Moto2 rookie Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) may have crashed out of last Sunday’s German Grand Prix but he was nonetheless happy with his ride – until the last-lap tumble – because he was riding closer to the leaders than ever before.
Ogura spent the race in the group battling for a podium finish, the first time he had been in this situation since last year, when he rode a Honda NSF250RW to second place in the Moto3 World Championship.
The ride was particularly impressive because Ogura had never ridden a Moto2 bike at Sachsenring before. This weekend at Assen the 20-year-old from Tokyo faces the same challenge. And like Sachsenring, Assen is a very complex circuit, with lots of secrets that take time to unlock. Ogura’s plan will be to work steadily with his team, spending as much time as possible on track.
Ogura has made an excellent start to his Moto2 career, with four top-seven results so far, including a best of fifth in April’s Doha GP. He stands tenth in the World Championship.
Team-mate Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) has more experience of Assen on a Moto2 bike. The 22-year-old Thai rider contested his first Dutch TT in June 2019, qualifying inside the top 20, but fell during morning warm-up and was unable to start the race.
Chantra also went well at Sachsenring and would almost certainly have scored points if he hadn’t run off the track at one stage of the race. This Sunday he takes aim at his third points score of 2021.
Current leader of the 2021 Moto2 World Championship is Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex), who last weekend scored his third consecutive victory, while team-mate and main title rival Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex) slid out of the race.
Assen is an event of importance to the Gardner family – Remy’s father Wayne contested his first World Championship event at the track in 1983, when he rode a Honda NS500. Four years later he became the second rider to win the premier-class title with Honda, riding an NSR500.
The 23-year-old Australian now commands a 36-point lead over 20-year-old Spaniard Fernandez. Third overall, a further 11 points back, is 22-year-old Italian Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex). Sam Lowes (Elf Marc Racing VDS Kalex) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex) complete the top five in the series.
Moto2 enjoys a five-week break after the Dutch TT, followed by August’s Styrian and Austrian GPs at Red Bull Ring.