MotoGP: Sunday race reports from Portimao
As weekends go, they don’t get much better than that for Fabio Quartararo. The Frenchman converted pole position into victory at the Grande Prémio 888 de Portugal as the MotoGP race saw some big names crash out, but the Frenchman remained cool and calm at the front.
That was despite intense pressure from Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). It wasn’t to be for the number 42 though as he crashed out, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) then carving his way through to second and just holding off third placed Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The returning Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) battled through the pain to finish P7 after a few feisty exchanges.
The initial getaway from polesitter Quartararo was about as good as it gets, but in the second phase of the start, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Rins got the better of the Yamaha man and it was the Suzuki who actually grabbed the holeshot. Zarco hit back to take over as the early race leader though, and Marc Marquez made a searing start to move up and battle Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) for P3. Mir made a typically great start and was up into the top five, and it was Mir vs Marquez again on the opening lap. Before long, the reigning World Champion shoved his GSX-RR up the inside of the Repsol Honda at Turn 11 for P3.
Zarco led the opening lap and at Turn 3, Marc Marquez and Mir came close again – too close. The eight-time World Champion tagged the back of Mir, who luckily stayed on, but it allowed Quartararo to squirm back through to fourth past Marquez. Miller and then Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also passed Marquez as the number 93 to P7, with Rins showing a wheel to Zarco at Turn 13 nearer the front.
Lap 3 saw Quartararo make a clean move up the inside of Mir at Turn 1 for P3, the Frenchman making swift progress after getting a bit beaten up at the start. A Turn 13 move on Zarco stuck at the third time of asking a lap later. By Lap 5, Rins was now the race leader, but Zarco blasted back through on the straight. Then, suddenly, the sound of a bike hitting the deck was heard and as the cameras panned out, we saw Miller down at Turn 3 at the beginning of Lap 6. The Australian’s Portuguese GP was over after just over four laps, a disaster for the factory Ducati man. On the same lap, Miguel Oliveira’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) hopes of another dream home round rostrum were also over as the Portuguese star was down at Turn 14. He remounted but it was game over for Oliveira.
Meanwhile, Quartararo had followed Rins through on Zarco and the Yamaha man now had his radar firmly set on P1. Just like he had on the other Suzuki of Mir, Quartararo dived up the inside down the hill into Turn 1 and El Diablo was now at the head of the race. This was now where Quartararo and Rins started to display some superiority and a handful of laps later, third place Mir was one and a half seconds down on the leading duo, with Lap 14 seeing Quartararo set a 1:39.680 – the fastest lap. However, Rins was matching the Yamaha every step of the way for now, and the duo exchanged fastest laps on numerous occasions. Some colossal drama was about to unfold, however.
First, we saw Rins crash at Turn 5 on Lap 19 of 25. The downhill, tricky left-hander caught out the Spaniard who was right behind Quartararo, and it was race over for the number 42. That gave Quartararo a 4.2 second lead over Zarco, with Bagnaia grabbing P3 off Mir at Turn 5. Then, a lap later at Turn 11, the former World Championship leader was down. Zarco’s front washed away the top of the hill and the Frenchman slid out of contention, just after Bagnaia had picked him off at Turn 5.
And so, barring a disaster, victory was Quartararo’s. The podium battle, however, was still well on. Bagnaia was holding P2 and looking good, with Mir having Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in his mirrors heading into the final exchanges. With two to go, the trio were locked together but Pecco wasn’t buckling, and fifth place Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was less than a second away from Morbidelli’s rear wheel to boot. Mir was pressuring Bagnaia but the Italian was holding firm, and on the last lap, the Suzuki rider looked tempted…
Five seconds down the road, Quartararo cruised over the line to pick up his second win of 2021. A commanding victory for factory Yamaha’s new recruit, and one that sees him take a 15-point lead into Jerez – a circuit he was quite successful at last season. That makes it three from three for Yamaha for the first time since 2010, too. Behind that, Bagnaia was just able to keep it pinned to the line to complete an awesome recovery from P11 to P2 after some qualifying heartbreak, and he’s up to P2 in the standings with his first podium of the year. Mir couldn’t get past the Ducati but he held off the Yamaha of Morbidelli by 0.179s to earn his first podium of 2021, an important result from the World Champion and another rostrum after starting from outside the top two rows. More of his podiums come from further down the grid than not, somehow.
It was a return to form for fourth place Morbidelli as the Italian got back in the podium hunt throughout to hopefully banish his Losail woes. Binder’s P5 proves once again the South African is a Sunday rider through and through, and that’s a morale-boosting result for KTM and Binder ahead of Jerez – where the then-rookie had some serious speed last year. Aleix Espargaro earns Aprilia an equal-best MotoGP™ result in P6, yet another great ride from the Spaniard, who was 4.3 seconds ahead of the next man on track…
That man is Marc Marquez. The eight-time World Champion completed his first race since the 2019 Valencia GP finale, and emotions were shown by the Spaniard when he arrived back in his box. And in his debrief.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) bagged his first top 10 of the year in P8, with reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) picking up his second top 10 MotoGP™ result in P9. It was another brilliant ride from ‘The Beast’, and what an absolutely superb effort from 10th place Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) too. The battered and bruised Japanese rider has been in considerable pain all weekend since his huge Friday Turn 1 crash, but a P10 sums up just how tough – physically and mentally – MotoGP™ riders are.
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) didn’t recover from a horror start, and in the end benefited from a few crashes to pick up P11.Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) slipped to P12 from a P8 start but it was nevertheless a very promising weekend for the Italian, and a job well done after some awesome speed in practice. Injured Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) completed the points, and Oliveira was the final finisher in P16 after his crash.
Fabio Quartararo: “Good to feel back! I feel full of confidence. Bringing that confidence from Qatar. Now we know what we need work to go fast. I only need to feel the front and I go fast and just focus on my riding. Woah, what a pace, I didn’t expect it, I was less than half a second from my qualifying lap on the pace. It was amazing, also the pressure of Rins in the back, I wanted to make a gap. He made a mistake and then… I was riding well; I was riding easy and still making a gap to Pecco.
“We did an amazing job, we were P1 all day yesterday, P1 today, thanks to the team. Important points, and now we go to one of my favourite tracks in Jerez. I can’t wait to be there, thanks to my family for watching. It will be a great celebration for my birthday in two days. ”
MotoGP™ podium (Full Results Here)
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 41:46.412
2 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – +4.809
3 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +4.948
Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) just loves the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. After dominating at the track last season to sign off from Moto3™ with a win, the Spaniard returned in Moto2™ with a podium already under his belt and it seemed somewhat like fate. Fighting his way through a few big rivals, the Spaniard crossed the line a second and a half clear for his first intermediate class win, underlining his impressive form so far and moving up to second in the Championship.
Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) took his first Moto2™ podium in second after an impressive ride, with Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) charging past Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) late on to complete the podium. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) crashed out at Turn 1, leaving his key rivals with an open goal…
Lowes was the first big headline, that sending shockwaves through the race. Late on the brakes into Turn 1 after a tough start, the Brit was careering straight towards Gardner’s rear wheel and was forced to pick it up and run wide, the rear end then kicking him off. Rider ok, but some big drama to start the Moto2™ race.
At the front, Gardner led on Lap 1 but Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) was the man on the move in the opening exchanges and blasted past on the home straight. Roberts had made a good start from P8 to battle Gardner for P2 as the latter got out of shape coming out of Turn 1. Bezzecchi was able to pull out a healthy one second lead at the front but Canet was making moves and soon, the lead was cut to nothing as Gardner and the five other chasers reeled in the Italian.
Yet more drama unfolded just behind as we saw a huge crash involving Yari Montella (Lightech Speed Up) and Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP40) at the final corner, both bikes catching fire in the gravel trap. Montella, who highsided, was taken to the medical centre for a check-up and later declared fit. And more: at Turn 5, the two Idemitsu Honda Team Asia riders were down as Ai Ogura made contact with American Racing’s Cameron Beaubier. Ogura got out of shape and couldn’t help but crash into Somkiat Chantra, an unfortunate racing incident between the two teammates.
Lap 11 saw Canet take the lead, but Roberts then pounced at Turn 1 as Canet and Bezzecchi went wide. Bezzecchi slipped to P4 as Gardner also passed the Italian, but one of the pre-race favourites then made a couple of mistakes in the soaring Portuguese heat. That saw the Aussie lose valuable ground as Canet and Roberts made a breakaway, but the Spaniard and American scrapped it out for a few laps and Canet also got a track limits warning. Enter Raul Fernandez. The rookie was lapping far superior to his rivals and he soon picked off both Roberts and Canet to take the lead with four to go, late race pace searing him through.
The rookie pulled 0.7s clear in three laps, setting another fastest lap of the race on Lap 21 of 23, a 1:42.86, and his teammate Gardner was finding some late pace too in P4, the Australian reeling in Roberts and Canet. Three personal best laps from Gardner was mega stuff but nothing was going to stop Raul Fernandez, on the final lap his lead was up to 1.2 seconds and it seemed the job was done as attentions turned to the three-way scrap for P2 and P3.
Roberts lunged up the inside of Canet at Turn 11, but Canet then dived back at Turn 13, but both ran slightly wide to give Gardner an invitation. Roberts switched to the inside for Turn 14 but the narrow line he took saw him open a small gap for the Aussie to squeeze into, an that he did – making some contact but getting through, Roberts staying on but watching th podium fade away.
Up the road though, Raul Fernandez had rounded the final corner to win his first Moto2™ race, with Canet cementing his first intermediate class podium with a hard-earned P2, escaping the discussion on whether rubbing is racing raging just behind him. Gardner’s third, however, sees him head to Jerez as Championship leader for the first time.
Roberts was unlucky to lose out on a podium in Portimão but it was nevertheless a great ride from the American. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) backs up his Doha P6 with P5 as the Spaniard continues to find form in 2021, and Bezzecchi was eventually forced to settle for P6 having led in the early laps. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was a second behind Bezzecchi in a solid P7, with Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) earning his first points of the season in P8. Beaubier is a top 10 Moto2™ finisher after a brilliant ride to P9 on his first visit to the Algarve International Circuit, and Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) completed the top 10.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team), Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team), Lorenzo Baldassarri (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Marcos Ramirez (American Racing) were the remaining point scorers. Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed at Turn 8 unhurt, with Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) taking out compatriot Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) at Turn 1.
Raul Fernandez: “Unbelievable. I want to say thanks to my team, they brought me the best bike of the weekend for the race. Yesterday I had bad luck in qualifying with the yellow flag, but this morning in warm up I said ‘eh, I have an incredible bike for the end of the race’. I had this problem in Qatar at the end of the race, I didn’t have too much tyre. It was incredible with my team and my family, it’s incredible. I don’t have words, I want to say thanks. We will see in the next race, this is one of my best tracks and we will see in Jerez.”
Moto2™ podium (Full Results Here)
1 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 39:47.377
2 Aron Canet – Solunion Aspar Team – Boscoscuro – +1.600
3 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – +1.968
Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has done it again! The rookie sensation took a hard-fought victory at the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal after a brilliant last lap move on Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), keeping it pinned to the line to make a little more history. After becoming the first rider to win from pitlane in Moto3™ last time out, Acosta is now the youngest rider with three Grand Prix podiums in a row and the first rider since MotoGP™ Legend Daijiro Kato to take podiums on his first three GP appearances.
Oh, and Acosta extended his Championship lead to a stunning 31 points after just three races. Behind the duel for the win won by the Spaniard, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) converted pole into a podium after showing great pace all weekend.
It was Migno who took the holeshot, the Italian off like a shot from pole and into the lead ahead of a storming start from Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing). Foggia slotted into third ahead of Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Valresa Aspar Team), with a lead freight train forming from the off. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) had his pitlane start first, before five seconds later Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) set off. Then, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
Back at the front, Artigas took the lead at the end of Lap 1, but the rookie’s impressive race would sadly provide the first drama as a touch from Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) sent him tumbling out of contention. Rodrigo was given a Long Lap penalty for the incident, and the freight train rolled on.
Foggia was the man doing a lot of the work in the lead, the Leopard rider looking confident out front and Acosta tagged onto him, up at the sharp end immediately alongside teammate Jaume Masia, Garcia, Migno, Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and a few more familiar frontrunning faces. By nine to go, there was more drama as Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) collected Izan Guevara (GASGAS Valresa Aspar Team) and the two crashed out. The leading train was 11 riders, with Rodrigo back on their tail after his Long Lap.
The next drama came from Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) as the rookie collected the veteran, leaving a nine-rider group fighting for the win – and the familiar Leopard and Red Bull KTM Ajo colours at the front. As the laps ticked on the fervour went up a few notches, and with four to go the Turn 1 shuffle was getting brutal as Acosta headed a little wide with nowhere else to go, Migno took back the lead and Foggia had to settle for second.
By the penultimate lap, Foggia led Acosta and that’s how the final lap began as just behind, Garcia somehow saved a highside but that was the Spaniard’s podium hopes over. Meanwhile, Masia was up to P3 but then there was yet more drama at Turn 5 as the number 5 slid down the road, his hopes of a race win over too. Now, it was a straight fight between Foggia and Acosta.
Acosta was a monster on the brakes at Turn 11 and clawed back enough ground and then, at Turn 13, the rookie sensation made his move: late on the brakes, up the inside, full lean angle, clean pass. Just two corners remained before a run to the line, but coming over the crest of the final corner, Acosta’s KTM was squirming. Somehow he didn’t crash, but it did help Foggia as the two pinned it and tucked in for the line.
It was only 0.051, but Acosta held it and won his second consecutive race as he extends his points lead to a stunning 31, making yet another statement with another win. Foggia is back on the podium for the second time on the Algarve, and it was Migno who emerged from the battle to complete the podium to take third, just 0.013 ahead of Sasaki as the Japanese rider was back in the fight at the front.
Rodrigo finished P5 despite his long lap, and he beat Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) and Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) by less than a tenth as the fastest seven riders finish 0.773s apart after some incredible racing again in Moto3™.
Garcia was in amongst it throughout but that late, out the seat moment on the last lap cost the Spaniard and he took eighth. Despite the Turn 5 tumble, Masia salvaged ninth to slot in behind the freight train out front.
Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PrüstelGP) picks up another top 10 in 2021 with P10, and he led Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride) and teammate Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert PrüstelGP) over the line. Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team) took home P13 from Portimao, with Alcoba and Öncü doing well to pick up the remaining points despite pitlane starts on a five second delay.
Pedro Acosta: “It was an amazing race, no? After this difficult weekend with the conditions and everything. I think that my mechanics did an amazing job to do this. Before the race Aki asked me, ‘what is the race strategy?’ and I said ‘have fun for 25 minutes and then take the trophy!’ It’s amazing to be here again!”
Moto3™ podium (Full Results Here)
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 38:01.773
2 Dennis Foggia – Leopard Racing – Honda – +0.051
3 Andrea Migno – Rivacold Snipers Team – Honda – +0.584