#PortugueseGP Sunday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) made it double delight in Portugal, backing up a first Tissot Sprint win with the Grand Prix trophy to match. It was far from easy, however, with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) pushing the Italian all the way to the flag on Sunday, just 0.687 off that elusive first win with Aprilia. Completing the podium came Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), the sophomore able to pull clear of a gloves-off fight for fourth.
There was drama in that fight at the front early on, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) heading in hot and making contact with home hero Miguel Oliveira(CryptoData RNF MotoGP™ Team). Marquez has a suspected fracture in his 1st metacarpal on his right hand but said he expects to ride in Argentina, whereas Oliveira was bruised but rider ok.
Off the line, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) defended the holeshot but it was close as Oliveira got an absolutely barnstorming start. The shuffling in the pack then began, and the first frisson of drama hit for Marc Marquez as he went past Martin, the number 89 came back and the number 93 was briefly out the seat. Still, Marquez held onto a place near the front of the fight.
At the end of Lap 1, it was Oliveira leading over the line in front of his home fans, ahead of Martin and Bagnaia, but the number 1 struck at Turn 1 to head through on Martin. Not long after, the Ducati Lenovo machine attacked for the lead as well, and not long after that came the drama.
Marc Marquez clipped Martin before making contact with Oliveira just ahead of both, with the number 93 and the number 88 both going down as they collided and slid out of the race. Martin was also forced into the run off, losing some time, and that changed the playing field: it was now going to become a race-long duel for the win, with Bagnaia leading Viñales by almost nothing.
Lap by lap, the two remained evenly matched. When Bagnaia pulled away, Viñales pulled it back. Right down to the final lap, as it went from over a second to seven tenths to half a second… but the Aprilia just couldn’t quite strike. Bagnaia kept his cool to finish the season opener in perfect style, taking his first Grand Prix win of the year. Viñales took second and again just tenths from that history-making win on a third different machine, and he’ll likely be targeting that in Argentina.
Meanwhile, Bezzecchi had been glued to Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), but he was able to pull clear of that scuffle to take a calm, measured and impressed third. The fight for fourth then seriously went off.
After huge gains off the start, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had caught his new teammate and Alex Marquez, and not long after that, Johann Zarco(Prima Pramac Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) arrived on the scene too. Not to be left out, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) then also joined the party, with the last few laps a real scuffle to remember.
After a serious final push from Zarco, it was the Frenchman who took P4 – just hundredths ahead of Alex Marquez. Binder was forced to settle for sixth with Miller for close company, with Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro just behind. Fourth to ninth was covered by just over a second. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) completed the top ten, ahead of Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) after the number 36 also had a Long Lap to contend with.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) gained some points as the final finishers.
After the flag, there was more drama too – or more, another arc to Marc Marquez’ eye-catching weekend in Portugal, full of good speed but ending with that mistake. He’ll have a double Long Lap to serve in Argentina, and have a check up on his hand beforehand. Will he be able to repeat more of his Saturday heroics and race?
Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) started the 2023 season as he likely means to go on, holding off some serious pressure from Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) to come out on top and take the first spoils of the season. Canet was right with the number 37 until the last few laps, however, and takes 20 valuable points, with Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) overcoming a tougher qualifying and start to complete the podium.
Canet made a lighting start taking the holeshot into Turn 1, with Filip Salač(QJMOTOR Gresini Moto2) and Acosta following the Spaniard closely in the opening stages of the race. One lap later and Acosta was on the move, slotting his way up the inside of Salač to take second. Soon after, he made an incredible dive for the race lead, and it didn’t take long until he began stretching out the gap in an attempt to break away. Canet stayed with him though, applying the pressure lap after lap. Only in the last few was Acosta able to pull clear, the number 37 proving the pre-season hype with an inch-perfect performance to take his first win of the year.
Behind Canet, the battle for the final spot on the rostrum was just as intense as Salač began to drop down the order, under attack from Manuel Gonzalez (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46) before Arbolino arrived and conquered. The Italian also cut into the gap to the leaders but couldn’t get much closer than seven tenths, crossing the line third but that a solid start to the season after a tougher weekend beforehand.
By the flag, Salač fought his way back through to catch and overtake the late-fading Gonzalez, taking fourth and pushing the Spaniard back to fifth. Jake Dixon(GASGAS Aspar Team) fought hard through the pack to take sixth, ahead of Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), Albert Arenas (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Jeremy Alcoba (QJMOTOR Gresini Moto2).
Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) is now a Grand Prix winner! The season opener was a classic last lap showdown and the Spaniard put in an impressive performance to start his sophomore season on the top step, holding off David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) and Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) under some serious pressure. Moreira’s podium is his first and the first for a Brazilian rider in the lightweight class, and Holgado’s win is the first in Moto3™ for Tech3 as the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal hosted some history.
There was early drama for Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as he couldn’t get away for the Warm Up lap, the Turk forced into a pitlane start. Once the lights went out though, Joel Kelso (CFMoto PrüstelGP) took the holeshot from the front row and immediately started to put the hammer down, but it didn’t take long for the chasing pack to close back in. Holgado and Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) both made for close company at the head of the freight train, and Moreira was soon on the scene too, despite that tough qualifying for the Brazilian.
The classic group then formed, and by the last few laps the top 10 were glued together in a fight for the podium. They had some company soon enough though, with Öncü on an absolute charge to come back from his pitlane start. By the last few laps the Turk was into that group.
At the front of it though, it became a battle of five for the podium: Holgado, Moreira, Muñoz, Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) and a stunning performance from rookie Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Holgado was inch perfect, however, and was able to withstand the pressure for that first win, with Muñoz getting past Moreira for second. The Brazilian’s podium is still his first, and the first for Brazil in the class!
Rueda was just forced to settle for a fourth place as he begins his full-time Grand Prix career, but he managed to stay a few hundredths ahead of Masia. Fellow veteran Sasaki will want more than sixth next time out, with Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team), Xavier Artigas (CFMoto PrüstelGP), Kelso and Öncü completing the top ten.