A cooler and windier COTA greeted intermediate class riders on Sunday morning, complicating tyre choice on the grid and contributing to a chaotic first half of the race. Once the rodeo ride settled, Tony Arbolino rode flawlessly to his first Moto2 victory, taking the chequered flag over three seconds ahead of Ai Ogura, who secured back-to-back podiums. An emotional Jake Dixon joined them on the podium for the very first time in his intermediate class career, leading to some particularly enthusiastic gulps of cava.
All eyes were on home favourite Cameron Beaubier and his beautiful special livery as he made a solid start from pole position, but the wide approach to turn one allowed Celestino Vietti to dive in and pick up the lead. Arbolino and Aron Canet promptly followed suit to demote the poleman to fourth, while Pedro Acosta made some early moves from fourth row to climb up to fifth place and defend that position from Dixon over the opening lap. Meanwhile, Marcel Schrotter was wreaking havoc at turn one, clattering into Albert Arenas and Fermín Aldeguer, pushing both riders outside of the top 20. To make matters worse for the rookie star, disaster struck again at turn 12 and two separate incidents led to Sam Lowes, Somkiat Chantra, Gabriel Rodrigo, Zonta Van Den Goorbergh and Aldeguer dropping like bowling bins.
Back at the front, Vietti tried to extend a gap early on, but the world championship leader soon became the hunter, as Canet picked up the lead on lap three. The duo stretched an eight-tenth gap over the next lap, with Arbolino and Dixon fighting for third behind them. Acosta also made an early cameo in that battle but abandoned that fight with a tumble on lap four. Jorge Navarro wasn’t there to take advantage, as he had a long lap penalty to serve, but it only dropped him down to eighth place, because a significant gap had started forming behind him already.
The chaotic start did not look like settling any time soon, the gravel trap action continuing on lap five with Vietti losing the front at turn six and leaving Canet as the sole leader, 1.5 seconds ahead of Arbolino, Dixon and Ogura. After the early skirmish, Schrotter recovered ground and was running a solid race in fifth, albeit almost four seconds behind the podium battle, while the poleman was down to sixth, in a lonely-ish ride ahead of Navarro. Despite a poor qualifying and tricky first lap dropping him out of the top 20, Augusto Fernandez managed to climb back into eighth by lap six, holding back Joe Roberts, Bo Bendsneyder, Barry Baltus and Jeremy Alcoba. That fight was the focus of cameras at that early stage, as gaps were stretching amongst the men ahead.
Canet looked set to take the championship lead following his rival’s mistake, but that dream was short-lived, the Spaniard hitting the tarmac at turn seven of lap eight, leaving us with a very promising proposition, with the three men that inherited the lead never having won a Moto2 race. Arbolino was left in charge of proceedings, with Dixon eager to close the eight-tenth gap on the Italian and Ogura another second behind. However, Arbolino seemed to have something up his sleeve, promptly extending his advantage to over one second and holding the British rider at bay going into the second half of the race. There was no threat from behind, where Schrotter was running over six seconds back and fending off Beaubier.
While Arbolino calmly stretched his advantage to three seconds over the next couple of laps, Dixon’s mistake at turn 12 allowed Ogura to sneak past with seven laps remaining and the Aspar rider was unable to retaliate. The trio cruised to the chequered flag in that same formation, while Beaubier got past Schrotter with five laps remaining to claim fourth place – but there was late heartache in store for the American, who lost the front at turn 16 on the final lap and handed fourth place back to the German. Navarro crossed the finish line in a comfortable fifth, with Alcoba the winning party in the race-long fight for sixth place, ahead of Bendsneyder and Roberts. Fernandez lost some ground in the closing stages of the race but did well to claim ninth, having started 18th on the grid, while Baltus rounded out the top 10 positions.
The eventful first half of the race saw the lead in the championship change hands a couple times, but it serendipitously ended up back with Vietti, the Italian leading by 14 points from Ogura and 16 over Arbolino, with Canet dropping to fourth, 21 points back.
|12||42||Marcos Ramirez||MV Agusta||34.785|
|16||19||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Kalex||79.999|
|17||4||Sean Dylan Kelly||Kalex||84.437|
|84||Zonta Van Den Goorbergh||Kalex|
|24||Simone Corsi||MV Agusta||04:30.1760|