Remy Gardner

Portimão Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Two Titles Clinched, Remy Gardner's Win, Sam Lowes Digging Deep, And Raul Fernandez Dominating

This was as fun as it looked. The grandstands may have been empty and the paddock quiet, but the Algarve International Circuit lived up to its billing as a spectacular circuit. Not since Turkey’s fabulous Istanbul Park in 2005 had grand prix racing come to a new venue as jaw-dropping and thrilling to the naked eye.

Riders raved about the swoops, the undulations and the blind crests. Sunday showed the 4.6km layout could provide half decent racing, too. For the opening races lived up to the surroundings, with Moto2 and Moto3 serving up vintages high on adrenaline, spectacle and stress that had the championship fight go right the way to the wire. Here are some of the big talking points from the small classes on the last weekend of the season.

Italian Revival

For Enea Bastianini, his directive was clear: a top four finish was enough for a first world title no matter where his rivals finished. If Sam Lowes wasn’t victorious and Luca Marini was, he simply needed a top eight. Thoughts that the Algarve International Circuit (a track unknown to him but not his three rivals) could throw up a banana skin were dashed early. Enea was an impressive fifth at the close of day one.

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Europe Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Arenas' Temper, Bezzecchi's Return, Gardner Keeping His Cool, And A Lacklustre Luthi

MotoGP may have moved definitively toward one contender taking the crown. But a three-way title fight in Moto2 became four thanks to a surprise crash for leader Sam Lowes. And Any feeling 2020 was inching decisively in favour of Moto3 challenger Albert Arenas took just two laps to come apart. Here are a number of the big stories from the junior classes at the European Grand Prix.

Arenas loses his cool

Perhaps with the passing of time the Moto3 contest will be remembered for Raul Fernandez’s long-awaited first grand prix win. But it was Albert Arenas’ all-action showing that really caught the eye. Unfortunate in the extreme to get hit from behind when avoiding Celestino Vietti’s stricken KTM, the championship leader was forced into the pits with a snapped footrest bracket.

That should have been the end of his morning. But Arenas wasn’t finished. “I went into the garage pissed off, but the team tried to calm me,” he said. The team succeeded in mending the machine, but failed to defuse the rider. Rejoining in 30th place and three laps down, the Spaniard let the leading men by when shown the blue flags. But then came the madness. The 23-year old inexplicably started passing the riders in the fight for the second, including a ludicrous lunge on title rival Ai Ogura at the final turn – enough for Race Direction to show him the black flag.

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Le Mans Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On The Moto2 Starting Mess, The Brit Resurgence, Marini Soldiering On, And Moto2 Silly Season So Far

As always Moto2/3 delivered a wide range of talking points at the French Grand Prix. Sunday’s results threw up a host of surprises. With just five races remaining, both championships remain finely poised. Here, we take a look through some of the big talking points from both classes.

Moto2 start line mix up explained

The race began in bizarre circumstances as pole sitter Joe Roberts was dragged off the grid, started the warm up lap from pit lane, and then watched the race get underway before he had a chance to line up on the grid.

So what the hell happened? Well, the intermediate class followed MotoGP on Sunday afternoon. The track was wet but drying rapidly. The majority of Moto2 riders left pit lane for their sighting lap on wet tyres but soon realised only slicks would do. The grid then became a flurry of activity as teams not only changed tyres, but adjusted their bikes from wet to dry setup.

The American Racing Team attempted too much. The rules state, “All adjustments must be completed by the display of the 3-Minute board. After this board is displayed, riders who still wish to make adjustments must push their machine to the pit lane.” As that board was raised, a highly bemused Roberts and his machine were shown off the grid.

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Misano Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On VR46 Riders Lapping Misano, The Moto2 Rider Market, And Ai Ogura

VR46 Academy On Top Of The World

As days go, Sunday was just about perfect for the VR46 Academy. Franco Morbidelli became its first ever MotoGP race winner, Francesco Bagnaia backed him up in second and Sky Racing VR46’s Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi scored a fairly comprehensive one-two in the earlier Moto2 outing.

All four are supremely talented riders. But the countless hours of testing at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli begged the question: should riders be limited in terms of how often they test at one of the tracks on the MotoGP calendar?

Such track experience was even more crucial this year as the track was resurfaced in March. Despite much improved grip levels, bumps all around the track remained. On Sunday Jack Miller noted, “It makes me worry and I said it also in the Safety Commission on Friday afternoon, 'if you guys knew the track was this bumpy, nobody said a single thing leading up to this. You guys are riding here once a month a least'. Anyway it just shows practice can help I think.”

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Styria Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Track Limits, Bezzecchi's Return, Remy's Revival, And Moto3

Martin's Mirth

Minutes after repeating his brilliant lights-to-flag feats of the Austrian Grand Prix for a second time in as many weekends, initial race winner Jorge Martin was shown the runner-up slot in parc fermé. His crime? Running over a sliver of green paint that follows the kerb on the outside of turn eight as he fought resolutely to fend of Marco Bezzecchi’s ever-threatening late race advances. The FIM Stewards demoted to second despite crossing the line 0.060s second ahead.

“Losing out this way is painful,” Martin sighed from that same parc fermé. “In the last lap I think I didn’t touch it. Last week I touched it but they (the FIM Stewards) said it’s OK. Today wasn’t the day to touch. We won in an amazing way. For sure Bezzecchi at the end had a little bit more but he didn’t arrive to the battle. Me and my team really deserved this victory.”

So, were the Stewards wrong to penalize him? Well, after the controversy surrounding Augusto Fernandez’s last lap victory at Misano last year, when he passed Fabio Di Giannantonio at turn 14 moments after exceeding track limits on the exit of turn eleven, Dorna published a clarification on a tightening of the rules regarding track limits.

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What Does The Delayed Start To The 2020 MotoGP Season Mean To The Factories?

On Sunday, at 6pm, the desert night will erupt in a cacophony of sound, as Grand Prix motorcycle racing gets underway for the start of the 2020 season. But it won't be the vicious bellow of MotoGP machines which will shatter the desert silence; instead, the more modest howl (118 dB compared to 130 dB of the MotoGP bikes) of the Triumph triple-engined Moto2 machines will scream away from the lights and around the floodlit track.

It wasn't meant to be that way, of course. The Moto2 machines were supposed to race an hour and forty minutes earlier, their original start time planned for 4:20pm local time. Now, it will be the Moto3 riders starting their race at that time, and not the 3pm slot originally scheduled. The MotoGP machines will be sitting in packing crates, waiting to be shipped to the next race.

As I write this, it is not entirely clear where that will be. It might be Austin, Texas, unless the US authorities impose further restrictions. It might be Termas De Rio Honda, in Argentina, unless the Argentinian government changes its mind about allowing entry from Italy, or Japan, or anywhere else. It might even be Jerez, if international air travel is subject to sudden and extreme restrictions.

Evolution

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MotoGP Silly Season Grinds To A Halt: What Next For Ducati?

It had promised to be a spectacular Silly Season in MotoGP this year. With all 22 rider contracts up for renewal at the end of this season, several long months of hard bargaining was expected, resulting in a major shakeup of the grid. Few seats were expected to be left untouched.

Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati Desmosedici GP20 at the Sepang MotoGP test

Yamaha dealt the first body blow to any major grid shakeup, moving quickly to extend Maverick Viñales' contract through 2022, then moving rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo to race alongside him in the Monster Energy Yamaha team. Valentino Rossi was promised full factory support from Yamaha in a satellite team if he decided to continue racing after 2020 instead of retiring.

Yamaha's hand had been forced by Ducati. The Italian factory had made an aggressive play for both Viñales and Quartararo, and Yamaha had brought the decision on their future plans forward to early January. Yamaha decided to go with youth over experience, and Ducati was left empty-handed.

Next stop Hamamatsu

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Crunching The Numbers: Silly Season 2021 - An Unprecedented Youth Wave Conquers MotoGP

The current field of MotoGP riders may only be less than a season into the first year of their contracts, but the opening salvos of the 2021 season are already being fired. That is a direct consequence of almost the entire grid being on two-year deals, which run through the 2020 season. Every seat on the grid will currently be up for grabs in 2021. And because of that, teams, factories and riders are already starting to explore their options for the next season but one.

This is not something teams are particularly happy about. Team managers will grumble both on and off the record that it is a big gamble choosing riders basically on the basis of their performance two seasons before they are due to ride for you. Fear of missing out on a top rider forces their hand, however, and so teams are already making preliminary approaches about 2021.

The extreme and unusual situation of every single seat being up for grabs means that Moto2 riders are also delaying their plans. Most have only signed 1-year deals for 2020, knowing that so many options are opening up in 2021. Remy Gardner even turned down a chance to move up to MotoGP with KTM for 2020, preferring to wait for 2021 and hope for many more options then.

Youth tsunami

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Motegi MotoGP Friday Round Up: Heavy Weather, A Cold Track, And Improvement For Lorenzo

Two decisions plague the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi. One, a historical choice made back in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, throwing so much ash and dust into the air that it severely disrupted air travel around Europe, forcing Dorna to postpone the race from the original date in April to October. The other, a more recent change made before the 2018 season, where tire allocation for all of the races throughout the year is already fixed before the season even begins.

The change of dates forced on the Japanese Grand Prix as a result of Eyjafjallajökull has stuck, meaning the race is now always in October, as part of the three flyaway races in Japan, Australia, and Malaysia. That has the unfortunate effect of putting the race right at the tail end of typhoon season, which stretches from July to October. Over the years, heavy rains, high winds, and low-hanging clouds have caused the action to be canceled or postponed before. In 2013, Friday practice was canceled completely due to rain and fog, while the 2015 race start was delayed while we waited for the low-hanging cloud to clear, so that the medical helicopter could fly.

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