Sam Lowes

Algarve Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Growing Pains, KTM Tyre Choice In Moto2, Darryn Binder, And Keeping Raul Fernandez Happy

Another dramatic day of Moto2 and Moto3 action at the Algarve GP saw one world champ crowned, while another man took a monumental step toward his.

Acosta champ despite growing pains

There was something approaching skepticism with regards to Pedro Acosta in the autumn of this year. The Tiburon de Mazarron’s incredible start to life in the Moto3 world championship had raised expectations to such an extent that a recent run of results in which he scored 7th, 8th and 3rd places in just his 14th, 15th and 16th GPs could be considered something of a crisis.

But this showing demonstrated he had lost none of that spark as he swept to his sixth win of the season to become the second youngest GP world champion in history at 17 years of 166 days old, just one day older than record holder Loris Capirossi, when he swept to the 1990 125cc title in Australia. When it really mattered, Acosta showed the mentality and the brass of a champion.

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Emilia-Romagna Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Raul Fernandez' Crash, A Marc VDS 1-2, And How Foggia Turned His Season Around

Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix hosted three dramatic races which each had huge ramifications for each championship. Here, we take a look at the big talking points from the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Raul Tumbles…

For 14 laps on Sunday, this really looked like the race where Remy Gardner’s Moto2 title challenge would come apart. After title rival Raul Fernandez crashed out of qualifying, the Australian had a golden opportunity to gain a much-needed grid advantage. Instead, he changed front tyres mid-session, saw two of his late times chalked off because of yellow flags, and by the third his front had cooled down enough it lost optimum performance.

Sunday was looking much graver. Not only was he mired in the pack, facing a Long Lap Penalty for taking down Somkiat Chantra when contesting eighth place, Fernandez was putting in the kind of performance that confirms he is the next superstar of grand prix racing. Starting from ninth, he was on course for an eighth win of the season – a feat no rookie had achieved in the 72-year history of the intermediate class, never mind Moto2.

The Spaniard’s own weekend had been complicated. If one was to point to a weakness in his make up, Raul’s riding in wet and mixed conditions would probably be it. But he gave no ground away to Gardner all weekend. There was also the small matter of his feelings toward KTM. Veteran Spanish journalist Manuel Pecino had reported the rider from Madrid, who turned 21 on Saturday, was “angry” in the extreme at the Austrian factory’s decision to not find brother Adrian a permanent seat in the Moto3 class for 2022.

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Aragon Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Raul And Augusto Fernandez, The Spat At Aspar, And Toprak And Deniz

The Moto2 race at Aragon may have been more sedate than the MotoGP outing, it offered up a tremendous exhibition of grit, while Moto3 threw up a number of interesting talking points.

Fernandez on another level

The standout take from Raul Fernandez’s 2021 campaign isn’t the blinding speed, or the five wins, the first Moto2 rookie to achieve as many since Marc Marquez in 2011. It’s his reaction to any form of adversity. Just as he did at Assen in June, the 20-year old bounced back from a crash in the previous race with an imperious victory at Aragon with the biggest winning margin on the year (5.4 seconds).

But this one was the most special to date. Just nine days before, Fernandez broke the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand in a near stationary bicycle accident at his home outside Madrid. The hand was operated on two days later, and he arrived in Aragon admitting the injury was “bad news for fighting for the title.”

But aside from a moment in FP1 when he seemed to tweak the injury during a moment on the kerbs, Fernandez’s handicap never looked apparent as he confidently took control of the race from Sam Lowes on lap four. From there he never looked back, and trimmed his deficit in the title race to 39 points. Even team-mate and championship leader Remy Gardner held his hands up after the race. “I have to say, man, Raul was on another level with his pace. I couldn’t match that. He’s doing an incredible job. He’s a tough opponent.”

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s greatest paradox: why isn’t Moto2 racing closer?

Moto2 riders use the same engine, tyres, software, fuel, oil and gearbox, so why is the racing more spread out than MotoGP and Moto3?

Dorna’s big push over the past decade has been writing technical regulations that shrink the gap between the best and worst motorcycles, thereby creating thrilling racing that gets hundreds of millions of people turning on their televisions

The premier MotoGP class features many such rules – 81mm bore limit, spec tyres, spec electronics, a relatively high minimum weight limit and so on.

Moto3 is even stricter, with the same tyres, same electronics and engines randomly allocated to riders to prevent factory teams gaining an advantage.

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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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Doha Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Pedro Acosta's Record-Breaking Charge To Victory

The New King?

If you haven't done so already, remember the name. It's testament to how good, how dramatic Sunday's action was that Moto3's mad, 18-rider dash didn't get top billing. But this may well be looked back on as the beginning of something very special in years to come. At just 16 years and 314 days of age, Pedro Acosta not only won his second ever grand prix; he did so by producing one of the great Moto3 rides in modern times.

It was a performance that showcased so many attributes. Self-belief. Fighting spirit. Raw speed. Maturity. Nerve. Acosta's riding to bridge the gap to the leading group was exceptional. But the manner in which he sliced through the pack of experienced names before holding off Darryn Binder's late response was another level altogether. Every once in a while, a teenager comes along and does something so remarkable the whole paddock is talking soon after. Marc Márquez at Estoril in 2010 comes to mind. As does Brad Binder's exploits at Jerez six years later. It's fair to say both have gone on to bigger and better things.

One of seven names penalised for brainless riding at the close of Friday evening's FP2, the reigning Red Bull Rookies Champion had every right to assume the chances of backing up his opening night podium were gone. "Yesterday I saw everything a bit dark," he said of accepting the punishment for his indiscretion.

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Qatar Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Aki Ajo's Nose For Talent, Sam Lowes' Title Charge, And Diggia Winning For Fausto

As always, Moto2/3 delivered plenty of talking points at the Qatar Grand Prix. Sunday’s results threw up a host of surprises and some fine racing. Here, we take a look through some of the big talking points from both classes.

Aki Chose Well

Viñales and Lowes were the winners in the top two classes. But the man with arguably the most to celebrate on Sunday was Aki Ajo. Of his four riders in 2021, two finished second and fifth in the Moto2 race. The other two: first and second in Moto3. Not a bad return when two of those names – Raul Fernandez in Moto2 and Pedro Acosta in Moto3 – were rookies in their respective classes.

As a highly successful team boss and known talent spotter, not every one of Ajo’s past gambles has paid off. For every Marc Márquez, Johann Zarco and Brad Binder, there has been a Nico Antonelli, Can Öncü or Tetsuta Nagashima, names that never quite lived up to the initial billing.

And the latter is worth mentioning. When he was ruthlessly cut from Ajo’s Moto2 squad late last year, it was not only cut-throat in the extreme (Nagashima remains without a ride in 2021); it was a risk. At that time, Fernandez had yet to win a grand prix and still seemed a work in progress. Promoting him to Moto2 alongside Remy Gardner seemed a touch premature, especially when he had yet to master the race craft necessary in a Moto3 brawl.

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Crew Chief Gilles Bigot on Sam Lowes’ Recent Turnaround: The Rider is the Masterpiece of a Team

The veteran crew chief knows better than anyone the work that went into Sam Lowes’ title challenge in 2020. The Frenchman speaks to Motomatters.com on keeping his approach simple and giving his rider the freedom to work on himself.


Sam Lowes at the Qatar Moto2 test - Copyright Marc VDS/Mirco Lazzari

On the eve of the 2021 season, it’s fair to say Sam Lowes’ hopes for round one are quite different compared to a year ago. Recruited to Marc VDS’ slick operation after two tough seasons in Moto2, the Englishman’s 2020 got off to the worst possible start when he suffered a fracture-dislocation of his right shoulder in a testing spill. It meant the Lincolnshire rider was forced to sit out the first race of the year despite riding in Friday’s sessions.

The turnaround from there was impressive and surprising in equal measures. From joining the Marc VDS team, Lowes worked on himself off the track, visiting a sports psychologist and reworking his approach. He worked on himself on the track, too, smoothing out his riding style and adapting his braking method. The results spoke for themselves. But for a free practice spill at the penultimate race, it is no exaggeration to say the 30-year old would have been entering this year as a reigning champion.

Round two

Not to worry. A productive, if short, preseason sees Lowes start 2021 as one of – if not the – preseason favourite for Moto2. He topped the times on the final night of testing in Qatar and showed a searing rhythm to boot. Marco Bezzecchi, surely another contender in this year’s fight, claims Sam is the “super favourite.” And after the end of a turbulent 2020, who could argue with the fuzzy-haired Italian?

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Portimão Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Two Titles Clinched, Remy Gardner's Win, Sam Lowes Digging Deep, And Raul Fernandez Dominating

This was as fun as it looked. The grandstands may have been empty and the paddock quiet, but the Algarve International Circuit lived up to its billing as a spectacular circuit. Not since Turkey’s fabulous Istanbul Park in 2005 had grand prix racing come to a new venue as jaw-dropping and thrilling to the naked eye.

Riders raved about the swoops, the undulations and the blind crests. Sunday showed the 4.6km layout could provide half decent racing, too. For the opening races lived up to the surroundings, with Moto2 and Moto3 serving up vintages high on adrenaline, spectacle and stress that had the championship fight go right the way to the wire. Here are some of the big talking points from the small classes on the last weekend of the season.

Italian Revival

For Enea Bastianini, his directive was clear: a top four finish was enough for a first world title no matter where his rivals finished. If Sam Lowes wasn’t victorious and Luca Marini was, he simply needed a top eight. Thoughts that the Algarve International Circuit (a track unknown to him but not his three rivals) could throw up a banana skin were dashed early. Enea was an impressive fifth at the close of day one.

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Valencia Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On A Moto2 Thriller, Diggia's Downfall, Lowes' Fortitude, And The Vicissitudes Of Airline Seats

Joan Mir wrapped up the MotoGP title with a round to go. But the junior classes will go right to the wire after two dramatic encounters at the Valencian Grand Prix. Moto2 produced its best race of the year, Moto3 its biggest winning margin of the year. Here, we look at last weekend’s big talking points in the junior classes.

Chaos reigns in vintage finale

As fun and open as Moto2 has been this year, a race wasn’t decided on the final lap (Jorge Martin’s controversial penalty at the Styrian GP aside) from round 1 to round 13. Here, it would have been hard to conjure up more drama if events had been penned by a Hollywood scriptwriter.

Once European GP winner Marco Bezzecchi hit the front on lap five, it was hard to see a way back from his pursuers. But by Sunday lunchtime the wind had picked up considerably from the morning, making the Moto2 machines nervous and twitchy. “With the wind, I really struggled,” said Bezzecchi. “The bike was very nervous, I had little grip.” This surely played a major part in the nature of the top five: just 0.8s covered first to fifth after 25 laps.

As did Di Giannantonio. He and Bezzecchi had more than a second in hand over the pursuers with five laps remaining. But the Speed Up man’s two moves pushed them wide, allowing the rest back into play. It was a finale to remember.

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