Almost as quickly as it began the most unexpected – and unforgettable – of MotoGP World Championship seasons is ready to get the winter warmers on and look ahead to what will no doubt be another cracker in 2021.
Joan Mir has had barely any time to get the champagne out of his leathers following his coronation as the 2020 MotoGP World Champion in Valencia, but that doesn’t mean the job is quite done for him as Suzuki strikes for a triple crown.
Then there is the small matter of the hotly-contested runners-up spot and we get to do it all on at a brand-new venue in Portimao, just to lob in another well-timed curve ball to wrap things up.
The sun is setting on the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season but there is still all to play for – here is our Portuguese MotoGP preview…
2020 Portuguese MotoGP PREVIEW
Strap in for the Portimao rollercoaster
A firm favourite among those fortunate enough to have laid down some rubber at the Portimao circuit in Portugal’s Algarve, given it was created specifically for bikes and has hosted WorldSBK since 2008 it is perhaps surprising that now, 12 years later, it has finally worked its way on to the MotoGP schedule.
For now, it’s just a wildcard race, belatedly tacked onto the end of the 2020 season to swell it out the numbers a bit, before it returns to ‘reserve’ status for 2021.
Even so, there has been much anticipation about this race even before it was announced and while it is largely a step into the unknown for most, there is much to get excited for.
With crests and troughs, fast sweeping bends and some quite tricky bumps – plus a ‘jump’ of sorts – Portimao received a big thumbs up from those that tested on superbike machinery last month, even if there was some trepidation about how a full fat MotoGP bike would handle there.
Using WorldSBK as a benchmark, we can expect the Yamaha to enjoy the sweeping mid-portion of the track, before the Ducati and perhaps the Honda relishes the downhill right-hander into the long final straight, while the anticipated high levels of abrasion should suit Suzuki nicely.
In short, it could be anyones, but you could say that about pretty much every single race this year.
At the very least, Miguel Oliveira will appreciate getting the chance to perform at home, while he is the one rider who knows this circuit like the back of his hand…
Suzuki sets sights on a famous MotoGP triple crown
If you thought Joan Mir’s title win was unlikely, fewer still would have predicted Suzuki to be in a position to wrap up all three championships – riders’, teams’ and manufacturers’ – by the final round.
With Mir and Alex Rins sitting first and third in the standings, it’s no surprise to see Team Suzuki Ecstar pick up the teams’ title in advance of the finale, but the pressure is on for the firm to wrap up the manufacturers’ crown.
A measure of the up and down nature of this year’s title race, the two leading protagonists are perhaps not what you’d expect with Suzuki and Ducati tied on points ahead of this one.
This is despite the teams sharing only two wins apiece this year, compared with Yamaha on seven, which rather succinctly explains the plot thread of its slightly bipolar season. The Japanese firm isn’t out of the running though, 13 points behind Suzuki and Ducati out front, but it’s certainly on the back foot.
Indeed, you would have to say Suzuki have perhaps deserved it more since it has persevered with just two bikes, unlike Ducati which could count on an armada of six Desmos by comparison…
Six in the hunt for a silver medal
It’s not the ultimate crown, but there is still plenty to get excited about with the pending fight to secure the runners-up spot in the standings behind Mir simply because there are so many still in with a shout.
A change of hierarchy in recent rounds serves to alter the dynamic of the fight too with a third MotoGP win of the season for Morbidelli meaning he now has the target drawn onto his back.
Form has certainly been with the Italian recently and second place would be richly deserved, not least because he has done so from a rearward trajectory before flourishing late on, so much so that he stands to take his B/A spec Yamaha ahead of Maverick Vinales and – perhaps more satisfyingly – the out-of-form Fabio Quartararo.
He faces competition from Rins – just four points behind – who will bid to make it a proper clean sweep for Suzuki by making it a 1-2 lockout behind Mir.
Though it seems a while since we’ve seen Vinales really fighting at the sharp end, he is in line to end the year with a decent final position, but is now 15 points shy of his stablemate, while Quartararo might just hope to have a trouble-free race to raise a smile in what has been a dismal run of results for the erstwhile title favourite.
With the lure of comfy shoes and a sofa awaiting him from Monday as he settles into a sabbatical, Andrea Dovizioso will want to end things on a high too.
But they could all find themselves under threat from Pol Espargaro, who could sign off his tenure at KTM in a fitting way possible before swapping to a new shade of orange for Repsol Honda.
With a trio of top four results on the bounce coming to Portugal, though he is 20 points off second, he’s only five points from fourth.