#PortugueseGP Portimao, raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) took a stunning pole position on Saturday at the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal, putting him in the perfect position to face down his home race with a clear view to Turn 1. And that clear view was never interrupted again once the lights went out as the Portuguese rider rode the race of his life to disappear at the front and decimate the field. Premier class win number two, Tech 3’s second win, another impressive victory for KTM in 2020… and in the first Portuguese Grand Prix since 2012, and the first ever held at Portimão. Sounds like a good Sunday’s work on home turf.
To complete the podium it was another Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) v Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) duel, with the Aussie coming out on top this time around and with that securing Ducati the contructors’ crown. Morbidelli’s third place gives him second overall in the Championship and the title of top Independent Team rider in 2020.
Oliveira got the dream start and into Turn 1, it was Portugal’s superstar who led the way. Morbidelli and Miller also got very good getaways from the front row and they both held station, before Miller then tried to get past the Yamaha at Turn 5. The Australian was slightly wide, however, and Morbidelli didn’t hesitate to take it straight back.
At the end of the opening lap, Oliveira already had a lead of over half a second, and he was pulling clear. Meanwhile World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had got himself on the fringes of the top 10 from P20 on the grid, but then was almost down on Lap 2 at Turn 3. The Majorcan hit the back of Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) at the tight right-hander and was lucky to stay on, Mir then dropping back down to 20th with all the work to do again.
Meanwhile, Oliveira was in the zone. On Lap 3 his lead was up to 1.5 seconds and the Portuguese rider was into the 1:39s, Morbidelli and Miller with no answer. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was sitting P4 ahead of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team), the KTM rider recovering from a Turn 1 mistake to eventually get the better of Crutchlow on Lap 7.
Oliveira’s lead was now over three seconds. Brilliant, scintillating pace from the Styrian GP winner, and the gap from third place Miller and fourth place Pol Espargaro was 2.7 seconds, with the latter having Crutchlow, Bradl and Zarco right behind him. In the battle for the Constructor crown, it was going the way of Ducati too as Rins was the best-placed Suzuki in P8 – with both Miller and Zarco ahead. On Lap 9, Oliveira struck another fastest lap of the race – a 1:39.855 – and his lead was now creeping up to the four-second mark. But would it last?
Behind him, Pol Espargaro’s podium hopes in his final KTM appearance were slipping away, with Miller gaining in small but important increments to get 3.4 seconds up the road as the Ducati man sat half a second behind Valencia GP nemesis Morbidelli…
The battle for the lower ends of the top 10 was a feisty one too, as Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) were embroiled in an almighty tangle, the Japanese rider eventually getting the better of the Frenchman for P9. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) then also passed Quartararo, the early season favourite slipping backwards.
Pol Espargaro was then wide at Turn 8 after almost losing the front on Lap 12, and Crutchlow was back up to P4 but briefly, as it turned out. The KTM struck back. Behind the duo were a whole host of riders: Bradl, Zarco, Rins, Nakagami and Dovizioso, with the three 2020 Yamahas now occupying P13, P14 and P15 – Quartararo leading Maverick Viñales and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP teammate Valentino Rossi.
With 12 to go, Oliveira’s lead remained just under the four-second mark. The Portuguese rider was on rails around the rollercoaster and with 11 to go, his advantage did then stretch up to and over four seconds.
Meanwhile, Suzuki’s fading hopes of the Triple Crown took another blow as both Dovizioso and Nakagami slid past Rins, the latter dropping to P10 with Mir still not in the points – P16 for the World Champion at that point. And then, with 10 laps to go, the 2020 World Champion’s race was over. A problem with his GSX-RR saw Mir pull into pitlane and it wasn’t the weekend Mir nor Suzuki would have been planning after an epic season. Rins’ race was also unravelling. The number 42 was fighting to keep all three 2020 YZR-M1s behind him for P12. Rins vs Viñales vs Quartararo vs Rossi for the final points? 2020 has been a crazy year!
Back nearer the front, Miller was still shadowing Morbidelli at just under half a second and there were no such troubles in Ducati’s quest to become Constructor Champions as Miller set his first 1:39 of the race to haunt Morbidelli. With that, the battle for second was now getting properly tasty with eight to go. It was a copy/paste from Valencia between Morbidelli and Miller, but this time it was for P2 as Oliveira had well and truly checked out.
Behind the duo, was nearly seven seconds of clear air ahead of Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard now had breathing space back to a sensational battle for P5 though, with Zarco was leading it from Crutchlow and Dovizioso after his Turn 1 pass on Bradl and Nakagami. Rins was now P14, Triple Crown hopes for Suzuki well and truly out the window and barring a mistake from Morbidelli and an upturn in speed for Rins, P2 in the title was lost as well.
Plunging down the hill with five laps to go, the fight for fifth saw Crutchlow run very wide. The British rider was almost in Lisbon and dropped to P9, just ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). It was more Moto3™ than MotoGP™…
7.6 seconds up the road though, Miller was back on the tailpipes of Morbidelli. Three laps remained; Miller following Morbidelli for two races and probably able to write a book on the Italian’s riding style by that point. But still, the number 43 couldn’t get close enough to pounce.
So, onto the last lap of the season we went. Out front, Oliveira had an easy – relatively speaking – run to victory, or at least made it look that way after undoubtedly one of the rides of the season. Behind him, Miller was close, very close, to Morbidelli and, finally, the Austrlian struck.
The move came at Turn 13, Miller through and holding it into Turn 14, turning the tables this time around to get some sweet revenge on the Italian. The podium was decided: Oliveira made more history, Miller secured the Constructors’ crown for Ducati (for the first time since 2007 no less), and Morbidelli took second in the Championship and top Independent Team rider after five podiums… three of them wins.
P4 for Pol Espargaro isn’t the podium or victory that he would have wanted in his KTM swan song, but another great ride sees the number 44 finish 5th in the World Championship. An amazing achievement from Pol, KTM and the whole team in 2020 as the Spaniard now says his goodbyes and heads for Honda. Nakagami bounced back from two crashes this weekend to finish the season on a high with his fourth top five, a strong campaign for the Japanese rider.
Dovizioso had a sterling final half of the race to earn P6 in his final race for Ducati. The Italian ends 2020 P4 in the standings before his 2021 sabbatical, it’s not the podium he’ll have been hoping for but a positive way to end his season. Bradl’s weekend in Portimao was insanely good, a crash in Warm Up was the only mistake he made across the three days. P7 for the HRC test rider beats his Le Mans P8 from this year as the Repsol Honda call-up flew the flag high in the finale.
Aleix Espargaro was another who had awesome late-race pace, the Aprilia man secures his third top 10 of the year with a great effort on the Algarve. Alex Marquez’ impressive rookie year ends with a P9 in Portimao, not quite enough to beat Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) to the Rookie of the Year crown but nevertheless, the number 73 was an impressive contender in 2020. Binder crashed out of the finale, rider ok. Zarco crossed the line in P10 ahead of his switch from Esponsorama Ducati to Pramac Ducati, the Frenchman getting the better of factory Yamaha duo Viñales and Rossi.
Unfortunately for the Iwata factory, 2020 wasn’t the year they’d have hoped for after their Jerez success. Viñales finishes sixth in the standings, with Rossi’s final factory Yamaha race ending with a P12 in Portimao. The pair edged out Crutchlow as the British rider bows out of full-time racing with a 13th place, a fantastic career coming to an end for the number 35 as he gets ready for a Yamaha test rider role in 2021.
Quartararo was icing his arm at the end of another difficult race, the Frenchman finishing P14 in Portimao and that’s a result that sees El Diablo settle for P8 in the overall standings. Rins slipped right back in the latter stages and takes the final point of 2020, a disappointing end to a great season for the Spaniard who takes the 2020 bronze medal.
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) waves goodbye to Ducati with a P16, Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) were the two other finishers in Portimao as Rabat also – potentially – wraps up his MotoGP™ career. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) crashed out, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) was forced to retire on Lap 1. Contact with Mir at Turn 3 saw the Italian in considerable pain back in the garage.
And so, the curtains are drawn on an incredible 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship. Thank you to the fans watching from home, the partners and broadcasters and promoters and everyone worked to make it possible. We did it, #RacingTogether. Congratulations to Joan Mir on becoming 2020 World Champion, it’s time now to get some well-earned rest and reflect on a challenging year off track… made better by the wonderful spectacle on it.
Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) is now a Grand Prix winner. The Australian rode the season finale to perfection in the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal, coming out on top as he beat Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) with a well-pitched move late on. Marini took second and with it second in the World Championship, with Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) riding through the pain barrier to an incredible third place. It wasn’t enough, however, as Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) put in a calm and clear-headed ride to fifth and with that, crowns himself the 2020 Moto2™ World Champion.
As the lights went out and the title showdown got underway, Marini, from second on the grid, took the holeshot with Gardner taking second from pole. Bastianini, meanwhile, came through to third from the second row, whilst there was a nightmare start off the front row for Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up). Things got even worse for the man that lost victory on the final lap just one week ago when he tucked the front at Turn 1, taking Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) with him.
Marini was then shuffled back to third on the opening lap when he hit a false neutral out of Turn 5, and the first lap was completed with The Beast in control in terms of the title as he sat second with Marini in third, Lowes in fifth and Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) down in seventh. Gardner was starting to check-out at the front of the race, early doors taking a second out of the chasing pack with only three laps completed. The adrenaline was then clearly starting to kick in for Lowes as the battered and bruised Brit muscled his way ahead of Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to move up to fourth.
Marini then made his move on Bastianini at Turn 1, and Lowes would follow him through too, squeezing past the Championship leader to push the Italian back to fourth in the space of half a lap. Marini and Lowes knew they had to chase down Gardner at the front of the race to stand any chance of being crowned World Champion and that’s exactly what they set about trying to do. In the space of a lap, the advantage had been cut from a second down to just six tenths. Meanwhile, Lowes was getting a helping hand from EG 0,0 Marc VDS teammate Augusto Fernandez as the Spaniard had a big look up the inside of Bastianini, then getting the job done to push him back to fifth.
Bastianini battled back but it didn’t last long, with Fernandez finding a way back through. The pair’s squabbling over fourth saw them lose touch with Marini and Lowes ahead of them too, who themselves had latched onto the rear tyre of Gardner. The pair made quick work of the Australian too, both slicing their way through in the space of a sector and suddenly, with eight laps completed, the top three in the World Championship were split by just five points.
Fernandez was now causing problems for Gardner, who was starting to slip backwards, and the Spaniard was fully committed as he dived through on the Australian to take third place. Meanwhile, another lap ticked by and another place was lost by Bastianini as Bezzecchi started to do some favours for his own teammate, Marini, as he moved through and Bastianini was demoted to sixth.
A mistake from the ‘Beast’ then also allowed Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jorge Martin to squeeze through as well. That put the Italtrans man down in seventh and the top three in the Championship were now even tighter, just three points split them in an unbelievably tense finale. Bit by bit though, the ‘Beast’ was clawing his way back and first to go was Martin. Lowes was also starting to fade ever so slightly, his hand injury starting to take its toll. From being right on the rear wheel of Marini, the Brit ran wide and allowed Gardner to pick his pocket and take second.
With that, Gardner seemed to suddenly be back in his groove and chasing down Marini at the front of the race. The Australian, gunning for a career-first intermediate class victory, was right on the tail of the Championship contender with only seven laps remaining, and with some incredible pace. Lowes wasn’t out of it though, only half a second adrift of the leading duo and hanging in there. Soon though, both Marini and Lowes’ hopes took a severe dent as Bastianini got back past Fernandez for fifth.
A mistake from Lowes then saw him lose some touch with Gardner and Marini, but the towel was far from thrown in in. Somehow, the Brit gritted his teeth to set the fastest lap of the race with four to go. By two laps to go though, Lowes was a second adrift and it started to come down to praying the two would duel.
Right on cue, Gardner pounced and Marini wasn’t happy to sit behind him, trying to fight back to sit side-by-side with the Australian, who kept it pinned to hold on. It worked, and Gardner almost immediately opened out half a second. As he entered the final lap, he had pretty much ended both Marini and Lowes’ dreams of becoming Moto2™ World Champion as Bastianini held firm in fifth. Keeping it calm, the Australian came out of the final corner and took the chequered flag to clinch his first Grand Prix victory, emulating father and MotoGP™ Legend Wayne Gardner.
Marini did all he could, eventually having to settle for second and second in the World Championship. Lowes made it a hero’s ride through the pain barrier for third in the title fight and able to take a podium finish to end a remarkable 2020. Bezzecchi crossed the line in fourth, not quite enough for the Italian to challenge for the podium, and then came Bastianini.
With his solid fifth place, the ‘Beast’ was crowned the 2020 Moto2™ World Champion, wrapping up a sensational season before he moves to the premier class next year. Ahead of him, Bezzecchi was given a huge hug by his SKY Racing Team VR46 squad for taking fourth, the Italian now focussing on being crowned Moto2™ Champion this time next year… where Lowes and Gardner will be two of the men waiting to race him for it.
Martin took sixth after holding off a hard-charging Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing), the Spaniard saying farewell to the class and the American his team. Fernandez eventually slipped back to eighth after being in podium contention during the early running of the race. The final places inside the top ten were taken by Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
Aron Canet (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) wrapped up Rookie of the Year as Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40) crashed out, Canet increasing his advantage by a point as he came home 15th.
Another incredible season of Moto2™ action comes to a close then, with the top three in the World Championship covered by only nine points as the curtain falls. The top two move on to MotoGP™ in 2021 but there’s a whole host of talented youngsters ready to step up and stake their own claim on the crown next year – and the likes of Lowes and Gardner waiting for even more.
Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) signed off from Moto3™ with pure dominance in the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal, the Spaniard taking the holeshot from his sixth pole of the season and uncatchable thereafter. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) just pipped 2020 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) to second, but the Spaniard’s third place is nevertheless his first Grand Prix podium to round out his rookie season.
Behind that fight, an almighty Moto3™ war raged with the key title contenders all in the battle, but in the end it was Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) who came out on top, the Spaniard impeccably picking his way through the lightweight class trenches to emerge as the 2020 Moto3™ World Champion.
At lights out, Fernandez got the holeshot from pole and immediately got the hammer down, with immediate movement for the title contenders too as Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) mugged Arenas to move into third, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) having taken over in second. Next time over the line both Ogura and Arenas moved forward too, although Fernandez was already beginning to disappear in the lead.
The shuffle then began behind the number 25, tension palpable as Arenas, Ogura and those on the chase diced it out. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team), meanwhile, was on the move. After a tough qualifying leaving him in 27th on the grid, the Italian had his head down and clawed back the gap from the second group to his, arriving on the scene with still more than a few laps left – now well in the fight with Arenas and Ogura, his two Championship rivals.
After some more shuffling and ousting in the front battle, Arenas was back in tenth. By three laps to go, Arenas was Champion by eight points, with Ogura then dropping to the back of the group in P12. Arbolino, having made it up the road, was then passed by Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) and dropped to P7, as Arenas got back up to P8 with two and a half laps to go. But the Championship leader was then out of the seat and picked off by John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), although he hit back.
Ogura, now desperate, was deep into Turn 1 after trying to pass five riders in one. He was wide on the exit and was P10 as Arenas was now back right behind Arbolino. With one lap to go, Arbolino, Arenas and Ogura were P6, P7 and P9. So on the last lap, all Arenas had to do was defend and stay on.
Contact at Turn 3 between Ogura and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) nearly cost the pair of them and while the latter looking over his shoulder, Arenas was trying to go around the outside. On the exit of Turn 4 though, Arenas was then out of the seat and onto the green. A huge moment on the final lap of the race and suddenly, the points leader was P12 – but that was ok. Arbolino was up to P5 and Ogura had regrouped to P8, but it would be enough. Nevertheless, Arenas was taking risks. And at Turn 12, the KTM rider nearly got his front chopped by Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) after a huge lunge, an almost catastrophic end to the Spaniard’s season on the last lap!
But, despite plenty of scares, with Arbolino 5th and Ogura 8th, Arenas crossed the line in P12 to claim the 2020 Moto3™ World Championship. Super Arenas was on top of the world after a stunning season and it’s a thoroughly deserved crown, but hats off to Arbolino’s incredible effort from P27 on the grid. P5 wasn’t enough for the number one spot but with the equally awesome Ogura finishing P8, Arbolino takes second in the Championship based on number on wins. Four points was the difference between three riders in the end.
At the front though, Fernandez was the ride of the day. Flying from lights out, the Spaniard signs off from Moto3™ with a dominant win in what was fast becoming ‘Fernandez style’. Foggia’s race was also phenomenal, the Italian bouncing back from two Long Laps to second, just enough to fend off Jeremy Alcoba. The Rookie of the Year took his first Grand Prix podium in style, fighting it out to the line.
Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) finished half a second from the podium in P4, another great ride from the double Valencia rostrum finisher, with Arbolino completing the top five. Binder ended his KTM Moto3™ career with a great P6 as Vietti pips Ogura to P7 in their last Moto3™ race. McPhee picked up P9 to beat Öncü, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was P11 ahead of World Champion Arenas.
Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) took points but had a tougher race from the front row, ahead of Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) and Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as they were the final scorers of 2020. Suzuki and Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) were two higher profile fallers.
And so, another crazy Moto3™ campaign comes to an end in more chaos and creation, with Arenas emerging as the 2020 Champion. Congratulations to the Spaniard and his team on a wonderful 2020 season, and congratulations to Arbolino and Ogura for taking the fight down to the last lap. Now, the riders will take a hard-earned winter break and come back aiming to be even stronger in 2021.