PORTIMAO: Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo claimed a second consecutive MotoGP victory after leading almost from start to finish at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday as six-time world champion Marc Marquez finished seventh in his first race in nine months.
Quartararo, who also won in Doha two weeks ago, opened up a 15-point lead at the top of the championship standings after three rounds.
Starting on pole position, Quartararo made a sluggish start to slip to fourth place on the opening corner at the Algarve circuit but recovered to take the lead with 17 laps remaining and never looked back.
“It will be a great celebration for my birthday in two days,” said Quartararo, who turns 22 on Tuesday. “We did an amazing job.”
Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, who was denied pole position due to a yellow flag infringement in qualifying, rode a clinical race to finish second and Suzuki’s reigning world champion Joan Mir took third to clinch his first podium of the season. Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha-SRT) and South African Brad Binder (KTM) completed the top five.
Repsol Honda’s Marquez, who was on the grid for the first time since fracturing his upper arm at the Spanish Grand Prix in July, clashed with Mir in the early stages at the Portimao Circuit.
Both riders were lucky to stay on their bikes when Marquez touched the rear of Mir’s Suzuki, with Quartararo capitalising to move back into contention for the lead.
Quartararo battled past Alex Rins to take the lead and his afternoon was made easier when the Suzuki rider crashed out.
Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco, who provisionally moved up to second, had his race ended on lap 20 when he crashed at Turn 10 as Quartararo came under no threat on his way to the chequered flag.
Marquez eventually dropped to ninth place after making contact with Mir. He kept a decent pace but could only make up a few positions, finishing just ahead of brother Alex Marquez and received a round of applause from the members of his team after the race.
Spaniard Maverick Vinales of Yamaha, winner of the first race of the season in Qatar, was only 11th after a poor start.
Jack Miller and Miguel Oliveira crashed early in the race, while Rins fell later when he was near the front. Veteran Valentino Rossi, who has been struggling since the beginning of the year and his arrival at Yamaha satellite team SRT from the Japanese factory team, also fell.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2021