Contrasting fortunes for Moto2's Brits with Lowes third, Dixon 11th

Moto2's British contingent had contrasting experiences in the first Moto2 Grand Prix of the year...

Sam Lowes, Qatar 2022.

THE Lusail International Circuit has often been kind to Sam Lowes. In 2014, on his Moto2 debut, he exceeded expectations when he finished sixth; and last year he won both Qatar races from pole position ahead of the eventual World Champion, Remy Gardner. 

Lusail has also proved challenging for the #22 at times. In 2015, he crashed out of second place while fighting Johann Zarco for the win; in 2016 he jumped the start on his debut with Gresini Racing; and in 2020 he missed the race through injury, missing points that by the end of the season could have made a dramatic difference to the outcome of the World Championship. 

2022 proved to be a mix of both for Lowes in Lusail. Coming into the weekend suffering from tendinitis in his left wrist, Lowes finished Friday in 12th place. Saturday proved more positive for Lowes, though, as he topped FP3 and set provisional pole position in Q2 before he was demoted to third after his said provisional pole lap was found to have exceeded track limits.

Starting from the front row, Lowes fought for the podium throughout and, while Celestino Vietti and Aron Canet were able to escape at the front, Lowes was able to stay with Ai Ogura, Augusto Fernandez, and his new Marc VDS teammate for 2022, Tony Arbolino.

Although Arbolino dropped off in the closing stages of the race, Lowes still had to contend with Fernandez and Ogura - the latter proving especially potent on the brakes on several occasions.

Entering the final corner on the last lap, it looked as though Lowes was out of contention for the podium, coming in behind Fernandez and Ogura. Fernandez, though, ran wide, which invited Ogura to tighten his line in an attempt to squeeze through and block the #37’s line on the exit. It did not work out for the Japanese, though, who lost the front and stayed on two wheels only thanks to running into the side of Fernandez’ Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex machine. With Fernandez and Ogura both losing time in the final corner, Lowes was able to sweep through and claim an unlikely podium.

In parc ferme after the race, Lowes said to Simon Crafar, “The first two laps I was really, really bad, struggling to be strong on the bike - I can’t be aggressive, I struggled to overtake.” He continued, “If I had been my normal self I could have passed quite easily, but honestly I was really struggling to stop the bike, struggling to support myself.”

Finally, Lowes added, “After the last three weeks that I’ve had I’ll accept that bit of luck because I’ve dug in and I could cry [for] how fortunate I am to be here because last week I didn’t even know if I could ride and now we’ve got a podium in the first round.”

Jake Dixon, on the other hand, had his opening Grand Prix of 2022 somewhat conditioned by the first corner. Coming into the first turn, Fermin Aldeguer made an ambitious lunge on the inside, which forced Dixon to sit up and go wide. Aldeguer would also come into the line of Pedro Acosta in that first turn, which sent the reigning Moto3 World Champion off-track and almost to dead last. 

Dixon ended the first lap in 20th after starting seventh, but progressed to 11th by lap eight. Unfortunately for the #96, he was unable to progress any further in the second half of the race. In the first eight laps, while he was fighting through the pack, Dixon lost 13.8 seconds to eventual winner Celestino Vietti. Between lap eight and the end of the race, only another five seconds. Compared to Lowes, who was the last rider to make the podium, Dixon lost 6.4 seconds in the first eight laps, and in the remaining 12 laps he lost only 2.4 seconds to Lowes.

Dixon’s pace, then, was not a disaster, and it meant that he closed a three-second gap to 10th-placed Marcel Schrotter on lap eight to a half-a-tenth gap at the chequered flag.