The title race takes another twist at the Red Bull Ring as Gardner suffers his worst finish of the season
For the fourth time in 2021, Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is a Moto2™ race winner after producing a faultless ride at the Bitci Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich. The Spaniard fended off race-long pressure from Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) as two rookies stand on the top two steps, that’s Ogura’s first podium in the class, while Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) picks up a third consecutive podium in P3.
The title race takes a twist in Austria
All three riders on the front row launched away well from the line and it was line astern into Turn 1, Lowes leading Raul Fernandez and Ogura on the opening lap. Drama unfolded further down the pack at the tight Turn 1, which saw Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up) and Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP40) crash. It also saw Albert Arenas (Aspar Team Moto2) come into pitlane at the end of Lap 1 to retire, with World Championship leader Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) forced down to P10 in the early stages after contact at Turn 1.
Lap 3 saw Raul Fernandez slot up the inside of Lowes at Turn 3 to take the lead, as Ogura and Augusto Fernandez tagged onto the back of the top two. In two consecutive laps at Turn 3, Ogura and Augusto Fernandez carved past Lowes as the polesitter slipped to P4. The race then settled with Ogura chasing race leader Raul Fernandez, as Augusto Fernandez sat at around a second adrift of top spot. Lowes was keeping his teammate within touching distance, with both Gardner and Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) struggling to make progress in P8 and P9.
Heading into the final 10 laps, it was still as you were between the leading quartet. Lap times between them were almost identical, with no one looking like putting a foot wrong. With four laps to go though, Ogura was starting to make Raul Fernandez sweat a little more. Three tenths split the rapid rookies, with third place Augusto Fernandez and fourth place Lowes watching on from a couple of seconds back. Raul Fernandez then responded to the pressure, the gap was back up to half a second with two laps to go.
Two 1:29.2s saw Raul Fernandez get the gap up to 0.8s heading onto the final lap, and the Spaniard made no mistakes to return to the top step, his fourth win of the season. Ogura produced a phenomenal ride to keep Fernandez honest for a dream debut Moto2™ rostrum, Augusto Fernandez held on to take P3 ahead of teammate Lowes.
Mixed emotions for the points scorers
Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) went toe-to-toe with Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) as both riders claim their best intermediate class finishes in P5 and P6. That’s the order they crossed the line in, but Vietti was demoted one place for exceeding track limits – P5 for Chantra, an equal best P6 for Vietti.
After being beaten up at the opening corner, Gardner had to settle for P7 to see his title advantage slip to 19 points. The Australian eventually got the better of Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2), the Styrian GP podium finisher picks up P8 ahead of Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team). 2.4s adrift of ninth place Lüthi was Bezzecchi in P10, a crash in qualifying ultimately costing the Italian another shot at victory at the Red Bull Ring.
Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) edged out Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP) in the battle for P11, Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) completed the point scorers in P14 and P15 respectively.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team), Barry Baltus (NTS RW Racing GP), Marcos Ramirez (American Racing) and Yari Montella (Lightech Speed Up) crashed out of contention.
19 points separate the teammates heading to Silverstone, can Gardner bounce back at the British GP? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks’ time.
1. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) + 0.845
3. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 2.747
4. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 4.412
5. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 8.782
6. Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) + 8.850
7. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 13.657
8. Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2) + 16.499
9. Thomas Luthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) + 17.108
10. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 19.588