Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Somkiat Chantra was the man to beat on Friday as Moto2 hit Austria’s Red Bull Ring.
Teammate Ai Ogura and championship leader Augusto Fernandez sat second and third as the opening day drew to a close with FP1 hero Jake Dixon sitting sixth overall.
The intermediate class began without Britain’s Sam Lowes after the Elf Marc VDS rider dislocated his shoulder at Silverstone last time out. The 31-year-old out of action for at least a month with Australian Senna Agius stepping into the breach for the Austrian and San Marino GPs.
Chantra took charge of the times as FP1 got underway before CAG Speed Up’s Alonso Lopez bettered, by a second, with a 1’38.070. Mooney VR46’s Celestino Vietti was the next to challenge as the times began to reduce with Aspar’s Albert Arenas and Chantra continuing to up the pace.
Jake Dixon and Rory Skinner flew the flag for the British contingent as the Aspar rider made his way into the top ten. The American Racing wildcard circulating alongside teammate Sean Dylan Kelly as the session fired up before joining Cameron Beaubier on the edge of the top 20.
Tony Arbolino placed the Marc VDS Kalex on top with his fifth lap as Dixon joined him, 0.052s adrift after ten minutes on track. Arenas bettering them both next time around before Fernandez and Chantra claimed second and third.
The Red Bull KTM rider was at the top at the halfway stage with 1’35.318 pace from Arenas and Lopez while Italtrans’ Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Arbolino completed the top five. Fermin Aldeguer bettering his Speed Up teammate for third one lap later as Honda’s Ai Ogura arrived to fourth.
Dixon was back in the top six as the final quarter of an hour began, three places behind Aspar teammate Arenas with Fernandez and Aldeguer heading the times. Chantra splitting the leading pair as the clock counted down with Gresini’s Filip Salac arriving to third with six to go.
Vietti climbed to fifth with his 15th lap of the opening session before taking third next time around thanks to a 1’35.464. The pace igniting in the final two minutes as red sectors covered the timing screens with Dixon raising the stakes with a 1’35.000. The Brit rolling out of his next attempt thanks to yellow flags in the opening sector after to a turn two crash for Flexbox’s Jorge Navarro.
Dixon completed the session in charge from Fernandez, Dalla Porta and teammate Arenas with the Honda riders of Chantra and Ogura narrowly adrift. Salac, Vietti, Aldeguer and Marcel Schrotter rounded out the top ten just half a second from the leader with Skinner continuing his Moto2 education from 28th.
A clear a bright afternoon saw FP2 kick off with Arbolino in charge before Chantra swept through to command. The Honda running less than a tenth adrift of Dixon’s previous best with the Brit himself sitting fifth in the session’s standings.
Ogura took charge overall after ten minutes of running with a 1’34. 941 as the Speed Up’s sat third and fourth in the FP2 times and the long runs bedded in.
Dixon was one of only two riders in the promotion zone yet to improve on their morning efforts as the clock counted down. The Brit still fourth overall thanks to his 1’35.0 with Dalla Porta ninth in the Q2 times.
The final action fired up with Team Asia teammate Chantra returning to the top for the closing ten minutes thanks to a 1’34.353 and Fernandez into the top three on the KTM. American Racing’s Cameron Beaubier advancing to sixth as the session drew to a close.
Arbolino was the next to rise on his way to fourth with Lopez also into the 1’34’s for fifth next time around. Italtrans’ Joe Roberts and SAG’s Bo Bendsneyder held the final promotion places with a minute to go as Keminth Kubo crashed the Master Camp VR46 out. Skinner suffering a similar fate at turn nine, seconds later.
With rain forecast for Saturday morning, Vietti faced the potential of the Q1 fight from 15th in the combined times with KTM’s returning Pedro Acosta and Flexbox HP40’s Aron Canet for company.