After a capricious weekend at Le Mans, the intermediate class got to enjoy a dry race without the threat of rain but it was a double-edged sword, as they had enjoyed limited dry track time throughout the weekend. Regardless, first-time poleman Raul Fernandez was not intimidated by the conditions and rode a perfect race to score his second victory of the season ahead of Remy Gardner, the Australian returning to the podium after a blip in Jerez, although he fought hard to keep his championship lead by only one point from his impressive rookie teammate. Marco Bezzecchi had no answer to the late pace of the Red Bull KTM Ajo machines and had to settle for the final podium position.
Bezzechi had made the better start off the line from poleman Fernandez and with Aron Canet and Joe Roberts trading third place early on, but a mid-pack contact between Gardner and Xavi Vierge at turn 3 allowed a handful of riders to stretch a bit of a gap at the front, dropping Gardner to 9th. Bezzecchi in turn stretched a slight gap to Raul Fernandez and namesake Augusto Fernandez, but the leaders’ group soon got halved after a big tumble at turn 9 for Canet and with Augusto Fernandez following his example at turn 11 on the second lap. Bezzecchi could not preserve his advantage at the front but only Roberts and Raul Fernandez were able to keep up with him, while Bo Bendsneyder dropped a second and a half behind the leaders, followed a big group led by Hector Garzo and including Sam Lowes and Gardner. However, that group also reduced when Lowes went down at turn 8, taking out Vierge when his overtake attempt went wrong.
There were nervy moments at the front as we well, where Roberts touched Bezzecchi’s rear tyre at turn 9 and it punished him hard with a fast trip to the gravel trap on lap five, while an unsettled Bezzecchi got overtaken by Fernandez. The busy first few laps left the duo alone at the front but their colleagues made sure not to let them feel lonely, as the group behind was pushing to reduce the gap to under a second, led by Bendsneyder and including Gardner and a fast starting Arbolino, who make quick progress from 19th on the grid.
Fernandez was keen to extend his lead at the front, which grew to over a second by lap 9 but Bezzecchi was about to come under attack from the fast trio of Bendsneyder, Gardner and Arbolino. Fabio Di Giannantonio was another two seconds behind but building up towards a long lap penalty for causing a crash for Hector Garzo. Once the Italian served his penalty, it turned the podium battle into a five-man affair, with Marcel Schrotter left six seconds down the road.
Fernandez’s advantage kept steady at the one second mark towards the halfway point of the race but the four men behind him were just as fast and Gardner and Arbolino looked particularly keen to find a way past Bendsneyder to join the provisional podium. They seemed to take a bit long but Gardner made his move at turn 11 with 10 laps remaining and Arbolino followed suit when they next reached turn 9. Gardner quickly recovered the one second gap to Bezzecchi and the Italian handed him second place with a mistake at Garage Vert with 7 laps remaining, while Arbolino did not seem to have the pace to keep up with the duo.
Fernandez continued to lead quite comfortably, keeping a gap of one second over his teammate, who was dropping Bezzecchi behind. The Italian was too busy keeping an eye on track limits after a warning with three laps remaining but was well clear of Arbolino. Fernandez never came under threat and took the checkered flag safely ahead of Gardner, with Bezzecchi securing third and rookie Arbolino a fine fourth place. Although he missed out on the podium battle, Bendsneyder will be satisfied with fifth, while Marcel Schrotter came on top in the late battle for sixth, ahead of Ai Ogura. Di Giannantonio did a stupendous job to climb into eighth place after serving two long lap penalties, including a botched first attempt. Simone Corsi and Jorge Navarro rounded out the top ten positions.
Gardner keeps the lead in the world championship by only one point from teammate Fernandez, while Bezzecchi climbs into third, 17 points down, dropping Lowes to fourth, 23 points behind the leader.
|8||21||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Kalex||+28.112|
|9||24||Simone Corsi||MV Agusta||+28.204|
|11||19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||+28.989|
|18||7||Lorenzo Baldassarri||MV Agusta||+39.036|
|21||10||Tommaso Marcon||MV Agusta||+1'19.160|
|6||Cameron Beaubier||Kalex||5 Laps|
|12||Thomas Luthi||Kalex||11 Laps|
|40||Hector Garzo||Kalex||19 Laps|
|16||Joe Roberts||Kalex||21 Laps|
|97||Xavi Vierge||Kalex||22 Laps|
|22||Sam Lowes||Kalex||22 Laps|
|62||Stefano Manzi||Kalex||23 Laps|
|2||Alonso Lopez||Boscoscuro||23 Laps|
|37||Augusto Fernandez||Kalex||24 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|44||Aron Canet||Boscoscuro||0 Lap|