The Moto2 points leader is fast becoming the title favourite but there are plenty of fast faces looking to hit back in Texas. So will Vietti keep the advantage into the AmericasGP?
Mooney VR46 Racing’s Celestino Vietti didn’t finish pre-season as the rider on top of the timesheets or grabbing the headlines, but after the first three races the Italian has most definitely taken centre stage and made it his own. On every podium so far and on top of two of them, it’s going pretty well – an understatement on a par with the quiet confidence of the man himself. So is there reason to doubt the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas will be the same?
The main competition in the standings so far has come from Flexbox HP 40’s Aron Canet, and in Argentina the Spaniard only just missed out on also boasting three podiums from three. “Just” fourth wasn’t down to a speed deficit either, it was most definitely down simply to the handiwork of Ai Ogura on the Idemitsu Honda Team Asia machine, as the Japanese rider attacked late and well to take his first podium of the season. But for Canet, after struggling in previous seasons to be as consistent as some of his competitors, there is heart to be taken from having been fast at every track so far – and it’s hard to bet against him being so in Texas, the number 40 having also won there before in Moto3.
There is actually another rider with a 100 per cent podium record after Vietti though: the second Idemitsu Honda Team Asia representative, Somkiat Chantra. The Thai rider missed the season opener with a hand injury and then promptly returned to win his first race. Another podium in Argentina only backs that up to make it 2/2 so far in 2022. Team manager Hiroshi Aoyama said in pre-season that both Ogura and Chantra could fight at the front and potentially launch a title bid this year, and some corners of the paddock appeared to think the latter overly optimistic. It must feel even sweeter, then, for the number 35 to have taken Thailand’s first Grand Prix win and been part of the first double podium for the team.
Argentina was also the first time two former Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup riders shared the intermediate class podium, and with Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) on the box in Moto3, ATC alumni took a third of the available podium places on race day in Argentina. Ogura, who last year had the upper hand on Chantra, definitely shared his teammate’s joy at his recent successes, but the Japanese rider will most definitely want to turn those tables back as well. What can he do in Texas?
From one side of the world to the other, there’s also the American contingent with some big aims for COTA. There are now three home heroes on the grid in Moto2, and although the rookie – Sean Dylan Kelly (American Racing) – did a little moonlighting in Termas thanks to his parents hailing from Argentina, this is a huge weekend for him and the two veterans: teammate Cameron Beaubier and Italtrans Racing Team’s Joe Roberts as they race on home turf.
Roberts had a tougher time of it in 2021 at the Austin track, but this season so far there’s been concrete progress and the number 16 will want more from his home GP as we return. Beaubier, meanwhile, came out swinging last year with some serious speed – making track knowledge count for a lot and taking an impressive fifth place, so close to that first podium. What can he do this season? He’ll likely have to contend with Elf Marc VDS Racing’s Sam Lowes and Tony Arbolino – as well as Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez and Pedro Acosta, and Jake Dixon on the Autosolar GASGAS Aspar – on his way through the top ten to the upper echelons, but last season Beaubier had the goods.
Finally, what will we see from MB Conveyors Speed Up’s Fermin Aldeguer? The Spaniard should have been hyped since the start of last season after his performance in the Moto2 European Championship and his first Grands Prix, and his progress in the World Championship has only validated both his and then-teammate Alonso Lopez’s 2021 form in the FIM JuniorGP paddock. Now, Aldeguer is beating records set by soon-to-be MotoGP Legend Jorge Lorenzo as he took over as the youngest ever polesitter in intermediate class history – by more than a year. Race day, and that incident with Vietti, will leave him wanting to prove more than a few points in Texas.
The time has come to return to the Lone Star State with a change to the usual schedule seeing Moto2 first out on race day.