2020 MotoGP Round 15 – Portimao
2020 will forever be a season to be remembered: records equalled and broken, a new premier class Champion, history made for manufacturers old and new… and nine different winners already. The time has come for the curtain to come down but not without one final spectacular as the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve welcomes the MotoGP paddock for the final round rollercoaster, and there remains plenty on the line.
This will be the first time that the Algarve International Circuit has hosted a motorcycle Grand Prix. It’s the 72nd different circuit to hold a Grand Prix, and the 29th to hold a MotoGP race since the introduction of the class back in 2002.
Joan Mir arrives as the reigning MotoGP World Champion after converting his lead into the crown last time out, and he will now take on a venue that should suit Suzuki very much from the best position possible: little to lose, and in the best way. The number 36 admitted the calm exterior of late hadn’t been the whole story, so Mir unleashed could well prove the benchmark.
“I’m still trying to realise what happened on Sunday! It has started to sink in now, but these last few days have been intense and fantastic, I’ve received so many supportive messages and congratulations from fans, fellow riders, and the media. But the season isn’t done yet and I’m aiming to learn Portimão as quickly as possible in order to end the season in even higher spirits!”
The fact the venue – with its incredible undulations and whole-new layout – may well suit the Hamamatsu factory is also crucial for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and the manufacturer as a whole. Suzuki could complete the Triple Crown, as the riders’ title is theirs and so is the teams’ – all that remains is the constructors’ Championship, and it’s on a knife edge with Ducati as the two are equal on points.
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“The whole team are still feeling amazing after what happened last weekend in Valencia, we truly achieved our biggest dream with Joan. We’re looking forward to getting back on track for the last race of this year, and we’re hoping to complete the ‘triple crown’ of Riders’, Teams’, and Constructors’ titles – that would be absolutely incredible. For sure it won’t be an easy weekend because this circuit is new for everyone, but we’ll give our best from Friday onwards and see how it turns out.”
And when it comes to Rins, the Spaniard may have lost out on the crown but he’s well in the fight to end the year as runner up, and that’s despite having much of his earlier season affected by injury. He’s only four points off second place overall…
“Last weekend was a great experience for all the team, but we’re ready to fight again in Portugal! I want to get the best result possible and try to secure a 1-2 for the team. When I tried Portimão with the street bike it was very fun to ride, but it’s quite complex! It will be interesting to see what we can do here and I will work hard, as always, to give the team a super result to end the year.”
The man Rins trails, however, is on a roll. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) is currently the man in second and he arrives fresh from the top step. We’d seen the Italian win by domination twice this year already, but the third time was a charm for everyone watching as it all came down to a spectacular last lap scrap against Jack Miller (Pramac Racing). Morbidelli won to move up to second overall, and Petronas Yamaha SRT were also named best Independent Team. If Morbidelli can keep his form rolling, he has a chance not only to be runner up in the title fight, but also to take the top Independent Team rider honours too. His teammate, Fabio Quartararo, is the only man who can deny him – but the Frenchman is now 17 points off after a huge shuffle at Valencia, although he’s also gunning to leave the team on a high.
“I’m very excited and curious to see how this track is going to look like on a MotoGP bike. I raced here in 2013 and rode here a couple of months ago and yeah, I remember that it’s a very high adrenaline track and yeah, it’ll be interesting. I feel good and ok with the overall package.”
If he wins on Sunday, he would also be the first Yamaha rider to win four in a season since Jorge Lorenzo in 2016, and the first Independent Team rider to win four races since 2004 when Sete Gibernau did it…
“I didn’t know those statistics until now. I will think about them maybe later. Anyway this is a great great season for me. I think I was able to discover a part of myself that I didn’t know, the serious part. The hard-working part of myself. And I liked it, when I went out on tack on Malaysia I was feeling better on the bike and be able to be more aggressive, and feel more on the bike. That gave me the chance to work better with my team and work more precisely with my crew, and I’d say a wonderful season came out. Three wins, a podium in Brno. I’m very happy overall with my season.”
That huge shuffle has left it as an every man for himself to complete the top top four or five in the standings, assuming there’s no huge drama for the likes of Morbidelli and Rins.
“It has been a long time since I have ridden at Portimão! I remember that the track is like a rollercoaster, with an uphill section followed by a big downhill bit, so I am really looking forward to being there again. It’s a shame we couldn’t bring the championship fight to this final round, but I want to have fun in this last race of the year. To do so, the first aim of the weekend will be to find the good feeling and speed that we lost since Le Mans. I really hope that we can end the season and these two years with the team in a good way with a great result.”
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) is now fourth and two points ahead of Quartararo, and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) now sixth but equal on points with ‘El Diablo’. That could all change in a single corner at Portimão…
“I‘m really looking forward to riding my M1 at the Portimão track. We rode there once before on an R1. Already then the feeling was very good, so on the M1 it will be even better and even faster. Nobody has ridden MotoGP bikes at the Algarve track before, so that makes this race quite special. We will do our best. It will be fun to gain experience at a, for us, new circuit.”
Dovizioso is also a key player in the constructors’ standings as Ducati face down Suzuki and Yamaha, but it’s an even bigger personal occasion for the Italian too: his last MotoGP race before a planned sabbatical. Whether it will be tinged with joy, sadness or relief in some ways remains a personal question for the man himself, but for millions of fans around the world the impeccable Italian will surely be very missed on the 2021 grid, and one last race in red is something to remember.
“This is our target, we really want to finish in a good way with a good result because we are fighting for the Championship, second/third will be quite hard because Franco is a bit too far but everything is open because we are at a new track and nobody knows a lot of details. Everything is possible, anything can happen. I am happy to be on a new track for the last round and enjoy the last race with Ducati.”
The Italian is taking a planned sabbatical in 2021 and stepping away from competition, what will he miss from the box?
“For sure I will miss Piggia. He is a really good guy and our relationship improved a lot year by year. He is one of the reasons we got important results and we fought for the title because we knew each other and his way of working suited my mentality because he is an engineer, but he is closer to the riders than most engineers and that helped us and me a lot. Working on the bike, changing the set up, he understood a lot of things for me and we were able to really make a step forward and for three years we were able to make important victories and a good result at the end of the year. I will really miss him but in the end we live very close to each other so I will enjoy the time with him more at home!”
There are goodbyes for another player in the fight for the top five too, as Pol Espargaro is only three points off Dovi in the standings as he prepares to saddle up with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing for the last time. The Spaniard has been part of the project since almost inception and has seen it grow to race wins and, for him, an incredible run of podiums – so he’ll be pushing hard to go out swinging from his time with the Austrian factory.
“It’s a special track, a different one. It’s the last race of the season so most of us are playing for something interesting in the championship but as it’s the last race, we can enjoy a bit of racing here. Also the weather is fantastic here, at this stage of the year, to have this weather, it’s nice. Especially after struggling in the morning in the last races with the cold. Also we have Miguel here, he’s used to riding in Portimao and for sure his knowledge will be important for the KTM riders. Hopefully we can have a good weekend, jump a little in the championship because we are close enough to do something interesting.”
How does he feel about leaving KTM?
“Mixed emotions this weekend. The biggest part of this project I will miss is the people, the human part of KTM history has been super good. All the electronic mechanics who built this team from zero. There’s been very hard moments for sure but as we are showing this year, super happy ones. I’m going to miss them. Hopefully the KTM future is as bright as it looks but yeah, I’m going to miss these guys!”
Jack Miller also moves from Pramac to the Ducati Team next season and will want to move up on a high, Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) moves to replace him and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) heads from Ducati to Red Bull KTM Tech 3. Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing), meanwhile, is another who faces a swan song for now, the Spaniard not currently set to return to the grid in 2021.
“I was fortunate enough to have the test here with the Superbike prior to Le Mans in quite different circumstances. It was a lot of fun, enjoying a lot with the stand-up bike, you know, making a little race simulation with Dovi and Petrucci there for a bit it was a whole heap of fun but, no, different circumstances this weekend a bit more serious but, yeah, coming in with the confidence from last weekend and a good feeling with the bike so looking forward to taking off on some jumps around the circuit.”
And how does he feel seeing his friend Cal Crutchlow hang up his racing leathers?
“I mean I think on behalf of myself and everybody I think all we can say is thank you for everything he’s done. On and off the track I think he’s been a great ambassador for the sport he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen in this paddock and you know a lot of the times I feel he got doubted more than other riders but you know every time he was written off he came back to prove them all wrong and the best thing about him is he is never shy to tell you that he has proved you wrong so I think on behalf of myself and everyone else we’re all going to miss him but you know he is like a bad smell, he won’t go all the way away!”
Cal Crutchlow had three Grand Prix wins and some record-breaking achievements but becomes a test rider in 2021. That will be with Yamaha, where there is also a pivotal goodbye as Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) leaves the team – but not factory – at the end of the season.
“I feel happy and content to come to such a good circuit. Portimao, I’ve got great memories here, I won the Supersport title at this track and I’ve got some good results on the superbike here as well. I didn’t come to the test here a couple of months back but I know the circuit, it’s not like you’re going into the circuit blind and it’s a fantastic event to be able to come to. It’s nice to have this as my last one. It’s a new track for most of the riders where I’m sure everyone will be giving 100%, it’ll suit some bikes and maybe not others. It’ll be good fun because I think it will be a good race. Different parts of the track will suit different riders and bikes and yeah, I feel good. Feel good coming into the weekend with it being the last competitive race.”
And, finally, of course, his farewell to racing…
“I’ve been privileged to work with some great people: great teams, great bikes and being here for 10 years, riding some of the best bikes in the world, its been a privilege to do that. As I’ve said before, 10 years ago I didn’t expect to do what I have done so I have exceeded my own expectations. But yeah, working with great people and great crews. I don’t think I’ve left a garage where I didn’t get on with everybody in the garage and we didn’t have a great relationship. It’s nice that’s it come back full circle and I’m going back to a manufacturer that brought me into Grand Prix. But yeah, getting some of those wins I had. Brno is probably the best one because it was my first one. I was so far back in the race at the start and managed to come through, so I’ll take that one.”
It’s been a tough one at times this season for nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, but his time at the factory Yamaha team will be measured far more by their incredible shared successes. Breaking records and proving almost unbeatable for some time, the pairing is one of – if not the most – iconic in the history of the sport. The number 46 will remain on the grid but in the Petronas Yamaha SRT box next season, so it will be the end of a defining era for his team and the man himself.
“Going to Portimão is really great, that track is fantastic. The grip there is better than in Valencia, so that will help us. I felt really good during the test at the Algarve track earlier this year. It‘s different from all the other tracks that we visited throughout the season, and it‘s new for everybody, so that makes it very interesting. We will see.”
Amongst everything at stake in the constructor and rider standings, and the final chapters many face, there is also the search for the tenth different winner to break the all-time record. Could it be Pol Espargaro? Miller? Zarco? Rossi? Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu)? The Japanese rider is searching for his first podium too, and has been on a run of serious speed but tinged with bad luck. There’s also the Rookie of the Year to be decided. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) all but has it wrapped up as he’s 20 points ahead of Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), but racing is never a formality. And certainly, at the behemoth of Portimão, it will be about as far from that as possible.
“After a few days of rest and recovery I am feeling better and my left wrist is feeling stronger. Portimao is a new circuit for almost everyone this weekend so it will be interesting to see how we all adapt and learn it. It’s a very physical track with a lot of blind corners so I think it will produce some very exciting racing. I’m looking forward to it!”
Finally, there is a home hero who arrives to race on home soil for the first time in the premier class: Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3). He’s already a podium finisher and a winner in MotoGP, and there sadly won’t be any home fans at the track to cheer him on but there will be millions watching from home. As the Portuguese GP returns to the calendar, it will be a big race for Oliveira – and he’ll be pushing at the limit to end his season on a high before he moves to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing.
“I’m very happy and excited to race at home after seven years since we had the last Portuguese GP in Estoril back then and now to have the chance, still it is a different kind of season to have a home GP is great, especially because it is the last race where I think everyone is a bit more relaxed and we can enjoy racing here. I think the fans can expect the great show because this track is very very different from what we see around the world so I hope just to get a good performance so that the fans have an extra reason to enjoy the show.”
And what about leaving Tech 3 for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing?
“I would say I have also kind of the same emotions as Pol, but I think a bit less because he’s leaving a manufacturer and I’m staying in the same house let’s say. Of course to work with that Tech 3 crew was great, we built a strong relationship in two seasons and of course it makes me sad to leave and at the same time I’m stepping in a harder job for which is to be a factory ride it and I’m not expecting seems to be easier than they are right now. I’m also filling up a spot that as you know at the moment highly ‘quoted’ because Pol has been on the podium and has been setting the pace inside the KTM and so it will be a hard job but I feel I’m ready for it and to take this opportunity to develop more as a rider and to give KTM good results.”
So strap in, gear up and get ready for another spectacular weekend of racing as MotoGP takes on the rollercoaster Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. For some it’s a farewell, for others a final stand and for everyone, a completely new challenge.
MotoGP Constructors Championship
MotoGP Team Championship
|1||TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR||309|
|2||PETRONAS YAMAHA SRT||230|
|3||RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING||209|
|5||MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP||169|
|8||RED BULL KTM TECH 3||127|
|9||REPSOL HONDA TEAM||85|
|11||APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI||46|
The time has come for the final showdown in the 2020 Moto2 World Championship, and what better place to decide the outcome than a new challenge for everyone? Four riders remain in the running: Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) arrives on top, Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) is 14 points back, Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) 18… and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) is hanging on with a 23-point deficit. One of them will end the season with the crown, and the Algarve will decide which.
It is, regardless of who takes to the rollercoaster of Portimão the quickest, Bastianini who arrives with the key advantage. 14 points in his pocket mean he can afford to not take every risk and play it a little safer, needing to finish in the top four to guarantee himself the crown regardless, and even if he doesn’t manage that, his rivals remain facing down a mountain.
Bezzecchi is the simplest equation: the Italian in fourth has no choice but to win if he’s to lift the crown, although he has already done that twice in 2020 so it’s far from a long shot. He would also, however, need Bastianini to fail to score – and Lowes and Marini not do much better. Marini, meanwhile, needs at least a second place to hold up his half of his chances, and then also would need to pray for some much worse luck for his rivals. Lowes needs a podium as his minimum, but the Brit also arrives battling injury after his huge FP3 crash in the Valencia GP. So it’s advantage Bastianini, although anything can still very much happen.
This season we’ve seen riders crash out the lead, frontrunners battling injury, sudden highsides… and many a change of fortune. There are also a whole host of other fast riders on the grid who will doubtless play a big role in deciding the 2020 Champion. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) arrives from a win and is heading for MotoGP, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up) from close to victory and wanting some revenge… Aron Canet (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) wants the Rookie of the Year title and Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40) the same, as well as another podium. Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing), meanwhile, will want to leave his team on a high and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) won’t be shy about pushing the limits – which could be the key to glory at a whole new track…
Moto2 World Championship Standings
|12||Aron CANET||Speed Up||66|
|13||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||65|
|17||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||58|
|21||Hafizh SYAHRIN||Speed Up||21|
|22||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||21|
|24||Simone CORSI||MV Agusta||15|
|27||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Kalex||5|
After 14 races and some incredible highs and lows, the rollercoaster 2020 Moto3 season is almost at a close with three contenders hoping to lift the crown. In the Gaviota Aspar Team corner there’s Championship leader Albert Arenas, in the Honda Team Asia corner Ai Ogura, and then there’s Rivacold Snipers Team’s Tony Arbolino. Arenas’ lead is eight points over Ogura and 11 over Arbolino, or in other words… it really is everything to play for.
If Arenas wins the Portuguese GP or comes second, he’s the Champion. If he’s on the podium in third and Ogura doesn’t win, likewise. But if he’s not on the podium it all becomes a maths challenge with the three contenders, and lately Arenas has not been on the podium. Add in the new, undulating rollercoaster of Portimão where most have zero or very little experience and the final round is sure to be a showstopper.
The man with the momentum on the way in is not the Championship leader, it’s Arbolino. He’s the latest winner – becoming the 25th different rider to take a victory across all classes this year, equalling the record – and that’s put him right back in the hunt. The Italian has also been a dark horse for some time and arrives with a little less pressure as the underdog, but then Ogura does in many ways too, the Japanese rider’s season a case study in consistency and podiums rather than how to the take pressure as a favourite for the crown.
The pressure then, really, is on Arenas – so can he take it? The Spaniard has had his share of bad luck this season and a few key mistakes, but he’s also shown his A-game to be the best in the business as he’s outfoxed everyone on some pitch perfect final laps. Is that what he’ll bring to Portimão? Or will experience not prove an ace card at a brand new venue?
The other question is their rivals, who may be out of the running for the crown but are very much in the running for the win recently. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is on form, Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) arrives from a first pole… Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) is on a roll of rostrum form. It’s more than a three-horse race and it may well come down to those around the three contenders on track to decide the outcome of the Championship and how they balance risk and reward. And all this at a brand new track…
Moto3 World Championship Standings
Grande Prémio MEO de Portugal – Schedule (AEST)
2020 MotoGP Calendar
|15||22 November||Autodromo Internacional do Algarve|