Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) returns to the Algarve International Circuit (usually known as Portimao) this weekend for his second race at the track, aiming to continue his run of remarkably consistent performances in his rookie Moto2 season.
The 20-year-old from Tokyo, who finished runner-up in last year’s Moto3 World Championship, has scored 12 top-ten results from the first 16 races, including a best of second place in August’s Austrian GP.
Although this year Ogura has had to learn his way around most tracks on a Moto2 bike during Friday and Saturday practice he already knows Portimao well. He took part in pre-season testing at the track and of course contested April’s Portuguese GP at the venue.
However, that weekend didn’t end well, even though it started brilliantly. Ogura qualified for his third Moto2 race in fourth place, missing his first Moto2 front row by only 0.046 seconds, but during the race he was hit by another rider. That collision pushed Ogura into his team-mate Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) and both riders fell, without injury.
Without that incident both Ogura and Chantra were set for strong top-ten finishes.
The battle at the very top of the 2021 Moto2 World Championship has been full of drama in recent weeks. Two races ago at the Grand Prix of the Americas series leader Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex) crashed out while team-mate and title-rival Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex) won the race, to stand just nine points behind Gardner.
Last time at the Emilia-Romagna GP it was Fernandez’s turn to fall, so the pair go into this weekend’s penultimate round separated by 18 points.
Despite that crash at Misano, Fernandez is the man on form. The 21-year-old Spaniard has won three of the last four races, while the 23-year-old Australian hasn’t won a race since August’s British GP. In other words, the title could go either way.
Gardner and Fernandez are the only riders left in the title fight. Twenty-two-year-old Italian Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) stands third overall, 74 points behind the championship leader and 41 points ahead of 31-year-old Briton Sam Lowes (Elf Marc Racing VDS Kalex), who won the last race at Misano.
Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc Racing VDS Kalex) is 14 points adrift of his team-mate and just 11 clear of Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2 Boscoscuro).
After Sunday’s race the Moto2 grid heads east for the last race of the year at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo Circuit.