#PortugueseGP Portimao, raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
How’s that for a victory? Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™’s Fabio Quartararo got the hammer down to dominate the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal and take his first win of the season in style, nearly five seconds clear by the flag. In a day to remember for France, he was joined on the podium by Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in second, whilst Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro benefitted from late drama involving Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) to take third. Quartararo is now leading the Championship although tied with points with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, who put in arguably the ride of the day by recovering from 23rd on the grid to finish fourth.
Off the line it was Mir with the perfect launch, firing clear of the rest of the grid to take the holeshot and gain some early breathing space. Another strong start came from Quartararo too, who quickly moved through on his compatriot Zarco to take second halfway around the opening lap. Meanwhile, further back, Alex Rins had somehow launched his Suzuki up an incredible 13 places on the first lap to go from 23rd to inside the top ten.
At the front, it didn’t take long for Quartararo to get into his rhythm. The Frenchman was flying and had quickly reduced Mir’s early advantage down to nothing before then, at the start of Lap 4, he made his move on the 2020 World Champion at Turn 1. Mir had no response and Quartararo was leading a race for the first time this year.
Nobody could match the metronomic pace of the reigning World Champion as he edged further and further into the lead. A new fastest lap and lap record, a 1:39.435, came in on Lap 10, by which point Mir had seemingly been forced to throw in the towel and was starting to instead look over his shoulder in the fight for second. Quartararo would eventually cruise across the line over five seconds clear of second place for his first victory since the British Grand Prix in August of last year and, as a result, he jumps to the top of the MotoGP™ World Championship standings.
It was much closer in the fight for the final podium places, with Mir defending hard as Zarco applied more and more pressure. The Frenchman took advantage of a tiny error by the Spaniard out of the final corner to power past him down the start-finish straight and take over in second, but the Frenchman ran wide at Turn 1 – allowing Mir to swoop back through. A lap later though Zarco got the job done, again capitalising on a small wheelie from Mir out of the final corner to dive through on the brakes into Turn 1, this time making it stick.
Soon enough, only six laps remained and Miller was now challenging Mir for third. And then came the biggest drama of the race as the Australian pulled alongside the Suzuki man down the start-finish straight and they headed into Turn 1 side-by-side on the brakes… before the front end of Miller’s Ducati let go. He went down and he took an innocent and unsuspecting Mir with him, both riders ok but scoring a painful 0 points each.
That elevated Aleix Espargaro to third as he eyed only the third MotoGP™ rostrum finish for Aprilia, with the number 41 having shown good pace to get into the podium postcode. The Argentina winner closed onto the rear wheel of Zarco on the final lap too, but just couldn’t find a way through. Zarco took second, the thirteenth of his premier class career, and Aleix Espargaro had to settle for third – but one step closer to Aprilia losing out on concessions as their successes continue.
Fourth across the line was arguably the man of the day, however: Rins. A quite incredible performance from the factory Suzuki man saw him come through from 23rd and, in doing so, the number 42 lifted himself to equal on points with Quartararo in the Championship chase.
Another strong comeback ride came courtesy of home hero Miguel Oliveira, as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing man clinched a top five to bounce back from two crashes on home soil in 2021.
Behind that, it was Marquez vs Marquez. For the first time in MotoGP™ we were treated to a 73 vs 93 battle on the final lap of the race, with LCR Castrol Honda’s Alex Marquez holding off older brother Marc quite brilliantly as the laps ticked by. But on the last lap, the gloves came off. The eight-time World Champion squeezed his way through to take sixth place, but it was by just 0.020 ahead of Alex as the number 73 absolutely nailed the final corner and the two crossed the line side by side.
Only half a second back on that duel, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia was gritting his teeth through the pain barrier to salvage eighth place too, thanks to a last lap move on Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro. Bagnaia started dead last, making up a pile of positions on race day despite a painful shoulder.
Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales took the final place inside the top ten as the 12-Noale combination continues to gain some traction, with a gap then back to Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP). The veteran held off Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini, with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) next up. Two rookies completed the points as Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) pulled clear of Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team).
There were crashes for Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Idemitsu Honda), although the Japanese rider finished. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also crashed out, bringing to an end a run of 18 straight point-scoring finishes. Perhaps most notably, the former World Championship leader, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) tumbled out – but the Italian remains in touch in the standings, only eight points off the top.
From the Algarve to Andalucia, MotoGP™ now gets back on the road to head for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España. It’s only next weekend too, so get ready for more as the Circuito de Jerez-Angeli Nieto welcomes the paddock back once more.
Italtrans Racing Team’s Joe Roberts is a Grand Prix winner! Grabbing a golden opportunity in a red-flagged and dramatic intermediate class encounter at the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal, the American bolted nearly three seconds clear in only a seven-lap sprint, taking the first intermediate class win for the USA in 32 years, and the first in any class since 2011. Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) took second to extend his points lead by a margin after drama for key contenders, with Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP 40) completing the podium.
A first start saw Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) take the holeshot from Aron Canet (FlexBox HP40) before the Spaniard then hit the front, but an isolated rain shower at Turn 2 then caught out eleven riders, including the top six at the time.
The leading trio of Canet, Beaubier and Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) were joined in the gravel trap seconds later by Chantra, Arbolino, Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing), Albert Arenas (Autosolar GasGas Aspar), Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Zonta van den Goorbergh (RW Racing) and Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) as the sudden shower caused some chaos, with the red flag shown immediately thereafter.
None of the riders involved in the Turn 2 pile-up were able to take part in the 7-lap restart, meaning we had a revised grid of 18 riders: Autosolar GasGas Aspar Team’s Jake Dixon fired from pole position and took the lead on the opening lap, with Roberts starting second, but disaster struck for the Brit at Turn 7 as he slid out.
Roberts then put the pedal to the metal, and the American was absolutely hammering clear. The Californian was three seconds ahead of the fight for second in the blink of an eye, before managing his nerves on the final couple of laps to take a historic win – eleven years on from the last American Grand Prix victory and 32 years on from the last in the intermediate class.
Championship leader Vietti fought his way back into second for a valuable 20 points as key rivals were denied the chance to score, making the most of his slice of fortune as he extended his title lead out to 34 points. The Italian managed to find a way through on Navarro on the penultimate lap, before defending well on the final lap to secure his fourth podium in the opening five races of 2022. Navarro was delighted with third though, a first rostrum visit since Silverstone last year. Strong rides came in from Marcel Schrötter and rookie Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 MasterCamp) to take fourth and fifth.
Fellow rookie Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) ended up sixth after Fermin Aldeguer (Lightech Speed Up) was demoted a place to seventh on the final lap afetr a track limits infringement, and rounding out the top ten were Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), Barry Baltus (RW Racing) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team).
Moto2™ heads for Jerez next, with a fair few serious contenders looking to bounce back and get some serious points.
Sergio Garcia (Valresa GASGAS Aspar Team) took his second win of the year in the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal, first escaping in the lead and then fighting it out in a five-rider battle that went down to the final lap. COTA winner Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was back on the podium in second as he gets into the 2022 groove, and likewise Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) in third as the Japanese rider continues his speed this season.
Polesitter Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) got a great start to take the holeshot, but it was a storming start for Garcia and the number 11 was soon right on the Turk’s tail. Even sooner, he was past and making a gap at the front as Öncü slipped back into the clutches of Izan Guevara (Valresa GASGAS Aspar Team), Sasaki and Masia.
As the laps ticked on, Guevara was tucked in and hunting down his teammate. A gap of over a second and a half gradually disappeared until, with 12 laps to go, the number 28 GASGAS machine took over at the front, and the troops had arrived alongside too to create a five-rider fight for the win.
Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), meanwhile, was still facing a fight for a bigger points haul. The number 7 faded back to outside the points early on and then had to pick his way back through, up to just outside the top ten with 10 to go.
By then, the battle at the front was heating up although the quintet remained over five seconds clear. Masia and Garcia bashed fairings into Turn 1 as both went for the same bit of track, no harm done, but the elbows were out and they remained so.
Onto the last lap, Sasaki was ahead but Garcia nailed the final corner to tuck into the slipstream, shooting past and leading into Turn 1. Masia attacked too and got past Sasaki, then able to start homing in on the number 11 ahead, but it was soon close as ever. By the final corner for the final time, Garcia, Masia, Sasaki, Öncu and Guevara were absolutely glued together, and hammering towards the line each was just able to hang on in that order. No moves were made, but it was a spectacular finish nonetheless.
That’s a second win for Garcia this season and it puts him into the Championship lead by two points ahead of Foggia, and it was victory in a different style to his perfect pickpocketing in Argentina. Masia takes back to back podiums as he comes home second two weeks on from his COTA win, with Sasaki back on the box once again as his consistency continues in 2022.
Öncü just misses out on the podium once more but showed good speed, with Guevara forced to settle for fifth and the final spot in that fight at the front.
The battle behind saw Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP) come out on top in P6, with he and Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) able to get a little breathing space and turn that into a duel.
Foggia pushed his way through to eighth to do some damage limitation, with Australian rookie Joel Kelso (CIP Green Power) taking P9. Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) was top debutant for much of the battle and crossed the line nearly alongside Foggia, but the Brazilian was then docked two positions for exceeding track limits and is classified P10.
Riccardo Rossi (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing) and British rookie Scott Ogden (VisionTrack Racing Team) were the last of that group in P11, P12 and P13, with Lorenzo Fellon (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team) completing the points scorers – Fellon despite a late Long Lap Penalty for track limits, and Nepa just pipping front row starter Mario Aji (Honda Team Asia).
That’s a wrap on the rollercoaster for another season – and it’s next stop Jerez with home hero Garcia back on top in the standings. It’s only two points in it though, so can Foggia hit back on enemy turf? We’ll find out next weekend…