MotoGP 2021: Round 3 – Portimao

© Bruce Allen  April 18, 2021

Quartararo Dominates in Portugal, Seizes Series Lead

After being dogged for most of the race by Suzuki’s Alex Rins, the Frenchman shook loose from the pack as Rins, then Zarco, crashed out of the fray late while in contention, a capital offense in racing. Pramac Ducati rising star Pecco Bagnaia, denied pole, was probably gratified with P2 after getting stuck in P11 during qualifying. Defending champion Joan Mir hung around near the front, stayed out of trouble, and added 16 points to his portfolio. 28.571% of the riders who started recorded DNFs, meaning points for all the survivors. But it’s starting to feel like Fabio’s year.

Friday

The Executive Committee at Late-Braking MotoGP took a decision today to largely ignore Fridays going forward, unless something out of the ordinary takes place. For instance, Takaa Nakagami went all ragdoll during FP2 and had to pretty much blow off Saturday, starting last on the grid for the race. Oh, and Marc Marquez—remember him?—started where he left off last year, securing P3 in FP1 and P6 in FP2. He appeared to be roughly 83.726% fit. Seeing him back on the #93 Repsol Honda made it seem like the world is back on its axis, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem ready to push 100% yet. Yet even at less-than-complete fitness, I was thinking it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise to see him on the podium come Sunday.

Saturday

FP3 was chicken and biscuits for Franco Morbidelli, rookie Luca Marini and veteran Aleix Espargaro. Doing the MotoGP bump, they left feathers and entrails for defending champ Joan Mir, six-time MotoGP champion Marquez and the aforementioned Nakagami. Mir and Marquez were relegated to Q1; Nakagami to the medical tent, where he was pronounced fit to continue his Portuguese adventure, “fit” meaning, in racing parlance, that he was in better shape than he would have been had someone pushed him down a flight of concrete stairs in shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops.

Last year’s winner, homeboy Miguel Oliveira, wasn’t a factor in today’s race.

Speaking of falling down stairs, hot Pramac rookie Jorge Martin did what a lot of young riders experiencing early success on the Ducati do—went flying over the handlebars in FP3 and landed in the hospital, facing surgery on his right hand and foot. Whether he will return in time for Jerez is iffy. Perhaps he learned a valuable lesson, i.e., just because one can go 350 kmh on two wheels doesn’t mean one should.

Mir and Marquez climbed back into Q2 with productive outings in Q1, to the chagrin of Alex Marquez and Pol Espargaro. For $1,000 and the game, name the last time two riders with seven (7) premier class titles between them moved through Q1 to Q2. Answer, according to our crack research team at WildGuess.com: Never.

Q2 was a comedy, as the new caution lights, meant to replace the flags came into play several times. Maverick Vinales had his fastest lap taken away for exceeding track limits, dropping him down to P12 for Sunday’s start. But factory Ducati fast mover Pecco Bagnaia, Alien-in-Waiting, had an incandescent lap (4/10ths under the previous track record) and a P1 start taken away for a yellow ‘flag’. He was still fist-pumping during his warm-down lap before receiving the news and found himself alongside Vinales in P11 when the dust settled. Thus, two potential denizens of the front row would be grinding their teeth, mopping up Row 4. Fabio, on the factory Yamaha, inherited pole and a new track record along with the notion that Bagnaia is the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo.

[Sidebar. The contrast in performance between teammates on several of the teams is stark. Aleix Espargaro would start in P7 for the Aprilia team, with teammate Lorenzo Savadori sitting in P20. Marquez would start in P6; teammate Pol Espargaro in P14. Under the heading “How Far the Mighty Have Fallen,” rugged Frankie Morbidelli would start in P5, while legendary teammate Valentino Rossi, clearly playing out the string, would be looking at the backs of 16 other riders when the lights go out on Sunday. Rossi, at this point, appears to be in it only for the contract.]

Marquez was slotted comfortably in P6 for Sunday but admitted late on Saturday that he was suffering and expected to continue to do so on Sunday. If he were just human, I might buy the argument, but because he is Marquez, I would still be comfortable, on Saturday evening, putting $100 on him to podium on Sunday.

Sunday

Pre-race musings…Two Anglos, flash-in-the-pan Sam Lowes and Remy Gardner, sitting at the top of Moto2? In a sport dominated by Spaniards and Italians…Matt Dunn, partner of Neil Morrison, sounds like some posh London racing savant on both Adderall and helium…And is it true that over on Reddit some folks are referring to your boy Simon Crafar as Captain Xanax?…Funny how no one’s scared of Joan Mir…Just sayin’…I really missed last year’s finale here, the emotion associated with Oliveira’s win at his home crib…Is it just me, or does the dead air soundtrack at MotoGP.com sound like a porn film?…16 year-old Moto3 rookie Pedro Acosta looks, in uniform and glaring at the camera, like he’s been up past his bedtime. He just punked Dennis Foggia to take win #2 and lengthen his series lead in 2021…When did Jack Miller go from cute to scary?… Morbidelli, #2 overall in 2020, is stuck on a 2019 bike by SRT Yamaha? What’s with that?…So nice not having Dennis Chung penciling out all the good stuff.

Sam justified my faith in him during the Moto2 race by crashing out at Turn 1 on Lap 1. Just when I was thinking I was wrong about the guy.

The MotoGP race, won by Quartararo easily after chasers Rins and Zarco crashed out, proved that Yamaha has solved its bike problems of recent years. It has not solved its rider problem, however, as Maverick ‘Pop Gun” Vinales finished in P11 after having spent some (low) quality time as far down as P20. Quartararo prevailed over Pecco Bagnaia, who flogged his Desmo from P11 at the start to P2 at the close. Joan Mir, the sole Suzuki to finish, took third place after hovering in the lead group all day without ever leading. But points is points.

Marc Marquez started in P6 and finished in P7, yielding a spot to a beaming Aleix Espargaro, who finally seems to have a functional bike beneath him. For Marquez, finishing today’s race was a win. He now has two weeks to continue rehab before taking the track again in Jerez.

My boy Frankie Morbidelli was denied a spot on the podium, but was back to his persona from last year, finishing P4. Brad Binder, fronting for the entire KTM program, suffering from front tire stability, managed P5 after starting P15. Alex Marquez managed P8, one of many riders to benefit from having so many studs leave the building. These included, in rough order, Pol Espargaro, Jack Miller, Miguel Oliveira (rejoined), Rossi, Rins and Zarco. With 21 starters and six DNFs, everyone received a participation award today, even Lorenzo Savadori and Iker Lecuona. And Takaa Nakagami finishing in the top ten is kind of a miracle given his physical condition this weekend.

Alex Rins can’t stand success.

So, the top ten for the season, after three rounds, looks like this:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO         Yamaha          61

2        Francesco BAGNAIA         Ducati           46

3        Maverick VIÑALES            Yamaha          41

4        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           40

5        Joan MIR                         Suzuki          38

6        Aleix ESPARGARO             Aprilia           25

7        Alex RINS                        Suzuki          23

8        Brad BINDER                    KTM             21

9        Enea BASTIANINI             Ducati           18

10      Jorge MARTIN                  Ducati           17

Other than Honda, which is in the midst of a dumpster fire, all five remaining manufacturers have at least one representative in the top ten, four of which are from Ducati, which has yet to win a race. And Fabio won twice at Jerez last year, clearly enjoying the prospect of padding his lead in two weeks.

But parity sits on the horizon in MotoGP. Never thought I’d see the day.

We’ll do some tranching before Jerez, as well as something about Moto3 and Moto2.

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12 Responses to “MotoGP 2021: Round 3 – Portimao”

  1. prakasit Says:

    Parity indeed. I have a feeling that Marc will be there at the end fighting with the young guys.
    Now that his teammate is out riding him, may be Miller will have no pressure and do better

    Like

  2. Allison Sullivan Says:

    Not the best race to watch, being a bit of a procession at the end – even though Portimao is a great circuit for spectating. The elevation changes and sweeping corners are fun to watch.

    That was a nice ride by Fabio. He looks much more together than he did last year – I thought when he blazed into contention as a rookie that he might be a little light on racecraft and mental toughness, and that last year would have taught him a lot about both. Seems I might have been right. Good to see whoever put their boot up Pecco Bagnaia’s backside seems to have kept it firmly wedged there, because that was a good race from him, and Frankie as well, although both looked maybe better than they deserved due to Zarco and Rins going for gravel facials mid-race. Stud of the weekend goes to my man Taka, who must have felt like he went the distance with Mike Tyson and lost on points after that crash. And shout out too to MM93, who admitted that he found the whole outing as intimdating as hell and still bought it home with a decent result.

    Tomatoes to Valentino Rossi. I can understand that the dude was denied his victory tour last year and wanted to stick around to see if he’d get it this year. If he does, he’d better take it. Dude’s literally taking up real estate right now. And also tomatoes for losing Jorge Martin so early in the season. That would have spiced up the racing considerably had he stuck around … the Ducs look very, very fast this year.

    Million dollar question – did something go wrong with Pop Gun’s bike? Nothing on the wires, but he was lapping over a second off race pace for most of the afternoon.

    Didn’t get a chance to watch Moto2 and 3 this week, although I read that Tatsu got bumped out of the race in Moto3. I don’t think he’s logged any points yet this season … tough break. Good to hear that Joe Roberts and Cam Beaubier made another solid showing in Moto2 though.

    Like

  3. Old MOron Says:

    Fun race weekend. Lots of edge-of-your-seat stuff. Unfortunately it was somewhat blunted by the crashes in Moto GP. Oh well, crashing is part of racing, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Vrooom Says:

    Man that Miller crash was weird, he was actually in a straight between corners. The Bag man put on a hell of a ride, that man is a metronome. Hoping Quartaro keeps it up, unlike his last year doldrums later in the season. It has to be painful to keep making risky passes of a Ducati, only for them to eat your lunch on the straight!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No-longer-orange buell guy Says:

    Watching Joe was a treat. Especially in the middle end, but not the end end. I’m enjoying seeing cam do better and better each weekend. I saw him on screen multiple times in the beginning which is more than you could say for Qatar.

    I’m curious though about the Suzukis. They just can’t seem to hold onto a lead in front of the Ducatis at all. Whereas once fabio and pop gun got in front they just headed for the hills and did their best Lorenzo impressions. I don’t know if it’s a Bins and Mir problem, or the bike, or just the 2 tracks. But I’m interested in seeing if that continues over the course of the season. The only reason Bins did as well as he did was because he stuck like glue to fabio. Until, well you know.

    I’m getting disappointed in zarco. At this rate he’ll be the best non winning rider in the last 10 years. He just can’t seem to make it.

    Like

  6. Starmag Says:

    This looks like the start of last year for El Diablo. Prove me wrong oh Mephistopheles.

    The Thriller is in trouble.

    Decent outing for Antman, considering.

    Does anyone believe Methuselah anymore about his back tire wear when Yams are winning the races?

    Maybe Pop Gun’s nickname should be Yo-Yo.

    Like

  7. Old MOron Says:

    Has he mentioned tire wear this year? I don’t recall. If he does have tire wear problems, maybe he’s become a ham fist in his advanced years. According to Mat Oxley Yamaha are allowing the riders to manage tires with their wrists rather than relying purely on software.

    Or maybe Yamaha are using him as a test mule. He’s on the satellite team, but he has a factory bike. Maybe they’re testing software routines on him. They don’t need for him to win races, but he’s supposedly a good development rider.

    Like

    • Old MOron Says:

      I was thinking out loud in my previous post, but a little reflection makes either scenario seem unlikely. Valley came up the ranks of two-strokes. He was the last champion on a 500 GP bike. The man must have good throttle control. As to testing duties, it seems unlikely that he would relegate himself to that. He doesn’t enjoy the clout that he once had, but I doubt he’s a test mule.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mad4TheCrest Says:

    I really enjoyed this write-up, Bruce, even if the actual race results were a little disappointing. Portimao is a tough track though, so I guess we were lucky there weren’t more fallers. You are so right about Rins, sigh …

    Liked by 1 person

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