Despite a season bookended by injuries, Sam Lowes came within nine points of the Moto2 title and delivered his best-yet grand prix season.

A spring shoulder injury meant Lowes' first race of the year came four-months after his rivals, at Jerez rather than Qatar, where a front-row start gave a glimpse of what was to come.

Winless since returning to Moto2 from a miserable 2017 MotoGP season at Aprilia, plenty had questioned the decision by reigning champion's Marc VDS to sign Lowes for 2020.

But by round five Lowes had caught-up to third place in the standings, only for a braking error and disqualification from the second Red Bull Ring event to send him back down to sixth.

Lowes fought his way forwards once again, a second podium of the season in Catalunya propelling him to fourth in the points, before celebrating his first win since Aragon 2016 in the wet Le Mans race.

Championship leader Luca Marini remained 22 points clear of Lowes, but a perfect Aragon double took the 30-year-old to the top of the world with only the Valencia double-header and Portimao remaining.

A fall for Lowes in Valencia 1 saw the title advantage swing in favour of Enea Bastianini by a slim six points, setting up the prospect of a tense showdown over the last two rounds between not only Lowes and Bastianini, but also VR46 riders Marini and Marco Bezzecchi.

Unfortunately for Lowes, a wrist injury - later revealed to be two broken bones – in free practice meant he brought the proverbial knife to a gunfight in the race, a meagre two points his reward for 25 agonising laps.

With the Portimao finale just days away, a similar result looked likely. That was if he could even finish, Lowes openly questioning his chances of reaching the chequered flag around the physically demanding Portimao track after free practice.

Bastianini began the final round with a 14-point lead over Lowes, 18-point advantage over Marini and 23-points clear of Bezzecchi.

Starting fifth on the grid, Lowes defied the pain to climb to second behind Marini by mid-distance.

With Bastianini in the top six, Lowes needed to pass Marini and bag the full 25-points to claim the crown. Instead, both fell victim to a charging Remy Gardner, who snatched his first grand prix victory ahead of Marini and Lowes, who were both left just nine points from Bastianini.

"First I want to say well done to Remy, he's deserved that win, he rode mega in the race and all year it's been coming," Lowes said. "Also to Enea, a worthy world champion so congratulations."

Former WSS champion Lowes didn't want to dwell on the 'what ifs' of his Valencia injury and felt he couldn't have done any more in the race.

"It's easy to look back and say last weekend and this weekend riding injured. I'm sure every rider can look back and say I should have this or should have done that. But the championship is not just these last two races. It's whoever scores the most points over the whole year

"I gave absolutely everything today, in morning warm-up I didn’t even know if I could ride, I was really struggling.

"I had no idea what the pace could be and I have no idea how the team managed to set up the bike because I never managed to do three or four consecutive laps all weekend!

"So to get that podium was very unexpected and it was probably my best-ever ride just to hang in with these guys at the pace they were going and get on the podium. I couldn’t have done any more."

Marini's second place at Portimao also gave him the tie-break over Lowes for runner-up in the world championship, but it was nonetheless the #22's best season in grand prix, exceeding his previous best of fourth in 2015 (when Moto2 was using 600cc Honda engines).

"I'm really proud of my season, really happy to be in this great team and show everybody that I deserved the chance and I deserve to be here fighting at the front of the Moto2 World Championship races," Lowes said.

"So it's been a positive year in that aspect. As always we all want to win, so you have to feel a little bit gutted. But apart from that, it's been special.

"Everyone saw I didn’t give up until the end. That’s the most important thing for the team and the rider: just to do your best until the finish line and this is what we did!”

With Bastianini and Marini moving to MotoGP, Lowes will be the highest-ranked 2020 rider remaining in the class (with Marc VDS) next season.

 

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