Intermediate class riders were quick to improve in warmer and fully dry conditions and a handful of names challenged for top honours in FP3. Marcos Ramirez led the way early on but a small tumble at turn 4 forced him into a trip to pitlane halfway through the session and allowed challengers to get closer. Augusto Fernandez and Xavi Vierge briefly picked up the mantle in the final 10 minutes of the session, but Raul Fernandez had the last say, the rookie getting ahead with five minutes remaining and keeping the lead to the flag.
With rain disrupting plans throughout the morning sessions, normal dry service was resumed for the intermediate class’s second outing in Valencia. And it was regular service on the timesheets as well, the two title contenders trading top spot past the chequered flag. Raul Fernandez edged ahead of teammate Remy Gardner in the mini-shootout at the end of the session, after leading early on, but then saw his top time cancelled for a track limits infringement. That placed Gardner back in the lead, only eighth thousandths of a second ahead of his rival.
Rain was an unexpected surprise on Friday morning in Valencia and although it had stopped by the time the intermediate class took to the track, the asphalt was left soaking wet and it encouraged quite a few off-track adventures. Augusto Fernandez managed to avoid any of that on his way to prime position in FP1, the Spaniard taking over from Joe Roberts for the final couple of minutes. The American lost out by only two hundredths of a second, with Hector Garzo taking third despite a late crash at turn 11.
It is a strange weekend, the last race of the season. For all intents and purposes the season is already over, the championship is done, officially in MotoGP and Moto3, and as good as in Moto2 – Raul Fernandez can't afford to throw in the towel, but he has to win the race, and the chances of Remy Gardner finishing lower than 13th are pretty small. But not zero, of course, which is why they will line up on Sunday.
The constructors' championship was settled at Portimão last week, and the odds of Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli outscoring Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller by a combined 28 points on Sunday is pretty low (but again, not zero), which will hand the team title to the factory Ducati Lenovo squad.
So why are we bothering to race at Valencia? Well, apart from the contractual obligation – Dorna has promised TV broadcasters 18 races, Valencia has a contract to host a grand prix, and sponsors have backed teams on the basis of a full season, not knocking off early just because the title is wrapped up.
Why are we here?
Another dramatic day of Moto2 and Moto3 action at the Algarve GP saw one world champ crowned, while another man took a monumental step toward his.
Acosta champ despite growing pains
There was something approaching skepticism with regards to Pedro Acosta in the autumn of this year. The Tiburon de Mazarron’s incredible start to life in the Moto3 world championship had raised expectations to such an extent that a recent run of results in which he scored 7th, 8th and 3rd places in just his 14th, 15th and 16th GPs could be considered something of a crisis.
But this showing demonstrated he had lost none of that spark as he swept to his sixth win of the season to become the second youngest GP world champion in history at 17 years of 166 days old, just one day older than record holder Loris Capirossi, when he swept to the 1990 125cc title in Australia. When it really mattered, Acosta showed the mentality and the brass of a champion.
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
Moto2 standings after Portimão:
Results and summary of the Moto2 race at Portimão:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Portimão: