say some of these teenagers will learn?

Gardner: less defending, more attack

The run has come to an end. Remy Gardner’s brilliant sequence of results – 20 consecutive finishes, all of them in the top seven – came crashing down on Sunday. And at the worst possible time. The mistake came about due to two things: Raul Fernandez’s relentlessness up front, and the difficulty which the Australian has in the early laps when running with a full tank.

“The first laps I struggle, especially with the full fuel,” said the 23-year old. “Not riding-wise, but the thing just doesn’t accelerate and these ****heads just pass me like animals. (Raul) is usually out front and manages to get a bit of a gap in the beginning that I have to work my ass off to get back. It would be nice to get it on pole, start in front of everyone. It’d be nice to start and do a few laps out front and keep the tyres cool. We’ll change our plan a little bit and fight to the end. It’s OK.”

In the past years, such setbacks would be met with emotion. But I found Remy to be measured and composed in Sunday’s aftermath, even if his frustration with Cameron Beaubier’s early moves was apparent. “Beaubier was just riding like an animal, just being stupid. Unfortunately, those silly moves were costing me time. I lost the gap to Raul. I had the pace today and I was pushing hard. I was starting to come back. But between where the two asphalts connect together there is a little crease. I was 10cm to the right, got the crease and the thing folded. S*** happens. We’re still leaders in the championship. Nothing’s over yet. We need to change our attack plan. Maybe less defending, more attack.”

Three to go, and all to play for in Moto2.

Fenati: Moto2 ready?

Last weekend saw confirmation of Romano Fenati’s promotion to the Moto2 class in 2022 with the Speed Up team. The Italian’s former foray into the intermediate category ended in acrimony that was well documented. And like 2018, the 25-year old won’t be graduating as a world champion. But is he well prepared for the move?

Who better to ask the his current team manager Peter Oettl? “He came to our team last year and our target was always to bring him to Moto2,” said the German. “OK, we needed more than a year for him to achieve this. But I think he’s more than ready for Moto2. He can be even a better rider in Moto2 than Moto3 – his riding style and the way he works will fit very well. It will be exciting to see how he performs next year.

“We found a really good way to work together. His crew chief Emanuele Martinelli is very good at understanding the riders and taking the maximum from them. It took time, especially in the first year to find out which setting he needed. Now he pays back what we expected. That’s a pleasure for us as a team, how he improved his work.”

“A big advantage for him is he works by himself. He works on settings and gets lap times by himself. That is very important for Moto2. In Moto3 slipstream is always helpful. But he goes his own way and showed us most times it is possible. Even in circuits like Silverstone. He can always give us very good information about the settings and how it feels. That helps us find the right setting.”

In the past Fenati’s emotional outbursts in times of strife led to his split with the Sky Racing VR46 team. Does Oettl still find the rider to be challenging? “It depends on the situation,” he said. “It’s allowed for a rider to be emotional. This is something that is absolutely normal. OK, it happened sometimes that he was a little bit over. But in the end, he learned how to calm down and work constructively. But he was never aggressive. We found a good way. He improved by himself a lot in the last two years.”

Beaubier feeling he belongs

Considering the competitiveness of the class, and his lack of experience in it and on the tracks, I felt Cameron Beaubier’s rookie Moto2 season was going reasonably well up to his home race. Sure, there were non-scores. But the five-time MotoAmerica Superbike champ has a decent knack of saving his best for Sunday. The rest will surely follow.

But a conversation with American colleague Matthew Miles made it clear that both he and veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes had been expecting more. In their view, Beaubier is so good, so talented, he should be scoring regular top tens, even in his rookie year.

On Thursday, Beaubier gave an idea of why he had scored just two points since the season restarted after the summer break. “It’s a couple of things: a lack of experience at the track. Going to the track, I know the direction and rode them on a 125cc back in the day. But it’s so hard mentally when in the first five laps you have the top guys going within a second of the lap record. And you’re just playing catch up all weekend,” he explained.

But his home race was excellent. Putting track knowledge to good use, Beaubier qualified an superb fifth – Saturday’s have been a clear weakness in the past – before briefly leading the race, and then contesting the podium places. His words after went some way to explaining the difficulties of adapting to the class. “Overall, the whole weekend was so, so good for me,” said the 28-year old. “It was so good for my confidence on this thing. I’ve been pretty beat down at times and questioning if I even belong here. Just in my head it felt really good knowing I can run with these guys on a track I’m familiar with. It was awesome.”

Diggia keen to put down ‘silly comments’

Perhaps one of the disappointments of this year’s Moto2 campaign has been Fabio Di Giannantonio’s inability to kick on from his win at the Spanish Grand Prix. Using a Kalex frame for the first time this year, the Italian appeared to have everything in place to be a regular front runner. It wasn’t the case, as he failed to get anywhere near those levels since May.

And after a strong second place in Austin – a first top three since Jerez – he was adamant the confirmation he is off to MotoGP next year was not the reason for his downturn in results. “I heard a lot of comments like, since I signed for MotoGP I only started thinking about that,” said the Italian. “All these stupid things. Last year I signed a contract for two years that was Moto2-MotoGP. In race 1 in Qatar I already knew I was going to MotoGP. So all these stupid comments about the official announcement in the Sachsenring (distracting me) were just not true.

“We just lost the way. We changed some things on the set up. After Jerez, we don’t know why, but we touched a few things and race-by-race we lost the way, honestly. It was so difficult to understand. But just working, we came back with a few steps. We changed the balance of the bike back to what I used to ride at the beginning of the season. More or less, that’s it. It was not a mind problem at all.”

Bezzecchi battling knee strain

As Fernandez and Gardner have made the championship race all about them, Marco Bezzecchi has fallen by the wayside. There have only been fleeting glimpses of the Italian at his very best this year, such as his win at the Styrian GP and second place at Silverstone.

After a third place at COTA, he revealed his recent muted performances have been partly down to a knee ligament injury sustained when training before the Aragon GP. “Physically I struggled because since one month I’ve had a problem in my left knee,” said Bezzecchi. “I can’t really train at home. I trained in the gym but I missed some aerobic training. The power was OK, but I didn’t have the cardio. On Friday morning I didn’t have any speed or any confidence. I just tried to be smoother (from there).

“I had this injury training at home. Honestly, it’s not an injury like you crashed and got hurt. It’s something that I started to feel some pain in the knee more and more, day by day. I said there is something wrong. When we checked I saw I had problems with the ligaments. I discovered this when I had two races in a row so I couldn’t make any (hospital) visit. I tried to train without charging too much energy in the knee. Because of this, I couldn’t make the training for the last 2 or 3 races. Normally it’s not such a big issue but this track is so physical and I suffered a bit more.”

McPhee back on the box

The number of occasions this year John McPhee has been in promising positions only for lady luck to exit stage right is almost too long to mention. Sunday was another case in point, as the Scot led the restarted race and was on course for a timely victory. As it was, the second red flag of the morning pushed him back to third. Still, a first podium of the year was more than welcome.

“What a season it’s been. I can’t believe we’re this far into the season and it’s the first one,” said the Scot. “I’m glad to get one because we were getting close to the end without getting one. I felt comfortable all weekend. Both me and Darryn were feeling a bit depressed this morning after the last couple of days. We said today is going to be a win it or bin it day.

It’s been a struggle and tough to watch for a rider who had realistic aims of winning the championship this year. But bear in mind, the 27-year old has been fighting in a team with a myriad of issues. Issues such as the in-fighting between Team Principal Razlan Razali and Team Director Johann Stigefelt. Or the fact his crew chief Mark Woodage was placed alongside Jake Dixon in Moto2 midway through the year. What’s more, his crash at the Barcelona GP ruined a chassis that hasn’t been replaced meaning McPhee has been competing on an aged frame from the start of 2019 – tough to overcome when up against hordes of fast KTMs.

“We’ve struggled a bit this year. Obviously the KTMs have come really strong. We feel like when we’re alone we’re really strong. In practices we can be right up there. In the race we’re riding in a kind of way that allows us to do the lap time. With the KTM they’re able to almost slow the race down and then go. It’s been tricky for us in the races.”


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year: 
2021
round_number: 
15

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Comments

The guy should NEVER had gotten his licence back after that move on Manzi three years ago. Never. He's a talented rider, for sure, but that episode, to my mind, was totally and permanently unforgiveable.

I really enjoy reading Neil Morrison's contributions to Moto Matters. I get lots of information presented in clear, unembellished form. He makes it look easy... Thanks, Neil!

Yes, a stellar addition to Motomatters, David, Zara, et al. 

With teenagers dying, it has been suggested that the minimum age be raised. I agree that it should be raised, but for another reason.

The age limits exist, whether intentional or not, as a way to make sure that most of the riders in the three classes of what is mostly a championship raced on European tracks are, well, European. European racers intimately know European tracks, from a very young age. How old was Raul Fernandez when he did his first lap of Jerez?

Gardner has succeeded by basically living in Europe with the resources of a world champion dad. Miller had to also move to Europe as a kid with the accompanying sacrificies by his family. Beaubier finally performs well--on a track he knows as well as all his competitors know the Spanish tracks.

Maybe it is time for a Moto4 class , split the moto3 class , everyone under seventeen must race one full year in Moto4  before moving up to Moto3  . No exceptions. Starting positions picked by draw, no more fighting for a tow in qualifying.  
Track time may be a problem but they could race late on Friday or Saturday . 

Jurgen van den Goorbergh's idea about limiting the gearbox ratios to reduce/eliminate the advantages of slipstreaming.

If I remember rightly that was about gear ratios (?). I'm a little unsure if my memory is working but the idea was to prevent riders running with excessively long 5th and 6th cogs. I'm not sure it works very well to be honest. I think it's just as likely to create new problems as solve any.

Even if a rider has ratios that are optimised for running without a slipstream they are still quicker with a slipstream. That goes for every section of the track where the rider is accelerating no matter the top speed reached. Even on a very long straight they accelerate quicker with a slipstream, sit on the limiter for the last part of the straight because of the new ratios and the result is still a better lap time. The benefit of the slipstream increases with speed i think but it's there from fairly low speeds as long as you are close enough to the rider ahead. Cyclists, a classic example.

There is then the possible issues of not being able to overtake using the slipstream because the rider is sitting on the limiter. Not overtaking is not an option so it moves more of it into the braking zone maybe.

I can see some advantages to it for sure but it's another limit. The riders will somehow be limited to a given top speed as a result of given ratios. Every rider, same speed ?..Impossible. That could possibly mellow the long straights out because the jostle will only take place during acceleration but as mentioned before, that then leaves it to the death at the next turn. Six of one half a dozen of the other, it is crazy already.

The only way to force teams and riders to do this is by running super pole...and that would help safety but in qually and practice. Not such a bad thing but in the races I don't see much improvement and some possible disadvantages.