MotoGP: Quartararo pulls the pin for victory and the Championship lead

MotoGP: Quartararo pulls the pin for victory and the Championship lead

Sunday, 24 April 2022

How’s that for a victory? Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™’s Fabio Quartararo got the hammer down to dominate the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal and take his first win of the season in style, nearly five seconds clear by the flag. In a day to remember for France, he was joined on the podium by Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in second, whilst Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro benefitted from late drama involving Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) to take third. Quartararo is now leading the Championship although tied with points with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, who put in arguably the ride of the day by recovering from 23rd on the grid to finish fourth.

Off the line it was Mir with the perfect launch, firing clear of the rest of the grid to take the holeshot and gain some early breathing space. Another strong start came from Quartararo too, who quickly moved through on his compatriot Zarco to take second halfway around the opening lap. Meanwhile, further back, Alex Rins had somehow launched his Suzuki up an incredible 13 places on the first lap to go from 23rd to inside the top ten.

At the front, it didn’t take long for Quartararo to get into his rhythm. The Frenchman was flying and had quickly reduced Mir’s early advantage down to nothing before then, at the start of Lap 4, he made his move on the 2020 World Champion at Turn 1. Mir had no response and Quartararo was leading a race for the first time this year.

Nobody could match the metronomic pace of the reigning World Champion as he edged further and further into the lead. A new fastest lap and lap record, a 1:39.435, came in on Lap 10, by which point Mir had seemingly been forced to throw in the towel and was starting to instead look over his shoulder in the fight for second. Quartararo would eventually cruise across the line over five seconds clear of second place for his first victory since the British Grand Prix in August of last year and, as a result, he jumps to the top of the MotoGP™ World Championship standings.

It was much closer in the fight for the final podium places, with Mir defending hard as Zarco applied more and more pressure. The Frenchman took advantage of a tiny error by the Spaniard out of the final corner to power past him down the start-finish straight and take over in second, but the Frenchman ran wide at Turn 1 – allowing Mir to swoop back through. A lap later though Zarco got the job done, again capitalising on a small wheelie from Mir out of the final corner to dive through on the brakes into Turn 1, this time making it stick.

Soon enough, only six laps remained and Miller was now challenging Mir for third.  And then came the biggest drama of the race as the Australian pulled alongside the Suzuki man down the start-finish straight and they headed into Turn 1 side-by-side on the brakes… before the front end of Miller’s Ducati let go. He went down and he took an innocent and unsuspecting Mir with him, both riders ok but scoring a painful 0 points each.

That elevated Aleix Espargaro to third as he eyed only the third MotoGP™ rostrum finish for Aprilia, with the number 41 having shown good pace to get into the podium postcode. The Argentina winner closed onto the rear wheel of Zarco on the final lap too, but just couldn’t find a way through. Zarco took second, the thirteenth of his premier class career, and Aleix Espargaro had to settle for third – but one step closer to Aprilia losing out on concessions as their successes continue.

Fourth across the line was arguably the man of the day, however: Rins. A quite incredible performance from the factory Suzuki man saw him come through from 23rd and, in doing so, the number 42 lifted himself to equal  on points with Quartararo in the Championship chase.

Another strong comeback ride came courtesy of home hero Miguel Oliveira, as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing man clinched a top five to bounce back from two crashes on home soil in 2021.

Behind that, it was Marquez vs Marquez. For the first time in MotoGP™ we were treated to a 73 vs 93 battle on the final lap of the race, with LCR Castrol Honda’s Alex Marquez holding off older brother Marc quite brilliantly as the laps ticked by. But on the last lap, the gloves came off. The eight-time World Champion squeezed his way through to take sixth place, but it was by just 0.020 ahead of Alex as the number 73 absolutely nailed the final corner and the two crossed the line side by side.

Only half a second back on that duel, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia was gritting his teeth through the pain barrier to salvage eighth place too, thanks to a last lap move on Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro. Bagnaia started dead last, making up a pile of positions on race day despite a painful shoulder.

Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales took the final place inside the top ten as the 12-Noale combination continues to gain some traction, with a gap then back to Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP). The veteran held off Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini, with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) next up. Two rookies completed the points as Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) pulled clear of Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team).

There were crashes for Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Idemitsu Honda), although the Japanese rider finished. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also crashed out, bringing to an end a run of 18 straight point-scoring finishes. Perhaps most notably, the former World Championship leader, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) tumbled out – but the Italian remains in touch in the standings, only eight points off the top.

From the Algarve to Andalucia, MotoGP™ now gets back on the road to head for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España. It’s only next weekend too, so get ready for more as the Circuito de Jerez-Angeli Nieto welcomes the paddock back once more.

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