A new champion is crowned!

Qualifying:

Poor weather conditions resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) qualifying in an unusual position of 15th on the grid.

Second-place-man in the championship Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took another pole. Team-mate Jack Miller was second and it was a surprise last place on the front row, for fellow Ducati rider, Luca Marini getting his best qualifying result.

You can’t miss him! Luca Marini sported a new livery, in honour of his brother who celebrated his last race in Italy. Courtesy of: Sky Racing Team VR46 – Twitter Page.

Race:

If the weather was dramatic in qualifying, it certainly wasn’t for the race. However, the drama was there to stay:

The two factory Ducati’s gained a great start from the front and remained in first and second from Marc Marquez (Honda) who quickly got himself to third. Quartararo however, went backwards from 15th to 17th.

Straight away Miller became the perfect team player and took the defensive line against Marquez, keeping him at bay, to let Bagnaia get away. Bagnaia responded and quickly started to create a gap.

Ducati’s lead from the start. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, down in 17th, Fabio started ticking people from his list and by lap 3 was up to 12th position, on the same lap unfortunately, last years champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) was told he had a jump start and was given a long-lap penalty, but soon after that he crashed out alongside Birthday-Boy Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) on turn 2.

Marquez was pushing himself and soon claimed fastest lap. Could he keep this form up and fight for a podium spot? With his fellow Repsol Honda rider behind him he only had to focus on the two Ducati’s ahead.

But there was drama unfolding on the track and with 24 laps to go the first part played out. Jack Miller crashed from second on turn 15, trying to defend for Pecco – leaving him alone to fight for first.

Marquez took his opportunity and closed up on Bagnaia, piling on the pressure. It appeared he was able to turn his Honda better than the Ducati, his arm problems seemingly a thing of the past. Or was it due to the Michelin tyre choice between the two? Bagnaia chose to race with a hard front and medium rear, while Marquez chose a medium front and soft rear. Which set of tyres were going to prevail?

Also piling on pressure was Fabio, now up to 10th place, passing fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco (Ducati).

Crashing on the same lap however was Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) but he managed to rejoin, albeit in last place.

Continuing his hunt, Fabio was soon up to 9th place behind a group of riders, ready to pick them off one-by-one.

A technical issue resulted in Alex Marquez (Honda) having to retire early on lap 11 and Iker Lecuona (KTM) also retired early due to a crash on turn 1.

The tension meanwhile between first and second continued to build with Marc still looking like he was going to pounce at any moment on Pecco.

Quartararo started to pick off the riders in the pack and soon passed into 8th place, with 14 laps until the end. Whilst Fabio was riding high, disaster struck for another Ducati rider – Jorge Martin, who crashed out turn 1, lap 13.

The group in-front of El Diablo started to have mini battles for positions, bringing him into the fray. He soon passed team-mate Franko Morbidelli and number 10 rider – Marini, taking 7th place. With only 12 laps to go, could he progress any further? Any questions were answered when on lap 18 he also passed Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) for 5th position. He only had KTM rider Miguel Oliveria and Honda rider Pol Espargaro in-front for a podium spot. Could he do it?

Fighting through the pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, Bagnaia was responding to Marquez’s pressure and pushed for the fastest lap, trying to break away from the Spaniard.

But, the Ducati drama was not over and with only 5 crucial laps until the end, Bagnaia suddenly slid from first position into the gravel and alongside that his championship hopes. Ducati held their heads in their hands along with multiple fans who couldn’t believe what they had seen. Leaving Marquez to claim first and lead the race all the way to the chequered flag. Quartararo was also granted another position, but Enea Bastianini (Ducati), who had come from 16th place on the grid, had other ideas for Fabio and with only 2 laps until the end, looked like he might fight for 3rd.

The edge-of-your-seat drama continued on the last lap and Bastianini did indeed pass Quartararo for the last spot on the podium.

There was too many things happening all at once – Marquez crossed the line, proving all the doubters wrong with regards to his arm health. Bastianini passed Quartararo on the last lap. Fabio claimed the World Championship and local Hero Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) finished in 10th at his last home race.

Team-mates congratulate each other. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.
Never gets old – Rossi celebrates with fans. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was history in the making! Fabio Quartararo became the first Frenchman to ever claim the Moto GP World Championship title and along with it the first championship win for Yamaha since 2015.

It was also the first podium for Pol, racing for his new team and a second podium for rookie Bastianini in the Premier Class.

Fabio celebrated in style, walking down a red carpet to receive a golden helmet, alongside celebrations which included pyrotechnics and a live DJ.

Celebrations! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 10 race results:

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

P. Espargaro

3rd

E. Bastianini

4th

F. Quartararo

5th

J. Zarco

6th

A. Rins

7th

A. Espargaro

8th

M. Vinales

9th

L. Marini

10th

V. Rossi

Top Four Championship results:

1st

F. Quartararo

267 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

175 points

4th

J. Zarco

152 points

With only 2 races left for the season, will there be another new race winner? A third in a row win for Marquez? Or will El Diablo want to go out with an even bigger bang?

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website).

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)