MotoGP After Round 3: Portimao

© Bruce Allen    April 22, 2021

In which we engage in some casual tranching and try to put the 2021 season, thus far, in something approaching perspective. With a nod to both Moto2 and Moto3.

Back in March, had I wagered that, after three rounds, none of the following riders would be found in the top ten, I expect I could have found some takers:

Frankie M

Thriller Miller

Pol Espargaro (?)

Takaa Nakagami

Miguel Oliveira and, of all people,

Valentino Rossi

And here we are, with The New Young Guns clearly running things in the top ten, other than what are likely to be temporary appearances by Johann Zarco and Aleix. The inmates done taken over the asylum. As predicted by most of you, back in 2018-2019.

But what about this lot? NONE of them in the top ten after three? What’s to say about them? Frankie has had mechanical issues for the first 10% of the season? How can Yamaha allow that to happen? Jack, the latest version of Marco Simoncelli, is so elated to be fast that he has become a hazard to himself and those around him. This is not to say that he is heading for disaster. It means he needs to assert his will on the Desmo, the way his teammate Pecco has. He trails #20 by 47 points; all is not lost.

Zarco (P4, 40 pts) and Rins (P7, 23 pts) seem to have trouble dealing with success. Also qualifying, as Rins has been on the front row in something like 6 of 66 races. Zarco could have been top three had he not slid out; same with Rins. There is no noticeable improvement in the 2021 Suzuki vs. the 2020 version; it will take a helluva rider, a Joan Mir, to coax enough points out of his Gixxer to give #20 and #93 a beating. Zarco has only himself to blame, having come into the race with two silver medals from Qatar, which he has since had bronzed for posterity.

The two Honda pilots, Espargaro and Nakagami, are on the outside looking in for different reasons. Espargaro, because he’s still trying to get the hang of the RC213V. Nakagami had a dreadful two rounds in Qatar before suffering a heavy crash in practice at Portimao and is currently being held together by duct tape and clarinet reeds. His star should begin ascending again in Jerez.

Miguel Oliveira won last year’s final race, in Portugal, leading me to expect more from him in 2021. The tire issues plaguing the entire KTM project have caught him as well. And Valentino, The Doctor, sporting four points for the season. He looks bad, having problems none of the other Yamaha riders are experiencing. There can be little doubt he should have taken his victory lap last year and called it a career. This is hard to watch.

Despite a win and a P5 in the desert, Maverick Vinales’ P11 at Portimao seemed inevitable. With all the potential in the world, young Vinales is so terribly inconsistent. This is not a characteristic often found in world champions. A female reader of this column has observed, that if #12 were here boyfriend she would have dumped him in 2019. The editorial team here has predicted that he will not spend his entire racing career with Yamaha.

Aleix Espargaro has a mediocre Aprilia beneath him this season, which is a large step up from what he’s been riding most of his career. He appears able to put himself in the top ten for the year, but it will be uphill all the way. I’d like to see what he could do on Vinales’ bike.

Brad Binder has been the consummate team player thus far, sharing with all three other KTM riders his considerable front tire problems.

The three riders as yet unmentioned in the top ten include Alien-in-Waiting Pecco Bagnaia, who seems to have come into his own after two seasons of underachieving in on the Ducati. The two rookies, Enea Bastianini in P9 and Jorge Martin in P10, have looked good and great, other than Martin having put himself in the hospital and out of Rounds 3 and 4 with a big high-side in practice in Portugal. He will, accordingly, drop out of the top ten in Jerez, which is okay, because dude has major stones and a bright future in MotoGP.

The Desert Tranche, after Round Two:

Tranche I —  Quartararo, Mir, Zarco

Tranche II –  Vinales, Rins, A. Espargaro, Miller, Martin

Tranche III – Morbidelli, Binder, Bastianini, Oliveira, P. Espargaro, Bagnaia

Tranche IV – A. Marquez, Bradl, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Marini, Lecuona, Savadori, Petrucci

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Vinales, Rins, A Espargaro, Morbidelli, M Marquez, Martin

Tranche III – Binder, Bastianini, P Espargaro, A Marquez, Marini, Miller

Tranche IV – Oliveira, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Petrucci, Savadori, Lecuona

Moto2 After 3 Rounds

After sailing home with wins in the opening rounds in Qatar, Sam Lowes reverted to form by crashing out at Portimao at Turn 1 of Lap 1, hence crashing into P3 for the season, in a tight three-man contest with Aussie Remy Gardner and rookie Raul Fernandez, who, according to announcers Matt and Steve, is the Next Next Great Rider. American Joe Roberts was hip-checked out of a second career podium at Portimao in the last turn by Gardner and/or Aron Canet—couldn’t see well—putting him in P7 for the season. American rookie Cameron Beaubier finished the race in a respectable P9, sitting in P12 for the year.

There appear to be perhaps eight or ten competitive riders in Moto2 this year. I would expect one of the top three to claim the title. Of the three, it looks to me like Fernandez is the only one to have a legitimate shot at a promotion to MotoGP in the immediate future. Lowes has been there, done that, while Gardner does not seem to be the second coming of either his dad or Casey Stoner.

Moto3 After 3 Rounds

Remember this name: Pedro Acosta. The insouciant rookie appears to have been born to race motorcycles. He entered his racing career before he entered puberty, racing at Estoril in 2018 at age 13. He double dipped last season, running in both the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship (P3 for the year) and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, which he won. Out of a combined 23 races, he finished first nine times, and was on the podium another eight times. Marquez-caliber numbers. He has earned 70 of a possible 75 points thus far this year in Moto3, making a number of grizzled veteran riders look, well, silly in the process. Dude is 16 years old as we speak.

I could speculate that Jaume Masia or maybe Darryn Binder could offer Acosta a run for his money later in the year, but I don’t believe it. I believe Acosta will be in MotoGP in two years and that he stands a good chance of being the man to shoot Marc Marquez out of his saddle within two years after that. I’m impressed.

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14 Responses to “MotoGP After Round 3: Portimao”

  1. Vrooom Says:

    Tranching looks about right, M Marquez will likely earn the second tranche next weekend, at least. Miller in 3rd seems kind of harsh, though him finishing races would help my argument tremendously.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Old MOron Says:

    I would promote Binder to Tranche 2.
    Even with the KTM’s front tire problems, in the last two races Brad outscored every one of the riders currently in tranche 2, except maybe Zarco.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dale Mensch Says:

    I was going to argue the tranching until I saw that I was reading the PRE-Portimao.
    Quote of the week from Moto3’s Pedro Acosta: “My plan? Have fun for 25 minutes, then get the trophy” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Starmag Says:

    Your article was tranchant but fair as usual.

    As were your traches.

    Only Antman and Mir have proven constancy. DesmoDovi did, but he may have over-estimated his bargaining power and may now be gone for good. Everybody else needs to prove it. Including Antman on his way uphill. His record makes that a sure bet unless his bucking bronco bike breaks his arm again. This dude strikes me as both very physically and mentally tough. Getting past Portimao was a big step in both areas.

    Morbo got bride’s maid last year, but the consistency doesn’t seem to be carrying over to this year. We’ll see. I looked up the Italian definition for his last name. I was thinking it was going to be something like morbid delicatessen, but I’ve never been more wrong. It turns out Delli = some, Morbi = diseases. lol. Weird.

    Alex “Bins” still makes me laugh. Earned. He might have or is working on some sot of record for crashing out of P2.

    Maybe El Diablo choked last year because he suddenly had everybody looking at him. Rags to riches rock stars such as Cobain attest to the detrimental pressure of that. Maybe he’ll do better this year with another year of maturity and experience under his belt.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Buzz Says:

    So to use the lingo the kids are using these days, “Morbidelli is sick, bro.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mad4TheCrest Says:

    Bruce, you are right the Doctor should have made last season his ‘Victory Lap’. Actually, 2019 would have been an even better way to end it. Come to think of it, he probably should have taken that bow at the end of 2005 and gone to F1 with Ferrari. Maybe he could have pulled a Surtees by now. Vale had other chances to end on a high note in 2008 (best) and 2009. At that point he had 7 top class titles from 10 seasons (2000-2009). I guess the man loves racing a bike more than he cares for his legacy. Which, I kinda get.


  7. Bruce Allen Says:

    I, being more cynical than you, suspect he’s building his war chest for the upcoming VR46 Racing Team in MotoGP.


    • Old MOron Says:

      And I, being even more cynical than you, am beginning to suspect you’re not going to post a race preview this weekend.


      • Bruce Allen Says:

        I’m working on the preview. It’s just gonna post after the race! Much more accurate that way.


        • Starmag Says:

          “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

          ― Yogi Berra


        • Old MOron Says:

          Qualifying was fun. Couple of great saves from Marc and Morbi! How about Stefan Bradl finishing ahead of both factory Hondas?! Slim Shady is looking very strong for tomorrow. I hope Morbi and the Ducs will give him a run for his money, but they don’t seem to quite have the race pace to do it.

          I’m also interested to see if Binder can work his way forward, as he has done in previous races. He didn’t look great in FP4, though.

          If MMarq can put together several fast laps, I predict Pol winds up in the gravel trap. Hope he doesn’t get hurt.


  8. MotoGP After Round 3: Portimao - Project Biker Gear Says:

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