Back to Europe and a visit to the simply epic Autodromo Internacional do Algarve for round five and the 2022 Grande Prémio Tissot de Portugal brought a Moto3 win (Sergio García) and dramatic race retirements in a Moto2 weather-struck rollercoaster.
No MotoGP season would be complete without a thrill ride around the stunning Portimão circuit - better still for the GASGAS squad, it was the first race back on European soil after a grueling set of flyaway Grands Prix.
Weather conditions dominated the weekend, with torrential rain and strong gusting winds affecting the Friday and Saturday practice and qualifying sessions. Yellow flags robbed many riders of vital track time, and it was only until Sunday that the clouds finally broke; giving the paddock their first dry running of the Grand Prix. Despite this, cooler temperatures sitting around 18°C meant the track remained very slippery - a daunting prospect around the fast and undulating 4.5km 15-turn venue.
In Moto3, Valresa GASGAS Aspar Team rider Sergio Garcia seized the opportunity perfectly, despite a dramatic Q2 on Saturday where the 19 year old crashed three times in the final session and then managed to grab a 6th place grid slot. Teammate Izan Guevara pushed hard despite searching for traction and started the race in 9th. What followed was an edge of the seat 21 lap battle where the GASGAS duo of Garcia and Guevara leapfrogged up the field - leading in first and second at half race distance. A tight chasing pack featuring five other riders made it a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair, and it wasn't until crunch time in the closing laps that the result became clear. Fighting off rivals Jaume Masia and Ayumu Sasaki, Garcia used slipstream and strategy to full effect to take the win. Not only that but a 25 point haul means he also retakes the championship lead. Izan Guevara finished in a solid 5th position, just three tenths off the podium. The excellent result also sees GASGAS now lead the standings in the Constructor’s championship on 99 points.
In a similar style to the US Grand Prix, the schedule was turned on its head again, with the Premier Class - MotoGP - going live directly after the Moto3 race. This meant that the Moto2 field was forced to wait and watch the skies cloud over and the temperature plummet into late afternoon.
Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team Jake Dixon and Albert Arenas started 3rd and 10th on the grid. Off the start, both riders made steady progress, battling up to 7th and 9th respectively by lap 8. With the skies darkening the inevitable happened, and the rain started to fall - catching out multiple riders at turn 2. With red flags deployed the race was stopped. Unfortunately Albert Arenas was one of the riders involved - and although unhurt, was unable to make it to the restart. A shortened seven-lap sprint was then called by race direction with Jake Dixon starting in pole position. Sadly Dixon crashed at turn 7 on cold tyres, ending his weekend.
Next up is the Gran Premio Red Bull de España at Jerez on May 1.
#11 - Sergio García: “It was an amazing race today - it was the first time that I began the last lap in first position, and then also finished in first position, which is something very tough to do in Moto3! Overall it was a really difficult race with the battles we had. The track was very slippery, but I pushed really hard to the end, and especially in the final corners. This victory is for all my family and all my team. I’m really really happy!”
#28 - Izan Guevara: “I felt good in the race and I overtook as many riders as I could in the first laps to be with the leaders. I saw Öncü and his pace and worked to catch him and made it happen. Sergio moved ahead but five of us were pretty close and it went down to the last lap. My speed dipped a little bit towards the end. I noticed I had less traction and I think that stopped me being able to push harder when it counted. Anyway, we got some good points and Jerez is now very close.”
#75 - Albert Arenas: “I don’t know what to say. It was crazy out there, and to make a race on slicks when it was raining each lap and to the point where it came down heavier and a big group of us crashed in corners 1, 2 and 3. It was really scary. I’m OK but disappointed. We worked well this weekend and we just have to think about Jerez now..”
#96 - Jake Dixon: “It is a disappointing end to the weekend. I got a good start for the restart and my plan was to break away from the group because I knew I had the pace to do it. Unfortunately I crashed into Turn 7. I was too impatient with cold tyres. I want to apologise to the team because again I made an error and this is not helping me for the championship. I didn’t only throw away a win but also a podium too. We’ll try and regroup now for Jerez..”
Results - 2022 Moto3 World Championship, Round 5:
1. Sergio García (GASGAS) 21 Laps; 2. Jaume Masia (KTM) +0.069, 3. Ayumu Sasaki (Husqvarna) +0.110, 5. Izan Guevara (GASGAS) 0.373,
Championship Standings - After Round 5:
1. Sergio García (GASGAS) 83pts; 2. Dennis Foggia (Honda) 82 pts; 3. Jaume Masia (KTM) 54pts, 6. Izan Guevara (GASGAS) 48pts
Results - 2022 Moto2 World Championship, Round 5:
1. Joe Roberts (Kalex) 7 Laps; 2. Celestino Vietti (Kalex) +2.818, 3. Jorge Navarro (GASGAS) +2.991, DNF. Jake Dixon (GASGAS / Kalex), DNS. Albert Arenas (GASGAS / Kalex)
Championship Standings - After Round 5:
1. Celestino Vietti (Kalex) 90pts; 2. Ai Ogura (Kalex) 56pts, 3. Tony Arbolino (Kalex) 54pts, 10. Jake Dixon (GASGAS / Kalex) 32pts, 14. Albert Arenas (GASGAS / Kalex) 22pts,