Monster Energy Yamaha completed a rollercoaster MotoGP race at Portimao with Fabio Quartararo victorious once again.
Pecco Bagnaia and Joan Mir fought hard to secure the final podium positions after the Algarve circuit claimed multiple challengers throughout its 25 laps, including previous championship leader Johann Zarco.
The choice of tyres had the paddock in a quandary as preparations developed ahead of the Portuguese GP, with three Yamaha’s and four KTM’s opting to run hard rears as the grid lined up, Danilo Petrucci the sole promoter of the hard front.
Clear blue skies, spring sunshine and 41℃ track temperatures created a perfect picture as the riders prepared for lights out, with Quartararo heading the pack. It was Zarco, however who took the hole shot, with heartbreak for Yamaha as Maverick Viñales dropped to 20th, Quartararo also suffering a difficult start as he looked to regroup from sixth.
The Suzuki’s were flying in second and third as the leading Monster M1 fought back to fourth, Jack Miller and Marc Marquez squabbling for position behind with Aleix Espargaro hassling the returning Honda man from the outset. A blistering start from local rider Miguel Oliveira saw the KTM initially promoted to eighth before he dropped to 12th, Franky Morbidelli and Brad Binder making moves as they advanced on Marquez for seventh and eighth.
The end of lap four saw Alex Rins take the opportunity to lead, the Ducati claiming the position back on the start finish straight, as his fellow Frenchman collected third. Zarco’s lead was short lived, however, as first Rins, then Quartararo slid through, Mir and the Aprilia the next to threaten as Pol Espargaro retired to the pits and Miller crashed out at turn three. Oliveira following suit in the final sector as the Algarve attrition rate soared.
It was a double Suzuki podium as Mir joined the party with seven laps complete, before Zarco fought back next time around, taking the fastest lap of the race so far in the process. Morbidelli and Binder got the better of Espargaro with Pecco Bagnaia doing likewise shortly after as the Ducati rider progressed to seventh.
Quartararo was back in charge as lap nine got underway, his teammate continuing to struggle in 17th, 12 seconds off the front, as Mir returned to podium contention. The 21-year-old setting a new fastest lap with a 1’39.999 as he looked to break free, four-tenths now the gap to Rins, with three-seconds covering the entire top-eight after 10 laps of action.
14 to go and Bagnaia was up to sixth, his Petronas-mounted fellow VR46 academy rival just half a second ahead as their mentor circulated in 12th, hard on the wheels of his younger brother.
The pace at the front continued to increase as the trio swapped fastest lap honours, Bagnaia stealing the glory as he dug deep to reel in the leading group. Rossi eventually besting Luca Marini as lap 14 neared its conclusion.
Zarco was in third as the next lap began, the timing screens continuing to colour red as the fight intensified. Further heartbreak hit Yamaha as ‘the Doctor’ bowed out at turn 11 and Morbidelli was issued a track limits warning shortly after.
Nine to go and Quartararo was still fending off Rins as Zarco and Mir cut solitary figures behind, Pecco advanced to fifth with Morbidelli, Binder, Espargaro and the Marquez brothers rounding out the top-10. A stellar performance from the battered Takaaki Nakagami saw the LCR man neatly behind his teammate with the Avintia duo of Enea Bastianini and Marini sitting 12th and 13th.
Disaster truck on lap 19 as Rins fell at turn five, shortly after securing another fastest effort. A pair of Ducati’s now completing the podium as Bagnaia took second from the Pramac rider before Zarco too fell foul over the crown of turn 11.
Three laps to go and the Doha victor continued to master the rollercoaster, four-seconds ahead of Bagnaia and Mir with Morbidelli regrouped and hunting down third. Binder was enjoying his best race of the year so far in fifth while Marquez maintained his impressive comeback in seventh. Bastianini was up to ninth as the penultimate lap began with Viñales finding late-race pace as he advanced to 11th.
Quartararo secured his second win of the season just days before his 22nd birthday with Bagnaia and Mir sitting pretty on the podium as the flag dropped. Morbidelli claimed a fabulous fourth after his difficult visit to the desert with Binder fifth. Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Marc and Alex Marquez with Bastianini and Nakagami completing the top-10. Vinales finalising his fight back in 11th just 0.085s off the LCR machine, with Marini, Petrucci, Lorenzo Savadori and Iker Lecuona concluding the points positions. Oliveira was the only finisher not to score points, a disappointing outcome to his retuning home race after the highs of last November.