Dennis Foggia

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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Algarve MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Real Bravery, Moto3 Madness, The Best Bike On The Grid, And Honda's Tire Choices

Seventeen down and one to go. Also, two down, one to go. That is the story of Portimão, in a nutshell. But the raw numbers are not what matters. The most interesting part is how we got there, and the stories that we found along the way.

But before we return to the fripperies of motorcycle racing, something that really matters. On Saturday evening, on the road which runs from the circuit to the harbor town of Portimão, a horrific accident happened. On a section of road which had traffic measure in place to control the flow of traffic leaving and coming to the track, a police motorcycle hit a taxi head on.

It was a massive impact. The police officer died as a result of the collision, and the occupants of the taxi, the driver and a journalist, Lucio Lopez of MotoRaceNation, were badly injured. Journalist Simon Patterson, who saw the crash in his van, and photographer David Goldman, who was driving back to his hotel with passengers in his car, both stopped and immediately rushed to the taxi, which had caught fire. They pulled Lucio Lopez and the taxi driver from the car, just before it exploded.

The right stuff

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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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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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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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Mugello Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Jason Dupasquier, Remy Gardner, Dennis Foggia

The weekend’s excellent racing in the smaller classes at Mugello paled in significance to the passing of a rising star.

Jason Dupasquier 2001-2021

The racing world was rocked by news of the tragic passing of Jason Dupasquier at the Italian Grand Prix. The 19-year old paid a terrible price for the most minor of mistakes when chasing a fast time in the closing minutes of Moto3 qualifying. A sickening collision that involved Ayumu Sasaki and Jeremy Alcoba left him with serious head injuries, to which he eventually succumbed.

Confirmation of Dupasquier’s death came through a few minutes after noon on Sunday, just as the Moto2 grid was forming. The incident cast a huge shadow over race day, with several riders – Pecco Bagnaia and Danilo Petrucci included – stating they wished racing had been cancelled. A minute of silence was held just ten minutes before the MotoGP race start and each of the podium finishers dedicated their results to the fallen rider.

Any death is obviously tragic. But the fact Dupasquier was three months shy of his 20th birthday made it even more so. Hailing from Bulle in Switzerland, in some ways you could say Jason was destined to have an interest in two wheels. Father Philippe was former podium finisher in the 125cc Motocross World Championship as a privateer, and worked for KTM Switzerland for 20 years.

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Aragon Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On The Corner That Cost The Lead, Bestia's Unbeastly Transformation, Arbolino's Negative Exclusion, And The Moto3 Rider Market

A crash for two of the championship contenders, a three-rider title fight covered by five points, a seven-way scrap for the win… as ever Moto2 and 3 provided plenty of drama at the Aragon Grand Prix. Here we take a look at last weekend’s big talking points.

Turn Two Trouble

Ask any rider to point to Motorland Aragon’s most demanding string of tarmac, and the majority will say turn two. A fast right attacked in third gear, it’s the first occasion the right side of the front tyre is used in over 40 seconds. In other words, plenty of time for the rubber to cool, making the high-speed entry particularly perilous.

Jorge Martin had mentioned to pit lane reporter Simon Crafar on Sunday morning how he had issues with his front tyre cooling when in clear air. According to the former Moto3 world champion, it was not such an issue when riding behind others, but the cold temperatures that greeted riders all weekend contributed to 16 of the weekend’s 40 falls happening there.

And it was here the Moto2 race was decided. A three-way fight was just ten laps old when Fabio Di Giannantonio tucked the front of his Speed Up chassis as he pitched right into the track’s second turn and ended in the gravel – his second fall there of the day. The Italian had chased down early leader Marco Bezzecchi and pole sitter Sam Lowes, moving to the front with an expert pass on the former on lap ten.

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Barcelona Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Marini's Revenge, Speed Up Speeds Up, Baldassari's Blues, And Binder's Blinder

Anger Drives Luca On

Nothing fires a rider's motivation quite like feeling slighted. As mentioned in this column a week ago, Moto2 championship leader Luca Marini fully expected to be up front and fighting at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Losing out in fights with Enea Bastianini and Sam Lowes clearly stung as he suffered the indignity of finishing fourth.

He arrived in Barcelona intent on proving a point. Fast through free practice, fastest in qualifying, the 23-year old Italian could have easily settled for second once Sam Lowes – the only rider capable of matching him over race distance – edged ahead on lap 16. But he later revealed that it wouldn't have sat right internally had he not responded.

“When I saw on the board ‘8 laps (to go)', the rear dropped a lot,” Marini explained, displaying all of the in-race intelligence that he shows off the bike. “Sam overtook me. He was really fast but pushing the rear tyre. I was hoping he would have a drop also, bigger than me. I tried to stay behind him, put pressure and in last 3 laps he started doing some mistakes.”

“Starting on Friday the feeling was great. We made the correct changes on the bike for here. The race was nice. With this low temperature it was easy to push every lap. We worked a lot on the engine brake to try and save the tyre, because I knew it was important.

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Brno Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Lowes' Podium, Roberts' Revival, A Fiery Foggia, And More

Sam Lowes leads Joe Roberts ing the Brno Moto2 race - Photo: Polarity Photo

In one of the most topsy-turvy rounds in recent memory, Moto2 and Moto3 added to the spectacle as certain riders triumphed while others bafflingly faded away. As always we’re on hand to take a look through some of the biggest talking points through both classes.

A calmer Lowes

There was good reason to believe Sam Lowes’ hopes of a strong championship finish were over before it had all started. A slow, innocuous testing fall at Jerez in early February ruptured tendons in his right shoulder, chipped the top of his humerus bone and deprived him of his entire preseason testing programme. That kind of injury isn’t one you just shake off; the joint still gives the Englishman considerable pain at the end of each day.

It was a nightmare start to life as a Marc VDS rider in what is a critical season. But how he has fought back has been exceptional. While fortunate the suspension of racing gave him added time to recover, there has been nothing lucky about performances since. A pair of fourth places at Jerez was a solid foundation to build on. And the Czech Grand Prix – where he was never outside the top two – resulted in a first podium finish since September, 2016.

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