With the intermediate class closing the show in Portimao, they had a lot to live up to, but they acquitted themselves honourably and gave us a nice glimpse into the future as we watched brilliant rookie Raul Fernandez take his first victory in Moto2. The Spaniard fought his way to the top to cross the finish line a second and a half ahead of compatriot Aron Canet. The Aspar rider also rode an impressive race to claim his first podium in the class, while Remy Gardner claimed the final podium spot on the final lap and with it came the championship lead.
Gardner had been the fastest starter off the line, ahead of Marco Bezzecchi and Xavi Vierge, while poleman Sam Lowes made a sluggish start and dramatically high-sided in a rather crowded turn 1. Joe Roberts quickly progressed from 8th on the grid to join the leading trio, with Raul Fernandez right on his tail after starting 10th.
Bezzecchi started challenging Gardner’s lead on lap three and the two continued to swap paint over the next few laps. By lap five, Bezzecchi was starting to stretch a gap at the front, over one second clear of Gardner who kept getting challenged by Roberts. Canet, Raul Fernandez, Augusto Fernandez and Vierge also kept up with the podium battle, but teammates Ai Ogura and Somkiat Chantra unfortunately crashed out of the group soon after, while the next group led by Albert Areas dropped about a second behind.
Bezzecchi’s gap did not grow much over the one second mark as Gardner pushed hard to recover that gap, aided by a big twitch for the Italian. However, it wasn’t the Australian who challenged for the lead next, as Canet swept past and took the lead on lap ten. Bezzecchi fought back into turn 1 next time around but Canet’s eagerness to respond immediately cost both of them and allowed Roberts briefly past. Canet found the inside at turn 5 but Roberts resumed the lead by the end of lap 11, with Gardner, Bezzecchi, Raul Fernandez, Vierge and Augusto Fernandez also in the leading group.
Roberts continued to lead the way past the halfway mark of proceedings, with few moves within the top group. Despite a scrappy few laps from Canet, the Spaniard kept close to Roberts, while a bit of a gap was appearing behind them, with Bezzecchi almost one second behind and the two Red Bull KTMs seemingly struggling for grip the most and running wide repeatedly.
Canet took his turn at the front at turn 5 with six laps remaining but had a track limits warning to contend with and also a fast recovering Raul Fernandez, who joined the podium party for the final five laps, after posting the fastest lap of the race. The Spaniard benefitted from Roberts going wide into turn 1 to take second and chase his leading compatriot. Meanwhile, Gardner dropped one second back, ahead of Augusto Fernandez, Bezzecchi and Vierge.
Fernandez flew past Canet into turn one the very next lap and the Aspar rider could not respond straight away, so the rookie pushed to stretch a gap. The distance grew bigger and bigger and the KTM rider once again posted the fastest lap of the race to start the final lap over one second ahead, leaving Canet, Roberts and a revived Gardner to decide the final podium positions. Canet did all he could to defend second place and despite a late attack from Roberts, he reclaimed second at turn 13 and things immediately got worse for Roberts as Gardner bumped him out of the way to steal the final podium spot. Bezzecchi, Vierge, Hector Garzo, Cameron Beaubier and Marcel Schrotter took the remaining top ten positions.
Despite missing out on victory, Gardner claims the championship lead by 4 points from teammate Fernandez, with Lowes dropping to third, only 6 points down on the leader. Bezzecchi keeps fourth with a 20-point gap, while Canet climbs 12 positions up to sixth, behind Fabio Di Giannantonio.
|11||21||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Kalex||+15.521|
|12||19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||+15.667|
|14||7||Lorenzo Baldassarri||MV Agusta||+23.147|
|19||77||Miquel Pons||MV Agusta||+1'00.417|
|22||9||Jorge Navarro||Boscoscuro||3 Laps|
|96||Jake Dixon||Kalex||9 Laps|
|13||Celestino Vietti||Kalex||12 Laps|
|11||Nicolò Bulega||Kalex||12 Laps|
|64||Bo Bendsneyder||Kalex||16 Laps|
|79||Ai Ogura||Kalex||19 Laps|
|5||Yari Montella||Boscoscuro||20 Laps|
|62||Stefano Manzi||Kalex||20 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|22||Sam Lowes||Kalex||0 Lap|