First win of the year for El Diablo!

Qualifying:

Unpleasant wet conditions for Saturday qualifying in Portugal saw Johann Zarco (Ducati) take pole position from Joan Mir (Suzuki) in 2nd and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in 3rd. However, a pleasant surprise saw Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) finish on the second row and teammate Luca Marini in the middle of the third row.

Zarco qualifying in the rain. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The wet weather wasn’t as welcoming for others though – Enea Bastianini and Francesco Bagnaia crashed out, resulting in both riders receiving injuries.

The Home-Hero Miguel Oliveira (KTM) could only manage 11th on the grid. What could he do in the race though?

The wet conditions always manage to shake things up. Would the weather continue into Sunday?

Race:

Sunday: raceday and the black clouds still loomed large above the beautiful Portugal track but, with only 20 minutes of practice in the drier conditions, how would the racers fair?

Mir got a fantastic start from 2nd taking the lead straight away from Quartararo and Jack Miller (Ducati). But an even better start was from the other Suzuki in 23rd place – Rins propelled himself into 11th and soon took 10th place before the first lap was even complete. Up 13 places from lights out!

Mir got away. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 2 saw Zarco pass Miller for 3rd place and the fastest lap quickly went to the best Yamaha rider – Quartararo, who was in 2nd place, but was hunting down first-place man Mir.

Close racing. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The two World Champions were out in the lead and by lap 4, Fabio had passed Joan, whilst taking fastest lap again. He continued to keep pushing and put in fastest lap after fastest lap, gaining a lead over Mir and Zarco.

Lap 5 – Rins continued to improve on positions and was soon up to 8th place.

Sector 4, lap 6 saw Jorge Martin lose the front of his Ducati, ending his race early.

The two Repsol Honda riders battled for 9th and 10th with 19 laps to go, resulting in Marquez winning the position from P. Espargaro. Meanwhile the brothers of both riders fought further up for 5th place. It was A. Espargaro that won this one over A. Marquez (Honda). However, he soon had to defend his new place from Rins, who had managed to also pass A. Marquez.

Lap 10 – the current championship leader, Bastianini broke up the two Repsol Hondas, taking 10th from P. Espargaro, but going into sector 2 he crashed out of the race.

Crashing out. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Black clouds continued to loom large above but with only 11 laps until the end, they didn’t look like they would disrupt the proceedings.

Back at the front of the ‘rollercoaster’ track, Quartararo continued his pace and took another fastest lap, putting further distance between himself and Mir, who was under pressure by Zarco.

With 14 laps left, Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) crashed out but managed to rejoin, after clipping the back of Brad Binder’s KTM, who later crashed out himself on lap 18.

Fabio was controlling the race from the front with a 3.269 second gap ahead of Mir. But Zarco had other plans and soon passed Mir for 2nd place. The Ducati-man couldn’t make the pass stick though and the Suzuki was straight back in front.

The next lap (lap 9), Zarco tried again. He had learnt from his mistake on the previous lap and managed to remain in front, claiming 2nd place. This resulted in Mir then being under pressure by another Ducati, in the form of Miller who was close behind.

But more surprises were due: disaster struck as seconds later Miller tried to pass Mir for the last podium position, into turn 1, only to take both himself and the Suzuki out of the race, hurling them into the gravel.

The crash from 3rd and 4th meant that Quartararo then lead Zarco, A. Espargaro and Rins, who remember had unbelievably come from 23rd place!

With 6 laps to go, Bagnaia was also up to 9th place, fighting his shoulder injury against the relentless undulating track.

Two laps until the chequered flag and the Marquez brothers were fighting eachother for 6th. Marc managed to get the place from Alex but Alex took it back on the straight, leading into the last lap.

Last lap – Quartararo took his first victory this year and his first victory since August last year (at Silverstone) 5.776 seconds ahead of Zarco and A. Espargaro. Marc managed to take 6th back from Alex over the line as Bagnaia also stole 8th spot from P. Espargaro.

Home-Hero, Oliveira finished a respectable 5th.

Happy faces. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top ten race finishers:

1st

F. Quartararo

2nd

J. Zarco

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

A. Rins

5th

M. Oliveira

6th

M. Marquez

7th

A. Marquez

8th

F. Bagnaia

9th

P. Espargaro

10th

M. Vinales

Quartararo is now the fourth different winner of the season, with 5 races already complete, would we see a 5th? Could it be the seemingly illusive first win for the other French rider – Johann Zarco?

Top four Championship:

1st

F. Quartararo

69 Points

2nd

A. Rins

69 Points

3rd

A. Espargaro

66 Points

4th

E. Bastianini

61 Points

Two men are now equal on points for the championship lead and the others are very close behind. It is still anyone’s to take.

With only 1 week to wait, who will be victorious in round 6 of the 2022 season?

 

 

 

Featured image: That winning feeling. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Pecco Conquers at Portugal

Qualifying:

Returning to Portugal for the second time this year it was Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati) turn to take pole and with it a new lap record – 1:38.725 also claiming his fifth pole in a row. Teammate Jack Miller took 2nd on the grid from last years champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) in 3rd – taking his first front-row start in 2021.

This year’s newly crowned champion however was down in 7th on the grid.

Race:

Clear weather conditions meant that the track was perfect for the race ahead.

Missing from this weekends race though was last weeks winner Marc Marquez (Honda), who unfortunately suffered from concussion during a training session mid week. Brad Binder rode in his place.

Starting from pole position, Bagnaia got a slightly poor start but it didn’t stop him from going into first place from turn one. Leading from Mir and Miller. Joan took an early 2nd place from Jack, knowing full-well he needed to get a good start to his race.

Lap one, sector 2 saw an early finish for Danilo Petrucci (KTM) as he crashed out, ending his penultimate race before retiring from Moto GP.

The Portimao track is an undulating track with plenty of ups, downs and tight corners, meaning that mistakes are easy to do. There were a few riders that went wide by the end of lap 2, but one rider that seemed to be reveling on the circuit was home-boy Miguel Oliveira (KTM), who had a great start and was up into 10th, taking 7 places with 23 laps till the end.

Down-hill on the track. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

All eyes were on Bagnaia though, who was out in front. He had gained fastest lap and had already started to gap from Mir. Bad luck surely couldn’t strike twice for the Italian? Having crashed from the lead last time out in Italy.

Newly crowned Moto GP champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) soon took fastest lap in 6th place. While in front of him Alex Marquez (Honda) and Jorge Martin (Ducati) scrapped for their positions.

Pecco responded to Fabio, gaining fastest lap and soon took two fastest laps in a row. The Italian was not going to give up this win. Meanwhile, A. Marquez also didn’t give up on his surprising 4th place fight with Martin and soon held firm with it, with Miller next in his sights. Marquez had chosen to have a medium front Michelin tyre and a hard rear, while all 3 riders in-front of him had opted for both medium. Would his tyre choice be a deciding factor later on in the race?

Lap 7, saw Iker Lecuona (KTM) fall foul to the track as he went wide, leaving his comfortable 8th place and rejoining the race down in 12th. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) was not so fortunate and also made a mistake, which caused him to crash out of the race on turn 1.

Meanwhile, at the front Bagnaia was metronomic and had managed to gap a slightly larger lead from Mir with a 0.663 second lead and Mir having a 0.944 second lead over Miller – who still had Marquez close behind.

In a race of his own. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 12 saw Marquez pass Miller for 3rd. Was Marquez finally getting to grips with his Honda? He was certainly having an impressive race. Whilst Quartararo and Martin battled for 5th position, Quartararo hit a bump on turn 13 and almost crashed, leaving him to wait a little longer before he could make another move.

Still in the lead and looking strong, Bagnaia was 1.501 seconds ahead of the Suzuki in 2nd and only half-way through the race could he keep this pace up?  Not only was Bagnaia’s Ducati looking in good form, so were the other 3 Ducati’s. Miller remained in 4th from Johann Zarco (5th) and Jorge Martin (6th). Keeping Fabio behind in 7th.

Bagnaia could indeed keep his pace up and was in complete control and was remaining consistent. With 11 laps until the end he had broke away from Mir and had a gap of 2.410 seconds. Mir was ahead of Marquez by 1.195 seconds. The front leaders were in their own race away from the rest of the pack.

But, Quartararo needed to make up spaces and soon found a way past the Ducati blockade, passing Zarco on lap 19. The two Frenchmen had a mini battle with Zarco being the victor and with that he also passed his teammate to take 5th place with 6 laps to go. Fabio followed suit and also passed Martin but on lap 21 of 25 (turn 5) he made his first major mistake of the season and crashed, creating his first DNF of 2021. After which, Martin also lost another place to Pol Espargaro (Honda).

Whilst all that was happening behind him, Miller was hunting down Marquez. Miller passed but Marquez passed straight back. On lap 22 Miller managed another pass and that time kept hold of it. Marquez was not going to let him have it that easy though and remained glued to the rear of the Ducati.

However, the race was quickly drawn to an end with marshals waving red flags. With only 2 laps until the checkered flag, Iker Lecuona tried to overtake Miguel Oliveira but ended up taking them both out. Both riders have been confirmed to be okay. As the race was more than three-quarters of the way through there was to be no restart and the results were as they were the lap prior:

Top ten race results:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

J. Miller

4th

A. Marquez

5th

J. Zarco

6th

P. Espargaro

7th

J. Martin

8th

A. Rins

9th

E. Bastianini

10th

B. Binder

A. Marquez gained his best finish this year and with it the top independent racer this time out. Also worth noting was top Yamaha finisher Valentino Rossi who finished in 13th place, completing his penultimate race this year.

Congratulations all round. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Bagnaia took his 3rd top spot on the podium for 2021, claiming that he “enjoyed every single session this weekend”, Miller took his 4th podium of 2021 having looked confident and in great form all weekend.

Championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

267

2nd

F. Bagnaia

227

3rd

J. Mir

195

4th

J. Miller

165

Ducati also claimed the Constructors Championship this weekend and Zarco took Best Independent Rider of 2021.

The race may not have been the biggest of spectacles and may have seemed a little subdued but these races need to happen to make the truly special races stand out. One thing is for sure though audiences are witnessing history with Ducati coming back to their previous winning ways, new championship contenders coming forward and with only one race to wrap up the 2021 season – Valencia is sure to be a show-stopper.

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