Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) takes the last win of the season

The last round of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 21-22 November at Portimao.

In the last race of the season, saw  the 7th new polesitter of the year as Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) beating Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by 0.044 seconds with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completing the line up for the front row. World Champion, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), had a disastrous qualifying and starts from 20th position. Will we see a 10th new winner of the season? Let’s find out.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Oliveira : Morbidelli : Miller Row 2 : Crutchlow : Quartararo : Bradl

Row 3 : Zarco : Vinales : P.Espargaro Row 4 : Rins : Nakagami : Dovisiozo

Row 5 : Binder : A.Espargaro Bagnaia Row 6 : A.Marquez : Rossi : Petrucci

Row 7 : Savadori : Mir : Rabat

The start of the 2020 MotoGP Portugal race. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

With 25 laps of racing, the last race of the season gets under way with Oliveira getting off to a great start and going first into Turn 1 followed by Morbidelli, Miller, Crutchlow, P.Espargaro and Rins. Miller takes Morbidelli into 2nd but two turns later Morbidelli takes the place back. Mir has an incident with Bagnaia where there seemed to be touching of the wheels on lap 2 and loses a lot of time and drops right back.

By lap 3 Oliveira has pulled out a 1.3 second lead and Binder crashes at Turn 1 putting a very early end to his race. The battle for 7th place is with Zarco, Quartararo and Vinales and all three riders are on it. Nakagami takes Rins and moves up to 10th place.

Lap 5 and Oliveira has now a 2.4 second lead, Miller is staying hot on the heels of Morbidelli biding his time for his opportunity to get past. By the following lap the World Champion has moved up to 16th place with Rossi in 15th, A.Espargaro in 14th, Vinales in 13th and A.Marquez in 12th.

P.Espargaro takes Crutchlow into 4th place on lap 7 but Crutchlow, Bradl and Zarco all have eyes on that 4th place and they are all on it with good clean racing taking place. On lap 9 Crutchlow takes 4th but a few turns later loses it again to P.Espargaro.

Nakagami takes Quartararo into 9th place on lap 10, Quartararo fights back and gets the place back but then Nakagami goes underneath and past, this time he manages to keep the place.

Lap 11 and Oliveira has a comfortable 3.7 lead over Morbidelli and Miller. Dovizioso takes A.Marquez and Quartararo and goes into 9th place and the following lap A.Marquez passes Quartararo pushing him down to 12th. P.Espargaro has a huge moment allowing Crutchlow to slide past but two turns later he gains the place back.

By Lap 14 Mir is still in 16th place and is a second a lap off the pace of the front runners. Nakagami takes Rins on the following lap and the battle for 13th place between Quartararo, Vinales and Rossi is hotting up with all three riders absolutely on it.

With a 4 second lead, can Oliveira keep up this pace for the remaining 10 laps of the race? Mir slows on the track and heads into the pits and retires from the race with what looks like mechanical issues. Zarco passes Crutchlow into 5th place.

On the start/finish straight on lap 19 Vinales gets a wobble on the bike but he manages to hold it and his 12th place.

Lap 21 sees Crutchlow run really wide allowing Dovizioso, Nakagami, Zarco and Bradl to pass and he is now down in 9th. Miller is hunting down Morbidelli, can he catch him and make a pass in the remaining 4 laps?

A.Espargaro passes Crutchlow into 9th on lap 22 and the following lap Nakagami passes Dovizioso up into 5th place. Turn 4 Savadori crashes out of the race.

Valentino Rossi’s last ride for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

On the start/finish straight going into the final lap, A.Marquez and Zarco are battling for 9th and are side by side, A.Marquez just manages to out brake Zarco and grab the place. Miller is still trying to get past Morbidelli and on Turn 13 he goes underneath and past into 2nd place but Morbidelli comes straight back and snatches the place back but Miller pulls back past and starts to ease away.

Oliveira takes the chequered flag with a comfortable win and his second of the season with Miller taking 2nd and just behind is Morbidelli in 3rd.

An absolutely nail biting last race of the season with some incredible racing taking place. Huge congratulations to KTM and Oliveira on a brilliant win and to Ducati for taking the Manufacturers Championship.

Karen Bristow

Featured image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Interview: Can Oncu on his 2018 win and what his plans for 2019

Can Oncu, Moto3. Photo curtesy of Red Bull KTM Ajo

 

After a whirlwind last Moto3 race of 2018 in Valencia, Can Oncu solidified his place on the grid with an impressive debut and a record-breaking win. The 15-year-old Turk became the youngest GP winner and the first Turkish winner of a GP, smashing many more records along the way. Winner of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (with his twin brother Deniz securing second place) and finishing 24th(out of 36) in the Moto3 standings after only one race – the trophy cabinet will be well stocked in the Oncu household after this year. Oncu’s 2018 might have ended in spectacular style, but his 2019 season will continue with Red Bull KTM Ajo as he races for the Finnish team in Moto3 and chases down even more podium finishes. A new flurry of Moto3 riders will be filling the grid in 2019, as Jorge Martin, Fabio di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi, Nicolo Bulega and Enea Bastianini all head for debut Moto2 seasons. However, the Turk will have competition from Aron Canet, Gabriel Rodrigo and Lorenzo Dalla Porta, as well as newer riders like Celestino Vietti. Jade du Preez put some questions to the youngster, to find out how you celebrate such a historic win, and what’s next for the rookie to accomplish.

 

Jade du Preez: How do you feel after your first win?

Can Oncu: I really wanted race with Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi before they went to Moto2. I was lucky and my wish was fulfilled. Martin was my favourite all year long. That I can get involved in the front I spotted FP2 and FP3 and after qualification it was clear. Martin and Bezzecchi brought a very good performance all year. I was very surprised that I won. When I heard after the race that I had broken some records I could not believe it – the youngest Moto3 rider of all time, the youngest Moto3 rider to win a race, and more. Everyone from the paddock congratulated me. Except from the north pole and south pole, congratulations were sent to me from all over the world. The feeling of happiness is really indescribable. I thank everyone who supports me.

 

JdP: What are your goals for 2019 since you’ve already won a race?

CO: I know that I am not perfect, that I still have much to learn and I try hard to do so. Aki Ajo and my race team help me and my brother. I will try to be in the top 10 at the end of the year.

 

JdP: How did you celebrate your win in Valencia? Did you cheat on your diet, hangout with friends, etc.?

CO: I was celebrating with my entire team and eating delicious food in Valencia. I do not like alcohol, I like fruit juices. When I arrived at home in Alanya I was immediately visited by many friends and suddenly we had a party.

MotoGP Valencia Test, Part 2: Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia

It might feel like the 2018 season has just come to an end, but the 2019 season is well underway at the Valencia tests for Suzuki, KTM, Tech 3 KTM and Aprilia.

Suzuki’s main weakness in 2018 was straight line speed, so they had a new engine for Valencia. It has a lot of power, but currently the Ecstar squad are looking for new electronic solutions to harness those extra horses, and as of right now they are faster on the old engine. Only Alex Rins tried the new motor, as Joan Mir looked to get himself better acquainted with the GSX-RR. The 2018 Moto2 rookie of the year had ridden one day with Suzuki after the Japanese Grand Prix back in October, but still had a lot of work to do to acclimatise himself to MotoGP. He did fairly well, ending the test less than one second off the top time.

 

Alex Rins and new Suzuki teammate Joan Mir. Photo curtesy of Suzuki Racing.

 

Johann Zarco got off to a tough start with KTM. He pinpointed corner entry as a weak point on the first day, and didn’t find the improvements he expected on Wednesday, ending 1.7 seconds off the top. On the other hand, Pol Espargaro had a decent test, which he ended 0.871 seconds off front runner Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha). He had a revised version of KTM’s Yamaha-style aero fairing, as well as some new electronic solutions and no doubt a raft of different chassis’ and engine specs to try. Like Yamaha, KTM suffered with tyre wear last year, hence the electronics focus.

The Tech 3 KTM riders did not have such a great time. Miguel Oliveira highlighted braking as something he needed to work on, as he adapts to the carbon disks of MotoGP. His teammate, Hafizh Syahrin, also made some progress on Wednesday, but feels he needs more time to understand the RC16. Of course, both Syahrin and Oliveira have the additional difficulty of their team changing manufacturer.

Aprilia seemed to have a mixed test. Aleix Espargaro was quite fast, if somewhat indifferent about a new chassis from Noale. In comparison, Andrea Iannone was pleasantly surprised by his first contact with Aprilia. He was running 2017 bikes because it is from last year’s machine that the 2019 bike will derive. There were two crashes for Iannone on the second day, which he put down to him finding the limit with a new bike. Bradley Smith also got his first contact with the Aprilia, using a 2017 and a 2018 machine. He wasn’t too far from Iannone’s time which, considering his job title of test rider, should perhaps worry Aprilia a little.

As previously mentioned, Joan Mir had a brilliant debut on the Suzuki but arguably Francesco Bagnaia’s first appearance on the Pramac Ducati was even more impressive. He ended his first real MotoGP test just 0.6 seconds from the top. Braking is Bagnaia’s main focus at the moment, which is a common thing with new MotoGP riders. His competitors will hope he can’t find too much time there. Fellow rookie Fabio Quartararo also made some big improvements on Wednesday, to end just over one second from Vinales and in front of Iannone on the Aprilia.

 

Fabio Quartararo at the Valencia MotoGP tests, November 2018. Photo curtesy of SIC Racing Team.

 

Franco Morbidelli also had a stunning test; to be four tenths ahead of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) on his first day with Yamaha was really quite impressive. The young Italian was especially complimentary about the smoothness of the M1, and commented on how easy it was to ride in comparison to the 2017 Honda RC213V he rode during his 2018 season.

Although, the undisputed hero of the Valencia test was Tito Rabat. He rode his Reale Avintia Ducati to 15th on the second day, 1.1 seconds off Vinales, and completed 59 laps. The first day of the test was nothing more than exploratory for Rabat, as he looked to see if it was even possible to ride in his current condition. On Wednesday he made some more progress, but realistically it won’t be until Sepang that he will really start focusing on the setting of his GP18. The MotoGP paddock now heads south to Jerez, where they will have the final chance to define their direction before the winter break.

 

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