Italtrans Racing Team's Enea Bastianini wrapped up the 2020 Moto2™ World Championship in an incredibly tense season finale at the Grande Prémio MEO de Portugal, with both SKY Racing Team VR46's Luca Marini and EG 0,0 Marc VDS' Sam Lowes making the Italian sweat during a tight Portimao affair. In the end, a fifth place finish was enough for The Beast whilst, at the front, ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team's Remy Gardner pounced late to secure a career-first Grand Prix victory.
As the lights went out and the title showdown got underway, Marini, from second on the grid, took the holeshot with Gardner taking second from pole. Bastianini, meanwhile, came through to third from the second row, whilst there was a nightmare start off the front row for Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up). Things got even worse for the man that threw away victory on the final lap just one week ago when he tucked the front at Turn 1, taking Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) with him.
Marini was shuffled back to third on the opening lap when he hit a false neutral out of Turn 5. The first lap was completed of the title-decider with The Beast in control, he was sat second with Marini in third, Lowes in fifth and Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) down in seventh. Gardner was starting to check-out at the front of the race, taking a second out of the chasing pack with only three laps completed. The adrenaline was then clearly starting to kick in for Lowes as the battered and bruised Briton muscled his way ahead of Jorge Martin to move up to fourth.
Marini then made his move on Bastianini at Turn 1, with now four laps ticked off. The SKY Racing Team VR46 man with a comfortable pass on his MotoGP™ teammate of next year. Lowes would follow him through too, squeezing past the Championship leader to push the Italian back to fourth in the space of half a lap. Marini and Lowes knew they had to chase down Gardner at the front of the race to stand any chance of being crowned World Champion and that’s exactly what they set about doing. In the space of a lap, the advantage had been cut from a second down to just six tenths. Meanwhile, Lowes was getting a helping hand from EG 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Augusto Fernandez as the Spaniard had a big look up the inside of Bastianini before then getting the job done to push him back to fifth.
Bastianini battled back but it didn’t last long, with Fernandez finding a way back through. The pair’s squabbling over fourth saw them lose touch with Marini and Lowes ahead of them, who themselves had latched onto the rear tyre of Gardner. The pair made quick work of Gardner too, both slicing their way through in the space of a sector and suddenly, with eight laps completed, the top three in the World Championship were split by just five points. 15 laps left of Portimao and Fernandez was now causing problems for Gardner, who was starting to slip backwards. The Spaniard was fully committed as he dived through on the Australian to take third place. Another lap ticked by and another place was lost by Bastianini as Bezzecchi started to do some favours for his own teammate, Marini. The curly-haired Italian moved through into Turn 1 and Bastianini was demoted to sixth.
The Italian was starting to lose his cool and was clearly flustered with a mistake then allowing Red Bull KTM Ajo's Jorge Martin to squeeze through as well. The Italtrans man was down to seventh and the top three in the Championship were now even tighter, just three points split them in an unbelievably tense finale. He gathered his thoughts and found a response on Martin, though, getting himself back up to sixth and taking another vital point. Lowes suddenly was starting to make some mistakes as the brutal wrist injury he sustained at Valencia was surely now starting to take its toll. From being right on the rear wheel of Marini, he ran wide and allowed Gardner to pick his pocket and take second. Was this the beginning of the end of the brave Brit’s title challenge?
Eight to go and, from seemingly struggling, Gardner was now back in his groove and chasing down Marini at the front of the race. The Australian, gunning for a career-first intermediate class victory, was right on the tail of the Championship contender with only seven laps remaining after setting an incredible pace. Lowes was not out of it too, only half a second adrift of the leading duo, knowing that getting in front of the pair would hand him the Championship. Both Marini and Lowes’ hopes took a severe dent, however, when Bastianini was able to get himself back in front of Fernandez for fifth.
A mistake from Lowes saw him lose touch with Gardner and Marini but he was not willing to throw the towel in. Somehow, the Brit grit his teeth to set the fastest lap of the race with now four laps left as he started to throw the kitchen sink at trying to clinch the title. Two laps to go and Lowes was a second adrift of the leading duo as he began to pray that Gardner and Marini would start to go toe-to-toe for victory.
Then, the fight for victory ignited. Gardner pounced and Marini wasn’t happy to sit behind him, coming side-by-side with the Australian, who by this point was absolutely sideways in a bid to hold on to the lead. It worked though, and he almost immediately opened out half a second. As he entered the final lap, he had pretty much ended both Marini and Lowes’ dreams of becoming Moto2™ World Champion. Gardner came out of the final corner and took the chequered flag to clinch his first Grand Prix victory, emulating father and MotoGP™ Legend Wayne Gardner.
Marini did all he could, eventually having to settle for a second place finish that would give him second in the World Championship on countback, after he was tied on both points and victories with Lowes. One of the performances of the day, though, had to be Lowes. The Brit ending up third in the World Championship but, despite two broken bones in his hand, was able to take a podium finish to end a quite remarkable 2020. However, it was Enea Bastianini who was crowned the 2020 Moto2™ World Champion, after coming across the line in fifth place, wrapping up a sensational season that will see him move to the premier class next year as the King of the intermediate class. Ahead of him, Bezzecchi was given a huge hug by his SKY Racing Team VR46 squad for taking fourth, the Italian now focussing on being crowned Moto2™ Champion this time next year.
Martin took sixth across the line after holding off a hard-charging Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing); the Spaniard is off to MotoGP™ next year, will the Californian be joining him there? Fernandez eventually slipped back to eighth after being in podium contention during the early running of the race. The final places inside the top ten were taken by Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP40) and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
Another incredible season of Moto2™ action comes to a close then, with the top three in the World Championship covered in the end by only nine points. The top two move on to MotoGP™ in 2021 but there’s a whole host of talented youngsters ready to step up and stake their own premier class claim next year.
1. Remy Gardner (Onexox TKKR SAG Team)
2. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 1.609
3. Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 3.813
4. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 8.437
5. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) + 8.646
6. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 8.899
7. Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) + 8.956
8. Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 9.568
9. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) + 10.367
10. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 11.084