Star Moto2 rookie Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) comes to Le Mans aiming to continue his impressive apprenticeship in the intermediate class.
The 20-year-old from Tokyo, who finished runner-up in last year’s Moto3 World Championship aboard a Honda NSF250RW, currently stands tenth in the Moto2 points chase and would be higher in the standings if he hadn’t been knocked out of last month’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
Two weeks ago at Jerez he finished in seventh place, 12.313 seconds behind the winner, a difference of half a second a lap. This is impressive, although Ogura and his team, led by Honda’s 2009 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama, know that with each tenth of a second gained it’s more challenging to find the next tenth. That is Ogura’s mission during the coming races, to gradually and systematically reduce that deficit, always working to finish the races, rather than overriding and falling.
Team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) won’t be worried by the Le Mans weather forecast, which predicts rain on and off through the weekend. Last year Chantra equalled his best Grand Prix finish, with a ninth place at the end of a tricky race in mixed conditions, with a narrow dry line forming after earlier rainfall.
This week the 22-year-old Thai rider comes to Le Mans chasing his first points of the season, after tumbling out of the Spanish GP while in the fight for a points score.
The battle at the top of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship is full of excitement, with three different winners from the first four of 20 races.
Ironically it is Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who leads the points chase, even though he has yet to win a race this year. The 23-year-old Australian (son of Honda’s 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner) leads the way thanks to consistent performances, podiums at the first three races and a close fourth at Jerez.
Just three points further back is Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), who won the first two races, crashed out of the third and finished third at Jerez.
A further three points behind the 30-year-old Briton is remarkable 20-year-old rookie Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who won his first Moto2 race in Portugal.
Fourth overall is 22-year-old Italian Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) and fifth is fellow 22-year-old Italian Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), who secured his first Moto2 victory at Jerez.