Gardner: Too much at stake to worry about rib pain

Remy Gardner leads Raul Fernandez

Remy Gardner says there was “too much at stake” to worry about rib pain when he took a giant step towards the Moto2 championship title with victory at Portimao.

Gardner sustained the injury when he came off his Red Bull KTM Ajo entry in a collision with a slow-moving Marcos Ramirez in Free Practice 2 at the Algarve Grand Prix, but went on to qualify second.

He dropped as low as third in the 23-lap race but passed team-mate Raul Fernandez for the lead just past the halfway mark and they would ultimately finish one-two.

That means the Australian is now 23 points up on the Spaniard at the top of the table with just one race to go, making the pain which was obvious when he hopped off his bike in parc ferme worth it.

“That was an extremely important race for me, for the championship as well,” said Gardner.

“After the way we finished Friday, and how I’m feeling, honestly, that was a really, really good race.

“Yeah, tough race as well. You know, Raul was really, really fast in the beginning with the soft [rear tyre] and it was hard to keep that pace up.

“He did get away a bit and I just had to stay calm and bide my time and just keep constant and not make any mistakes.

“In the end, I think it paid off and, yeah, extremely happy with how everything turned out and definitely going to be looking for some painkillers.”

Asked how the rib injury affected him, he explained, “The last five laps, started to come in a little bit; more fatigue on the left-hand corners and we kind of got to try and push on the handlebars a bit more.

“But you know, there was too much on the line, too much at stake to let that get into my head and I just kind of pushed it aside and just rode my heart out, and put my balls where they needed to be, and finished the race.”

Gardner now need only finish 13th next weekend at Valencia to win the intermediate class championship, and reflected on the importance of his afternoon at Portimao.

“This was the day to do it,” said the 23-year-old.

“Also, controlling the pressure as well and just staying calm and just trying to focus on your race, you know, without thinking too much.

“Raul was extremely fast all weekend and he did a flying qualifying lap, so yeah, for sure, this was a big day for us.

“So, one more to go.”

The podium of (left to right) Fernandez, Gardner, and Sam Lowes

Fernandez had already said before the round began that his deficit to Gardner was too great to overcome, and the rookie is even more confident of that fact now, with just the Valencia Grand Prix to come.

“Valencia is really special for me; I got my first victory in the world championship [Moto3],” said Fernandez as he cast an eye to the finale.

“But now I cannot fight him for the championship – it’s too big, the gap – but anyway I will try to win and the race is for him.”

As Gardner noted, his team-mate had opted for the softer rear tyre option, and was perplexed by the loss of grip he experienced during the race given his long-run performance earlier in the weekend.

“For me it was really difficult, the race,” said Fernandez.

“I don’t know why very well [but] the last 10, 11 laps I don’t have the rear tyre. I don’t know why is the reason because yesterday and this morning we did more than race distance on the tyre.

“Of course, we were really strong this weekend, but now we have lost too many points for the championship and I’m really, really angry for that.

“But anyway, [Gardner] did an incredible job, also he did an incredible race, and we will do the last race in Valencia and I will do my best, enjoy the last race with the team, and try to win.”

Both KTM Ajo Moto2 riders step up to MotoGP next year with Tech3 KTM Factory Racing.

Their last round in the intermediate class, when the championship will be settled, begins this Friday (November 12).

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