Moto2 is Grand Prix motorcycle roadracing's university of higher learning, an unsparing step to the 250-plus-hp premier class. This season the heavily subscribed middleweight category has transitioned from the Honda CBR600RR inline-four that in spec form propelled various makes of European and Japanese chassis since the inception of the class in 2010 to a three-cylinder Triumph based on the popular 765cc Street Triple series.

Lorenzo Baldassarri won rounds one and two in Qatar and Argentina with a mix of others—Thomas Lüthi, Marcel Schrötter, Remy Gardner, and Alex Márquez—completing the podium, all aboard thus-far-dominant German Kalex chassis. Joe Roberts, GP racing’s lone American, riding for the new American Racing KTM squad, finished 22nd in Qatar and crashed in Argentina.

Joe Roberts qualified 21st for Sunday’s 18-lap Moto2 race at Circuit of The Americas.
Joe Roberts qualified 21st for Sunday’s 18-lap Moto2 race at Circuit of The Americas. The 21-year-old Los Angeles native has raced Kalex, NTS, and KTM chassis, and admitted he is still adapting to the Triumph engine. He is teamed on the American Racing KTM squad with Spaniard Iker Lecuona, who will start 19th.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

On Saturday at Circuit of The Americas, Schrötter joined Marc Márquez, Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow—the front row of the starting grid for Sunday’s 20-lap MotoGP race—and Moto3 pole-sitter Niccolò Antonelli in the post-qualifying press conference. Schrötter not only set the quickest lap in that timed session, he topped both practices on Friday. He was also on pole in Qatar and second-quickest in Argentina.

“Last year was my best season,” the eight-year class veteran said. “I had the team and bike I needed. Before it was almost every year switching teams or I was on bikes that didn’t have the potential. In the first year [with Intact], we were on the Suter, which had good potential. But we struggled in a few races, especially in the beginning of the year. Last year, we came back on a Kalex. It is the bike in Moto2 that works everywhere quite well.

Marc Márquez riding at Circuit of the Americas 2019
“Today was a strange day,” Marc Márquez said, alluding to the session-canceling storm that blew with great force through the Austin area in the morning. “In qualifying, I felt good on the first tire. On the second tire, I did too many mistakes.” Márquez nevertheless posted the quickest lap for the seventh time at COTA.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

“I felt immediately good with the new Triumph,” Schrötter added, “even though I wasn’t really fast in the first few tests. I have a couple races behind me so, for sure, it is time to fight for wins.”

Márquez, Rossi, and Crutchlow were asked to comment on the category, specifically the switch to the Triumph engine. “It was better Honda,” Marquez replied, grinning. “No, apart from the joke, I speak with my brother and some Moto2 riders, and they say that it is more like a racing engine. Before it was more like a street engine on the racetrack. And they can play a little bit with the electronics.”

Magneti Marelli supplies a spec ECU with a datalogger, an IMU, a dash, rider’s switch panel, and the software to run all of it. The Triumph engine is more powerful, Marquez noted. “We can see they are around 300 kph [186 mph] at the end of the straights. I think it will be better because it’s closer to a MotoGP bike.” As of Saturday afternoon, Thai rider Somkiat Chantra had posted the highest top speed of the weekend, 181.3 mph in Free Practice 2 on Friday.

Rossi recalled the early days of the Moto2 class. “Everybody was very scared, very angry because it is a roadbike,” he said. “But they did a very good job, especially with the latest step with the Triumph engine and more electronics. I think it is a very good bike to prepare for MotoGP because it is heavy, you can work a little bit on engine-brake and everything. The engine has more torque; the bottom is a bit bigger. For me, it is at a very good level.”

Valentino Rossi riding at Circuit of the Americas 2019
Second on the grid, Valentino Rossi had his best qualifying on American soil since 2009 at Laguna Seca. “Already in Argentina, I was quite good, but today was stronger” the nine-time world champion said. “After the hurricane, it was difficult to know what to expect for qualifying. Fortunately, the track condition improved a lot.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Englishman Crutchlow held a different view. “I ride for Honda as well, so I have to say the same as Marc,” he began. “But I am very proud because they are British. The Brits are coming! We’re back! The good thing is, if the British riders have a s—t race, at least the engine is going to win; there’s going to be a British winner. As Marc and Valentino said, it is better with the electronics. They have a little room to play with that makes the jump to MotoGP easier.”