MotoGP 2020 Portimao Season Finale

© Bruce Allen        November 22, 2020

Arenas and Bastianini join Mir as World Champions

On a sun-drenched day straight out of a travel magazine, in southern Portugal, Albert Arenas snagged his first, and last, Moto3 championship, edging Ai Ogura and Tony Arbolino, as it were, his P12 finish just good enough for the title. In Moto2, series winner #BeastMode watched from P5 as a great race unfolded between Remy Gardner, Luca Marini and Sam Lowes and ended with him being handed the 2020 trophy despite a conservative P5 finish.

In MotoGP, homeboy Miguel Oliveira won today’s battle, while 2020 champion Joan Mir retired with a mechanical and no worries, having clinched the title last time out. To have two world championships decided on the same day, with only a handful of points separating the top three finalists in each class, well, it just doesn’t get much better than this in racing.

Estoril vs. Portimao

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The two Portuguese tracks aren’t that different in layout. Portimao has the beautiful variations in topography, while Estoril has created so many memories over the years. Say the word “2006” to a MotoGP fan and he will, if his consciousness is sufficiently elevated, automatically think of Estoril. Pedrosa and Hayden. One thing they have in common is a long main straight ending in a difficult Turn 1, Estoril’s being somewhat more acute than Portimao. Watch Turn 1 in all three races, see if somebody doesn’t exit the premises.

Friday

FP1—What does it say about a track when it appears to be Aprilia-friendly? Aprilia in P3 (Aleix) and P4 (Savadori). WTF.

The rumor that Yank Joe Roberts could inherit Andrea Iannone’s seat with Aprilia after fellow Moto2 fast mover Marco Bezzecchi allegedly turned them down is tantalizing. An American in the premier class. The last to toil so was Ben Spies, a bit of a flash in the pan, and unlucky to boot, back in 2015. I hope Joe gets the shot and that he can carve a successful career out of motorcycle racing.

Saturday

MotoGP FP3 did its job on Saturday morning, separating the goats from the lambs. Four of the riders in the money on Friday were out of the money on Saturday, including Aleix, Binder, world champion Mir and top three battler Franco Morbidelli. Of the four, Q1 will be the most pressing for Morbidelli, locked in a cage match with Alex Rins for P2 for the year, leading by four but now having to make it through Q1 to get close to Rins on the grid. On a tight, windy course like Algarve, getting out front would be important, especially for the Yamahas, which do not like heavy traffic. It was mostly usual suspects in Q2 other than Stefan Bradl, who put Marc Marquez’ RC213V in P10. Homeboy Miguel Oliveira put himself in Q2 late in the session, looking froggy, like he might want to jump.

After an invigorating Q1, which saw sentimental favorite Cal Crutchlow join Fast Frankie Morbidelli en route to Q2, Saturday’s main event was typically engaging. Yamahas under Morbidelli, Quartararo and even Maverick spent brief periods on pole, with Morbidelli sitting on it for 10 minutes of the 15-minute session. But low and behold, in what Dad used to refer to as the nickel of time, homeboy Miguel Oliveira threw down a 1:38.892 to steal pole from Morbidelli, with Jack Miller completing the front row. A bit of significant weirdness found Stefan Bradl starting from P6 and Alex Rins from P10. Rins, one of the riders with skin in the game on Sunday, has his work cut out for him on this twisty, up-and-down track. Not even an afterthought—his name was called perhaps once during Q1—was Valentino Rossi, starting from P17, thousands of fans across the globe wishing he would just walk away from the Petronas SRT next season and get started on Chapter 2. For Methuselah, Chapter 1 is ending poorly.

These days, The Doctor is Just Another Rider.

Race Day

Moto3: Runaway Raul Rules Portugal; Arenas Enjoys Ice Cream Sunday

Late-season sensation Raul Fernandez went wire-to-wire today to win the Grand Prix of Portugal. A better start to the season would certainly have allowed him to challenge for the title. But a win is a win.

Of the top four finishers today, none had anything to do with the championship being contested. Of those contenders, Tiger Tony Arbolino had arguably the best day, starting from P27 (yeah, I know, right?) and climbing all the way to P5 before running out of tire and energy. Ai Ogura, second when the day dawned and needing to beat Arenas, solidly, to win a title instead managed only an uninspired P8. All this on a day when Arenas was having problems, making mistakes, getting overtaken every time one turned around, and ending the day in P12, appearing mildly abashed accepting the world champion trophy on the podium later on.

Ain’t nobody care. Dude has his ticket punched to Moto2 next year, along with Ogura and Arbolino, so the fledgling rivalry can continue, although likely lower on the food chain. His Wikipedia page gets a nice update and upgrade. The ice cream thing with Arenas I don’t fully get, though it played a part in his post-race celebration. So that’s not a typo in the headline above.

Moto2: Remy Gardner Wins From Pole; #BeastMode Seizes 2020 Title

Always fun to watch a rider earn his first grand prix win, crying during the national anthem and all, and Australian Remy Gardner was no exception today, outracing, then dusting, championship contenders Luca Marini and Suffering Sam Lowes and helping Enea Bastianini clinch the 2020 Moto2 championship. Plenty of overtaking all over the board, in a race Sam Lowes, with his injured hand, would have sat out were he not in the thick of the chase. As things turned out, he finished in P3. The good news is that all four of his serious rivals are moving up to MotoGP next year and he should pretty much have the Moto2 field to himself.

Aside from Bastianini, Marini, Lowes, Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin completed the top five for 2020. Gardner, in P6 for 2020, will return, too. Perhaps we can watch a couple of Anglos fight for the title in 2021 for a change.

MotoGP: Oliveira Dominates Wire-to-Wire in Portugal; Mir Backs Into Title

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So the MotoGP race ended almost exactly the way KTM stud Miguel Oliveira hoped it would, and almost exactly NOT the way Suzuki world champion Joan Mir hoped it would. Oliveira, taking note of Raul Fernandez’ performance in the earlier Moto2 race, took the holeshot and won unchallenged, crushing the field. Confirming that KTM is no longer some stepsister, but a full-fledged member of MotoGP royalty, deserving of the respect that all except Aprilia receive. Meanwhile, Mir, who experienced electronics issues during Q1 and started from P20, had yet more bike trouble today, possibly as a result of a hip check he delivered to Pecco Bagnaia early in the race that left the young Italian with a dislocated shoulder.

Similar to last week, if one is willing to disregard Oliveira, was the joust today between Fast Frankie Morbidelli and Jack Miller. Once again, Miller dogged #21 for most of the second half of the race. Once again, Morbidelli prevailed, the only Yamaha rider to get anything at all from the M-1: Vinales P11, Rossi P12, Quartararo P14. Ugh. For the year, the final standings:

1        J Mir           

2        F Morbidelli           

3        A Rins         

4        A Dovizioso           

5        P Espargaro           

6        M Vinales              

7        J Miller                  

8        F Quartararo         

9        M Oliveira             

10      T Nakagami           

2020 in a Nutshell

When the cat’s away the mice will play,

and when they do, they should play hard.

Though this does not qualify as one of the more poetic sentiments enshrined here through the years, it most certainly applies to MotoGP 2020.

Rider rankings after Jerez I:

Tranche I:    Marc Marquez*, Fabio Quartararo

Tranche II:  Maverick Viñales, Jack Miller, Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Rins*

Tranche III:  Pecco Bagnaia, Cal Crutchlow*, Valentino Rossi, >Joan Mir<, Brad Binder, Danilo Petrucci, Miguel Oliveira

Tranche IV:  Takaa Nakagami, Aleix Espargaro, Iker Lecuona

Tranche V:   Tito Rabat, Johann Zarco, Alex Marquez, Bradley Smith

When Marc Marquez suffered what would become a season-ending injury during Jerez I, I had Mir in Tranche III, nowhere near Alien status. The unflappable Mallorcan saw an opening, one that literally might not occur again in the next five years and thought to seize it. He then went out and crashed in two of the first three races, Jerez I and Brno, with an off-podium finish in Jerez II to show for his efforts. 11 points in the first three rounds, Quartararo sitting on top, 48 points ahead. A good time to start thinking about next year. But after Brno, and despite a poor showing at LeMans in the wet, Mir was money. On or near the podium every time out. Quartararo and the Yamahas, other than Frankie Morbidelli, ran into problems during the season. Ducati had Miller and little else. KTM made some moves, but not enough to threaten anything. And Honda, without #93, was a shadow of its former self.

Any other year, a performance like Mir’s—one win all year—would have been plenty good enough for a solid P2 or P3. But this was the year that it could win him a title. Assuming Marquez returns next season—assuming there is a 2021 season—it is unrealistic for people to expect Mir to repeat. But he has assuredly earned his Alien Card, along with Fast Frankie and Thriller Miller. They and Marquez are the Alien Class for 2021. You heard it here first.

To my readers, both of you, thanks for following me again this year during what is becoming an increasingly challenging period. I miss the old days of deadlines and templates, but at least the racing itself was first-class this year. We will try to keep an eye on goings-on during the winter and look forward to returning in February. Peace and love to you all, and our best wishes for the Christmas season.

Local Color

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Screenshot (260)

Gardner takes the lead from Marini in Moto2.


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Raul Fernandez ran away with things in the Moto3 race.


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Jack Miller, a bridesmaid once again.


Screenshot (256)

A preview of things to come later in the race.

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14 Responses to “MotoGP 2020 Portimao Season Finale”

  1. Prakasit Says:

    Bruce-
    Thanks again for putting out the goings and comings of MotoGP. Cheers,

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dale Mensch Says:

    Overall, an INTERESTING year.

    Minor correction: Miller prevailed over Morbidelli unlike last week, I believe.

    I’ll argue that this year the whole field were homo sapiens: no Aliens in my voting. A final tranching would be tough: I think three groups would be enough.

    Thanks Bruce for another season of entertainment and insight! Best wishes for your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Starmag Says:

    Maybe Oliveira needs some PED testing. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. No, really, what got into him this weekend? Smoked the field out of nowhere. Home crowd I guess. Oops, not that, home track then. Anyway, well done.

    A shame the Suzuki boys had issues today and the triple crown slipped away.

    Your pick of M1R in tranche III was appropriate at the time, no one saw that coming until near the end. No way, even with Antman out, anyone saw 10 different winners this year either.

    Morbo not only won 4 races, but he didn’t complain or defer blame all year that I remember. More than his Yamaha brethren can say. Classy.

    Always a pleasure to read your work Bruce. You deserve a larger audience. Until we meet again, be as well as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Vrooom Says:

    That’s it Bruce, it’s over, you’ve been having another reader. KTM certainly seems in the mix, and Yamaha does not, unless they’re racing the old bike, then kinda. Nice race for Aleix in 8th, Aprilia’s not a threat, but that’s a step in the right direction, beating Marquez across the line safely. How about Stephan Bradl with a 7th, not bad for a guest rider. He’s no #93, but he schooled his brother surprisingly. Thanks for all the coverage and insight you bring us Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Allison Sullivan Says:

    I actually skipped watching the racing today and just came here to read the update. Thanks for all that you do, Bruce, and also to the regulars for the added wisdom. Easily the most concise and most entertaining wrap up of the racing on the nets. It’s going to be a long, boring winter … no testing, not even a signing silly season to look forward to! (well, apart from the last Aprilia seat I guess).

    Best wishes to you and yours, Bruce. May this covid BS play out one way or the other and the world return to some sort of normal for next season … and may it be as entertaining as this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Old MOron Says:

    The Moto3 race was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe the needless risk that Arenas endured. Of course he couldn’t have known that he didn’t need to take all those risks, but we did. The situation made watching his bid for the championship akin to watching a Greek tragedy. What drama!

    Moto2 was fun, Bastianini took some big risks, too. Good to watch. Congrats to him for his championship.

    MotoGP? Boring. But I want to give a shout out to Herve Poncharal. The man worked with Yamaha for 20 years and never collected a win. When he switched his team to KTM, people thought he was crazy. Two wins and four podia later, he was crazy alright, like a fox. I think it goes to show, among other things perhaps, that Yamaha are not great to their satellite team. For example, they’ve already reaffirmed that Morbidelli will not get a bike upgrade next year. Why the hell not? They kept Tech3 as second-class citizens for 20 years. Then KTM come along and emancipate them, and look at the results. Yay!

    Brucey? Thanks for a great year of commenting. Take care of your family. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Yamaha is paying the price for having shorted their satellite teams for decades. I thought Herve was nuts, though, to take the show to KTM. Now, that they’ve bailed on Moto2, they are improving in both Moto3 and MotoGP. In the race for the Constructor’s trophy, there’s a lead group of five now.

      Like

  7. Konstantin Says:

    Dear Bruce,

    Thanks a lot for your column – love it. A good example of some fine language and humour. Looking forward to next year! Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Buzz W Says:

    Great season under the circumstances but I’d rather not have another like this.

    Olivera clearly had home track advantage since a race hadn’t been run here in 12 years. Only Methusala goes that far back.

    Excellent work Bruce. Here’s to good health and seeing everyone in Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Starmag Says:

      +1

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bruce Allen Says:

        MotoGP doesn’t interfere with my insomnia, so I can be up watching video and taking notes at 4 am. Couple of cups of Flower Power and I’m like a fire hose, a torrent of witty MotoGP repartee. It is strange to think that in mid-2008 I had never HEARD of MotoGP. Never seriously ridden, never watched a race. I watched Rossi beat Stoner at Laguna in 2008 on TV! and gave this guy in Toronto–Joe Magro–1500 words on the race, on spec. Somehow, he liked it. Never hurt that it was probably one of the top 20 races EVER, but I had no clue. I remember attending the inaugural Indy round in 2008 with a press pass and asking the guys from the Star how to watch the fecking race. They had no idea, certainly none they wished to share. Met David Emmett during that first weekend. Said something brilliant, like, “Oh, you must be Kropotkin!!!” Ugh.

        Like

        • Starmag Says:

          “Oh, you must be Kropotkin!!!” lol. We’ve all had those embarrassing moments we regret.

          You’ve mentioned that you used to cover your lack of MotoGp knowledge with humor. I liked your writing just as much then.

          Like

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