Portimao MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes Part 1: Tires, Temperature, Crashes, Temperament, And Mr Invincible

The first race in Europe is in the books, and we are halfway back to normality. Unlike Qatar, at Portimão the riding was all done in daylight, meaning the wild variation of track temperatures was far more limited. The weekend was held in more consistent conditions, at a more agreeable time, in a more congenial location.

More importantly, the grid was complete once again. After an absence of eight months, Marc Márquez finally lined up on a MotoGP grid again. And finished a MotoGP race, for the first time since Valencia 2019. None of this was a given, after the long and difficult road to recovery he faced. Three operations, a bone infection, and endless hours of physical therapy paved the long, hard road back for Marc Márquez. It was a journey without a fixed duration or a sure destination. To line up on the grid, and to cross the finish line 25 laps later, was a victory all of its own.

But the return of Márquez still marks only the halfway mark of a return to normality. We will take a bigger step once MotoGP hits Jerez. Because we will, after a year of out-of-sequence races, be back at a circuit at its customary time of year. Marc Márquez will be lining up on the grid having proved to himself that he can start and finish a MotoGP race. And we will be back at a track where the teams and factories are drowning in data, having hundreds of thousands of testing, practice, and race kilometers at the circuit.

The only thing that will be missing (in all probability) is the fans. That is still some way off. But they, too, could make a return before the year is out.

But before that, the second ever MotoGP event at Portimão left plenty of food for thought. The first signs of a pattern are starting to emerge from the season, the changes made over the winter beginning to have an effect. But a few distortions remain, which will only be cleared up on more familiar terrain, in more familiar circumstances.

These notes have been split into two parts. In the first part, we touch on the following:

  • Track, temperature, and tires – why Portimão still wasn't a complete picture
  • Binder's hard charge, and riding around problems
  • Fabio Quartararo and the most important 14cm in racing

In part 2, we will cover Marc Marquez' remarkable return, the Aprilia, Joan Mir's podium, Pecco Bagnaia's speed, and whether Yamaha is now the bike to beat.

But first, conditions. The MotoGP teams and factories faced two separate but related problems at Portimão. Firstly, they were back in Portugal at a very different time of year, where much higher temperatures, both ambient, thanks to the change of season, and track, thanks to the sun being higher in the sky so far past the equinox, robbed the data from last November of much of its usefulness. They didn't have to start again from scratch, but with track temperatures 13ºC higher during the race than last year, it meant grip levels were very different.

Then there were the tires. Last year, Michelin had brought a choice of two different hard tires, front and rear, for the inaugural race at Portimão. This year they dropped one of those hard choices, opting to keep the asymmetric front and asymmetric rear. That, Michelin reasoned, should provide a better match to the increased temperatures at the circuit.

The trouble was, the symmetric hard front was the tire most riders had used in the race last year. It offered the support needed for braking, with enough grip to last the race and manage the conditions. The asymmetric front should be better in theory, offering more grip on the left and more durability on the right. But that comes at a price, with riders complaining of the feel of tire, and especially of the transition from one rubber to the other. For bikes that just needed grip from the front, like the Yamaha and the Ducati, the medium front was fine. For the Honda and KTM, which are designed to make up time on the brakes and so stress the front more, they are caught between a rock and a hard place: the medium is too soft and prone to overheating; the asymmetric hard is too difficult to get to work.

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I am assuming this refers to the 14 cmeters of grey matter between the ears?

There's still plenty of ignorance out there when it comes to formal psychological support, seemingly even moreso in sports. Fabio's decision to take it on is the true mark of a professional and his openess in discussing it with the media is admirable.

Exactly my thought. That's when we will see if there is a difference in Fabio from last year. It's a lot easier to accept the wins than the set backs. He's a year older and he's got valuable experience from last year, i think it will show. Maverick's weekend has, by some, quickly been blamed on the rider. Yet the drop is familiar to all Yamaha at races last year and this. Long story just started.

... and they haven't done a daylight race on the Dunlop rubber left by Moto2 yet either.

Quartararo LOVES Jerez!

I doubt him less than I have the bike. As the information comes in, looking like less reason to doubt either. 

Quartararo is here. Mir is coming. Marquez is with him. A Red bike might as well? Binder too? Heck, there is a big handful that COULD draft in there as well. But those top three you can bank on. My eye is already moving to that 2nd group of riders/bikes and their journey to Summer break. 

Great reporting, David. Fabio is strong, Marc is coming and Joan appears ready to defend. Pecco is hot, Jack is desperate, KTM will be at friendlier tracks soon, Aleix is heading for a podium or 2, Frankie ready - if the bike is up to it...This is going to be a great year.

I could have sworn there was this French guy named Johann Zarco running near the front of the race.  Perhaps the magical light of the Marquez brothers distorted my perception.

Looking forward to part 2. An intriguing season begins to unfold, I personally hope Fabio doesn't make it too predictable! As things stand-and they don't stand for long- I'm looking at Pecco, he looks so good. As things stand...

David's remarks re Rins were, to my eye anyway, pretty negative. I don't think they reflect a lack of competitive desire. My impression is that Rins shook off a crash and remained positive, as simple as that. Which will help him in Jerez. Good pace, challenging for the lead, lost the front. 

Rins must feel so much better than Vinales, Miller, Pol, (and, so sorry, Rossi). As David so often points out, race pace is everything.

Great at dusting off pants. Also, good at needing to dust off pants...when the chase is on. His riding style needs to more dynamic and sensitive I think. That was a tricky technical corner for sure. Understandable error. Again. (Believe it or not I REALLY like Rins! Please come right back to the front #42).

Admittedly late to the party. Spa Francorchamps in Belgium is a REALLY great track! World Endurance goes there, yeah? And they got upgrades last yr? 

Anyone know what bike series are looking at running there? Anyone done laps on it? It looks really fun! 


Brilliant track, but several really dangerous parts for bikes.  It's rolling terrain and would need major earthworks (or character-ruining alterations) to generate sufficient runoff.  Frequent wet weather only compounds the issues.  I remember watching (on TV) Kocinski debuting there in the rain, Sarron crashing at speed, etc, bigmouth Yamahas so would have been about 88.  On my last trip to Europe I managed to pass through and drive the parts of the old circuit that are still public roads, brilliant!

A year or two back they were making noises about a pitch for MotoGP, I don't know what's become of it.  I assume there would be too many safety issues.  Three hundred hp bikes are too much really.

going there on Friday for the first day of the season! to answer your questions there is no proper motorcycle racing at Spa. WEC is contracted to come next year. the public authorities are investing in the circuit, but so far only in the infrastructure. i don't know if under the contract with WEC they have to make changes to the track but my understanding is that they are planning to make changes anyway in the hope of being able to bring Motogp. in my opinion it is not a safe circuit for motorcycle riding: if you fall, you slide and you hit walls that are either close or very close and in some places you do that at high speed plus the kerbs are fucking massive. i don't know to what extent this can be changed: spa is an f1 track so there are no gravel traps, just asphalt run offs. i think that over the last couple of years the science of making tracks safer has advanced a lot, so i hope that it should be possible to relatively easily and quickly establish if it is feasible to make the circuit sufficiently safe for motogp. it will be interesting to see if wec comes and if yes, how the bikes will perform. however the difference btw super bikes and motogp bikes is so material that how the wec bikes will perform will be, in my v humble opinion, of absolutely no use to asses how the motogp bikes might do. today, tracdayers are doing 240kph at the top of eau rouge, just over 300kph at the top of the straight and a bit over 250kph, knee on the ground through radillion. i haven't ridden yet portimao, but spa is a roller coaster where, as a trackdayer, your heart is truly in your mouth, comparable but to but even more so than t1 at mugello, at the bottom of eau rouge at the top of eau rouge, through a massive downhill double left corner, at the entry of radillion and at the exit of radillion.


i think that my ramblings emphasise a point the JL made on his vlog on Monday: MotoGp bikes are way to fast for most of the tracks that they are using and the only way to make things safer is to look at the front tire as a safety device and not a performance device. the tire supplier should be required to supply tires that do not need a very narrow operating window or that do not let go whenever they feel like it or work, more or less, for all manufacturers...

Appreciate you two! Bduke, will look to watch WEC there. Not going to cross fingers for MotoGP there since it looks so far off target, but really appreciating some if our fantastic circuits that folks can ride. Track Days are such a joy! 

I visited Spa in 2019. Beautiful part of the world. Awesome circuit with very good facilities.

Haven't done a lap, sadly. We have talked about Spa Francorchamps on the forum.

Janbros is your man, from memory, 'shrink.

A poor start and Jack's being written off; a good start (and a sport psychologist) and Quarteraro is being pencilled in for the championship. I'm not worried about Jack, he's disappointed of course, he's made mistakes this season and paid for them, but his general bearing and comments continue to suggest at least to me that he's up for the fight. And has the skill and character and the right bike to kick on from here and challenge for the championship. At the risk of going even further out on a limb, I have a feeling Jack needs a competitive Marc to race against to bring out the best in him. 

While Jack's finishing (or not...) results have been poor, he's been in the mix at the front in all three races.  Without the 3 DNF's beyond his control last year he may well have been champion in that very strange year.  Not sure he's got the speed and consistency to do it when times are 'normal' but you never know.
My concern is that seemingly dysfunctional factory Ducati team, the rider should be the most famous person and the biggest ego in the garage.

The bike is like the organization, is like the bike...

(Easy to have a family atmosphere around a 2019 Yamaha or 2020 Suzuki? Passionate fiddly complicated powerful pressure of Red place intertwined reciprocally with same bike? The Honda is willful, tough to get a feel of, tough to change direction. The KTM lofty unique inspiration that can get lost off line. So forth.)

Considering the countless variables that have an effect on results during a single race weekend, the numerous fine details that are scrutinized by every team and rider and the constantly changing track conditions, after contemplation (and expressing opinions based on kneejerk reactions of the mind) it is difficult to believe a rider that leans towards concluding that a specific bike setup that works at one or two tracks will work at all tracks. It's natural to express positivity when life is rosy.

But life is constantly changing like track conditions and the elevation of the Portimao circuit. Miller might go from zero to hero at Jerez. The Petronas riders might outscore the Yamaha factory riders. And Marquez might win the race.

The eras that are dominated overall by one sports athlete may help usher in the tendency to draw foregone conclusions. Hopefully, this season remains exciting and unpredictable until the end. And a "satellite" rider (Zarco, Morbidelli) winning the championship would be mind blowing.

Here is Razali's and Zeelenberg's comments about choosing Morbidelli's bike for the 2021 season. Includes some personal comments from Forcada and Zeelenberg. Video was made one week before the start of the season (4 weeks ago).



Oh my goodness! 

We get to have Tito Rabat on Martin's bike for Jerez! Can you believe it?! How excited are you? Savadori, you must be pleased to get some racing in with someone, eh?


No more Pirro? Redding might have been fun. Hard to think of a single less interesting option besides setting fire to a pile of Euros, a bunch of tires, and all the race fuel. Wait, no, that would actually be a bunch more interesting! 

There is no race so the notes will substitute nicely this weekend. And they will be ever so much more comprehensive for David having taken the necessary time to complete them to his satisfaction. Patience is the greatest virtue, Grasshopper.

Take note of David's Twitter feed... he has more important concerns at the moment than our titillation!

I think what we need is a really good controversy. I know we're not supposed to ever, ever mention it again here, what with us all being grown-up, serious types, but 2015, now that was a year to talk about. (Just being mischievous, the devil finds work for idle hands and all that).

This has been bugging me and I need to get it off my chest. Has Michelin screwed the racing? The last few years, they had tyres that worked in a wide range of situations with lots of overlap between compounds. Too many people this year complaining they can't find a tyre that works. Or is it just KTM (and Honda)? 

I believe that is Michelin's responsability to provide a tire that works for all manufacturers and it is the manufacturers job to extract maximum performance from that tire

Or possibly the teams should be making bikes to work with the tyres ? Not always a perfect union for sure. Compared to their expectations KTM are having a difficult start to the year. A small problem or large i have no idea but small problems produce big changes in the order these days. Maybe there is no problem if you are where you expect to be in that order. Does it then become a development goal ?

Don't forget, they DID bring a new Front a year ago mating with the rear for much better F/R balance vs the pushing. But as a cost saving measure minimizing development Dorna opted to leave the previous front on there. The hotter the temps, the worse it should be. Michelin has been doing a good job generally methinks. Noticed when something is off, ignored when doing well as usual. Tough thankless job. Not looking to blame anyone at Dorna either. Perhaps time to change course and go with the new stiffer carcass front ahead of Winter test? Even let them proffer a newer idea of offering a little bit wider step in range between the softs and hards?

At least it hampers both the Honda and the brake bombers like Marc the most. And we get to watch a riding style where they are hanging WAY off to care for it, which is purty. It is part of the Suzuki and Aprilia strengths. Should be for Yamaha too, and Jerez is about to ink the take on the 2021 chassis recovery (engine has a yes, electronics a probably, chassis a warm possibly to date).

Quartararo, Mir and A.Espargaro might say these Michelins are good?


I recall Piero Taramasso of Michelin stating that last year 21 of the 22 Motogp riders voted for the discontinuation of the front tire that ended up working for KTM at Portimao. The vote was based on the rider's understanding that came from a shortened 2020 schedule when Motogp visited several tracks well outside of normal seasons (Jerez in mid-July instead of early May and Le Mans in October instead of mid-May for example). Plus, Motogp missed Qatar altogether. I believe Michelin is using the input of riders and teams to do everything they can to satisfy their needs. Why wouldn't they? Michelin wants to break the remaining Bridgestone lap records. And more importantly, riders are laying their lives on the line every time they exit the pits. The idea that the front tire a rider had voted to be removed from the allocation might have been the perfect tire for the first three races of this season can create irony in the mind of a rider. Only we don't get to hear that side of the story. But, maybe those kind of tidbits can be had through the Paddock Pass Patreon subscription. I wouldn't know.