2020 Le Mans Moto2 Race Result: A Bittersweet Battle

If the rain didn’t cause enough headaches for their premier class colleagues, the intermediate class had a nightmare decision to make, the race being declared wet, with dark clouds gathering above, but with a drying line persuading riders to swap to slicks. As if that drama wasn’t enough, poleman Joe Roberts got into trouble swapping tyres on the grid and was forced to start from the back of the grid – or would have started there, had the lights not gone off before the American made it into position. With one favourite out of contention before the race even started, it was a bittersweet race for Britain, Sam Lowes taking a long awaited victory after a heartbroken Jake Dixon abandoned the fight from the lead. Remy Gardner snatched second at the last possible moment from Marco Bezzecchi, after the Italian kept ahead for most of proceedings.

After Roberts’ mishap, Lowes was de facto pole but the Marc VDS rider could not take advantage off the line and Gardner made it to turn 1 first, ahead of Xavi Vierge, Jorge Martin and Lowes. Luca Marini made a steady start from the second row to only lose one position, while rival Enea Bastianini lost some more ground at the start, dropping down to 14th.

Gardner did not get much of a breather at the front, with attacks coming from Vierge and Lowes early on, the British rider starting the third lap in the lead. However, the lead group seemed to have already reduced to five names, Gardner, Dixon and Bezzecchi also in the mix, while Martin missed the boat by going wide, dropping over a second back and crashing out at turn 10 as he was pushing to catch up. That left Augusto Fernandez as the main pursuer, but over three seconds down and the same gap keeping him ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio. Quite a distance down the road, Marini and Bastianini were engaged in direct battle by lap five, the Italtrans rider progressing while the championship leader was going backwards.

Lowes did not have an easy time in the lead, getting Petronas branded headaches from Dixon and Vierge, but the latter simplified things as he highsided on the exit of turn 10. With Vierge out of contention, Lowes and Dixon were running away at the front, while Bezzecchi and Gardner struggled to keep up and dropped over three seconds back by lap seven. Things then got a bit hairy at the front for Lowes, his front locking going into turn 8 and allowing Dixon to grab the lead on lap seven, also handing him a three seconds advantage. With the battle for third comfortably behind him, Lowes pushed to reduce the gap to the leader but it looked like a tough ask. Meanwhile, Bezzecchi was fending off Gardner and Fernandez for the final podium spot, with Tom Luthi over 13 seconds back. Despite the confusing situation at the start, Roberts was knocking on the doors of the top ten for the final half of the race.

Lowes finally broke the one second barrier to Dixon with 13 long laps remaining, but Dixon responded beautifully with red hot laps that kept Lowes one second away until the closing stages. With Bezzecchi still holding off Gardner and Fernandez in the battle for third, the main action was coming from Roberts, who was sailing through the pack and climbed as high as seventh with five laps remaining.

Dixon looked in control for so long but disaster struck with four laps remaining, the Petronas rider sliding out at turn 14, handing compatriot Lowes the lead. Lowes brought it home safely to secure a long awaited victory, while Gardner sniffed around Bezzecchi on the final lap and it paid off at turn 13, the Australian taking second place away from the Italian. Fernandez and Luthi completed the top five, with Roberts a brilliant sixth given the circumstances, ahead of the Italian duo of Di Giannantonio and Lorenzo Baldassarri. Bastianini crossed the line ninth but got a three seconds penalty for taking the shortcut at turn 3, which dropped him to 11th, behind Somkiat Chantra and Marcel Schrotter.

Marini was out of point scoring positions by halfway stage and had a lonely ride to 17th place, but the Italian keeps the championship lead by 15 points from Bastianini, with teammate Bezzecchi 20 points behind. Lowes’s victory reduces his deficit significantly, 22 points down on Marini.

Results:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time/Diff
1 22 Sam Lowes Kalex 41'27.648
2 87 Remy Gardner Kalex +3.822
3 72 Marco Bezzecchi Kalex +4.184
4 37 Augusto Fernandez Kalex +5.884
5 12 Thomas Luthi Kalex +21.668
6 16 Joe Roberts Kalex +29.197
7 21 Fabio Di Giannantonio Speed Up +32.249
8 7 Lorenzo Baldassarri Kalex +34.376
9 35 Somkiat Chantra Kalex +35.392
10 23 Marcel Schrotter Kalex +35.521
11 33 Enea Bastianini Kalex +37.720
12 40 Hector Garzo Kalex +37.910
13 42 Marcos Ramirez Kalex +38.423
14 62 Stefano Manzi MV Agusta +43.464
15 55 Hafizh Syahrin Speed Up +44.036
16 24 Simone Corsi MV Agusta +44.217
17 10 Luca Marini Kalex +59.550
18 19 Lorenzo Dalla Porta Kalex +1'09.735
19 57 Edgar Pons Kalex +1'09.751
20 64 Bo Bendsneyder NTS +1'12.930
21 45 Tetsuta Nagashima Kalex +1'14.158
22 74 Piotr Biesiekirski NTS 1 Lap
  99 Kasma Daniel Kalex 0 Lap
Not Classified
  96 Jake Dixon Kalex 5 Laps
  9 Jorge Navarro Speed Up 7 Laps
  11 Nicolò Bulega Kalex 10 Laps
  27 Andi Farid Izdihar Kalex 20 Laps
  97 Xavi Vierge Kalex 21 Laps
  88 Jorge Martin Kalex 23 Laps
Round Number: 
10
2020
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Comments

Why would they start the race with Roberts coming out of the last turn and behind the safety car? Why do they even have a car on the track behind the grid? It was a poorly managed race by the officials. Club racing is more organized than that. 

Running into a vehicle (normally an ambulance) is one of the greatest dangers at a club race.  If the "safety" car ends up in front of a rider, holding the start flag should be a no-brainer.  

It took me a while to get my jaw off the floor. I had to check the calender... yep 2020 it said, though watching that start, I would've thought it to be 1970.

Is this the first time in Gran Prix history that a racer needed to pass a car? Well done Joe Roberts for making the most of two fiascos thrown his way. 

Welkom 2000, 500cc race - some footage is out there somewhere. Jose Luis Cardoso ran off track (onto the oval) on the warmup lap and was just catching up as the lights went out so he rode straight past the safety car then past about 3 riders into the first corner as he was going quicker than everyone when they started moving.

Who is to say where he would have finished had Roberts started at the back of the grid as the rules dictate. Maybe he could have podiumed or even won the race...

... where he would have finished if his team had done their job in a timely manner. That's where the criticism belongs, if tey'ddone their job, the rest would have been moot.

 

The mechanic caused that mess but the silver lining is Smokin' Joe learned a lot about coming through the pack! He was brilliant. BTW I heard a rumor he is going to Bastiannini's team next season. I wonder if Tennor American is closing up shop?

Maybe race officials felt a pressing need to let the rest of the grid loose before the tires cooled off too much. It's possible that Roberts spent more time circulating on the warmup lap compared to everyone else, or that he was allowed to exit pitlane when it should have been closed. That's all I can think of other than simple brain fail. It was the weirdest thing watching the race start unexpectedly like that.

Peter, we had the same thoughts. If he exited pit lane after it was closed, then he should have been penalized or disqualified. If he took too long getting back to the grid, then he should have been penalized or disqualified. I was just stunned that it started with him coming around turn 13 and then having to pass the 'safety' car.

It brought to mind AMA at Laguna Seca when after a red flag the safety car was on the racing line between turns one and two as the pack crested the hill. Mladin was livid!

As others have pointed out, the silver lining is Joe kept his head and sliced through the pack to a well deserved sixth. Here's hoping for more from him!

Either way he probably carved through the field with a bit of anger present. If he had not been allowed to exit the pit lane then he probably would have started the race from there. Robert's display reminded me a bit of Binder at Jerez in 2016 and even a little bit of Marquez in recent times making everyone else look slightly pedestrian. Good job, Roberts.

It would be nice if race officials would made a formal statement. If anyone has any info, please share a link. I'm not ready to pass judgment on the American Racing Team mechanics. Many a master mechanic has been humbled by a vehicle that seemingly takes on a human persona and refuses to cooperate. Everything should be very clear and yet something doesn't make sense. I don't envy the position of the guys that had to wheel/carry Robert's bike off the grid.

It is strange for a Moto2 race to have so much talk about english speaking riders.

Joe Roberts' strange start dramas and stirring ride through the field, Jake Dixon sadly going from hero to zero,  Remy Gardner being composed and fast and nailing a fantastic last corner pass for second, and Sam Lowes escaping from a dramatic front lock up to a victory. Very odd and it certainly got the commentators excited.

All the previous comments have rightly commented on a great ride from Joe Roberts.

Obviously it didn't end well, but Jake rode a heroic race and his time is also arriving - other fully dry performances recently have shown it wasn't a fluke by any means.

Thanks Peter. Niki's post of the rules was helpful and my memory of them aligned with reality (today's moment of wonder!). Seems the miscommunication imps were busy with the marshalls headsets. As you noted, maybe two wrongs do cancel out so 'ride on Joe'? A race direction or team statement would be welcome. I can't imagine Hopper didn't storm into the office demanding an explanation!