Portimão Moto2 & Moto3 Test Notes: Development Returns, A Full Calendar Expected, And Acosta's Meteoric Rise

After three days of testing for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at Portimão, the 2022 preseason is officially over. It was pretty much over by about 4pm on Monday, with just 10 riders out in the Moto3 class, and even fewer in the Moto2 class. I went for a quick walk around the service road at 5:30pm, and was too late to see the last bike circulate.

That is in itself a sign of how successful this test was for the lightweight and intermediate classes. Three days of outstanding weather, with the wind the biggest issue on the first day, and no disruption for the rest of the test. The teams got pretty much all of the testing done that they needed to.

Unlike a MotoGP test, the amount of technical material to test is limited. In Moto3, engine development is still frozen for another couple of years, although both Honda and KTM had new exhausts obviously aimed at improving engine character. In Moto2, Triumph had brought a new gearbox, which is more race-focused, with a longer first gear and shorter fifth and sixth, making it more of a close-ratio box.

New bits

With chassis development permitted again in Moto2 after the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, Kalex, who now have 24 of the 28 bikes on the grid (the other two are the Boscoscuro – formerly Speed Up – and MV Agusta) have been able to bring new aero, a new frame, and a new swingarm. The changes to the aero and frames are relatively minor, according to Kalex boss Alex Baumgaertel, with the swingarm a slightly bigger change. The frame and swingarm are aimed at creating more grip and drive from the rear, which appears to have been successful.

Having 24 bikes on the grid doesn't mean Kalex face no opposition. Fermin Aldeguer posted very strong times all weekend, the Boscoscuro chassis clearly working well at Portimão. It was also a strong showing by rookie Aldeguer, after just a couple of replacement rides in Moto2 last year.

The other change is to the Dunlop rear tire in Moto2. The spec tire supplier for Moto2 and Moto3 have a new compound for the rear, aimed between the soft and the hard (the 1 and the 2, as Dunlop designate them). The new rear has a little less grip than the soft, but it has much better endurance and offers a more consistent feel. After tests in Jerez last November and earlier this month, and then here at Portimão, the tire was deemed a success All of the riders were enthusiastic, and it is likely to see a lot of action through the year.

Rider more than bike

Even though there was plenty to test, several people pointed out that Portimão is not a great track for testing. It is a roller coaster of a circuit, physically demanding and placing a lot of load on the bike, but like Phillip Island, it demands far more of the rider than it does of the bike. There are a lot of places where courage and confidence in the front is what matters, rather than the subtleties of edge grip, drive grip, braking stability.

It is a good test of riders, though. And the fact that Pedro Acosta ended the official Moto2 test as fastest, is a sign that the Spaniard is something special. He is carrying the momentum and confidence gained from winning the Moto3 championship as a rookie into his rookie season in Moto2, and standing trackside and watching at various points of the section between Turns 5 and Turn 13, Acosta showed the commitment and confidence of a champion. He threw the Ajo Moto2 Kalex around like he had been riding it forever, rather than after a few days of testing.

It should be no surprise that Acosta is comfortable on a Moto2 bike. The Spaniard spends a lot of time lapping the Cartagena circuit on a Yamaha R1, so throwing a big, powerful bike around is nothing new for him. Investing that time on a big bike is paying off, as his times show.

Everybody I spoke to at Portimão was impressed by Acosta. He felt comfortable on the bike and with the tires, and it showed. "He clearly won't spend long on a Moto2 bike," one insider said. Another said they expected to see him on a MotoGP bike very soon.

Meteoric rise

It is hard to escape the impression that Acosta will be in MotoGP as soon as next year, whether he wins the 2022 Moto2 title or not. Even the fact that winning the Moto2 title is regarded as a realistic prospect is a sign of the regard in which the Spaniard is held. Factories are already sniffing around Acosta, though KTM will be loath to let him go.

Persistent rumors surround the fate of Raul Fernandez, that he is unhappy at KTM preventing Yamaha from buying him out of his contract, and that he is biding his time to leave the Austrian factory and head to Yamaha. There are some who say that KTM will not be sorry to see him go, despite Fernandez' obviously immense talent. The conflict last summer, which saw KTM CEO Stefan Pierer step in and announce Fernandez' promotion to the Tech3 KTM team during FP4 in Austria, is still producing fallout, and the relationship is far from happy.

Losing Fernandez would be a blow for KTM, but a blow which the arrival of Pedro Acosta on a KTM MotoGP bike would greatly soften. And it is remarkable to think that this is even circulating as a rumor before Acosta has even turned a wheel on a race weekend in Moto2.

Aki Ajo may have lost Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner to MotoGP, the pairing he has brought in to replace them is looking as strong as their predecessors. Acosta ended the test fastest, and Augusto Fernandez, making the switch from the Marc VDS team, had a very strong test and made a fast transition between teams.

Deep field

The Ajo Moto2 riders start the season as favorites, along with Aron Canet, who has settled in quickly to the Flexbox HP40 Pons Moto2 team, and was fast and consistent all through the test. Fermin Aldeguer was also impressive, while Albert Arenas appears to have found his feet at GasGas Aspar, as has new teammate Jake Dixon.

Sam Lowes, who starts as a title favorite because of his record in the Moto2 class, had a difficult test. The Marc VDS rider is suffering with tendinitis in his left wrist, a problem his brother Alex has too. That was particularly difficult at a track as physical as Portimão, and especially coming after a recent test at Jerez. The best solution for tendinitis is rest, but with a 21-race season coming up, rest is not something readily available. Lowes is continuing to seek treatment to help alleviate the problem.

All around the world

Speaking of a 21-race season, there have been persistent rumors and speculation that actually pulling off all 21 rounds would be impossible, due to various pandemic-related restrictions. But talking to people in a position to know, they are all convinced that the full 21-race season will happen. There had been doubts over Argentina and Japan, but entry conditions for Argentina are sufficient that the Termas de Rio Hondo round looks set to go ahead, and those involved in planning similarly expect no issues going to Japan in October.

That doesn't mean that people are enthusiastic, however. Everyone who isn't a rider is not looking forward to the strain of travel and being away from home for 21 races. The younger riders are keen, reasoning that more races are always better. But some of the older MotoGP hands were less than delighted by the prospect of 21 races.

In Moto3, Dennis Foggia was immediately quick, despite missing the first day and a half of the test with a gastrointestinal condition. Foggia appears to be picking up where he left off. Andrea Migno of the Snipers team ended second quickest, and was consistently quick, as was Tatsuki Suzuki.

For KTM and its assorted brands, Izan Guevara was impressive on the Aspar GasGas, while rookie David Muñoz was impressive, carrying the speed he showed in Red Bull Rookies and the FIM CEV into the grand prix paddock.


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Comments

Acosta <--> Marquez comparisons are apt.

Odd as it sounds, I don't think KTM has good odds at all of keeping the likes of that. I don't even see him as "theirs." Just a stack of money on a buyout, and not even a very big one relative to the salary of a Marc. Especially one starting out and skittle fully intact. Right Honda? (If Marc does NOT return to form, I will dig deep in resentment towards Honda for negligence with a historically precious gem deserving of much better care. Yes, not just regardless of Marc's devil may care attitude, but especially because of it. I am bottom line solely responsible for holding ground on abuse/neglect routinely. Called it this in real time, still do).

For sure Honda is working to secure a fresh 2nd young Marc. They have recently woken from their indulgent dream, cold water on the face. Marc talked retiring behind closed doors last year. Quartararo or Acosta look good. Martin may. Fernandez may. 

If you can walk on water then why not go the full nine yards and win on the KTM. Look at Honda, any other rider and it hasn't looked like much of a bike in recent years. The odd flash but only Marc consistently made it look fast. Yamaha had flashes of a revival, wins for Mav, close calls for Rossi until Fabio made it look like a rocket every weekend. I always find it very difficult to decide which is a fast bike and which is slow bike looking back. Is it the bike is slow ? Or is it the bike isn't fast enough for this rider. That sounds a little harsh on the riders but the gaps are so small these days. A few tenths is all it needs to be a 'slow rider'. Maybe the KTM is a fast bike for an alien.

Legit perspective as usual Mr WaveyD! I favor the subjective of riders making their way is a volatile, brutal, swiftly rushing circus. 

That move can be a career ender. Miserable. Egoic. Unwise. I think Brad B would tell a friend like his brother to go elsewhere. I think Zarco was smart. And Petrucci not. 

Start? Suzuki. Or maybe the sorted 2023 Honda?

I think a test on the KTM is a given at some point this year. See how the bike goes in the races, test alongside some relevant peers. There's always the temptation of doing something not done before because nothing is impossible at that age.

Marc talked retiring behind closed doors last year.

I bet threatening to retire was another way to put it. After his (and Pols) big off at Jerez last year and the huge high side at Assen he was openly saying that the bike was unsafe and that Honda needed to get to work immediately. With the context of his ongoing recovery at the time and the RCV putting him into the air fence every meet I can only imagine what it must have been like behind closed doors. It would have been wild.

The diplopia just adds another layer to it. His recovery has obviously been excellent and his risk of doing the same thing is probably the same as it was between 2011-2021. Just think about how many offs he's had in those ten years!

But I doubt he will ever tolerate a bike like that again no matter the manufacturer. He has too many all-time accolades to chase and he can't be cut short because of a bike that likes to throw riders to the moon.

Hard to come up with the gumption to threaten when a guy is in a dark place, wondering if his body will ever fully recover and he'll be able to see straight. After the surgeries and complications over the last few years, I see Marc talked retiring behind closed doors last year meaning he was considering throwing in the towel. Blaming Honda for his troubles? Marquez knows his style. He likes to play with the limit. And even ride over it.

At some point, (in 2021), MM had to have done the trade-off analysis between the types of injuries he has sustained (especially vision-related) and the rewards from racing (and everything associated with racing including adulation.) I expect he thought about the quality of life he wants to sustain "after racing." All that downtime... I agree that he could move to a team/manufacturer with a friendlier "ride" (should the new Honda prove rocky) but at what potential cost? How much $ is enough?

While I completely understand their desire to hang on to talents like Fernandez and Acosta it seems like KTM need to learn to let go sometimes rather than trying to doggedly keep them in orange.

The last of these I recall was $400k

They'll HAVE to, so better flexibly plan. Yamaha historically have had a "honeypot" attraction method combined with stealing from others. It has worked pretty well, but far from ideal. 

Sufficient pipeline, sufficient bike, sufficient planning/rider relations/garage atmosphere/program culture, sufficient funds to throw at them. You can do fine missing just one of these, but not two for long.

I'm a Sam Lowes fan, he's definitely as tough as they come and what he pulled off at the end of last year was pretty nuts. Probably not doing his body any favors... but nuts nonetheless. I just still can't put him down as the favorite for the title, even after his strongest season yet. He just seems too crash-and-injury prone; 5 DNFs last year, compared to Remy's 1 and Raul's 3. And I know the top Moto2 riders all move up this year, but he'll still be facing tough competition. Would absolutely love to be proven wrong though, he deserves another shot.

Sam has spent 7 years in Moto2 and managed to finish 3rd in 2020. You get the impression he is the bridesmaid but not the bride and he will be up against Acosta and others for the title. I think he is running of out time and if he does win would be be able to get a seat in Motogp ? Being British and Dorna wanting a Brit in Motogp would help but he has stiff competition and age is not on his side.  

I like them, as riders and what little I know of them personally, but I think they've both gone about as far as they can.

Agree larryt4114, I've rooted for both of them in BSB, SSP, SBK, Moto2, MotoGP, but I also think they've hit their ceiling and while doing so are hitting the asphalt too frequently and too hard to be good for them.

I think 2020 was Sam's best shot at the Moto2 title. Then the usual happened but he almost almost almost pulled of a miracle in Portugal. So sad for him...

Even Alex in WSBK has a limited shelf life - plenty of hungry young riders on customer Kawasaki's looking at Alex's ride. Look at what happened to an ex world champion Sykes when all decent options dry up - back to BSB (assuming he has a ride there) 

Motoshrink, I totally agree with you. I've posted, several times, that HRC's out right hubris and arrogance is to blame for Marc's injuries. When you have a pile of a bike that only ONE freak of a rider can win on, it AIN'T the bike that's winning! He, and everyone on the new bike, seems happy. It's a shame he had to get injured so badly for HRC to make a change.

The gilded path to Osaka has been lit by the rare alignment of celestial bodies that herald the arrival of a new god-king. HRC build a weapon, MM and Pol polish it this year for the arrival of Pedro, PA goes back to back to back rookie championships, dethrones MM in combat.
The all time greats get an unassailable decade and Marc’s 10 year anniversary will be the year of Acosta, the year of the GOAT. HAIL AND PROSTRATE THY SELVES!!! BASK IN THE GLORY OF HIS MIGHTY WORKS!!! WE ARE NOT WORTHY etc.

It’s written in the stars.

And what if the Red realm also has The Quartararo?! Along with our Bagnaia whom hath pulled sword from stone? 

The Sun shines in both Osaka and Bologna? Thy Yamaha shalt wander behind this yr, then banished from ultimate glory without their blessed French speed child of elbows. (Because the aero and shapeshifter rules favor the huge power bikes - at the same time that the Ducati redesign turns/handles great... that part is basic stuff that needs no divining).

Gladiators, FIGHT!

Great care must be taken shrinkismus; such lamentations of the fool will lie broken and twisted by the false dawn of these enochian chants. The scriptures are fickle, amorphous, cruel and obfuscated by the wicked trickster Dall’igna and his perverse manipulation of the Akashic record: The pure and righteous path of the chosen will lay waste to such blasphemy, the false chimeric door opened by the heretical prophet, Domenicali, must be sealed by the new god-king. 
 

Lin the sour; the hateful haruspex, the ancient and beknighted but backwards monks of Iwata, chained to their old ways shall no longer prevail, they shall cower in the all encompassing power of the coming day break, their mighty boy warrior left unarmed and deeply wounded by their myopic traditions.

Sorry Pecco the stoic, warrior of the chameleon steed, unblinking in the face of the terrifying war spells of the current wounded god-king. this great battle may be yours but the sands of the battle field are shifting with a great cataclysmic tide. The volcanic order of the crimson baphomet, truly the most unfathomably powerful beast, they are fickle and contrary, the faces of janus are many amongst the apostles of that unholy temple of desmodromicus. Your aim may be true and righteous but they must meddle and connive, self sabotage their will, a pit they will draw you into without forewarning.
 

The ceremonial magik will truly be magnificent this immediate celestial period but the age of great uncertainty shall be met by many moons of great and wondrous victories for the final cosmic centrepiece.
 

The one.
 

ALL HAIL PEDRO ACOSTA

A deal was made with the devil clearly at Ducati pulling the 2020 bike into turning whilst retaining its unearthly rocket. It shifteth its shape like a...hell beast! Turns like the twisted tongue of Beezlebub himself, surges forth like a volcano. It has in its bowel counterbalancer trickery that laughs in the face of the great tuning fork.

Perhaps, an equal but opposite seed of potential for contrary force co-emerges from such a galactic event?

St. Acosta the meek

Surely then he would have to go conventional Suzuki to truly bring balance to the nature of things? Or KTM? Surely the heavenly child isn't to be at HONDA?! Someone ask wise Suppo what signs he hath seen in his travels of late.

No, he must face the challenge in fullest force. The manoeuvres of Alzamorra the manipulative will pose great threat but the Judgement of Alberto the stern will be righteous, he will guide, in few spoken words, the chosen one to navigate the war courts to the inner sanctum, the labyrinthine maze where the brutality of Marquez the merciless, destroyer of worlds will rain hell upon him but meet they must and he must face the arch mage on identical terms, armed with identical spells forged in the great libraries of Osaka for true victory to be ascribed, the prophecies demand it be so. The great transformation of the era of the GOAT requires the parity and balance of such singular combat.

It must be the High palace of Soichiro.

No wiser words have been spoken.  Awaiting omens as we watch this spectacle in the sands of Qatar. Marquez speaks that he shan't triumph. Fate is in the right hand of many! I hope that this pleases you greatly. I will sacrifice a chicken! Well, just the thighs...immobilize several chickens, with butter and exotic herbs...for the melee of Qualification. Leftovers for Sunday. But hear this, FP3 shall herald a great sound of fury heard for the pre European rounds if not beyond. It shan't be for the faint of heart. 

Hold fast!

"the Judgement of Alberto the stern will be righteous, he will guide, in few spoken words,..."

Even if all other prophecies would turn out to be false, this is the one that will stand the test of times :'-)
(if not, I will eat all of Shrinks chickens...)
 

This little convo had me cracked up all through my lunch, blessed art thou !

We are SOO close! (Can't wait to see Quartararo's new team too! And your Yamahas unfortunately will not win a Championship with him this yr, nor for YRS after he goes elsewhere in a bit here. And if it drives you nuts that there isn't lap time data for that, so be it mate!

(Is there a countdown to FP1 Qatar? Good gracious lordy we have an AMAZING likely quite special season on our hands here! If you've forgotten, go pop in a Pre-2017 MotoGP Season Review DVD and remember that it "leveled up" for 5 yrs, and looks to be taking ANOTHER step. Just not for Yamaha, right WaveyD? Insert playful tone font).

Suppo to Suzuki.

Anyone else hear the scuttlebutt? Simon over at The_Race has reported that the deal is close. There's 11 1/2 days till the lights go out. It's something else to chew over in the meantime.

I thought he was very impressive and appears to have made the step to keep up with the top guys. Good chance he will be replacing Nakagami in MotoGP next year!

^ Agreed Scotty! I think they have 3 ish riders they rank over Pol to take a go at signing, then Ogura to LCR as a comfy back up. Nakagami to WSBK, retain for replacements. They seem happy w Bradl as Test rider.

Might Acosta the meek inherit the Cup at Qatar? Seriously, he is looking crazy good already on the middleweight. 

Talent. Momentum. Trajectory. Boom. First one since MM93 laying these cards out.

He has been training on a few Spanish tracks on a 1000cc. Just re-watched this cool brief clip of him at 14yrs doing drills on a 600cc, great form and bike control! Pretty. Reminds me of the stuff Lorenzo's father has done w kids over there on various bikes. Brad Binder used to run a 600cc on kart tracks "until I wrapped it around a tree bru, then I said feck that." He was just last week running a (I think? Anyone else see the footage and wonder what that was?) RC390 on a kart track, and swapping with a 450 supermoto. Rins was there at the same time on a shifter kart of all things, not pitted near them. Anyhoo, Acosta the meek who shalt inherit the Earth aboard a Honda (this is a CBR600RR w the fairings pulled off). I think I posted this once before a yr or so ago from a different source.

this https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f8xhKQswoYc