Kalex

Valencia Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison Winners And Losers, At Cheste And In 2021

After a dramatic finale in Valencia, we look at the big winners and losers from the final race and indeed the 2021 season as a whole.

WINNERS

Aki Ajo

It’s quite the feat to manage two world champions in the same year. And quite another to have team-mates fighting for one of those gongs, as Aki Ajo did with Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez in the Moto2 class. But it wasn’t just about the Finn’s eye for rider selection. Up to the final round, the battling team-mates remained respectful without tensions ever bubbling over.

During the final round, Fernandez attempted to unsettle his elder team-mate. He hovered around Gardner in free practice, passing, sitting up, watching from behind. Even in the race, the Spaniard slowed the pace to make the Australian’s life difficult, back in the pack.

For this, Ajo has to take great credit. As Massimo Branchini, Gardner’s crew chief testified, “Inside of the box we don’t want fighting. Aki’s so strong about this. We have two riders that use their heads, and don’t create tension. We go to eat together. Everything is shared. Both guys are very clever about this.”

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“Sometimes a millimetre is doing nothing. But sometimes it’s really the key” - Kalex’s secret to success

Alex Baumgaertel, founder of Kalex, offers his views on nine consecutive Manufacturers’ Championship victories in the Moto2 class, keeping an open mind and working for the future.

The news went slightly unnoticed at Silverstone back in August. But Remy Gardner’s fourth win of the year was enough to secure the Moto2 Manufacturers’ title for Kalex for an ninth consecutive season. That’s some achievement for a company consisting of just seven people, with only three currently attending races due to paddock restrictions.

Perhaps it is the regularity with which the German company wins that meant this particular crown was all but a given from the first race. A Kalex-backed rider has won every Moto2 outing this year. And last year, for that matter. In fact, of the 90 podium positions up for grabs over the past two seasons, riders using a Kalex frame has taken 83 of them. That’s total domination.

The grid is currently awash with the German manufactured frames, with 22 Kalex-backed riders in a grid of 30 – and that’s set to increase in 2022. With only four Boscoscuros and a pair of NTS and MV Agusta frames, Kalex certainly has strength in numbers.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

And while Moto2 currently lacks the mechanical variety of a few years back, when KTM’s frame was competing for podiums, race wins and championships, and certainly the early years of the class (six chassis manufacturers won at least one race in 2010, the first year of the Moto2 class), the story of how Kalex came to dominate is deeply impressive.

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Misano Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On That MotoE Controversy, New Dunlops, Mental Coaches, And Nurturing Talent In Moto2

Ding ding: Torres v Aegerter in incredible MotoE finale

Even the most ardent opponent of electric mobility would need a heart of stone to remain unmoved by the finale of the 2021 MotoE World Cup. The double-header at Misano had everything you’d want in a championship showdown: three of the four title contenders challenging for victory in race one, before two of them faced off in race two. It also included that crucial ingredient which is so crucial in gaining wider recognition: controversy.

There was plenty of that on Sunday, as Dominique Aegerter’s last lap move on Jordi Torres took the Catalan down and, for a few minutes at least, handed the Swiss rider the title, sending Spanish fans and members of the media to collect their pitchforks and demand a penalty. The FIM Stewards came to a swift conclusion: Aegerter was handed a 38-second penalty for the move – the equivalent of a ride-through penalty – demoting him to twelfth, handing Torres the crown by seven points.

Was this right? Clearly Aegerter had to make the move, with the championship on the line. He was in front of Torres when contact was made, and he didn’t technically run off track. As he explained, “He knew I'd be coming from the inside just like in the previous laps and that I would brake later than him. He kept his line which resulted in touching my rear wheel and him crashing out of the race.”

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Aki Ajo Interview: On 2021 success, maintaining inter-team harmony, educating riders and fixing Moto3

Even for a team manager of Aki Ajo’s standing, 2021 has been quite the year. The Finn has resided over one of the most successful seasons ever for his squad as his riders Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez contest the Moto2 World Championship, while Pedro Acosta comfortably leads the Moto3 standings.

The success of Ajo’s team came into focus at the recent Austrian Grand Prix, where Fernandez scored the 100th victory for Ajo Motorsport, quite an achievement for a squad that made its debut with Mika Kallio all the way back in 2001. Incredibly, his riders have won 14 of the 24 races in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes this year.

But more than results, the Finn and his slick Red Bull KTM Ajo structure play a key role in developing and educating young talent for the Austrian factory. Take a look at the current MotoGP grid and Marc Márquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Miguel Oliveira, Brad Binder, Jorge Martin and, to a lesser extent, Iker Lecuona have all passed through his garage – that’s 31% of the current MotoGP grid.

In his own words, Ajo sees his job as “50% is to achieve results and 50% to educate and develop riders for the future, for MotoGP.” That is just one of many topics covered in this interview, held in June before the summer break. Across 20 minutes Ajo also shared his thoughts on maintaining team harmony when both his riders are fighting for a title, working with the bright talents of Fernandez and Acosta and how to fix the current problem that is Moto3.

Q: What has been the secret to your team’s success in 2021?

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Silverstone Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Gardner Pulling A Gap, Bezzecchi Figuring Out The Softs, And Romano Fenati Cleaning Up

After an incident packed weekend, we look at some of the big stories coming out of the British Grand Prix in the junior categories, including a massive day in the Moto2 title race and one of the more dominant Moto3 showings in recent times.

Gardner stakes his claim

By season’s end, Raul Fernandez may rue his decision to talk up his chances so confidently on Friday. Fresh from a stunning victory in Austria, the 20-year old was full of swagger after topping FP2. “In the last race I did one click in the mentality,” he said that afternoon. “Now I know I can fight for the title, I am very strong in all conditions, all tracks.”

If those comments were aimed at intimidating team-mate and championship leader Remy Gardner, they had the opposite effect. The Australian wasn’t one for headline times through practice and qualifying. Yet on Sunday he produced arguably his best performance to date in a high-stakes battle with Marco Bezzecchi to win his fourth race of the season. Crucially, Fernandez buckled, crashing out of seventh on lap 15 at Farm curve With hindsight, it was perhaps best to leave his talking to after the race.

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Austria Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On RF Doing It For The Haters, Gardner's Rough Weekend, And Moto3 Shenanigans

As ever Moto2 and Moto3 threw up a plenty of intrigue at the Austrian Grand Prix with two close races. Here, we dive into some of the more pressing matters in both classes.

Fernandez: this one's for the h8rs

It’s no secret motorcycle racers can take even the tiniest slight onboard and store it up for those dark days when motivation doesn’t come easy. For Raul Fernandez, his latest triumph was dedicated to those who had the temerity to cast doubt on his talents after a lousy showing the previous weekend. Well, lousy by his standards.

“I want to say thanks to my team, to my family, but especially to my haters, who one week ago said I would never get another podium,” he said from parc fermé. “Now I’m here again with a victory. This is for all of you.”

Raising his middle finger to the bad boys of the world wide web aside, this was yet another demonstration of Fernandez’s frightening ability. Seizing control of the Moto2 race on the third lap, he led a tense if processional encounter in which Ai Ogura, Augusto Fernandez and Sam Lowes all ran near identical times for the first 20 laps. “We were all lapping to the (same) tenth,” said Augusto of this encounter, after finishing third. “One tenth (off) and you could see you were losing something – crazy!”

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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.

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Sachsenring Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Remy Gardner's Remarkable Turnaround, Aki Ajo On Pedro Acosta, And Ineffectual Penalties

There was plenty of drama in both Moto2 and Moto3 at the German Grand Prix, with the respective leaders in each class cementing their championship leads.

Gardner: better rider, more stable person

The more this year goes on, the more Remy Gardner appears like a champion in waiting. The 23-year old was the class of the Moto2 field once again in Germany, translating his relentless free practice speed to the race, where he rushed past teammate and pole sitter Raul Fernandez and immediately put the Spaniard under pressure.

No one else got a sniff. The pair were 0.8s ahead of third by the close of lap one, 2.9s at the end of lap three, and Gardner’s lead was extended to 4.9s on lap five when Fernandez crashed out – margins that are not normal for a track as short as the Sachsenring, especially in a class as tight as Moto2.

It capped a brilliant three-week period for the 23-year old, in which he became the first Australian in history to win three consecutive races in grand prix’s intermediate category, and confirmed a deal to climb to MotoGP with Hervé Poncharal’s Tech 3 KTM squad.

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Le Mans Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On The Real Rookie Of The Year, Why Le Mans Is A Crashfest, And New Faces On The Podium

Neither race was a classic in France, but Moto2 and Moto3 still produced plenty to talk about last weekend. Here, we’ll dive into some of the more pressing matters in both classes.

Fernandez’s star rises

Anything Pedro can do, Raul can do better. All weekend long 20-year old Raul Fernandez demonstrated once again why his future is among the paddock’s big talking points. The rookie was untouchable in France, scoring a maiden Moto2 pole position before maintaining his cool in the opening laps when those around him lost theirs.

In a frenzied opening, when riders navigated a dry but patchy track on slick tyres, a number of podium contenders crashed out between laps one to four, Aron Canet, Augusto Fernandez, Joe Roberts, Sam Lowes and Xavi Vierge among them. A lap later and Fernandez coolly slotted by early leader Marco Bezzecchi to assume control. And from there, he held firm, even when team-mate Remy Gardner advanced to second and attempted to reel him in. There were no signs of the arm-pump issues that slowed him in the closing laps of the Spanish Grand Prix. As Bezzecchi said post-race with a shrug, “he was just faster.”

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Jerez Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On The Real Deal, Dynamic Diggia, And A Close Brush With Fate

After a dramatic weekend, we look at some of the big stories coming out of the Spanish Grand Prix in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Acosta: Another box ticked

Forget last lap scraps, or pitlane penalties. The true test of Pedro Acosta’s mettle was to gauge the 16-year old’s reaction to the pre-event press conference at Jerez. There, Acosta sat among the MotoGP field. He looked on boyishly as Marc Marquez, Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo opined on his talent, his potential, and his future plans.

One of the more outlandish questions was whether Acosta would benefit from skipping Moto2 altogether, and jumping straight to MotoGP in the near future. Fabio Quartararo was the voice of reason on this occasion, offering a timely reminder “Come on guys, he’s only 16.”

That aside, this was a love-in. Never more so than when the considered Franco Morbidelli gave his opinion. “Keeping the feet on the ground is important. But Pedro has something different. We’ve never seen something like this. I’ve watched races since I was a kid. He’s 16 but he doesn’t look 16. He looks like a really focussed guy. He’s not here to play too much.”

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