After a few days on track at Jerez and then again Qatar, it’s safe to say we have a number of names who look like they’ll be challenging at the front in Moto2™ this year. But testing never tells the whole story as some focus one way and others the other, and the first race of the season has plenty in store.
The man who was fastest by the end of testing at Losail International Circuit was Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up), and the Spaniard is certainly on that list of those we expect to be fast. With a good number of intermediate class podiums to his name in 2019, Navarro already had some momentum too – and although he’s still looking for that first Moto2™ win, his consistency has been impressive. His teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio was also a pretty consistent performer last year as he found his feet as a rookie as well, and testing showed another step for him so they’ll be coming out swinging.
Speed Up in general were impressively quick in preseason, which now includes the Aspar Team as they make to switch to the chassis, so it could be an interesting battle of the manufacturers. The headlines in the team were stolen by Aron Canet as the rookie Spaniard proved a revelation and was often up inside the top five or six, but Hafizh Syahrin had also started to re-adjust to Moto2™ by the end of testing as the Malaysian moves back into the class. Two more contenders? It seems so.
Jorge Martin (Red Bull TM Ajo), meanwhile, was the fastest Kalex runner overall – and another to switch chassis. The Spaniard was second to Navarro and showed off that momentum he’d been gaining throughout the latter half of 2019 despite the change in machinery; something that bodes well for him. Fellow sophomores Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) were also inside the top ten after they impressed, and the interesting mix of veterans and newer faces continued in ninth as American Joe Roberts put in a stunner at Losail. Like Martin, he’s switched chassis – can that form continue into the race weekend?
Experience was scattered throughout the timesheets, however, with some fast after time attacks and others we expect to burst out the gates higher up once the flag drops and the talking stops. Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) led the charge in third, Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) was fifth, Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) tenth, Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) 11th… and the two men who duelled for the win in the desert last year, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) and Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP), were 12th and 13th. With that amount of experience and success all a little further down the timesheets, it seems likely we’ve not seen everyone’s full hand – but now we will.
Moto2™ go racing at Losail International Circuit on Sunday 8th March at 18:00 LT
The lightweight class of Grand Prix racing can usually be described in one word: close. And after six days of official preseason testing at Jerez and Losail, 2020 looks likely to be no different. There were a few standout performers who pulled a gap on the rest at times, but in a race scenario? We’ve seen before how hard it really is to break away – and that’s just how we like it.
On the combined timesheets heading into the first race of the season, it’s Czech rider Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) who can arrive with a little swagger, having ended the test half a second clear of his nearest competitor. That nearest competitor was a very consistent frontrunner throughout preseason, however: Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). A rookie podium finisher, the Japanese rider has kicked it up a notch for season two and was on the pace in both Jerez and Qatar.
Behind those two impressive performers lurks some big experience, however. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) was third quickest, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) fourth, Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) fifth… and the names you know can stay with the front group just keep on rolling throughout the top ten: Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing), John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Albert Arenas (Aspar Team)… the class is stocked with speed, talent and experience, and we know that’s a recipe for some incredible racing.
There’s also the likes of Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) getting to grips with his new team, recent winner Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0), pacesetter in the rookie camp Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)… and the likes of Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) loiter just behind them, likely with more cards to play on race day…
In Moto3™, riding alone is very different to riding in a group with the help of the slipstream, and there are also the hurdles of Q1 and Q2 to master. A couple of names may have been nearest the top in testing so far, but the timesheets were otherwise incredibly tight – and if there’s one thing you can predict in Moto3™, it’s that the racing will be incredible.
Make sure you’re watching on Sunday the 8th of March at 16:20 LT as the season opens for the lightweight class, with everything to play for.
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