Algarve MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Real Bravery, Moto3 Madness, The Best Bike On The Grid, And Honda's Tire Choices

Seventeen down and one to go. Also, two down, one to go. That is the story of Portimão, in a nutshell. But the raw numbers are not what matters. The most interesting part is how we got there, and the stories that we found along the way.

But before we return to the fripperies of motorcycle racing, something that really matters. On Saturday evening, on the road which runs from the circuit to the harbor town of Portimão, a horrific accident happened. On a section of road which had traffic measure in place to control the flow of traffic leaving and coming to the track, a police motorcycle hit a taxi head on.

It was a massive impact. The police officer died as a result of the collision, and the occupants of the taxi, the driver and a journalist, Lucio Lopez of MotoRaceNation, were badly injured. Journalist Simon Patterson, who saw the crash in his van, and photographer David Goldman, who was driving back to his hotel with passengers in his car, both stopped and immediately rushed to the taxi, which had caught fire. They pulled Lucio Lopez and the taxi driver from the car, just before it exploded.

The right stuff

It was a brave and noble thing for both Simon Patterson and David Goldman to do, and to have the presence of mind to stop and act at that point is praiseworthy indeed. Their actions probably saved the lives of both the taxi driver and Lucio. It underlines the importance of having basic first aid training, and a willingness to help your fellow humans when they are in dire need.

As a motorcyclist, and all too aware of the dangers of the mode of transport I love, I am grateful such people exist. And it reminds me that I need to make sure I do another course of first aid training. If you would like to take a course in first aid, then here are starting points for the US, the UK, and Australia, and a Google search which should return results for courses near you.

Both the taxi driver and Lucio Lopez were taken to hospital, with Lucio transferred to a hospital in Lisbon. He is in a serious condition, but not life threatening, and I send him my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery. The taxi driver came away almost unhurt.

Follow the dream

This incident cuts a little close to home, as I know Lucio a little. I had spoken to him regularly, and he was a very good journalist. Like me, he had quit his job to follow his passion for MotoGP, and was doing remarkably well. He quit his job just before Covid-19 hit – another parallel, I quit my job just before Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the start of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. He has a keen intelligence, and asks smart questions of riders. MotoGP needs journalists with that kind of passion, capable of coming at the subject from a different angle and uncovering information more conventional journalists can miss.

So consider supporting Lucio during his convalescence, either by reading his website, or making a donation.

The incident affected a lot of people in the paddock as well. Riders, too, a sign of the respect they have for Lucio. After scoring his first podium since Aragon, and after a torrid few races, Joan Mir took the opportunity both in his parc ferme interview with Simon Crafar and in the press conference to send his best wishes to the family of the police officer who died, and to the taxi driver and Lucio Lopez. Pol Espargaro, too, took a moment in his media debrief to do the same. Both Mir and Espargaro are riders who have real empathy, who know that there is much more to the world than just motorcycle racing. Even though racing is the most important thing in their lives.

Support classes shine

And the racing was worth it at Portimão. Not in the premier class, perhaps, where Pecco Bagnaia won a processional MotoGP race in incredible style, causing one Catalan on Twitter to coin the nickname "ImPeccoble", which is absolutely how the factory Ducati rider handled that race. He did not put a wheel wrong.

But the Moto3 and Moto2 races were worth every penny, with the two riders in each class battling for the title all showing exactly why they deserved the title. Both series had surprise outcomes which impacted the championship, though the Moto3 title fight was decided in the most dramatic fashion.

After Saturday, it looked like the juggernaut of momentum Dennis Foggia had picked up over the last few races would take the title down to the wire at Valencia, and even swing the title chase his way eventually. He had been down 97 points to Pedro Acosta after the first race in Austria, but over the next six races, had outscored the Spaniard by 76 points, racking up 127 points to Acosta's 51. Foggia had qualified in fourth for Sunday's Moto3 race, Acosta was down in fourteenth.

Mind games

Acosta came out fighting. He dominated Sunday morning warm up, leading the session by over three quarters of a second. At the end of warm up, he made sure to get close to Foggia and give him a cheeky little wave, then a bump of the tire as the pair stopped to make a practice start.

If Acosta's plan was to unsettle Foggia, it wasn't successful. After a modest start, the Italian used the speed of the Leopard Honda – that team always seem to manage to find a few more km/h on the straight than their rivals of any manufacturer – to fire through to take the lead at the end of the first lap. He settled in to do what he knew would give him the only chance of taking the title from Acosta: try to lead and win it.

Foggia could not escape from the pack, but he could try to control the race. Pretty successfully, the Italian always at the front of the race. It looked like he was on target to do what was needed: maximize his points haul, and claw back as much ground as possible from Acosta in the title chase.

Close combat

While Foggia was typically imperious at the front of the race, Pedro Acosta was showing why he was leading the championship in the first place. The Spanish youngster was charging through the field as if the others were not there, and was at the back of the lead group by the end of the second lap. He was taking risks he didn't need to, but was doing it anyway. It was quite the display of ambition.

The race was entertaining throughout its 21 laps, but the championship was decided on the final lap. With Foggia leading, Acosta lost a place to Sergio Garcia into the first corner, but cut back inside to get back past Garcia on the exit of the first corner. He then used that momentum to line up an attack at Turn 3. After all, a win would be enough to take the Moto3 title at Portimão.

Foggia was surprised to find Acosta on his inside, the Italian out wide on entry to get drive out of the corner. But he had left the door wide open, and Acosta charged through. Foggia couldn't quite get the line he wanted, and was slower as they approached the corner.

Unfortunately for Foggia, his battle with Acosta was not the only fight going on in the front group. Darryn Binder, desperate to get back on the podium for the first time since the Doha GP, saw an opening to attack Sergio Garcia. He went in hot and dived through the gap, making it past Garcia. But where there would otherwise have been clear track, he found Foggia. He clipped Foggia's back wheel, taking the Italian down, and causing Garcia to crash at the same time. With Foggia out, Acosta went on to seal his title with a victory.

Binder's move caused a huge amount of controversy, from all sides. The South African would be disqualified from the results, after crossing the line in fourth. The Stewards punished him for irresponsible riding, and causing other riders to crash.

This is a case where the Stewards have judged based on outcome rather than intent, but that is something they have explicitly said they would do. Race Direction has repeatedly said that punishments would be made more severe if riders caused others to crash, as Binder did in this case. The philosophy behind this is that it will encourage riders to be a fraction more careful in their overtaking, though that is a forlorn hope in grand prix motorcycling's most bonkers category. Whether it makes an impact is open to question.

Was Binder's move worthy of disqualification on its own merits? Looked at in the cold light of day, that seems excessive. His move was overly ambitious, but not exceptionally dangerous. His biggest miscalculation is that he did not take into account the battle between Acosta and Foggia up ahead. If Foggia hadn't been where he was, then Binder would have run Garcia wide, and they both would have lost ground. It was not a smart move, but it was not Loris Capirossi on Tetsuya Harada in Argentina in 1998. Binder attempted a pass, and failed. The decision to try was unwise, perhaps. But it was not attempted manslaughter, as some sections of the media and public insist.

Moto3 madness

Franco Morbidelli put it most succinctly. "An unfortunate incident for Foggia. He didn't deserve that for sure, he deserved to fight for the championship until the end of the race," the Italian said after the MotoGP race. "But Moto3 is a crazy category, there are some riders more crazy than others, and sometimes these silly things happen."

Binder's pass wasn't exceptionally outrageous, in Morbidelli's opinion. At least not in Moto3. "I mean, last lap, normal Moto3 craziness. Which is not normal, but normal for Moto3." The problem, Morbidelli pointed out, was the way Moto3 encouraged dangerous behavior.

In the post-race press conference, Joan Mir pointed out that there was so much more attention being paid to this because it affected the outcome of the championship. It was not comparable to the two-race ban imposed on Deniz Öncü for what happened in Austin. "In a normal situation, this action, I think that doesn’t deserve two races out because it’s a mistake that the rider can do, what happened today. But I don’t think that Darryn deserves this. Also, we are making it bigger because it was deciding the championship in that moment, so we are making it a bit bigger than what happened that was a mistake."

Making an example

That didn't excuse Binder, however. "For sure, if we talk about safety that this is for sure, this action, Darryn must be the model for the other riders so that it don’t happen again," Mir said. "So, I think that he has to be some penalized to him because if we are being more strict talking about safety, it’s the first step to make the change, I think."

One reason Binder's move was criticized so severely is because he has gained a reputation for doing this sort of thing. As one of the taller (1.75m), heavier (63kg) riders in Moto3, he has had to take more risk on the brakes to make up for a lack of acceleration. By way of comparison, Dennis Foggia is 1.64m and 57kg, Pedro Acosta is 1.60m and 60kg, Sergio Garcia is 1.65m and 56kg. A quick scroll through the website shows most Moto3 riders are in the same height and weight range, between 1.60 and 1.65m, and between 55 and 60kg. (For an in depth look at the issue of height and weight, read Adam Wheeler's article in the latest issue of On Track Off Road). Binder is well outside that norm.

As a result of record, his reputation precedes him. "Today what we saw is the normality I think because we have seen a lot of crashes like this from him," Pecco Bagnaia said of Binder. "I know that it’s not correct to say it about another rider, but this rider next year will be with us and with MotoGP we are faster and I hope that will not happen."

Valentino Rossi echoed that perception. "What happened in the race I think is not fair for Foggia, because to finish the championship like this is difficult. I don’t know for the super license but I think have some riders like for example Binder that are always very, very, very aggressive and sometimes they make some mistakes like this and it's not fair for the others."

Gatekeeping MotoGP

A "Super License" is an idea from Formula 1. To prevent teams from putting in inexperienced drivers who just happen to bring in a lot of money, F1 has a Super License which sees drivers accrue points by racking up strong results in the lower classes. Only once they have proved themselves are they allowed to move into the four-wheeled premier class.

Bagnaia was in favor of such an idea. "I think that like in the car championship we need a super license, only if you are doing something in your championship you can move to the next level," he said. Rossi was less convinced, believing that riders should be looked at on their own merits on a case-by-case basis. "For me it's rider by rider more than a super license. For the super license I don’t know sincerely."

Franco Morbidelli had a more nuanced view of the idea. "It might be a good thing, for sure, to step up to MotoGP you should have at least some kind of results or some kind of pedigree. That's for sure a good thought and a good point of view that I agree with."

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The Sunday press conference was priceless, the best ever.

Compare Sunday's to a hypothetical post-race conference with Marc (corporate-speak saying almost nothing), Pedrosa (I don't want to be here so here's my three word answer), and, perhaps, Lorenzo (me. also, me. and what about me?).

Arch enemies Miller and Mir discussing their differences, Pecco glowing and calm, almost zen, but with great insight, and the general back and forth between the riders instead of those darn journalists! I really like these three riders, especially Pecco, and that makes me feel that the loss of Rossi will not hurt the sport.

Like David? Those who ask the questions are... the journalists, although admittedly all are not created equal.

regarding the situation of the different manuf. For sure Ducati is the an exceptional bike, but i think that covid and more specifically the fact that Ducati is in Europe and could continue to work unaffected whilst the Japanese couldn't might have skewed things slightly. also the performance of yam and honda, for different reasons, have been impacted by the condition of some of their riders. next year will be v interesting

Raul didn't have to go with it, he chose it he said after he got 25 laps out of it on the Saturday including his fastest lap coming at the end. He just couldn't get the same life of performance out of it on race day.

Ok. A bit all or nothing not sure. I guess i should have asked why he didn't run the hard ?

Pre Misano it was a 9 point gap with 3 races to run. The possibility to win was all in Raul's hands. Post Misano it was 18 points with 2 races to go and Raul then needs the help of other riders or Remy hitting trouble. Maybe it would have been better, if possible, to run the same tyres as Remy and try for a race long elbow to elbow battle. That would give the rest of the field the chance to join in. Given Remy's ribs it would have made things a lot more difficult. Lots of risk involved too but by running 'out of order' with Remy he gave Remy the best chance Remy could have given his circumstances. I suppose it's not so great to have team mates thinking this way but there you go.

I'm not so sure about Yamaha's woes as described by Fabio. Yes, of course more speed would be better. That's true for every single bike on the gird. Better braking or turning is also good for every single bike on the grid.

Fabio has done a fair bit of overtaking this year and has demonstrated that when used well the Yamaha can be as much of an advantage for overtaking as any bullet. The ability for the Ducati to come through the field is hmm really so amazing overall ? Bastianini recently has and Bagnaia earlier in the season....Portimao 1 and Le mans...has also climbed up but overall, as with all bikes, they stay roughly where they started or they have issues and go backwards.

Fabio had issues plus, as with Portimao 1 he had that final sector and start finish straight. His FP4 and his Q2 were not so great and the bikes around him in FP4 were the same bikes causing him trouble in the race. Not just Ducati but Honda and KTM in the hands of Lecuona were also causing him trouble. A faster pace would have helped as it did in Assen for example. Sure it's also the track but it's one track (used twice) in the season. Overall the Yamaha wins I think. Ducati...6 riders (five of whom contributed by being top placed Ducati) won the constructors title. Yamaha, 4 riders (4.6 ? 7 riders ? i lost count, definitely 4 bikes but maybe only 1 rider) lost out to Ducati in the penultimate round. When Fabio had trouble, Yamaha had trouble. When Bagnaia had trouble there was Jack, there was Jorge, there was Johann and there was Enea.

Something that got a bit lost in all the crash action on the final lap of the Moto3 race was just how good Pedro Acosta's overtakes were. Dorna have posted the last 2 laps on YouTube, and they're well worth a viewing:

I've watched Acosta's moves into turn 1 and 3 about ten times now, and I swear, they're a work of art. For the turn one overtake, how many 17-year-olds would have the presense-of-mind to see that they've been slipstreamed, brake a little earlier and then pull off a perfect undercut? But then the move into turn 3 is the real chef's kiss; incredibly late but utterly clean.

This kid is something else!

News coverage has been very sporadic and I never caught on to this, you really make a difference in more ways than just two-wheeler horsepower journalism. Utmost respect.

Good recovery for Lucio and Simon (treated for smoke inhalation some channels reported). Rest in peace police sergeant João Fernandes.

Sounds like Fabio did a good job of sending message to Yamaha. First, he won the tittle, puts Yamaha in a good mood. Then, he throws the M1 at the scenery and says, "what am I supposed to do, it's too slow!"

Contrast this with the Vinales Method of corporate relations.

I hope Yamaha finds some power over the winter, because otherwise Pecco on the Ducati is going to be FEARSOME!

Col Claw, thanks for the Acosta focus up there^...agreed!

Joan Mir too had a fantastic weekend and race. The more I look, the better it seems. Suzuki has the shape shifter working. He had Q working. His race was BEAUTIFUL, and clean. He and Jack look to be doing fine, especially if Miller gets the sense that Mir got his message that his limit had been reached. Not seeing a grudge. A lot of strong riders AND goodhuman beings out there now. Fun era.

Simon Patterson and David Goldman, heroes!!