Author: Myanna Wedes

It took nine months for the return of superstar Marc Marquez and the world is happy to see him fit, healthy, happy and eager to get moving on track. He is nervous which is a normal reaction and feeling considering his time away from a MotoGP bike. Once he undertakes FP1, Marquez will be reacquainted with his machine and we feel the nerves will disappear, the hunger ignite whilst being cautious. The rehabilitation is still physical and mental. Do not expect Marquez to be at the front because he has to adapt, riding the bike like he did previously is sometime away though we know he is more than capable of improving at a rapid rate. In this sport of two wheels, being fully fit, happy and mentally strong is everything you need to succeed. No one can rest though because COVID-19 is still very much around regardless of the vaccinations taking place, so being careful is still a number one requirement.

Credit – (Miguel, Fabio, Joan, Johann, Marc and Maverick).

Marc Marquez:

“It’s a great feeling to be returning to MotoGP, with my team and my bike. We have been working very hard to achieve this, many hours in the gym and with my physio Carlos. We would have liked to have been in Qatar, but finally my doctors advised me against it and I listened to them. I have really focused on listening to the doctors and understanding my body so that I can return to MotoGP and do what I love. I have a little bit of experience in Portugal but the aim of this weekend is to work well. Step by step, we are coming back and this is very positive after a long period.”

The focus will be on the Spanish World Champion and now Pol Espargaro will have to work twice as hard to stay within reach of MM93. This will be a challenge because it now becomes a mind game to beat your teammate who has been sidelined for an extensive period of time. Espargaro is a talented rider, though is up for the task considering how demanding it is to perform at the optimum level on board a Honda MotoGP bike. We are excited to see how Espargaro gets along with Marquez, where he utilises the data and watches the Spanish Ant reset to start 2021 with a smile. Being in the same garage as Marquez can be intimidating for other riders, so pressure is on to step up to the plate. If you fall behind, you will become a rider of the past and not the future. This business can be very cutthroat and direct to the point of performance.

Pol Espargaro:

“We left Qatar with good information but without the results we were looking for. Portugal gives me a chance to start to understand the Honda more because it will be the first time not riding it in Losail. It’s a fun and very physical circuit to ride so I am excited to try the RC213V in Portugal. We need to continue to improve our performance and show the potential of the Honda. Of course I am also very excited to have Marc back in the box, he is the reference in MotoGP and working with him will help us to raise out level.”

On the other side of the garages, it is a tough start for Joan Mir. Team Suzuki Ecstar and Mir will have a challenge as a result of his crew chief testing positive for COVID-19. Tom O’Kane who serves as Sylvain Guintoli’s Crew Chief will be stepping in for the role and no doubt will share some of his wealth of knowledge to ensure Mir does well this weekend. It is not easy though because having your main crew chief back at home means the rhythm can be upset so very quickly. This could certainly give Alex Rins an edge over his teammate and put his bike in a good place to charge for the win. The main area where Rins needs to improve is how he starts the race and the decisions he makes early on because this will determine how he ends up in the later stages of the race. 

Alex Rins:

“I’m very happy to arrive in Portimão because it’s a circuit I really like and it’s very enjoyable to ride. There are lot of ups and downs and it’s a lot of fun on the MotoGP bike. I’m really excited to meet up with my team again and to get back on my bike! I’ll give my all and let’s see where we end up.”

Joan Mir:

“I’m really looking forward to starting the race weekend in Portimão, because last year we had bad luck and I had to retire from the race, which was a shame, so this year I want to have a better experience. It’s a track that I really enjoy and I think that it could suit our bike quite well too. It will be important to score points and continue improving, and I can’t wait to get back on the bike!”

The Portuguese race is a chance for Monster Energy Yamaha riders Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo to continue in a strong way. The Portimao is thrilling to watch as a spectator, it separates the boys from the men when it comes to taking risks and finding the limits. This weekend is guaranteed to shed some light on who is going from strength to strength whilst others still figure out where they need to improve and how this will take place on European soil. The next few races are the indicators of how the performance of a certain team will carry on and if the riders have found their form and levels of comfort.

Credit – (Fabio Quartararo)

Fabio Quartararo:

“Winning the second race in Doha was fantastic! Now that I have collected my first win with the Factory team, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. After the first one, I feel like I can focus even better on the task ahead, but it also makes me even more excited for this weekend. Last year I had a difficult race at the Portimao circuit. It’s different from all the other tracks, but that also makes it interesting. I’m very curious to see if this weekend we can be as fast as we were in Qatar.”

Credit – (Maverick Vinales)

Maverick Vinales:

“I’m really looking forward to this race weekend. I really like the Portimao track. It’s a challenge. Last year we didn’t finish as high as we wanted to, but I actually enjoyed that race, because this track has many places where you can overtake. I like this type of circuit, it makes it very exciting. In last year’s race I especially had a good rhythm towards the end, so we will be focusing this weekend on making sure I get that feeling right from the beginning of the race.”

One rider who we need to watch closely this weekend is Jack Miller after undergoing arm pump surgery. Miller is not 100% fit and therefore his recovery has been ideal and on target though racing the Ducati requires a complete level of fitness to be in zero pain. Miller is a tough cookie, so who knows what could take place especially if he finds himself at the front battling. A strong result is vital in order to continue in the top half of the World Championship. If Miller finds results are poor, he will voice his frustration! Fellow teammate Pecco Bagnaia looks good and has a smile on his face regardless of the struggles that were visible in 2020. The circuit is unique, not a favourite for him although you never know what could happen with a different bike and set up. Excited is an understatement for this weekend’s race!

Jack Miller:

“After the operation on the right forearm, I have started the rehabilitation immediately, and everything is going as planned. Portimão is a track that I really like, and I have great memories from last year’s race when I was able to finish second on the podium after a thrilling scrap with Morbidelli. Unfortunately, this year I won’t be 100% fit, but I will do my best as always to try to get the best result possible.”

Francesco Bagnaia:

“This break of almost two weeks has served me well, and now I’m ready for the first European Grand Prix for 2021! Portimão is a unique track: last year, I struggled a lot here, but for me, it was a difficult moment of the season. This year I’ll face the Portuguese GP with a different mindset: in the last two races in Qatar, my feeling with the Desmosedici GP was excellent, which makes me confident. I’m sure I have all the means to fight for another good result on Sunday.”

If there is any team that wants to improve, it is the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing MotoGP Team. They have not had an ideal start and rather frustrating to see them at the back to middle of the grid. Plus, they have not been competitive enough to push other riders to their limits. With the return of Marquez, both Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli are sure to get excited and want to succeed. The test of Yamaha is crucial this year because if not now…. When! For Rossi fans, we are waiting to see him find his pace, form and level of competitiveness that we know he is more than capable of achieving. The pressure is mountain for Johann Zarco as opposed to the two Yamaha riders because expectation is everything right now. Zarco riding the Pramac Ducati is in a place where he is competitive without question. This year, MotoGP has been up and down already with the level high and errors can be a riders undoing.

Franco Morbidelli:

“After being on the podium in Portugal last year, I hope that we can regain our good pace and be in contention for a good result again this weekend. Every race is different though so we will have to wait and see how we are once we are out on track. We have the data from last year and we know that we were fast, so at least we will have something to use as a comparison. We are improving each race and we’ve been trying to understand what happened in the bike set up during our time in Qatar, hopefully we have found some improvements and can continue in a positive direction this weekend.”

Valentino Rossi:

“The Portimao circuit is fantastic, it’s something different to all of the rest, but on the other side of things, it’s very difficult. It’s a track that you need a lot of time to learn and every time you race there you can improve on something. We found some new settings on the bike on the Sunday morning warm-up session of the DohaGP, which meant that I was able to maintain a better pace but we were hampered for the bad starting position. We hope that we can be stronger at this third GP and be more competitive, but also in Europe as a whole – there are a lot of tracks there that are good for me.”

Credit – (Johann Zarco)

Time to kick back, relax and watch the weekend unfold!

Engines are loud, riders are ready and it is time to see Marquez back on track. Local hero Miguel Oliveira is certain to love racing on home soil although we do question if his KTM machine is up to scratch!

About The Author

Myanna has an incredible grasp and knowledge of the sport in detail and continues to secure lead stories every week. She is in constant contact with team and rider media management. She is an admitted lawyer with two degrees and is currently writing a biography on Alan Jones MBE 1980 F1 World Champion. She is a fond lover of two wheel motorsport, predominantly MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.