The final practice session for the intermediate class followed the same familiar script, with riders making a bit of noise on the timesheets early on before settling back into a rhythm and then attacking the standings once more for the final handful of minutes. After Sam Lowes put his name at the top of the combined timesheets on only his third lap and kept it there for most of the session, the Ajo boys turned things around for the final five minutes, with Raul Fernandez claiming top spot by one tenth of a second from teammate Remy Gardner.
The final practice session of the day was a little overcast compared to previous outings but the intermediate class got going and went quicker regardless. After the Marc VDS boys once again led the way early on, Remy Gardner picked up the lead for the final 10 minutes and ended the day seven thousandths of a second quicker than Augusto Fernandez. Namesake Raul Fernandez reduced his workload in the afternoon session as well but was still quick enough for third place, only a tenth behind his teammate.
For much of FP2, it was the Marc VDS squad in the limelight, until Jorge Navarro claimed top spot in the session by nearly half a second. That dropped early leader Sam Lowes to second on the timesheets, with rival Marco Bezzecchi sneaking ahead of Augusto Fernandez to join the top three. Remy Gardner kept close in fifth but only four thousandths of a second ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio.
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?
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.
Moto2 standings after Silverstone:
Results and summary of the Moto2 race at Silverstone:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Silverstone:
There was a hint of sunshine for the final practice session of the intermediate class but riders were in no hurry to improve their times from Friday and it was not until the final seven minutes of FP3 that Aron Canet demoted Raul Fernandez from the lead of the combined standings. Although the Spaniard soon followed it up with a crash at turn 9 following a slight clash with his compatriot, Canet kept top spot in the session. Remy Gardner came closest to challenging that, finishing second by three hundredths of a second.