Less than one second separates most of the field in all three classes at the MotoGP finale in Portimao as many riders find out how tricky the undulating track is.
Moto3 was the first class to hit the track for the final time of 2020, and the first at the Portuguese venue. Only 11 points cover the top 3 in the title fight to it was crucial for Albert Arenas, Ai Ogura, and Toni Arbolino to get into that all-important top 14 and bypass going through Q1 on Saturday afternoon. The scramble to get experience on track meant there was action aplenty, which meant some pushed the limit too hard. A big example being Ogura, who almost crashed at the final corner. In the end, it was Jaume Masia on top, followed by Romano Fenati and Arenas.
Next out on track were the big boys, MotoGP. The rider’s title has been decided, but some riders wanted to end on a high note, with riders such as Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro wanted a win on their final rides with their teams. The session was much tamer than that of the lightweight class, with nobody hitting the deck. It was home race hero Miguel Oliviera who was on top at the end of the session, with just one second covering the top 15. Aprilia surprised many by setting the third and fourth fastest times, but Valentino Rossi was disappointing, sitting a lowly 19th.
MotoGP seemed competitive, but Moto2 did one better with only one second covering the top 17 in their first practice. Marcos Ramirez pulled a late lap out to be 0.01 seconds ahead of Fabio diGiannantonio at the session’s end. Again it was a tame practice, with most riders finding their feet. Four riders were in the title hunt in this finale, and championship leader Enea Bastianini needed to find some pace to bypass Q2 as he was in the drop zone.
Then came FP2 on Friday Afternoon.
Moto3 finished their final Friday in a better fashion than they started it, with no fallers in the session. The two title contenders banged wheels though, Arenas and Arbolino were unwilling to give an inch. It was Arenas who reigned supreme once more, with Ogura and Arbolino crucially in that top 14 for now.
MotoGP then came out for the final time on Friday, and almost immediately a high profile rider was down. Alex Rins hit the deck at turn 8 but was thankfully OK and back up shortly after. Rossi’s day went from bad to worse as he too took a tumble, as did Taka Nakagami. One second this time covered the top 18, with Johann Zarco leading the way. It was a blow for heavy-hitters Rins, Rossi, and Francesco Bagnaia who all needed to improve to bypass Q1.
Moto2 capped off Friday in Portugal, and Jorge Martin’s day ended as his KTM coughed its way to a halt at turn 5. After a spicy session, Luca Marini was on top ahead of his championship rivals. Only 0.3 seconds covered the four protagonists and it was anyone’s guess who would walk away with the Moto2 trophy.
Finally came Saturday, and the last free practice sessions.
Moto3 was plagued by penalties. Eight riders were given a long lap penalty on Sunday due to irresponsible riding, including top riders Masia and Alonso Lopez. In the end, Arenas stayed in that top 14, but there was huge drama as his championship rivals both missed the cut. It was a heartwarming story though for Belgian Barry Baltus. After a point-less campaign, he gets a guaranteed Q2 spot thanks to a 13th.
The only word suitable to describe MotoGP was hectic. Only 0.8 seconds covered the top 18, with Mir, Rossi, and Franco Morbidelli all left to fight in Q1. Unchallenged though, was Jack Miller. The Australian seemingly at home at Portimao being 2 tenths clear of his nearest challenger.
Moto2 then hit the track for its final 2020 practice, and the sobbing of fans around the world intensified as the season’s end draws nearer and nearer. The top times chopped and changed, but an already injured Sam Lowed hit the deck in the dying moments. It was Remy Gardner on top as the session came to a close. Australians reigned supreme in both the premier and intermediate class as Gardner and Miller both ended on top. Marco Bezzecchi made winning the title that much harder as he missed the Q2 cut off. He’d have to battle through Q1 as the top 22 were separated by one second.
Qualifying now awaits us for the final time in 2020. Who will reign supreme in Portugal this afternoon?