Styria Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Bezzecchi's Return, Gardner's Woes, Ogura's Rise, And KTM Distractions

As ever Moto2 and Moto3 threw up a plenty of intrigue at the Styrian Grand Prix with one name putting his name back in the championship fight, while another cemented his place at the top. Here, we dive into some of the more pressing matters in both classes.

Bezz is back

It’s still a stretch. But Marco Bezzecchi put himself back into championship contention with his first win of the season on Sunday. The 22-year old shrugged off speculation surrounding his future by producing his strongest weekend for some time. This has always been a strong track for Bezzecchi’s braking abilities, with the Italian scoring wins here in 2018 (Moto3) and 2020 (Moto2). In the race, his speed through Turns 1 and 3 was crucial, and key to him recovering from a shaky early spell to reel in, then pounce on, Remy Gardner.

For much of this season, Bezzecchi has either struggled to qualify well, or manage tyre wear to live with the Red Bull Ajo team-mates. But he overcame both here, backing up his searing free practice pace by qualifying third on Saturday. Then, as he dropped from first to third in the early laps, he paid careful attention to the riding styles of Gardner and Aron Canet to make his way back to the front.

“In the beginning I was a bit afraid,” explained the Italian. “I broke the group but I heard Aron and Remy very close. I couldn’t make some good lap times. I struggled and they passed me. After I saw what to do in some points to do better riding. “I took advice from what I saw from him and Aron. When I was close to him, I was close to Remy. I saw how to do some corners where I was struggling a bit. I thought it was the bike but I changed the riding style and it was better. Then I started to take my rhythm.”

The frizzy haired figure has reduced his championship deficit from 56 to 44 points with 200 still in play. “When you win you go in a positive circle, where you feel good,” he said of his championship hopes. “To stay there is the difficult part. Next weekend everyone will be very fast. The points are still a lot. But at the end eight races left, 200 points. To win all is almost impossible. But if we work like this we can stay there and try.”

Remy Disadvantaged

It appeared there would be no letup in Gardner’s relentless run 14 laps into Sunday’s Moto2 encounter. The Australian was sitting pretty in the lead, 0.8 seconds clear of Canet and Bezzecchi. But the Italian soon reeled him in, and a first major racing mistake of the year saw him run off track when braking for Turn 4. He rejoined and finished fourth, extending his championship lead in the process.

After the race the Australian explained the nature of the first half of the Red Bull Ring layout had him on the back foot. Weighing in at 72kg, Gardner is the heaviest rider in the Moto2 class, and some eleven kilos heavier than Bezzecchi. That was notable from the exit of Turn 3, where the Italian could stretch clear by a handful of tenths each lap.

“Marco just had the top speed and acceleration here,” said the 23-year old. “Between Turn 3 and 4 he pulled three tenths on me. I was in his slipstream, and when I went for the brakes, I wasn’t expecting to arrive so fast. I got sucked in. My mistake. A shame, as we’d have finished on the box. We’re human and can’t always be on the podium. Marco’s just a bit smaller and aerodynamically good. But we’ll take it.”

Fernandez Flounders

Could it be simple coincidence that Raul Fernandez had his worst race of the year at the Styrian Grand Prix on the same weekend KTM announced a move that apparently went against his wishes? The 20-year old dazzled through the first nine races, accumulating more points than any other intermediate class rookie in that time since Dani Pedrosa in 2004.

Sunday’s seventh place was by no means a disaster. Yet Fernandez was subdued by his recent standards, running wide at Turn 9 on the seventh lap, dropping from fourth to ninth. He was never in podium contention from there, and Celestino Vietti’s last gasp move to demote him one place on the final lap summed up his weekend.

No big deal, you may say. His future was finally confirmed on Saturday – he’ll ride for Tech 3 KTM in MotoGP in 2022 – after months of speculation. Yet this came after Spanish sports daily AS reported Jordi Arilla, one of Fernandez’s representatives, had dinner with Petronas SRT Yamaha boss Razlan Razali last Thursday. The news infuriated KTM bosses, who hastily brought the announcement forward to FP4, much to the surprise and bemusement of Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal and riders Iker Lecuona and Danilo Petrucci.

As Motorsports Director Pit Beirer explained to Simon Crafar on Sunday, “I actually got a little bit mad finding out that other manufacturers were talking to Raul, ripping his shirt, and I was not so happy about it because he was quite happy to stay in Moto2. This was his wish, we were not pushing him in one direction or the other. If he wanted to go to MotoGP, of course, he would have had the chance on our side, so that's why I wanted to make everything quickly yesterday.

“It was really not the plan (to announce it in such a rapid nature), but I think we had everything prepared. It was a matter of two or three more short talks, but then I wanted to be really quick to take this pressure off Raul because I saw that still people were trying to talk to him and I think we also needed to make sure he can stay focused because at the moment, he still needs to perform in Moto2 and it’s not good if he is distracted between all the fronts.”

Fernandez was asked by Spanish broadcaster DAZN’s Izaskun Ruiz on Saturday whether he will be racing where he wants to be in 2022. A simple “No” was the answer. One has to wonder whether this whole episode took something away from Raul’s focus.

Ogura nearly there

There has been a great deal to admire in Ai Ogura’s rookie Moto2 campaign. Had it not been for the stellar feats of Raul Fernandez, it would be the 20-year old from Tokyo, Japan that would be the centre of hype, fanfare and speculation. Late crashes in Barcelona and Germany may have hampered his consistency. But Ogura has now been in the top six running in each of the past seven races.

But the Styrian Grand Prix was his breakthrough ride in the class. He qualified a fine second on Saturday, and then, for the first time this year, looked capable of challenging for the podium and, quite possibly, the win. After Gardner’s mistake, it was the rookie taking the fight to Bezzecchi before he received a Long Lap Penalty for repeatedly exceeding track limits. But for that, and the subsequent

Even still, this performance was confirmation of Ogura’s potential. Little wonder word from the Honda Team Asia camp post-race was optimistic. “It’s' the best race of the year. I could see the option to win the race. I've been close, and that gives me confidence for next weekend,” Ogura said. Team Manager Hiroshi Aoyama called a similar tune. “We build up this package from the beginning of the season, and now finally, we start to see the results. Let's think about the next races; we're on the way.”

Expect to see Ogura on the podium before too long.

Acosta v Garcia – “everything legal”

Arguably the Moto3 race of the year played out in the mid-morning murk. The class’ two standout riders in 2021 contested the victory on the final lap in a vintage exchange, which had two potential flashpoints. Sergio Garcia’s small barge on Pedro Acosta at Turn 3 took both men wide, before the latter moved under the former at Turn 9.

As Acosta acknowledged, it wasn’t the cleanest of moves. He saved a near crash, which forced him off track. Garcia, meanwhile, crashed when he hit a damp patch before remounting and still coming home second, 14 seconds behind.

One may think this was reason enough for the pair to fall out. But both saw the final lap duel as fair honest racing. “In Turn 3 I was closing the space but Sergio overtook me. He touched me a little bit but nothing happened – everything in the legal part,” said Acosta. “At the (second) last corner I was so fast to overtake him. I did a small mistake. The exit was close but I could save it. I don’t know what happened with Sergio, but I saw everything legal.”

His countryman concurred. “For me the fight was very clean,” Garcia said. “It’s normal on the last lap to touch with other riders. I think all the overtakes were inside the legality.”

On the limit, yes. But also fair. How racing should be.

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I feel for Raul. He doesn't quite have the measure of his teammate this year, so he's watching the moto2 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP slip away. As a reward for his still phenominal results this year, he's going to be dropped into the shit in MotoGP next year where he's going to wander around in the middle or last third of the pack trying to not get highsided to the moon. And when he looks across the garage he'll see the guy who cleaned his clock in moto2 the year before. Even if he has a rookie year as good as Jorge Martin is having this year, that's still a lot of time in the hospital!

If KTM just left him where he is, he'd most likely be able to keep learning this year, romp to a championship in 2022 and then step up to MotoGP as world champion, fat and happy from a year swilling cava from the top step of the podium. And KTM could have done this easily, just open the chequebook and match whatever Yamaha is offering to take him to MotoGP.

Hording riders, like Smaug hordes gold, is going to bite KTM on the ass eventually. Raul looks a bit pissed right now, so I doubt he's going to cut KTM any slack in negotiations going forward.

He's still only 35 points down on Remy with 200 on offer, but I can't see Remy losing his focus now.

This is a good take on proceedings, although I still see Raul as well and truly still in the hunt for the title, so it could swing the other way and he could be the smug one with a rookie world title and Remy no title after 5 years.  Hope not though!  I hope Remy continues his good form and drives the title home convincingly.

For Raul, is it just a one year contract?  Everyone is up for renewal at the end of 22, so with a bit of positive form in his rookie motogp season then the chequebooks will still come to his door even if he has "only" finished a remarkable 2nd or even 3rd in his rookie Moto2 year.

Yamaha clearly need some frest talent though.  Hung onto the old goat and the mad Mav for too long, gave their best rider of 2020 3rd rate equipment for 21, no feeder structure other than Petronas which will soon drop their minor class teams.

The Yamaha talent pipe is not great. Maybe it's just constrained by real world economics, as opposed to whatever planet Red Bull/KTM/Dieter Mateschitz live on?

Billionaires say and do the darndest things!

And some poor decisions. There was not a whiff of Blue effort to bring VR46 in to their program. While the decision to push Vale out of the Factory team was a good one re immediate rider needs, not locking VR46 Blue via relationships and synergy was mistaken. Their guttered 2020 crap bike didn't help. Like leaving Herve and his riders as mere customers w old kit all those years, Yamaha is quite short sighted at times.

We are expecting delayed change on their Test away from a couple Japan based Superbike riders to Euro Alien. One good step. 

Thank god for Fabio! And the Honda still being horrible. And...anyhoo. Have to moderate expectations. Enjoying very much Ducati, Suzuki, and even odd duck KTM coming to the front. Perhaps all is well as is?