Isn’t that Portimao track all kinds of spectacular? It goes up, it goes down, the corners are blind, but the surface is beautiful, as is the location.
And as a late inclusion into the bizarre 2020 season, I reckon it was spot on. Just seeing it do in the heads of so many riders was worth the price of admission.
Miguel Oliveira won.
But I was thinking he was always going to win, him being the local boy and all. He rode a brilliant race and led from pole to win by almost four seconds. Totally untouchable – and had there been 120,000 screaming Portuguese fans there, we would have heard them yelling down here.
Of course, while many of the riders hadn’t ridden the track before, a few of them had, so it’s not like it was all new to all of them. Mir, Salvadori, Petrucci, Crutchlow, and Morbidelli had all belted a bike around there before.
What was new was no-one had belted a MotoGP bike around the Speed Jewel of the Algarve. Rossi hated it and called it a “roller-coaster” and that was pretty much what everyone called it all weekend. Its elevation changes and crests certainly provided some one-wheeled magic the likes of which no other MotoGP track offers.
Rins entered the history books as the first MotoGP rider to bin a bike there when he lost in in Turn Eight during FP2. Zarco entered everyone’s bad books and delayed the start of Q1 and Q2 when his bike blew up and sprayed the track with oil, but only after he helpfully managed to cross a live track with a leaking bike at Turn 15.
As it was the end of the season, Carmelo Ezpeleta was applauded by the entire grid, who lined up in front of their bikes and clapped and clapped – and despite what you may or may not think of his Excellency, he did manage to haul together one of the most exciting seasons in MotoGP history during what can only be described as trying times.
The front row was revealing and telling.
Oliveira had been dominant in Practice and Qualifying and was on pole. Morbidelli was still sizzling from last week’s conquest and was riding the only viable Yamaha in the race – that it was a 2019 B-spec bike was not lost on anyone. Jack Miller finished off the front row – once again the best Ducati on the track.
The second row was Cal Crutchlow in fourth – an achievement which sent the Pommie race callers into paroxysms of utter nonsense. Each time they mentioned “Not ever writing off the steel-eyed Honey Badger who had lots left in the locker” I threw up in my mouth a little. The only locker Cal had anything left in was his Twitter locker where he has been engaged in an amusing handbag battle with Jorge Lorenzo over who is who in the MotoGP zoo.
Fabulous had somehow managed to wedge himself into fifth, and none other than Stefan Bradl found himself in sixth.
The reigning world champion? Well, Mir was back in 20th, while his Suzuki team-mate, young Rins was way up in tenth.
It was all fairly weird, but also relatively normal for 2020.
The race itself was actually rather processional with little in the way of heart-in-mouth moments.
We all expected Portimao to deliver a knife-edge spectacle of derring-do, bravery, and madness, but that’s not what happened at all.
The championship had been decided the round before. There was only second place and the Constructors’ Championship to play for – and no rider really gives much of a damn about either. They ain’t wired that way.
So Miguel shot off the start, Morbidelli and Miller followed, and all the passing happened in the less-than-epic battles for the minor places.
Miller stalked and hounded Morbidelli for the entire race. Neither of them could even see Oliveira after Lap Five, so they raced each other. But not with any kind of intent until the final lap, where Jack paid Franki back for beating him the week before by beating him this round. He waited for the fourth corner from the end to do it, but he did do it – clean and hard.
Pol Espargaro, who started in ninth, rode a lonely race to eventually secure fourth, nine seconds adrift of Jack and Franki.
Mir was involved in two incidents at the rear of the field. First he nudged into Zarco’s bike – and nothing much happened, then he belted into Pecco Bagnaia – not Pecco’s bike, but Pecco himself. Pecco had to retire, and sat in his pit grimacing and clutching his shoulder as his 2020 season ended in a pile of pain.
Mir himself failed to stamp any kind of authority on his new championship title, and rode around the track, first in the middle, then at the back of the field, before retiring 10 laps from the end of the race with “electrical problems” which happened during his nudging efforts.
It was quite sobering to see the utter collapse of the 2020-spec Yamahas. Fabulous rode backwards pretty much from the beginning, and all three current-year A-spec Factory Yamahas contended for 10th place.
Maverick won that duel from The Doctor, while Crutchlow and his empty locker ran wide towards the end of the race, but still managed to pass Fabulous to secure a locker full of 13th place.
Binder also managed to not finish the race, along with Salvador, but I’m betting the Giraffe King will come back hard next year.
Who won’t be back next year is Cal and Dovi – regular stalwarts whom I will greatly miss. Cal might do the odd wildcard ride, and Dovi may find MotoGP employment in 2022 – but given the amazing herd of talent waiting in the lower classes, it’s not likely.
Marc Marquez’s return is also up in the air. The silence from HRC is deafening.
But the Rock, the Constant, the Eternal, will be back. Yes, the Doctor will return next year and I remain optimistic. Stop sniggering. I’ve travelled down this road too long and too loyally to bail now.
I’m also tipping next year will be even more intriguing than this year – though how that will be possible is anyone’s guess.
But the greatest sport on this Earth is the greatest sport for precisely that reason – its sheer unpredictability.
Thank you all for your kind attention this season. I can only hope I did it justice.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.
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