Gardner vs Fernandez: will the gloves come off in Styria?
Red Bull KTM Ajo seem likely to retain the driving seat, but can the likes of Lowes, Bezzecchi and Augusto Fernandez start a fight back?
The summer is over, the Styrian countryside awaits and Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) remains ahead of the game. With a 31-point lead, no one but the Australian is leaving the first of two weekends at the Red Bull Ring at the head of the standings… but if that gap is to come down, the season half of the season is crunch time for Gardner’s rivals… and it’s teammate Raul Fernandez who arrives from a stunner of a victory.
Gardner has so far been near pitch perfect all year though, so a mistake seems unlikely. He also, in some extra bad news for the rest, took a podium and a pole in one of the two weekends at the track last season, so he has form in Styria far before his form in 2021 became so metronomically impressive. But the most recent rider on the top step was his teammate and the Spaniard came back from a bad start to make a serious statement at Assen; a statement certainly one Gardner will have noted. Both also race on Red Bull home turf this time around, so that’s a little extra motivation if such a thing were possible. Will the duel pick right back up where it left off?
Assen did see the return of some serious competition at the front for the Red Bull KTM Ajo duo, however. Since Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) started the season on a high the momentum had very much switched to the Ajo team, but the Dutch TT saw both Lowes and teammate Augusto Fernandez right back in the fight at the front. For Augusto Fernandez it was also a welcome return to the podium and frontrunning form after a tougher run for the Spaniard, so can they use the reset of the summer break and that high note heading in to come out swinging?
Thinking back to last season at the Red Bull Ring brings to mind the man in third overall though: Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46). The second event at the track last year saw the Italian take to the top step after last lap track limits drama, making a big step forward in the second race weekend. This time round, can he come out the blocks fastest and get back to winning ways? After a more muted start to the season than likely expected, he’ll be pushing as hard as ever.
Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) is another rider with recent form at the Ring, as is Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2). Can they get in the mix? Canet already has podium form this year, and Schrötter is now sixth overall and just ahead of the Spaniard. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) will want to get back in the fight too, and the likes of Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), equal on 50 points with Augusto Fernandez, could play a role…
A man ahead of the game, a rookie sensation on a roll, a veteran campaigner and a rider back on form… Assen was a stunner and we should expect no different from Styria. Tune in for Moto2™ at 12:20 (GMT +2) on Sunday the 8th of August as we get back in business!