#JuniorGP – Round 1, Estoril: Weekend roundup
The 2023 Finetwork FIM JuniorGP™ Championship kicked off in style over the weekend at the historic Estoril Circuit. With no less than six races on Sunday, we saw four riders stand on the top step of the podium as Nico Carraro (Aspar Junior Team) claimed JuniorGP™ honours, while Daniel Muñoz (SP57 Racing Team) took the win in the new era for the Stock European Championship. There was Portuguese perfection for two riders, as Senna Agius (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) and Brian Uriarte (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) had double delight in Moto2™ European Championship and the European Talent Cup, winning both Race 1 & 2.
There’s just something about Estoril and photo finishes, and Sunday’s JuniorGP™ race was no exception. In an enthralling race that was restarted due to a red flag, the impressive Carraro beat Angel Piqueras (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) to the chequered flag first by just 0.002s, having got into the slipstream of the Spaniard out of the final corner. Alvaro Carpe (STV Laglisse Racing) crossed the line third, but was disqualified due to not meeting the correct weight regulations for the class. As a result, Jakob Rosenthaler (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Racing Team Intact GP Junior Team) is promoted onto the podium.
In the vit was a different story as the hot favourite for title honours in 2023 lived up the billing. All eyes were on Senna Agius as he launched from pole position and in Race 1, he bolted. Having got the perfect start from the line, the 17-year-old Australian had to do it all again due to a red flag after a Martin Vugrinec (Fifty Motorsport) crash – rider ok. Not to be perturbed, Agius pulled the pin to come home seven seconds ahead of Carlos Tatay (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) and compatriot Harrison Voight (Yamaha Philippines Stylobike Racing Team) – both of whom are class rookies.
Despite celebrating a podium together in Race 1, sterner words were exchanged later in the afternoon during Race 2 as Voight and Tatay crashed out of the podium places, with the Australian pointing the finger of blame firmly at the #99. That incident didn’t bother Agius, as he romped home towards a second win of the day to claim the maximum 50 points on offer in Estoril. His winning margin wasn’t quite as emphatic as before, but he still had more than four seconds to spare over Xavi Cardelus (Promoracing) as the Andorran opened his account for the season, as did Niccolo Antonelli (MMR), with the Italian coming home third.
The European Talent Cup were the first class out on track on the west of the Iberian Peninsula, and they warmed up the day’s action with a showstopper. Brian Uriarte, Rico Salmela (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Hakim Danish (Monlau Motul) formed a breakaway trio out front and entered wheel-to-wheel combat over 15 laps. Victory wasn’t decided until the three riders took the chequered flag within 0.054s of one another, with Uriarte first ahead of Salmela and Danish completing the podium.
Much like Moto2™, the ETC saw a double winner, with Uriarte going back-to-back, with an even closer finish in Race 2. The young Spaniard pinched the win off of 2021 ETC Champion Maximo Quiles on the line with only 0.006s between them. Quiles, who finished fourth in Race 1 after starting at the back of the grid and going through the LLP loop, will be gutted to have missed out but still goes home with a P2 result, while David Gonzalez (Cuna de Campeones) capped an impressive run with a maiden podium in the class.
Ending the day’s action was the solo Stock race, with the class now a different race to the Moto2™ category. Dani Muñoz carved out his own little piece of history as the maiden race winner, with the opportunity handed to him on a plate as poleman Eric Fernandez (FAU55 TEY Racing) crashed just three laps in. That gave Muñoz a country acre of space in P1 while Marco Garcia (EasyRace Team) and Alex Millan (Fifty Motorsport) battled for second place. In the end, it was Garcia who put in a classy ride to take the second step on the box, with Millan beginning his campaign with a third placed finish.
That’s a wrap then from Round 1 in Estoril, and it was certainly a memorable way to get the 2023 Championship up and running. The next installment of action isn’t far away, with Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia up next on May 21st.