MotoGP: World Championship Heads To Portugal’s “Roller Coaster”

MotoGP: World Championship Heads To Portugal’s “Roller Coaster”

© 2024, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. From a press release issued By Dorna:

A ride like no other: MotoGP™ ready for the roller coaster

Strap in as the world’s most exciting sport returns to one of its most exciting racetracks

Monday, 18 March 2024

The opening nights of a record-breaking 2024 campaign gave us plenty to talk about as MotoGP™ heads for the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal at the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. Podiums split by tenths, performances we’ll remember for quite some time, and a perfect opening gambit for the riders who will be aiming to lead from the front all season leaves us wanting more, more, more. So where were we?

OPENING STATEMENTS

Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) hit first with a Tissot Sprint win, throwing down the gauntlet with one of his biggest calling cards as soon as competition began. Then there was a similarly statement Sunday from reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the #1 bounced back from a podium-less Sprint to put in a near-perfect GP race. So he leads the standings as we head onto ground he’s ruled before – but it’s not ahead of Martin.

That former 2023 duel, likely to continue in 2024, has a familiar interloper as we arrive in Portugal thanks to two stunning performances from Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) though. The South African is second in the standings after taking second in both outings in Qatar, and he’s already beaten both Bagnaia and Martin on track. Can he do that again? At this venue, with its track records, the benchmark may well prove Bagnaia, so both Binder and Martin will be eager to attack from the off. The reigning Champion will also be well aware of that.

MORE, MORE, MORE

It was a solid first weekend for Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) in Qatar but he’ll want more, and Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team) likewise. On the other side of the VR46 box it’s not just more but a LOT more that will be the aim for Marco Bezzecchi after a very tough Qatar, too. Franco Morbidelli (Prima Pramac Racing), meanwhile, continues in his game of catch up after missing pre-season. And then there’s Marc Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™).

It was a good opener for the eight-time World Champion under the floodlights, but there was no podium… yet. Can Portimao change that? He’s not (yet?) won at the venue, one of only four on the 2024 calendar he’s raced at and not reigned, but it’s more experience on the Ducati every time he pits out…

Speaking of more experience with every pit out, we arrive at Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3). Slicing up the order, setting the fastest lap and even attacking Marc Marquez, successfully, was quite a debut for the rookie sensation, so now it’s time to see if he can do it again. It’s a track he knows well from every class and even before, but there’s no MotoGP™ test ahead of the action this time – can he keep that roll going? Sophomore teammate Augusto Fernandez will hope experience plays into his hands here, and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will want to be taking back his own headlines as he did here last season.

TRACK RECORDS

At Aprilia, meanwhile, there’s also already plenty of success to build on. Home hero Miguel Oliveira (Trackhouse Racing) is now Long Lap penalty free to put in an assault on his home track, a venue he’s already won at in some style, and where last year with Aprilia he was impressing before bad luck intervened. It didn’t for Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) though, and he was on the podium. Can he do it again?

Raul Fernandez (Trackhouse Racing) will want to carry forward his practice pace into more once the lights go out, and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) wants a Sunday with no hurdles. The number #41 looked like he could have kept attacking for another 100 laps by the end of the Sprint in Qatar but ran out of time, before Sunday was a tougher one. Can that get rewritten in Portimao?

THE FIGHT BACK TO THE FRONT

Former Portugal winner Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) left Qatar with five points after a hard-earned P11 finish on Sunday, with progress an uphill battle as the likes of Ducati, KTM and Aprilia also made big steps over winter. But it’s all hands on deck, challenge accepted for the Iwata marque. Quartararo and new teammate Alex Rins will look to Portimao – a track the Frenchman has won at twice – as a better chance to close the gap as work and testing continues in the mission to move forward.

Castrol Honda LCR newcomer Johann Zarco fronted the HRC charge in Qatar as the Frenchman claimed P12 ahead of Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) in the GP race. The new arrival also qualified half a second clear of the other Hondas in an impressive start. Two points finishes is also a fair start for the marque as they work to build back to their former form, but they’ll want a lot more from Portimao as they put in more and more test hours thanks to the new concessions – especially after a trickier weekend for Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda LCR) and Luca Marini (Repsol Honda Team).

How will the deck shuffle as we arrive into Round 2? Does anyone have an ace up their sleeve to take on the likes of Bagnaia, Binder and Martin? The rollercoaster will reveal all, so tune in this weekend for the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal!

TISSOT SPRINT: 15:00 (UTC) on Saturday

GRAND PRIX RACE: 14:00 on Sunday

What’s happening at the #PortugueseGP

Thursday will be action-packed even before the engines fires up. The podcast is shown live at 15:00 local time welcoming Enea Bastianini, Ducati Lenovo Team rider, and it’s his first appearance. Fans will be able to submit questions via social media as ever. Then, there are two pre-event Press Conferences, at 16:00 and 16:35.

Alongside the Grand Prix action, the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Championship also joins the paddock for the first of eight events this year, staging two spectacular races each weekend. In Portugal, the first is on Saturday at 12:15 (UTC), before Race 2 at 16:10.

Moto2™: will the playbook flip again in Portugal?

Having gone winless in 2023, Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools SpeedUp) kickstarted his 2024 with an immaculate victory as the Spaniard fended off Barry Baltus (RW – Idrofoglia Racing GP) in Qatar. Baltus’ debut Moto2™ podium was 0.055s off being a first GP win as the duo enjoyed a phenomenal start to the season in the desert. As too did Sergio Garcia (MT Helmets – MSI), with the #3 pocketing his maiden Moto2™ rostrum in P3, just ahead of teammate Ai Ogura.

Meanwhile, some big names expected to fight at the front this year had a tougher start. Fermin Aldeguer (Beta Tools SpeedUp) and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) failed to get points on the board in P16 and P20, and they’ll both be craving big hauls on Sunday in Portimao to get their title hopes back on track. Meanwhile, Jake Dixon (CFMOTO Inde Aspar Team) was sidelined after a crash earlier in the weekend in Qatar, and we wait to see if the Brit will be back out this time round. 

Will the pendulum swing again? Tune into the Moto2™ Portuguese GP at 12:15 local time (UTC) to find out.

Moto3™: Alonso vs Holgado round 2?

Last laps don’t get much better than what David Alonso (CFMOTO Gaviota Aspar Team) managed to put together in a Moto3™ Qatar GP thriller. The Colombian was P6 heading onto the last lap but picked his way to the front to claim 25 points ahead of Daniel Holgado (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3) and an excellent charge from Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia) as the Japanese star bagged his second GP podium from 18th on the grid.

The likes of Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Ivan Ortola (MT Helmets – MSI) will be hunting for better fortunes in Portimao after the duo crashed in Qatar. Rueda DNF’d, but Ortola did manage to string a phenomenal recovery rider together to earn P9. We can bet there’s more to come from those two, so can the comeback start in Portugal? We’re about to find out. Watch the lightweight class do battle on the rollercoaster at 11:00 (UTC) on Sunday!

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