Portimao MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Local Knowledge vs Fast Riders, Yamaha's Conundrum, And Suzuki Sinking Without A Trace

According to Albert Einstein's Special theory of relativity, time slows down as your speed increases. The faster you go, the slower time appears to pass. That would explain why the Covid-compressed 2020 MotoGP season has simultaneously felt like it was taking forever and is over in the blink of an eye. 14 races in 18 weeks was brutal on everyone involved, an intense schedule which had everyone working at light speed yet struggling to keep up. You would have to go back to the 1960s to find a season that was so short. But back then, they were fitting 8 races into 18 weeks, not nearly double that.

At least we had a fitting stage for the season finale. In a season with highs and lows, holding the last MotoGP round of 2020 at the roller-coaster which is the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve was fitting, a metaphor for the year made physical. But did that location give the winner, Miguel Oliveira, an advantage at what was effectively his home race? Was he, like Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca in 2005, better able to unlock the secrets of the Portimão track because he had ridden here so often?

"I think there was some corruption, because the guy who gave me my trophy was wearing an Oliveira shirt and I just felt cut," Jack Miller joked, after finishing second behind the Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider. "I was just looking at his suit and he has the circuit name on his personal sponsors there and I thought of that when I said corruption. He was laughing. Then he pointed out [race sponsor and Portuguese telecom giant] MEO on his helmet. The ducks are adding up, mate."

Miller was joking, of course. But Oliveira's win was beyond convincing. In these subscriber notes, we will take a deeper dive into how the win came about, whether he had an advantage in Portimão, whether it was a good day or a bad day for Yamaha, what went wrong with Suzuki, and much more.

Home boy

First to Miguel Oliveira's win. In retrospect, Oliveira's win looks all but inevitable. The Portuguese rider finished every session bar FP2 and Sunday warm up in either first or second place, and started the race from pole. His pace in FP4 was outstanding. And it was his home Grand Prix, his first GP in Portugal since 2012, when MotoGP visited Estoril for the last time.

It was also at a track which Oliveira knows exceptionally well. The Portuguese rider trains regularly at the circuit on a Yamaha R1 (KTM do not make a production sports bike, so he is forced into an infidelity with a rival manufacturer). He has also raced there, competing in the 12 Hours of Portimão race in 2016. Did that give Oliveira an edge over the competition on Sunday?

That is easy to believe when you see the way he walked away from the competition at the start. Oliveira got away as soon as the lights went out, and was over six tenths clear by the end of the first lap. His lead had grown to 1.3 seconds by the end of lap two, and nearly 2 seconds a lap later. At no point did anyone get near to the Portuguese rider.

Stop me if you've heard this one before

Shades of Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca the first time MotoGP visited in 2005. Hayden and fellow American Colin Edwards finished that first US Grand Prix at Laguna in first and second, relegating Valentino Rossi to third in a year in which the Italian won 11 of the 17 races. The two Americans had called upon their intimate knowledge of the track from having raced there in the AMA and World Superbikes respectively.

That year, Hayden had been protective of his experience, not allowing others to follow him around and showing them the wrong lines when they managed to latch onto his tail in practice. His plan had been simple: get the holeshot, and run away at the front. A plan that Hayden had executed to perfection to take his first victory in 2005.

Did Miguel Oliveira enjoy the same kind of advantage 15 years later, at a track which bears a passing resemblance to Laguna Seca in its rises and falls? His rivals certainly didn't think that was the case. Maverick Viñales pointed out that the two extended 70-minute sessions of free practice on Friday, and the test on production bikes in October gave everyone a good idea of how to be fast around the circuit. "We all rode a lot of laps," the Monster Energy Yamaha rider told us, "I think it's enough to understand the track."

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Source: 
year: 
2020
round_number: 
15

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Comments

As usual, Mr. Emmett, your analyisis has been well worth waiting for. Thank you very much.

Thank you for your tireless work to bring us such remarkable insight, especially during such a compact and intense season!

Thank you very much David. Excellent piece as usual. Enjoy the break and relax. It has been a crazy year. Motomatters helped keep me sane.

I will watch the race around the rollercoaster again. Later friends.

When it sometimes felt almost difficult to keep up with this season as ONLY a spectator, I can't even begin to imagine trying to carry out work in relation to it.

Thank you thank you, David!

But one made better and more understandable by your articles.

Thank you for this year and let's hope for a more normal next year.

David - thanks, as always, for the insights that you and your team provide to us throughout the season; they're wonderful. I'm very happy that I found this site some years ago - it's been great and you've continually worked to improve it. I hope you find some time to relax during the break and recover from this years' frenetic pace. To an American (living in Hong Kong), this is Thanksgiving week. While it's been a year of so many tests, a lot of personal tragedies for those we've lost to COVID, a lot of firsts - there is still always a lot to be thankful for.

Cheers!

David - thanks, as always, for the insights that you and your team provide to us throughout the season; they're wonderful. I'm very happy that I found this site some years ago - it's been great and you've continually worked to improve it. I hope you find some time to relax during the break and recover from this years' frenetic pace. To an American (living in Hong Kong), this is Thanksgiving week. While it's been a year of so many tests, a lot of personal tragedies for those we've lost to COVID, a lot of firsts - there is still always a lot to be thankful for.

Cheers!

MotoGP and Motomatters helped me a lot in a crappy year, it was a point of reference to a normality we hope returns (even if it was anything but a normal season!).  The season in a way took me way back to the pre-Doohan era when new riders came and went, new talent exploding onto the scene and seemingly disappearing just as quickly (sadly in those days, often through injury).

It seems the Doohan era ran into the Rossi era, followed by the Alien era - twenty-odd years with only a few real players.  The latter gradually petered out in the last few years but the protagonists generally remained and were less dominant but still in the mix.  This year was the first where Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner and Marquez essentially did not figure.  Likewise recent old-skool pretenders to the throne, Dovi, Cal, Ianonne fell by the wayside.  That clearing of the decks allowed the young talent to shine through, and shine they did.  What a brilliant season... inspiration snatched from the jaws of dispair.  Thankyou David for bringing it to us.  I will, as ever, be renewing as soon as the subscription rolls around.

 

MotoGP and Motomatters helped me a lot in a crappy year, it was a point of reference to a normality we hope returns (even if it was anything but a normal season!).  The season in a way took me way back to the pre-Doohan era when new riders came and went, new talent exploding onto the scene and seemingly disappearing just as quickly (sadly in those days, often through injury).

It seems the Doohan era ran into the Rossi era, followed by the Alien era - twenty-odd years with only a few real players.  The latter gradually petered out in the last few years but the protagonists generally remained and were less dominant but still in the mix.  This year was the first where Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Stoner and Marquez essentially did not figure.  Likewise recent old-skool pretenders to the throne, Dovi, Cal, Ianonne fell by the wayside.  That clearing of the decks allowed the young talent to shine through, and shine they did.  What a brilliant season... inspiration snatched from the jaws of dispair.  Thankyou David for bringing it to us.  I will, as ever, be renewing as soon as the subscription rolls around.

 

Thanks, David, for the hard work. The riders now have so much character it's a pleasure to watch them work. Miguel could easily have hung his head when BB33 got the factory ride but he put it down and worked harder. Franky also had reason to slump his shoulders and hold a resentment against Yamaha but he squared them and worked harder. Joan could've gotten down after 3 races but he got up and worked harder. These aren't the only ones either. So much character in the paddock now, what an amazing sport. Can't hardly wait for 2021.

Morbidelli so exceeded expectations! Highlighted by the other three struggling with this year's bike. You were so right to pick him to have a strong season (thanks for the address, shirt headed to Florida when I get to the post office). Nakagami did something similar. Alex Marquez found his MotoGP footing. Miller took another step forward. EVERYONE in Orange ripened nicely. Rins', good recovery from injury to form. Mir though - MIR! Snuck in unnoticed and plunked himself and Suzuki atop the heap. 

There was bitter disappointment, tension and dispair this year too. Tears, anger, lost sleep. Lost rides. Lost careers. A bad injury crash of haste, then complication of hasty return. A rather messy divorce for all to see. A character contrast juxtaposing #29 and #36. There isn't a bad bike on the grid, the rear is the old mid pack. Last vestige of customer grid filler Avintia fought for poles. The second over dog bike also lost it's way. Again. Herve proved to have done just the right thing (after a 2019 that painted a different picture). Davide too, a good time to be a former Yamaha member. Then we say goodbye to two of the hardest working "blue collar" regular non-alien great guys we've had. Valentino goes Aqua, his young brother has a VR46 funded MotoGP entrance, and one or two new teams are shaping up on the horizon. Not Yamaha! Suzuki. Who does it better. Like KTM is the best Honda...on WP suspension? In house steel trellis?! Austria! Heads can shake all they want, hands tossed up to the heavens. We are in a new era. 

We were lucky to have a season at all. What a blessing. 

Anyone else ready to say VR46 - Suzuki arrives 2022? And could immediately challenge the front? And is the best livery in the paddock? And...(coffee gone, crystal ball closed).

;)

Grazi Krop, Neil, Steve, Zara and Jared! Enjoy some relaxation. You are very appreciated. Everyone in the circus, thank you. 

Very decent of you. I got a couple things right but I certainly didn't expect FQ to disintegrate. I didn't see AM and TN coming good on the bronc, nor Bradl neither. Me wonders if bike development would have taken a different turn if MM were aboard this year. Doohan comes to mind for some reason. KTM shocked me; I had them second tier for years to come. Once they gave up on the idea of full trellis frame and met the rest of the paddock halfway they revolutionized that missile and apparently no matter the style of the pilot. Aprilia, Aprilia, Aprilia,,,smh

Bloody well sure that the Honda tossing Marquez, then being down right embarrassing without him opening the season forced a change in where they were going with it. It is starting to look "normal" again. Betcha Pol does ok on it, equally well to his KTM achievements, but watch the crash rate punctuating that even on the more tractible iteration. Heaven help us if Marquez gets a more predictable and rideable Honda with all that grunt. Next year's F tire should help them a tad, but not sufficiently. Putting warm breast milk in Marc's Red Bull can would help. If he stays fit he will age really well, softening a bit would become him. This year may have been a step that way. Fewer crashes, fewer saves, still win plenty. 

Is it Feb yet? 

while I agree that Honda was much improved, I am wondering if the development came in the form of rider evolution? Taka and Alex each said they adopted more of a Márquez style and could thus exploit the bike?

Thanks to David, Zara and the rest of the team - it's been a crazy season, one of the best for spectators but doubtless a major challenge and tiring for all those involved and all your work is much appreciated.

Time for a rest.

When Mir had traction control problems, I wondered if his bumping and barging had damaged a wheel speed sensor, as happened to Dani Pedrosa when Marc Márquez rear ended him years ago. That generated a lot of debate about the lack of redundancy in the Honda setup, and speculation as to whether Honda would add another sensor. They stubbornly refused, but added a carbon fiber guard to protect the cable.

I wonder what Suzuki will do?

... asset to hardcore MotoGP fans David. I've also enjoyed hearing you on the podcast this year - you'd make a good announcer!

My first thoughts as the weekend unfolded was that it was shaping up just like Nick's 2005 Laguna Seca. Both were the fastest riders right off the trailer. Nick and Colin had a clear advantage over the rest of the paddock and even Bayliss showed superior speed. He was quite familiar with Laguna too. I think Oliviera had a similar advantage that was even more apparent on that very first lap (similar to Nick's first lap). If they go back He may still have a slight advantage. It took the third attempt at Laguna before Rossi, Stoner and the rest caught up to Hayden. I think tracks with blind turns and undulations take a lot more work to learn and set up for. Great write up, Krop, and thanks for covering this condensed season so well for us! 

Your insight makes the season so much more enjoyable. Also, looking at the shots in this post and remembering the crazy light during the race broadcast, can't wait for Cormac's shots.

Andthanks to the commentors, (Shrink, Jinx, Apical and the others) that make this site a junkies dream!

Thanks DefTechDP I just like talking sugar about motorcycle racing.

On the cool down lap there was a shot in the Dorna MotoGP feed of Miller and Zarco in a close conversation huddle on their bikes, did anybody in the press corp ask about this? 

Looked like he was saying something along the lines of, "if you're this fast on last year's bike, you're going to love this one, mate!"

In our household we have adopted a convention of pretending that 2020 didn't happen. In Oz, before we had the pandemic we had bushfires that had no precedent. We were housebound for weeks in smoke that went literally off the scale, and then a few weeks later COVID. My problem with pretending this year didn't happen is that a lot that was fantastic DID happen, such as this incredible year of Moto in all classes. The discipline that DORNA instituted meant very little interruption to the season and then they went about improving things where they could - so much so that motogp.com is SO much better now than a few months ago. As to Motomatters I have two expressions of thanks - one is to my subscriber buddies for all of their excellent and funny comments, their insight, their almost always restrained disagreements, and most of all for the number of times I thought '...oh yeah, that's a completely different way to look at that.' A more civilised reader comment community does not exist. As for one Mr Emmett - I will repeat that I think yours is the best sports journalism in my experience - as I am an older bugger this at least carries the weight of a reasonable sample size! Seriously though, this year you have been at your peak and at times it felt like you were even more fully engaged than ever to protect the sport in such a difficult year. And it isn't only your analysis that is fantastic, but also the positivity that you bring to your work, that clearly influences your readers and subscribers. Thanks to every single one of you!

To you, and all the Motomatters team, for guiding us through the season.

It can't have been easy, it was hard enough just watching.

I hope Dorna watch the last lap of the Moto3 race again and consider what that lap would have looked like had Albert Arenas had a pit radio in his helmet...

It's been a crazy year both on- and off-track, but Motomatters has constantly delivered content of the highest quality. Everyone involved, please enjoy the deafening [virtual] applause of your grateful audience (and take a well-earned rest).

and it's more acutely felt in this mentally draining year. I had to dump my 3 GPs this year, first time I haven't left the Isles of Britain to pay homage since '84. We've all got our stories from 2020 and how we're straining to see the horizon, sometimes from a dark hillside, but somehow you (and your trusted team) crystallised the chaotic season in a season of chaos. There were times I could feel the strain through your efforts and your podcasts, a clinging on to the cliff edge with tenacity; yet the old Wile Coyote never threw up that puff of dust at the bottom of the valley floor. For me, the benchmark, and a well-earned treat for me at Christmas, is Motocourse; a level of detail and craft I've been poring over since 1976, every copy jealously guarded in my attic. However, in recent years-and especially this one- the colours, textures and context of Motomatters gave me a perspective that usually has to wait until Santa turns up: for me I cannot give higher praise and in a helter skelter world where things are constantly being fixed that aren't broken in someone's name of progress, this is my oasis. Please don't think you need to develop it into a water park. Thank you 😊

^ Holy shit, thanks Funsize! 

Perfect. We are SOOOO fortunate. Appreciating you as well. Btw, I think Neil Spalding's book is one I need to get. Thanks for reminding me. Connecting with Motomatters in the 800cc days did for the experience what Spotify did for music here. A second blossoming. 

Viva MotoGP friends

I was bought 'Spalders technical tome for Father's Day. I was afraid, very afraid; I'm not technically minded at all and some parts I have to stumble through 2-3 times but the pictures, MAN!! How he manages to spot a slightly different weld, slightly longer engine mount or thingamijig on the top yoke I have no idea. He called it that Yamaha, in the midst of valvegate, saving face and motors, would bring long megaphone exhausts to boost mid-range to save peak revs: they did. He also reckoned they might only use them for practice to assess the lame engines, they did! He will probably appear in Motocourse again this year and again we'll probably see stuff we still haven't seen. Please cost it out David how much he wants to make it to your podcasts occasionally and then tell me it'll cost me another tenner a year in my subscription to pay for it and sir, you can take my money-and I'm a Yorkshireman!!

'How is the new shock absorber, Alberto?' 

'I do not know of a new shock absorber, fool'

'Its there, Alberto, look, more black, less gold, the one Suzuki started using last season'

'Fool...'

Thanks for all your effort this year David. Also thanks to all you legend commenting super insightful stuff. I love that this site is about the journey, not the destination. 

Last but certainly not least - these boys on their bikes put on a hell of a show for us. Shame I didn't get down to phillip island to see them this year but at least I'll be down there next week for a couple of days on my SRAD making a meal out of every corner. 

Ok, actually last now - I'm so impressed and genuinely stoked how gracious the riders were towards Olivera. They all just said he was absolutely on it last weekend. No denigrating or excuses, just support and respect. It's awfully lovely to see. As mentioned a few times above for someone who's been watching / paying attention to GPs since Gardener when I was 5 there's always been a continuity that has now been severed. Honestly, these kids seem really lovely and the future of the sport looks in safe hands. 
 

I subscribed this year and I absolutley love the analysis, that you, the team and some of the posters present here. This site has along with the races themselves been a bright spot in an otherwise very grim year. Next to the podcasts mentioned above, I would also draw my wallet to make sure some of them stick around smiley (motoshrink springs to mind but the quality of the posts in general is interesting and entertaining). Keep it up in 2021 and enjoy some time off!

Thank You David, Zara, Mat, Cormac et al for doing what you do especially in a year filled with unseen peril and tragic consequences for many others who were only living, breathing and often just trying to eek out a living. I feel especially fortunate to be able to ride most of the year, watch races and qualifying, see and hear riders talk about their expoiits, and read about what has become a passion (emerging from a personal challenge to see if I could pass MSF Basic Rider never having ridden.) I hope you're able to enjoy some sort of "off season" and bring it all back together next year (for yourselves and for the rest of us, too.) Greatly appreciated.