Back-to-back victories for El Diablo

Controversy reigned in qualifying:

Local boy Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM – 88), took a tumble during the qualifying, which caused the yellow flags to be waved. During this time Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati – 63) was on his fastest lap and had also taken the lap record but it was taken away from him due to Oliveira’s accident, although the yellow flag was out of his peripheral vision at the time, rules state that his lap be removed.

Bagnaia was not the only rider to be unhappy with the qualifying results. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha -12) started in 12th, one position behind Bagnaia. Due to exceeding track limits by having both tyres on the green, although this was only by mere millimetres.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda – 93), returned this weekend after his explosive crash in July at the start of the 2020 season. He seemed to take a tow from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) which gave Marquez a brief third place on the grid. But, his time was not enough to keep him there and he started in 6th place.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha – 20) – took pole, from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati – 5) who took up the front row. A surprise 8th place for Luca Marini (Sky VR46 10) with reigning Champion Joan Mir (Suzuki – 36) in 9th and regardless of his crash Oliveira rounded up 10th place.

Rookie Jorge Martin had a massive crash which unfortunately resulted in him not being able to race on Sunday.

Portuguese Moto GP race:

Portimao, with it’s undulating bends and tight corners proved to be the place for Frenchman Quartararo to take back-to-back victories, in the third round of the championship.

Courtesy of: MCNews.com

Starting from pole, it seemed it was going to be a straight-forward race for Fabio, but he immediately went backwards to 5th place. Letting Zarco claim 1st into the first corner, leading from Rins and astonishingly Marc Marquez progressed to 3rd place. Mir also went up 6 places from the grid as did Brad Binder gaining 9th place for KTM.

With track temperatures now at 41 degrees the next 25 laps were sure to be sensational.

Quartararo was quick to put in a fastest lap, hoping to gain places back as soon as possible, taking 4th place from Miller. Only to have the fastest lap soon to be taken by Aleix Espargaro on lap three.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

The battle was heating up already, with riders trying to gain ground with Quartararo soon taking 3rd place on lap 4 and Rins who was hot on the heels of leader Zarco. The Suzuki rider soon secured 1st place but the Ducati power proved too much and on the straight it was taken back.

Lap five saw a mechanical failure for Pol Espargaro (Honda – 41) and sadly he made an early retirement from the race. Rins once again battled for first place, this time brakes won over power and he was able to hold onto it, while Quartararo took 2nd.

Braking too hard however, caused Miller to crash out of the race on turn 3, lap 6.

Sadly for local boy Oliveira turn 14 also saw him crash out on lap 7, but he managed to get back on the bike to finish the race in 16th place.

Hard rear tyres seemed to be the right call for the riders as Bagnaia passed Marquez for 8th place, making his way through the pack and Quartararo was hunting down Rins for 1st. Unfortunately, Yamaha rider Vinales could not do the same and was outside the top 15.

Into the first corner of lap 9, Fabio decided to take 1st place and pushed hard to break-away from Rins. Getting faster and faster sections the further into the laps he went. A brilliant ride from Binder saw him progress from 15th on the grid to 6th place by lap 11. With the two Marquez brothers claiming 9th and 10th.

Lap 13 saw Bagnaia take fastest lap (1:39:728), in 6th place. Closing down on Morbidelli. All the while Rins was putting pressure on Quartararo and trying to catch up enough to pass him.

Bagnaia making his way through the pack. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Quartararo responded with another fastest lap (1:39:680).

The battle between the Frenchman and the Spaniard continued to escalate and Rins regained fastest lap (1:39:598) on lap 15.

A bump in the circuit caused Rossi to crash out with 11 laps to the finish and track limit warnings were handed out to Morbidelli and Vinales, the latter had already fell fowl to them in qualifying.

Still fighting for 1st place, Rins took fastest lap yet again twice in a row and was pushing himself to his limits trying to catch Quartararo. Sadly, it proved to be to much for the number 41 and he crashed out with only 7 laps to the end. Zarco gained 2nd place with Bagnaia 3rd and Mir 4th. Creating the four riders to break away from the rest of the pack.

Moments after Bagnaia took 2nd place from Zarco, the Frenchman fell, seemingly from another bump in the circuit. Quartararo now lead Bagnaia and reigning champion Mir.

Quartararo seemed to be able to handle the hard rear tyre and use it to his advantage. Slowly gaining a 5.276 second lead ahead of the other two riders who followed behind.

This gap proved to be too big for any of the riders to close down and Quartararo took a very clean victory, with no mistakes, at Portimao. Mir looked to have one last attack in him for 2nd, but Bagnaia gave nothing away. They claimed the last two places on the podium. Morbidelli, with a return to form, just missed out and finished 4th.

Morbidelli back on form. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Marc Marquez made a herculean effort, even having to change his riding style for race-day and finished a respectable 7th place, remaining ahead of his brother.

Nakagami, who looked like he wasn’t going to be able to even start the race, due to injuries sustained in practice sessions managed to finish the race completing the top 10 riders.

Incredibly six different manufactures finished in the top 7 positions.

The championship standings:

  1. Quartararo (61 points)

  2. Bagnaia (46 points)

  3. Vinales (41 points)

  4. Zarco (40 points)

  5. Mir (38 points)

With two weeks to wait until the fourth round of the championship, will it be enough time for Marc Marquez to heal any further or has this race halted his healing progress? Will it be a third race win in a row for the number 20? Or will we see a new race winner in 2021?

 

Happy Birthday to Fabio Quartararo for Tuesday 20th April.

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website)

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

Round two under the Qatar lights found some riders floundering and some soaring. If it was thought to be a repeat of last weekend then audiences were in for a shock.

The qualifying had the biggest surprise which came from the rookie, Jorge Martin who took pole! With a 1.53.106 second lap, snatching it from Vinales, who was confident he had done enough at the flag. Next position went to Martin’s team-mate and Vinales ended up 3rd to round off the front row. The Suzuki’s still seemed to have issues with qualifying and ended up in 8th and 9th. Rossi made changes to his bike which turned out to hinder his chances at getting another 4th in qualifying this time and ended up 21st on the grid.

Martin takes pole on Saturday. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All riders started Sunday on both rear and front soft tyres again, with the exception of Oliveira, Binder, Lecuona and Petrucci. Perhaps they had thought a different strategy may help them in the closing section of the race. Once again, the wind was blowing and causing sand to go across the track, meaning the tyres would degrade quicker.

The two front Ducati’s got a flying start, with Martin leading Zarco but it was Vinales that went backwards as Aleix Espargaro came through and took 3rd place from the Spaniard, a very surprising Oliveira, who was 12th on the grid, shot into 4th . The next 22 laps were sure to be exciting!

By lap three, Rins had already made the fastest lap, eager to make it to the front early on, now in 3rd place, he started putting pressure on Zarco.

Lap four was Bagnaia’s turn to take fastest lap. But it was the Suzuki’s that were looking menacing as Mir came through to 5th place and Rins took 2nd from Zarco. However, the Ducati took back the position on the straight.

Meanwhile the factory Yamahas were sticking to their plan, which was to conserve tyres and were in 9th and 10th place.

With 17 laps to go Martin was still leading, in only his second Moto GP race, from Rins and Zarco.

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Performing well in the flowing corners, the Suzuki was putting pressure on the rookie, but the straight, once again was the time for Zarco to pounce, re-gaining 2nd.

Trying to hunt down Martin, Rins took back 2nd place from the Frenchman on turn 10 – lap 8. He knew he had to breakaway from Zarco before the straight. With 13 laps to go Oliveira started to go backwards, unfortunately, the tyre choice didn’t seem to be any better.

The two Petronas riders were struggling as well – not even in the top ten.

The top nine riders however, were starting to breakaway from the rest of the pack and were creating their own race. Martin still lead, now half-way through the 22 laps, whilst Vinales was bringing up the rear. The first six bikes were all four Ducati’s and the two Suzuki’s. Espargaro on the Aprilia, was the only bike not with it’s teammate, out in front of the two factory Yamaha’s.

Mir and Miller were battling for 5th place on lap 13, Mir touched Miller going underneath him to take the position. But, coming onto the straight Miller (43) went wide and and seemed to go straight into Mir, forcing him to go all the way back to 9th. There was an investigation from the stewards but both times were seen as racing incidents.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Marquez who had a second DNF in a row as he crashed on lap 14.

However, things were looking good for Quartararo (20), who was moving through the front pack and was now 4th, behind the Ducati’s, with 8 laps till the end. Battling for the position alongside Rins, he knew he had to create a chance in order to get on the podium. His teammate was now in 7th with Mir still in 9th place. It seemed the Yamaha’s tactic was paying off.

With six laps till the end, 20 took 3rd place from 43, it was taken straight back on the start-finish line but a mistake going into the first corner from Miller meant Quartararo re-took 3rd once more. The battle for the podium was heating up.

The two Frenchmen then fought for 2nd on lap 18. Zarco tried to defend but Quartararo’s Yamaha had conserved tyres better and was stronger on the corners, meaning he was able to take 1st place as well on turn 14, leading into turn 15, from Martin. The rookie had shocked everyone by leading for most of the race. Martin wasn’t going to give his position away easily and on the straight the Ducati roared past the Yamaha. But, Quartararo re-gained first place soon after.

With four laps to go it was anyone’s call who would win. Quartararo now lead Martin, Zarco and Vinales.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Top Gun’ briefly took 3rd place from Zarco, which took Zarco out of the top three for the first time the whole race.

‘El Diablo’ started to pull away from the two satellite Ducati’s and with Vinales putting pressure on Zarco, Zarco decided he needed to try and make a pass on his teammate. Martin went defensive with two laps to go, not wanting to give away his position. Vinales couldn’t keep up with number 5 and Rins took 4th place from him into turn one on the last lap. The penultimate corner of the last lap was Zarco’s last shot at 2nd, after admitting in the post-race interview he was acting as a “… bodyguard for Martin…” he decided to over-take his team-mate to finish 2nd.

It was Quartararo that took the chequered flag, taking his fourth Moto GP victory alongside fellow Frenchman Zarco. The first time in 67 years that two Frenchmen have stood first and second on the podium in the premier class. Martin finished an impressive third to round off the podium. Fourth was Rins, fifth Vinales, sixth and seventh place were the factory Dukes and Mir managed to make up two places since the collision with Miller to finish seventh.

Zarco stood on the podium for the 50th time and now leads the championship with 40 points. Proving to be consistent with two second places in a row.

This thrilling battle was the closest Moto GP race in 73 years. Teams learnt from last weekend and everyone seemed far stronger.

There is now a two week gap until the next event, but the big news is Marc Marquez is said to be making a return in Portugal, which leads into the many European races. Will we see a fit, strong and hungry Marquez? Will the other riders be too far ahead of him? Or will we witness a masterclass performance?

Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be a thrilling ride.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.