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MotoGP Jerez: Lowes fastest from Gardner and Dixon as Moto2 heats up

Marc VDS’ Sam Lowes was back in charge as Moto2 fired up at Jerez, battling title-rival Remy Gardner and fellow-Brit Jake Dixon to take Friday honours in Spain.

The usual protagonists were straight up to speed as the opening intermediate class practice began with Lowes battling Aron Canet, Gardner and Joe Roberts at the top of the times but it was Augusto Fernandez who was making the early impression. The native rider looked to be finding his rhythm aboard his Marc VDS machine after a challenging start to the season.

Gardner held the standings after the opening 10-minutes with a 1’42.371, just 0.06s from Lowes, before Roberts took charge, this time by an even-slimmer 0.02s with his fifth attempt. The Australian’s rookie teammate was the next to join the fight as Raul Fernandez made his way up to third, with the Marc VDS duo left to lock-out the reminder of the top-five, before the Spaniard’s time was deleted due to track limits, promoting Canet into the mix.


Having sat sixth after 15-minutes of action, Jorge Navarro made his presence known by advancing to third with his ninth lap, however the Speed Up rider was quickly demoted as Fernandez replicated his deleted time seconds later, his namesake following suit to best his Elf-sponsored teammate as Lowes was dropped to sixth.

An all-Italian battle developed behind as Canet headed Lorenzo Baldassarri, Nicolò Bulega, Stefano Manzi and Marco Bezzecchi with Marcel Schrotter holding 12th at the half-way stage. Bo Bendsneyder, Xavi Vierge and Tony Arbolino completed the initial top-15 with Jake Dixon circulating in 20th as FP1 played out.

Lowes was back up to second with 15-minutes left on the clock, nine-hundredths separating him from Gardner’s fastest time, as a marginal 0.222s split the top-four men but it wouldn’t be long before the Brit hit the top. 1’41.909 on his 12th attempt of the morning saw Lowes become the first rider to break the ’42 barrier, as both Gardner and then Bezzecchi looked to challenge behind.

Celestino Vietti became the first faller of the weekend, sliding out at turn two, as Fabio Di Giannantonio hit the tower with the second fastest time of the day so far.

The closing six minutes saw the pace fire up as Navarro and Augusto Fernandez both muscled their way into the top-four. Bezzecchi demoted the group by becoming the next rider to claim second, Lowes still narrowly out in front, with the top-five now all achieving 1’41 times.

Bezzecchi stole the show with three minutes left to run, 1’41.797 now the target, as Raul Fernandez claimed third on the same lap. Lowes and Canet both falling on personal bests, at turns six and 13 respectively, as they looked to improve.

The Italian’s hopes of retaining command were ultimately dashed as FP1 concluded as Gardner headed the session with his final 1’41.675 effort. Lowes held third from Raul Fernandez, Navarro and Di Giannantonio, while his teammate Augusto Fernandez sat seventh after 40-minutes on track. Somkiat Chantra, Roberts and Dixon completed the morning’s top-10.

FP2 got underway with Raul Fernandez commanding the standings and already on high ’41 pace after just three laps as he headed Lowes and Roberts. Opposing luck struck fellow American, Cameron Beaubier in the early stages as the rookie went down at turn 11, an equally intense moment forcing an impressive save from Canet at turn 12 seconds later while Vietti narrowly avoided taking out teammate Bezzecchi at turn six during his second crash of the day.

Vierge, Di Giannantonio and Navarro claimed the top-six positions in the opening stages ahead of championship leader Gardner before his KTM teammate’s fastest time was deleted, leaving main rival, Lowes to lead the way.


The halfway stage saw further drama as Tom Luthi crashed out at turn one, the Swiss rider’s difficult season seeming to continue as he circulated in 20th with Dixon further behind in 24th, albeit inside of the combined top-14 thanks to his FP1 effort.

With half the field in the pits there was little change to the standings as the second half got underway, 0.001s separating the leading two riders, with the top-seven split by just four-tenths. Augusto Fernandez sat eighth from Schrotter, Chantra with Manzi with Baldassarri on the wrong side of the top-10.

The closing five minutes began with Dixon depositing himself into the top-five with a 1’42.235, just narrowly short of his morning best, teammate Vierge bettering him by a mere 0.008 to steal the position before the Brit challenged again, this time for second. Gardner simultaneously positioned himself as fastest overall with a 1’41.774, the timing screens lighting up as the pair looked to go again. Roberts was the next to fire up as he leapfrogged Lowes to take third, the second Brit improving his times but remaining in position as the clock counted down.

The flag already flying, Lowes was back on the hunt. The Marc VDS man succeeding with a 1’41.515 on his 18th lap of the afternoon to take the session in the dying seconds from Gardner and Dixon as Roberts, Fernandez and a late charge from Bulega sealed the top-six. Di Giannantonio sat seventh from Vierge and Bezzecchi with Augusto Fernandez in 10th. Manzi, Navarro, Hector Garzo, Schrotter and Chantra concluded the top-15 with Garzo the only rider not to hold a time worthy of provisional Q2 entry at the close of Friday.

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