MotoGP™ ready for round two vs the rollercoaster, Marquez sidelined
A second visit to the stunning Algarve venue sees plenty on the line but one key player missing as the winner of the last two races sits it out
Tuesday, 02 November 2021
The 2021 FIM MotoGP™ World Champion is decided, but there’s plenty still on the line this season. Two Grands Prix remain, and there are also the Team and Constructor crowns to be fought for. Interestingly too, the next stop is a return ticket to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve as the paddock gears up for the Grande Premio Brembo do Algarve, so there’s already a point of comparison from this season to get a possible glimpse of what to expect. And now it won’t include the added presence of a stronger Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the eight-time World Champion is sidelined as a precaution, having suffered a slight concussion in training on Saturday.
An exact re-run of the Portuguese GP would probably suit newly-crowned Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) just fine though. The Frenchman dominated on our first visit, and headed a top three on the podium that mirrors the 2021 standings exactly. If there hasn’t been a shake up since then, that’s no problem at all for El Diablo – especially as the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team arrive 13 points clear in the Team standings. But Quartararo was already in his stride as the season began, something that, arguably, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) hit a little later.
The other obstacle for Bagnaia’s charge to stay with Quartararo on take one in Portugal was a rollercoaster qualifying that saw one lap chalked off for track limits and another for a Yellow Flag. That dropped him ten places behind Quartararo on the grid, and Bagnaia and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) charged from 11th and ninth to second and third, respectively. Now, Bagnaia arrives with the last four pole positions in his pocket… so the sensible bet is against the Italian having to repeat his comeback on take two.
Mir and Suzuki, meanwhile, arrive hoping to repeat that podium but still looking for some Saturday secrets. The 2020 Champion hasn’t ever had a front row in MotoGP™ and despite five podiums this season, has a 2021 best of fifth and that – at the Styrian GP – is the only time he’s started on the front two rows this season. That’s a lot of extra work to do on Sunday and he also arrives on the back foot after a crash out at Misano from 18th on the grid. His performance in Portugal last time out was impressive though, and that will be a positive on the way in – as will the reappearance of Valencia on the horizon, scene of his first MotoGP™ win.
Another positive as the Hamamatsu factory aim to push back towards the very front will be the pace shown by Mir’s teammate Alex Rins in the Portuguese GP. The Spaniard ultimately crashed out, but he’d been able to stay with Quartararo until that point. Can Suzuki come out swinging and challenge again in the Algarve GP?
Ducati and Yamaha will hope not, as the Hamamatsu factory are out of the running in the Team and Constructor standings but could complicate life just ahead of them. The aforementioned 13-point lead for Monster Energy Yamaha in the Teams’ standings is a lead ahead of Ducati Lenovo Team, and Ducati have a 12-point lead in the Constructors’ over… that’s right, Yamaha. Suzuki are third in both. So there could be plenty of key players: Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso…
The fight for Rookie of the Year is also heating up. After Martin had taken an early lead, Bastianini is now the rider in the hot seat following another stunning podium taken in the Emilia-Romagna GP. The Italian has a five-point lead over the Spaniard with only two races to go, so it could potentially be wrapped up this weekend, although it seems likely to roll all the way on. Who will come out on top in Portugal?
Top Independent Team rider is another up for grabs this weekend, but it’s a bigger gap and advantage in favour of Zarco. He’s back into fourth overall after a DNF for Miller last time out too, and the Pramac rider has 39 points over Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). Zarco needs to leave the Algarve GP 26 clear to wrap up the title, so he needs to lose less than 13 to the Aprilia rider.
Aleix Espargaro could also lose touch with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) this weekend in the fight for seventh and higher in the overall standings, so the number 41 will want to maximise his potential in Portugal. But Binder and KTM are also on the tails of both Marc Marquez and Honda, and Suzuki aren’t mathematically out of reach either for the Austrian factory. With Marc Marquez sidelined too, Honda’s hopes fall more to Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), fresh from the podium, as well as Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol).
Back to KTM, the Algarve GP will also be a huge weekend for Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). The Portuguese rider has had some incredible rides this year, including that impressive win in Catalunya, but after a tougher run he’ll want to end the season on a high. He is a previous winner at Portimão after that demolition job in 2020, although he’ll more likely be aiming for a good points haul and a return to the front this time around. The number 88 was back on form at Misano too, fighting for the podium before his charge was ended by a crash. What can he bring on home turf?
The Championship is settled but there’s plenty more spectacle remaining in 2021. Tune in for the Grande Premio Brembo do Algarve at the earlier time of 13:00 (and now GMT) as the rollercoaster returns to deliver another stunner!
MotoGP™ Championship top five:
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 267
2 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 202
3 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 175
4 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 152
5 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 149
*Independent Team rider
Moto2™: Gardner on the edge of glory
As we return to the Algarve, the Championship is on the line for the Australian as he heads in 18 points up
During the Moto2™ race the Emilia-Romagna GP, the World Championship looked like it was boiling up to get closer than ever. But in one dramatic moment the landscape changed again, with Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) crashing out the lead and losing a key chance to cut the gap as teammate and Championship leader Remy Gardner suffered a tougher race in the latter half of the top ten. Instantly, what had been a tough day for the Australian then became his own chance to strike, and the nine points for seventh place saw his lead double in the blink of an eye.
Now 18 points clear, Gardner has a shot at the crown on the Algarve. He needs to ends the race more than 25 clear to wrap up the crown, so the easiest way is to win the race and his teammate not finish second. But there are plenty of possibilities, just as there are in the race… because the last time the intermediate class raced at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, Raul Fernandez took his first Moto2™ win.
That bodes well, and it wasn’t as if Gardner failed to finish or suffered a mistake: he came home third. But the Australian also took his first Moto2™ win at the venue last season, so there’s good form for both. In Raul Fernandez’ favour there’s also his proven ability to bounce back when needed – after each of his other two DNFs he returned to the top step in the race after – but then in Gardner’s there’s that incontrovertible 18-point lead. He doesn’t need to stop his teammate taking victory in either of the two remaining races, so Raul Fernandez’ record at both venues isn’t cause to put everything on the line at Portimão.
Aside from the two-horse race for the title though, there are a good few more riders who’ll be lining up alongside the Red Bull KTM Ajo duo and one in particular could play a key role: Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). The Brit arrives from his third win of the season and joked himself he was looking forward to taking on Portimão again, having earlier in the season made it as far as Turn 1. Can the Brit come out swinging and fight for another victory? He knows the track well and has shown speed there. Lowes’ teammate Augusto Fernandez may also be one to watch, the number 37 coming back from a Long Lap penalty to take second last time out, and he was in the top five on take one at the track even before he’d hammered out the kinks in his season.
Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) will also want to finish ahead of Augusto Fernandez as they fight for fifth in the Championship, and remain in reach of Lowes in fourth, and Canet impressed at the Portuguese GP with his first Moto2™ podium in second place earlier in the year. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) is only four points behind Canet too, and he’ll want to get in the mix again after an up and down last few races, with top eights mixed with podium finishes.
Only two riders remain in the fight for the crown. Either Remy Gardner or Raul Fernandez will be the 2021 FIM Moto2™ World Champion, and the Algarve GP could prove the decider. Can Gardner wrap it up? 18 points is a serious advantage, but taking more than seven points more than his teammate has become a serious challenge too. Tune in for the Moto2™ race on Sunday at the later time of 14:30 local time – and it’s now GMT.
Moto2™ Championship top five:
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 280
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 262
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 206
4 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 165
5 Augusto Fernandez – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 151
Acosta vs Foggia: will the Algarve stage the final showdown for the crown?
Take two for Acosta sees the scales swing in his favour, but it won’t be over till it’s over – and Foggia won’t go down without a fight
The Emilia-Romagna GP was a nail-biter for Moto3™. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had his first shot at the crown and rival Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) started down in 14th, then even dropping a few more places on Lap 1. But the Italian dug deep despite the pressure, keeping his head to take victory – his third on home soil this season and second at Misano – and keep the battle raging on to the rollercoaster. There could hardly be a better place to stage another showdown either, as the paddock’s first visit to the venue this season saw the fight for the win boil down to a duel: Acosta vs Foggia.
Then, it was the Spaniard’s second win and third podium in his first three Moto3™ races, but now there’s a little more on the line as he arrives 21 points clear in a bid to become the first rookie lightweight class Champion since Loris Capirossi in 1990. And unlike Misano, where Acosta depended on Foggia’s result to be able to secure the crown, Portimão offers the Spaniard a simple equation: win the race, win the Championship. There are other combinations too of course, but a victory for Acosta in one guarantees a victory in the other regardless. Otherwise, the magic number is 26 for the rookie sensation… so just five more than Foggia.
The fact the two already duelled at the track only adds to the spectacle, and we know already there will be a spectacle. We also know, however, that there will likely be a group fight at the front for at least some of the race. Last time on the Algarve it was polesitter Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) completing the podium as he fought off the rest of the freight train, which included compatriots Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy) and Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team). Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) took fourth as part of his pre-injury early season run of form he’s getting back to, and Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was fast throughout the weekend before crashing in the race but still rejoining to take ninth place. He also arrives fresh from second place at Misano.
Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) is also expected to be back, and his rookie teammate Izan Guevara was fast once again at Misano. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) will want more after having a pitlane start in the Portuguese GP, too now taking on two final chances to score big in Moto3™ ahead of his move to the premier class, and teammate John McPhee will hope for a smoother weekend after suffering with illness at Emilia-Romagna.
Acosta vs Foggia has been the duel for the Championship for a few races now, and the Algarve GP could be the final showdown for the crown. Can Acosta wrap it up on the second time of asking? Or will Foggia find one final stand to take it down to Valencia? Find out at the slightly later local time of 11:20, and we’ll be racing in GMT.
Moto3™ Championship top five:
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 234
2 Dennis Foggia – Leopard Racing – Honda – 213
3 Sergio Garcia – Gaviota GASGAS Aspar – GASGAS – 168
4 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 155
5 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – 147