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Oliveira plays his cards to perfection to put KTM back on top in Barcelona

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) put in an outstanding performance in the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya to take back to the top step, the Portuguese rider storming Barcelona for back-to-back podium finishes and his first win in Red Bull KTM Factory Racing colours. First he out-duelled Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) to keep the lead before just outpacing Johann Zarco after a late charge from the Pramac Racing rider. The number 5 took second, with Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) completing the podium. The Australian crossed the line fourth, behind Quartararo, but was promoted to third following the first of two penalties for El Diablo on Sunday.

Miller was king of the brakes into Turn 1 to take the holeshot off the front row, blocking Quartararo as Oliveira then shuffled the Frenchman down to third too. El Diablo, in a very busy opening handful of laps, looked a bit impatient and a mistake at Turn 7 saw him drop to P5, with Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) making a phenomenal start from 10th to get into the top three in the early stages. Oliveira then took the lead from Miller on Lap 2 and was able to stretch a one-second advantage out, but Quartararo was able to carve his way back up to P2 by Lap 7.

Oliveira was doing an outstanding job out front, but some low 1:40s saw Quartararo able to reel the KTM back in, with Mir, Miller and Zarco line astern behind the World Championship leader. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) lurked too, two seconds off the top five in P6 and P7.

On Lap 12, Quartararo made his move for the lead. A good exit from Turn 4 saw the Frenchman able to slice his way up the inside of Oliveira at Turn 5, but the latter returned the favour at the start of Lap 14. The KTM grunt, coupled with a dose of slipstream, saw Oliveira able to stick with the Frenchman and then re-take the lead into Turn 1, with just 1.3 covering the front five: Oliveira, Quartararo, Mir, Miller, and Zarco.

By nine to go, Oliveira and Quartararo were edging clear but Zarco and Miller were both past Mir and just 1.2 behind Quartararo, who, in turn, was staying tucked up behind the race-leading KTM. Who had something to spare?

By five to go, Zarco had closed the gap to the front two to under a second and it was fourth place Miller who was the fastest of the leading quartet. And with four to go, Oliveira was really starting to stretch his legs again, suddenly 0.9 clear of Quartararo as the latter had his closest title rival homing in on him: Zarco.

The Pramac Racing Ducati tagged on and then passed Quartararo on the straight, the Yamaha following that up with a moment at Turn 1. The polesitter was forced to run wide and slotted back on track in P3, and we saw a unique situation unfold – Quartararo’s leathers were undone, his chest protector was thrown clear and Miller was right behind him after his off-track excursion too.

Up ahead, Zarco was just half a second down on Oliveira as the riders headed onto the last lap, and the Frenchman had been 0.4 quicker on the previous lap. Could he do it? The gap was down to under four tenths through the second split but the Ducati man wasn’t close enough into Turn 10, the last real overtaking spot, and in the end he was forced to settle for second. Oliveira held his nerve to claim a phenomenal Catalan GP victory: his first in factory colours, his third in MotoGP™ and third for KTM, making it back-to-back podiums after his second place at Mugello.

Zarco took the flag just 0.175 behind in a marvellous second place, and Quartararo was handed a three-second penalty for gaining an advantage when going wide at Turn 1. That put Miller on the podium as the Australian had another good weekend, starting to rake in some serious points after a tougher start to the year.

Quartararo was classified fourth in the direct aftermath of the race, but the Frenchman was then handed another three-second sanction for riding with his leathers undone and without the required chest protector. That shuffles him back to sixth in the final results.

Mir faded slighty in the final stages but is ultimately classified fourth for more good points, and from 10th on the grid it was a solid Sunday. The number 36 was able to keep Viñales at bay, and the number 12 is now fifth to end the day just ahead of his teammate Quartararo in the final results. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) was 1.8 down on Viñales at the chequered flag in a quieter outing for the Italian in P7. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took P8, just 0.2 behind Pecco after shadowing the Italian for much of the race.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was another rider to have a quiet afternoon, the Italian finishing a lonely P9. 3.6 adrift of Morbidelli in P10 was rookie and reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama), his third top 10 of the season. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) – who crashed on the sighting lap and was forced to start from the back of the grid upon his return from injury – and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) picked up the remaining points on offer in Barcelona.

Both Repsol Honda Team machines suffered DNFs in the early stages, Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez going down uninjured at Turn 4 and Turn 10 respectively. Aleix Espargaro and Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) were two others who, like Marc Marquez, crashed at Turn 10. Danilo Petrucci and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing teammate Iker Lecuona also crashed out on Sunday afternoon – all riders ok.

RESULTS

And that’s that. Oliveira and KTM deliver an outstanding Sunday performance to win their first race of 2021, following up from their first podium of the season too. The Austrian factory are back in business this season after a tricky opening few rounds, with Ducati also impressing on Sunday once again. And in terms of the World Championship, Zarco has closed the gap to Quartararo after a dramatic day in Barcelona for the latter. Now, it’s just 14 points… and next up it’s the Sachsenring. What awaits in Germany? We’ll find out in two weeks!

MotoGP™ Podium
  1. Miguel Oliveira – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM – 40:21.749
  2. Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.175
  3. Jack Miller – Ducato Lenovo Team – Ducati – +1.815

*Independent Team rider

Miguel Oliveira: “From my perspective it was hard to understand what was going on behind me, I knew at the beginning there were a couple of switches in position for second place. I got the little gap, I was comfortable and could be gentle with the tyres, do my lines and not make any mistakes, and I think that was the key. It was hard for everyone I guess, but for me it was extra hard because I had the hard front tyre. The last eight laps it was not for me to stay on and not crash!”

Moto2™: Gardner goes back-to-back in style

The Championship leader does it again, pulling clear of his teammate for win number 2 of 2021

Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) capped off a week of headline-stealing – following a new MotoGP™ contract for next year – with another win in the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, going back-to-back for the first time in his career. That means, for the first time since Casey Stoner in 2005, an Australian has won two intermediate class races on the spin. Gardner’s rookie teammate Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took second, with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completing the podium, back on the box for the first time since 2018 and on home turf.

Gardner was able to get the start he would have wanted from pole, the Australian earning the holeshot as teammate Fernandez held P2 also. Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) likewise got a great launch and troubled Raul Fernandez at Turn 5, the Dutchman making a clean move stick before the number 25 was able to strike back at Turn 7.

Gardner was into a rhythm at the front but his teammate, with a bit of clear track in front, was able to slowly creep his way up to tag onto the back. Bendsneyder and Vierge were able to stay within touching distance of the Red Bull KTM Ajo riders though, with fifth place Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) 2.3 back from the race lead on Lap 10 of 22.

The lead then changed with 11 laps remaining. Raul Fernandez drafted Gardner down the straight, pulled alongside on the brakes and made a clean and concise move stick. Bendsneyder was still a close third, with Vierge and Bezzecchi less than a second down, as Gardner clung onto the coattails of Fernandez.

At the beginning of Lap 20, Gardner pounced. A late lunge at Turn 1 saw the Aussie cut past his teammate and a 1:44.399 helped him edge out a 0.6 lead. Heading onto the last lap, it was up to 1.1 and that sensational final trio of laps saw Gardner claim a second victory in a row, extending his lead in the title race over his teammate to 11 points as Raul Fernandez took second. Vierge fended off Bezzecchi to hand Petronas Sprinta Racing their maiden Moto2™ rostrum in third.

Bezzecchi threatened to steal the podium in the closing stages but it was P4 for the Italian, with Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) equalling his best result of the season in P5 – an important one for the Spaniard after good speed but bad luck of late. Bendsneyder faded in the latter stages but picks up a great P6, the Dutch rider 0.3s ahead of seventh place Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) after a solid race for the Brit, who needed a finish. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) completed the top 10 in Barcelona.

Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) missed out on a top 10 by less than a second in P11, with reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team) having a good ride to end the day P12 on home soil. Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP), Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) were the remaining points scorers.

RESULTS

The Moto2™ riders return to put on another show at the Sachsenring in two weeks!

Moto2™ Podium
  1. Remy Gardner– Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 38:22.284
  2. Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – +1.872
  3. Xavi Vierge – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Kalex – +2.866

Remy Gardner: “In the beginning I tried to break away but didn’t want to burn up the rear tyre so I was just trying to be smooth. I thought if I could break away like that perfect, but I saw it was half a second the whole time. I didn’t know who was behind but Raul made a push and I thought ‘alright I’ll follow you’. He wasn’t pulling away and I just sat behind managing the tyres. I knew I had a bit more in me, I had half the race to study him and I said to myself, ‘alright two laps to the end I’m going to pass him and just go for it’. I saw the opportunity at Turn 1 and went ‘alright, let’s do it’, put the hammer down and pulled away. Couldn’t be happier, another 25 points.”

Moto3™: Garcia battles to second win of the season in Barcelona

The Spaniard takes back to the top step to beat Alcoba by just 0.015, with Öncü promoted to third and a first podium

Sergio Garcia (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team) took his second Grand Prix victory of the season in the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, the Spaniard battling through to come out on top in one of the hardest-fought races of the season. Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) took second from second on the grid, with Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) crossing the line fourth but promoted to third – and a first Grand Prix podium – as Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) exceeded track limits on the last lap.

Polesitter Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) took the holeshot ahead of Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) and Alcoba, and so began the battle. A huge group fought it out for the points from there on out, with the long main straight in Barcelona seeing the slipstream play a key part in the shuffle as riders went four, five and more wide into Turn 1. Garcia, from the back end of the top 20 on the grid, made quick progress to get into the freight train fight.

From then on, the group see-sawed with the slipstream, positions changing nearly every corner. Just before the field raced across the line to start the last lap, Alcoba was leading. But not wanting to get swamped down the straight, the Spaniard sat up and looked behind between Turns 13 and 14, and Masia emerged in the lead for the first time and held the baton all the way to Turn 1. But then Garcia pounced just as rookie teammate Izan Guevara (Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team) tucked the front from P3 and luckily took no one with him.

Some contact was then made between Garcia and Alcoba on the run into the penultimate corner, Garcia held on and held firm though to take the chequered flag in P1 by just hundredths. With it he returns to second in the World Championship standings. Alcoba was the man denied, with Öncü crossing the line fourth but promoted to third for an emotional first podium. Masia ran onto the green asphalt on the exit of Turn 4, and was demoted a place from P3.

Masia therefore takes P4, with Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) cementing a P5, the South African a constant threat at the front throughout. Rodrigo will feel hard done by to finish P6 after looking so strong in the closing stages, with Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) coming from P25 on the grid to P7. The rookie sensation took his turn leading before losing out near the end, but his lead is 39 points heading to Round 8. Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3), Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) and Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride) completed a top ten covered by 1.1s.

Behind the front few over the line however, the race was Red Flagged after a crash for Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), collecting Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) and Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing), and Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) also dropped back but stayed in the race. The Leopard riders hitched a ride back to pitlane, with Sasaki taken to local hospital for checks. He suffered a concussion is kept in overnight for observation as a precautionary measure.

Fenati, Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia), Elia Bartolini (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3), Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PruestelGP) and Daniel Holgado (CIP Green Power) completed the points. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed out the lead and Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) went down too, and Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) before the start.

RESULTS

Moto3™ will be back on track at the Sachsenring in two weeks, make sure to tune in for more.

Moto3™ Podium
  1. Sergio Garcia – Solunion GASGAS Aspar Team – GASGAS – 38:33.760
  2. Jeremy Alcoba – Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3 – Honda – +0.015
  3. Deniz Öncü – Red Bull KTM Tech3 – KTM – +0.118

Sergio Garcia: “It was a crazy race, the straight was completely… I don’t know how to explain it. But I’m very happy for this victory, it was amazing. Amazing but difficult race and I’m very happy.”

Words and photos courtesy of www.motogp.com
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