Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) is now the owner of the fastest ever two-wheel lap of the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, the Frenchman putting in a 1m39.417s to top Day 1 of the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal.
Second went the way of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as he ended the day just over a tenth off, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) impressing to put the Noale factory in third by the end of play.
Almost the entire MotoGP field are already under the WorldSBK lap record at this incredibly challenging circuit. The qualifying record for WorldSBK is 1m40.372s, while the race lap record is almost a second slower at 1m41.272s, both records were set in 2019 by Jonathan Rea.
The day began with the home hero on top as Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) set the pace in the extended 70-minute FP1 session with the fastest-ever Algarve International Circuit two-wheel lap: a 1:40.122. Portugal’s first premier class winner had close company, however, heading Viñales by 0.040. Aleix Espargaro completed the top three as Aprilia got off to a solid start.
It was Oliveira who led the opening stages, before Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) took over at the summit with the Hondas of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) sitting P3 and P4 with 50 minutes to go, before Viñales slotted into P3.
The Yamaha man then took over at the top with a 1:41.427 and with a fitting 36 minutes left on the clock, 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) showed some early cards to take second. It was close from the off, eight tenths covering the top 14 with just under half an hour left.
Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) was the next man to take over, before Quartararo then became the first rider to dip into the 1:40s with a 1:40.877. Improvements were being fired in across the board late on though, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) leapfrogging Aleix Espargaro for third too.
With two minutes to go, the goalposts were moved by Viñales once again, Oliveira and Aleix Espargaro then taking second and third respectively. Lorenzo Savadori, who has experience in Portimão from his superbike days, then made it two Aprilias in the top three as the Italian went P2.
On his final flying lap though, Oliveira returned to the summit and made it a Portuguese number one in Portuguese FP1. Viñales ended the morning in second ahead of Aleix Espargaro and an impressive showing from Savadori, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the top five ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Mir, Quartararo, Nakagami and Bradl, the German rider locking out the top 10.
All the times tumbled in the afternoon, although some shuffles were more drastic than others. Before many laps were ridden in anger though, the first MotoGP crash of the weekend came courtesy of Rins. The Team Suzuki Ecstar rider was down at Turn 8, the Spaniard perfectly ok but that not an ideal start to the afternoon.
Aleix Espargaro led the early stages with a 1:40.969, less than a second away from Oliveira’s FP1 pace, before Zarco got down to a 1:40.723 to sit top with just under an hour to go thanks to his best time of the weekend. Bradl, as he had in the opening session, then went fastest. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Iker Lecuona’s replacement Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Tech3) were the other riders to have already gone quicker in FP2 with 50 minutes to go, but the shuffle only continued from there on.
By 11 minutes to go, just 0.8 seconds split the leading 18 riders. The final push began as Miller launched himself to P1 with a 1:39.895, Nakagami and Mir making moves as well, with the top four covered by less than a tenth as the clock counted down.
Zarco then struck to take to the top. The Frenchman went a tenth and a half faster than the field before Miller improved again to cut that gap, Bradl got back up to P3, and then Viñales wrestled back top spot with a 1:39.664. That didn’t last long though as Zarco took back over by nearly a quarter of a second, the Frenchman stamping some authority on the timesheets.
It was a scintillating end to the session and by the end of the final charge for the top, Zarco held on and everyone had improved. Viñales and Aleix Espargaro were second and third as they had been in FP1, however, with Quartararo moving up to fourth overall.
Brad Binder jumped up from P20 to complete a top five split by 0.280 seconds, ahead of the reigning World Champion as Mir finished P6 on Day 1. He was just 0.009 seconds ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) though, with Pol Espargaro, Miller and Morbidelli completing the top 10.
Bradl missed out by just 0.021 despite his impressive showing, with Nakagami and Oliveira shuffled down to P11 and P12 respectively by the end of play.
They will be joining Rins – who ended Friday in P17 – as some of the most eager to get back out in FP3 to try and move up the order. More track time will likely mean more shuffles though, so there’s plenty time left yet! Tune in for FP3 at 9:55 local time (GMT) to see who’s heading through, before qualifying will then decide the grid from 14:10.
Friday MotoGP Rider Reflections
Johann Zarco – P1
“I am very happy with today. I felt very comfortable on the soft tire and it is a good tire for a fast lap. Tomorrow we will work on how to have more rhythm on this very complicated circuit where the bike moves a lot, but I think we will find the solution to be more comfortable for the race ”
Maverick Vinales – P2
“This is an awesome track! It‘s so good! I‘m enjoying it a lot. Honestly, I didn‘t care about the lap times, I was just trying to enjoy the experience. For sure, the bike is working well, and we are riding well on the track. It was good to try all the tyres today to understand and have a sense of which direction to follow tomorrow, and we‘ll see what happens. Everyone is fast. The first 15 riders are in the 1‘39s, so everything is very tight. We‘re all on the limit. Anti-wheelie will be important, so we will try to make another step there.”
Aleix Espargaro – P3
“In FP1, we clearly took advantage of the data from the test, but with two sessions that long, the other riders came up to speed quickly. This is why I’m very pleased with the overall third place time, because being ahead in FP2 as well means that we really did a good job. In addition to the flying lap, we were also competitive on used tyres, which is a very important aspect because tyre wear in the race will be crucial, especially in the last ten laps. Tomorrow I’ll battle to finish in the top 6. I think it is a result that both the team and I deserve.”
Fabio Quartararo – P4
“It’s a nice feeling here at Portimão and I’m really happy with the initial data that we have collected today; we can see that the bike has good potential at this circuit. We do still have a lot of things to improve, both on the bike and with myself, but I feel happy with fourth today. It’s a difficult track in some places; in particular there are some really tricky corners but it is also a lot of fun and very unique. When you go for the time attack on the downhill section you get an amazing feeling in your stomach. I’m looking forward to tomorrow because we have some things to try in the morning and we’ll see what we can do in qualifying.”
Joan Mir – P6
“Considering it’s the first day at the track, I feel pretty good. We’ve worked a lot on the settings and the electronics. It’s quite difficult to adjust the bike to suit a circuit we’ve never been to before; finding the correct settings took a lot of work. But by the end of the day I felt comfortable and I found good pace, so we’re satisfied with this first day. It’s the same for everyone, so it’s important to be quick as soon as possible and learn fast. I feel quite strong in several places on the track, but there’s always a margin for improvement and I hope to put in a good performance tomorrow.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P7
“It has been a hectic day: Portimão is a particular and narrow track, which does not allow you to make the most of the MotoGP engine. We struggled to find a good setup right from the start. After several laps, my feeling with the bike has finally improved, but there are still some aspects we need to focus on to be ready for Sunday’s race. The goal now will also be to understand how the tyres will behave on this track.”
Jack Miller – P9
“Definitely a positive day, I like the track very much and I had a lot of fun, there are some very difficult points like turn one, eight and nine. As a first day I feel very satisfied and have a good feeling with the bike. We hope to do well tomorrow too.”
Franco Morbidelli – P10
“First impressions are positive of the Portimão track, it’s really nice and the Portuguese weather is also really good at this time of year. I’m happy to be here riding and the feeling today was getting better lap-by-lap. It is quite a difficult track physically, very demanding on the body, but I was able to improve my time and also refine the bike setup in these two sessions. We tried some different tyre combinations and I think we learned quite a few things to help us put everything together tomorrow to be fast. We were able to get into the top-ten, so it’s definitely been a positive day for us.”
Stefan Bradl – P11
“I got up to speed very quickly and had a good feeling on the bike. We had two strong sessions today while trying to understand the options we have for the weekend. I’m happy with how today went but tomorrow it will be important, I think we can aim to get into Q2. It was a good feeling to see P1 on my pit board, the feeling and speed has improved with each weekend. It’s a very special track, unique and a lot of points to make a difference.”
Takaaki Nakagami – P12
“As you can see, today was a busy day because it’s a new track for me with a MotoGP bike. We tried many things during the FP1 session because we had 70 minutes in the morning and afternoon. We tried different compounds on the tyre and got some good feedback. We struggled a little bit in the exits of the corners as most of the corners here are not flat, they are up and down, so it’s difficult to find the best balance of the bike. Little by little we’re getting a better feeling on the bike and it’s shame we had a small crash in FP2, but I’m ok and we’re really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Miguel Oliveira – P13
“We had a good first day here in Portimao. I think from the morning to the afternoon, we were able to set up the bike better. There are still a couple of things, we can improve for sure, as this is a new track. From my side, I feel very good on the bike, I’m enjoying every lap on this track. This afternoon we wanted to save one extra soft tyre for tomorrow morning, so I think we could not get the maximum out of our package, but I’m still happy with this opening day.”
Cal Crutchlow – P14
“It’s nice to be back on the Portimao track. It’s a really difficult track to get right, there are so many different lines and braking points and you have to be clever, as such, to put a good lap together here because there are a lot of corners and sequences of corners. I think we did ok today, I’m disappointed with the final position because I made some mistakes on my lap which were completely my own fault, but after 11 years since I rode here, it’s good to get the memory back of riding a good circuit.”
Pecco Bagnaia – P15
“I had a really great time today. In the afternoon I felt much better and we took a step forward, i was very fast for all the FP2. I have very good feelings about the track and the bike, I like it very much, I am very satisfied with the work we are doing.”
Lorenzo Savadori – P16
“A good day. My confidence on the RS-GP is increasing session after session and racing on a track I’m familiar with definitely helps. You can see my lack of miles in this category when I have to push to the limit. Despite some good times, I still don’t have the perfect feeling when I need to squeeze out 100%. The clearest limitations are the same as Valencia. We need to keep working to try to take full advantage of this weekend.”
Alex Rins – P17
“This track is very demanding, but it’s really nice to ride. You have to concentrate really hard because the track has so many different elements, with ups and downs and different cambers and corners, there’s no time to breathe! You need to stay focused and manage it all well. After the crash I felt a bit of pain on my ‘bad’ shoulder, but luckily nothing that some treatment won’t fix. I’m looking forward to riding again tomorrow, and I’ll continue to work hard to find the best settings to fight at the front.”
Alex Marquez – P18
“From the test before we were able to learn the layout of the track but when you come here on a MotoGP bike it’s completely different. All the markers for turning and braking are new, and we spent a lot of FP1 working on finding the correct line because we did not really have any references. It’s a fun circuit with some difficult sections to master, but I enjoyed it today. With four front and four rear tyre options there was a lot of work to do, but I feel good after today even if our position isn’t the best. For tomorrow we need to make a step in the morning.”
Danilo Petrucci – P19
“It was a very long and demanding day: we did many tests, but I’m still not satisfied with the feeling I have with the bike on this track. We haven’t yet found the right way to go, but after this first day, we have collected many data to work on in the next sessions. Tomorrow in FP3, we will also focus on trying our time attack”.
Tito Rabat – P20
“In the morning I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike as the rear wheel was spinning a lot. But in the afternoon, after the great work the team has done, I have been able to do much better so I hope to take another step forward tomorrow, on a new track where I think we can have a good race ”
Valentino Rossi – P21
“The track is fantastic. It‘s different from the other tracks. With MotoGP bikes it‘s difficult because you are going so fast, but it‘s beautiful and a lot of fun to ride. We tried some different things today, but in the end we didn‘t find a real step. With my first bike, which had a closer to normal setting, I was a bit faster. But, unfortunately, I lost the front in Turn 4. I crashed, but I‘m okay. But after that I had to go out with the other bike, and I didn‘t have the same feeling, so I wasn‘t fast enough. We had tried to improve rear grip, but I lost speed on corner entry. What we gained we lost in another part. Tomorrow we will stick to a more standard setting and will try to understand if we can be stronger.”
Mika Kallio – P22
“Before I arrived, I knew that it’s going to be a tough day for many reasons, first of all of course learning a new track. I have never been here and it took some time to understand it, plus it’s one of the most complicated circuits I’ve ever been, although it’s really nice and I like it a lot. But it’s not easy and it takes time. So, the first practice was mostly for this and trying to learn the bike again, understanding the new tyres. My last race was more than one year ago, so we didn’t expect that much from the first day, but somehow, we improved at the end of FP2 and also my feeling was slightly better. We are still far from the fastest guys, but at least we saw, that we are finding the correct way. On some points, I’m losing quite a lot in braking, so I need to find out how I can get out everything from the front tyre, because this is the place we are losing. There are many things to do for tomorrow, so let’s see what happens.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“It’s been an interesting day being at a circuit we’ve never competed at before. We’ve been collecting a lot of information and data, and the riders have been familiarising themselves with the track. Joan put in some good lap times and had strong pace. And despite having a small crash, Alex also did a good job of collecting information and getting plenty of laps in. We’ll be working tonight to see what we need to change for tomorrow, and then we’re ready to get back out there and try our best.”
Massimo Meregalli – Monster Yamaha Team Director
“This track is completely different from Valencia last week, or any other circuit for that matter. Maverick already really enjoyed this track during the test, and on his M1 his enjoyment increased even more. Valentino on the other hand didn‘t have a good feeling with the bike all day, and matters weren‘t helped by his small crash in Turn 4. There is still quite a lot of work to do. This circuit is technically challenging and we don‘t have any prior experience or data to go on, so we will be analysing today‘s data very carefully to assess in which areas we can make further steps. Since we had some extra track time today, we used some of it to try all the tyre options and also some things we couldn‘t test earlier, already with an eye on next year. This helps us make up for the fact that we don‘t have an end-of-season test like we usually have in Valencia.”
Friday MotoGP Combined Practice Times
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) shot first in the final Moto2 battle of the season as the Italian topped the timesheets on Day 1 of the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal – but the man right on his tail was another title challenger. Still riding through the pain barrier following his huge FP3 crash at Valencia, Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) nevertheless took second on Friday, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) completing the top three.
Championship leader Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) was fifth quickest behind fourth placed Remy Gardner.
Fourth in the standings, Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) was ninth on day one.
Friday Moto2 Combined Practice Times
Championship leader Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) began the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal in the best possible position: on top. The Spaniard made a late lunge to end the day with two tenths in hand over newly-crowned Rookie of the Year Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), with Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) completing the top three. Arenas’ title rivals were in eighth and ninth in reverse order to the standings as Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) edged ahead of Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia).
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