It was always going to be an absolutely spell-binding final Moto3™ race of the season, wasn’t it? Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) decimated the field to win his second race of the year, but it’s Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) who claims the 2020 Moto3™ World Championship title after finishing P12 in an utterly brilliant title battle. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) came from P27 on the grid to finish P5 to take second in the Championship, level on points with 8th place Portimao finisher Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). The Italian and Japanese rider miss out on the title by four points in the end as Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) and Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) complete the podium.
Tension, nerves, anticipation. As the mechanics and team members left the grid, Arenas, Ogura and Arbolino knew this was the biggest race of their lives so far as we got ourselves strapped in for a rollercoaster Moto3™ ride at the Algarve International Circuit. And immediately, there was a problem on the grid for Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) who was due to start from P10, not the way the Argentine would have wanted to start his final race of 2020.
The warm up lap was completed, the lights came on and then they flashed off as the Moto3™ riders launched off the line. Polesitter Fernandez got away well and grabbed the holeshot as the field piled down the hill, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) slotted into P2 as Ogura and Arenas also made good starts from the second row. Into Turn 3, Ogura made his move on his main rival to go P3 on the opening lap, Arenas demoted to P4 and further back, Arbolino made a stormer from P27.
At the end of the first lap, Arbolino was already up to P16 as Ogura slipstreamed his way past compatriot Suzuki for P2, Arenas followed him through to P3. Arenas then fought past Ogura down the front straight heading onto Lap 3 as Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) then got in amongst the action, passing Ogura into Turn 5, then carved his way past Arenas. Alcoba then got the better of both Ogura and Arenas and all this fighting saw Fernandez have nearly a second lead.
Turn 1 then saw a near disaster take place. Alcoba was so close to tagging Arenas at the beginning of Lap 4 but nothing came of it, Arenas was P2 with Ogura P4 behind Alcoba – but not for long. Ogura was now third but Alcoba was scrapping hard. The two Leopard riders – Masia and Dennis Foggia – then took their first or two long lap penalties, coming out ahead of Arbolino.
Rookie of the Year Alcoba was being a nuisance for Ogura and Arenas, the Spaniard was sitting in between the two title contenders on Lap 5 as Fernandez’ lead grew to two seconds. The gaggle of riders from P2 to P8, including Arenas and Ogura, were two seconds up the road from Arbolino’s battle. Fernandez was now nearly three seconds clear with 15 laps to go and as things stood – with Arenas 3rd and Ogura 5th – the Spaniard would take the title by 13 points.
As the Leopard duo dived into their second long-lap penalty, Arbolino was now P9. But he had the likes of Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power), Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46), Barry Baltus (CarXpert PrüstelGP) and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) for company.
Fernandez was miles faster than anyone on circuit. With 14 laps to go, the out-going Moto3™ rider was over four seconds clear. P2 to P8 were locked together in brutal combat with Arbolino 2.9 seconds behind his two title rivals. With 13 laps to go, Arenas was sitting behind Alcoba in P3 with Ogura at the back of the group in P8, with Arbolino now starting to reel in the group. It was 2.3 seconds and rather crucially, the Italian was on a harder compound tyre, which should give him more grip at the end of the race.
Arenas was boxing well. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) grabbed P3 from the Spaniard but the Championship leader was back up the inside at Turn 3. With 12 to go, things got very close with Ogura and Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) at Turn 11 – nervy stuff. Further back, despite taking two penalty loops, Masia and Foggia were now harassing Arbolino but more importantly, the gap to the fight for the podium was now down to 1.4 seconds. Soon, this would become an almighty scrap – bad news for Arenas.
Barring a huge blunder, the race winner was Fernandez. He was 8.5 seconds clear of Alcoba in second and on the 11th lap of 21, Foggia was nine tenths faster than the pack ahead. This was very quickly becoming a 14-rider battle for the podium places and with nine laps to go, this was game on.
Arbolino, at Turn 1, then passed Ogura. The Italian was now in the battle and despite sitting ninth and 10th at the minute, Arenas – in P3 – was a stone’s throw up the road. The Leopard riders were flying and sat P6 and P7, they had the Team Championship to win. Alcoba in P2 now had a bit of daylight to Suzuki, Arenas was now P4 but had two light blue machines to worry about. Ogura was still behind Arbolino in P10, Arenas was safe for now but this was all going to kick off in the final eight laps. Tiger Tony was roaring and he was up to P7, Arenas was P5 and both of his title rivals chasing him hard.
Ogura was then out the seat at Turn 3 though, he lost a position to Sasaki and then McPhee to drop to P11. Work to do for the Japanese rider as Garcia sat up Arenas at Turn 12, Arbolino was now right behind Arenas. With six to go, Arenas defended well from Arbolino heading into Turn 1. The news wasn’t good for Ogura fans, he was now P12 and the group he was now entangled in was dropping back from Arenas and Arbolino.
Here we go. Toe-to-toe, two men fighting for the title. Arbolino stuck it up the inside of Arenas at Turn 11 before Arenas dived back at Turn 12. On the drop-down the hill, slight contact was made between the two but Arenas held station for the time being. However, Arbolino used the Honda grunt to get past Arenas with five laps to go. And now, Ogura was right back on the tailpipes of Arenas.
Arbolino was flying and pulling away from Arenas, but he had a 1.7 gap to make up. Ogura shoved his way through on Binder at Turn 12 and was now in the slipstream of Arenas. It was four abreast into Turn 1 between Ogura, Arenas, Binder and McPhee as Ogura was out the seat on the exit. Turn 5 then saw Ogura slam it past Arenas but again, Arenas bit straight back. Then, Ogura was back through! Turn 8 was the place and the Japanese rider was now ahead.
Arenas then lost a place to Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and the title leader was P10. Three laps to go, Arenas was Champion by eight points as things stood as Ogura drops to the back of the group in P12. Arbolino was passed by Binder and the Italian was now P7, Arenas was back up to P8 with two and a half laps to go. Arenas was then out of the seat and was picked off by McPhee. The Spaniard was immediately back through and with two laps to go, it was still Arenas’ to lose.
Ogura, now desperate, was deep into Turn 1 after trying to pass five riders in one. He was wide on the exit and was P10 as Arenas was now back right behind Arbolino. With one lap to go, Arbolino, Arenas and Ogura were P6, P7 and P9. On the last lap, all Arenas had to do was stay on.
Contact at Turn 3 between Ogura and Vietti nearly cost the pair of them and while the latter looking over his shoulder, Arenas was trying to go around the outside. On the exit of Turn 4, Arenas was then out of the seat and onto the green. A huge moment on the final lap of the race and suddenly, Arenas was P12 – but that was ok. Arbolino was up to P5 and Ogura had regrouped to be P8, but Arenas was taking risks. At Turn 12, the KTM rider nearly got his front chopped by Öncü after a huge lunge, an almost catastrophic end to the Spaniard’s season on the last lap.
But, despite plenty of scares, with Arbolino 5th and Ogura 8th, Arenas crossed the line in P12 to claim the 2020 Moto3™ World Championship title. Super Arenas was on top of the world after a stunning season and it’s a thoroughly deserved crown, but hats off to Arbolino’s incredible effort from P27 on the grid. P5 wasn’t enough for the number one spot but with the equally awesome Ogura finishing P8, Arbolino takes P2 in the Championship based on number on wins. Four points was the difference between three riders in the end.
With the title fight going right down to the wire, Fernandez’ utterly dominant victory went relatively unnoticed. A second win of 2020 came the Spaniard’s was in sensational fashion, a perfect end to a season that sees him finish just 15 points from Arenas in the standings. Foggia’s race was also phenomenal. Two long-lap penalties to P2 is an outstanding effort from the Italian and credit to Alcoba too. That’s his first Grand Prix podium as he finishes just 0.056 from second place.
Garcia finished half a second away from the podium in P4, another great ride from the double Valencia podium finisher, with Arbolino completing the top five. Binder ended his KTM Moto3™ career with a great P6 as Vietti pips Ogura to P7 in the Italian’s last Moto3™ race. McPhee picked up P9 to beat Öncü, Antonelli was P11 ahead of World Champion Arenas. Sasaki, Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) and Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) were the final point scorers of 2020.
A fitting way to end another crazy Moto3™ campaign. A dog fight right to the wire, with Arenas emerging as the 2020 Champion. Congratulations to the Spaniard and his Aspar team on a wonderful 2020 season, and congratulations to Arbolino and Ogura for taking the fight down to the last lap. Now, the riders will take a hard-earned winter break and come back aiming to be even stronger in 2021.
1. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) + 5.810
3. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 5.866
4. Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) + 6.447
5. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 12.998
6. Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) + 13.065
7. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 13.907
8. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 13.929
9. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 13.945
10. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) + 14.438.
GRANDE PRÉMIO MEO DE PORTUGAL
Moto3 Race Classification 2020.
|1||25||25||Raul FERNANDEZ||SPA||Red Bull KTM Ajo||KTM||151.8||38’06.272|
|2||20||7||Dennis FOGGIA||ITA||Leopard Racing||Honda||151.4||+5.810|
|3||16||52||Jeremy ALCOBA||SPA||Kömmerling Gresini Moto3||Honda||151.4||+5.866|
|4||13||11||Sergio GARCIA||SPA||Estrella Galicia 0,0||Honda||151.4||+6.447|
|5||11||14||Tony ARBOLINO||ITA||Rivacold Snipers Team||Honda||150.9||+12.998|
|6||10||40||Darryn BINDER||RSA||CIP Green Power||KTM||150.9||+13.065|
|7||9||13||Celestino VIETTI||ITA||SKY Racing Team VR46||KTM||150.9||+13.907|
|8||8||79||Ai OGURA||JPN||Honda Team Asia||Honda||150.9||+13.929|
|9||7||17||John MCPHEE||GBR||Petronas Sprinta Racing||Honda||150.9||+13.945|
|10||6||53||Deniz ÖNCÜ||TUR||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||150.8||+14.438|
|11||5||23||Niccolò ANTONELLI||ITA||SIC58 Squadra Corse||Honda||150.8||+14.487|
|12||4||75||Albert ARENAS||SPA||Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3||KTM||150.8||+14.708|
|13||3||71||Ayumu SASAKI||JPN||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||150.5||+19.285|
|14||2||99||Carlos TATAY||SPA||Reale Avintia Moto3||KTM||150.3||+23.195|
|15||1||27||Kaito TOBA||JPN||Red Bull KTM Ajo||KTM||150.2||+24.233|
|16||70||Barry BALTUS||BEL||CarXpert PruestelGP||KTM||150.2||+24.260|
|17||6||Ryusei YAMANAKA||JPN||Estrella Galicia 0,0||Honda||150.2||+24.321|
|18||31||Adrian FERNANDEZ||SPA||Rivacold Snipers Team||Honda||150.2||+24.425|
|19||82||Stefano NEPA||ITA||Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3||KTM||150.2||+24.625|
|20||55||Romano FENATI||ITA||Sterilgarda Max Racing Team||Husqvarna||150.2||+24.672|
|21||16||Andrea MIGNO||ITA||SKY Racing Team VR46||KTM||150.0||+27.637|
|22||92||Yuki KUNII||JPN||Honda Team Asia||Honda||149.5||+34.490|
|23||50||Jason DUPASQUIER||SWI||CarXpert PruestelGP||KTM||149.5||+34.884|
|24||54||Riccardo ROSSI||ITA||BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy||KTM||149.5||+35.003|
|25||73||Maximilian KOFLER||AUT||CIP Green Power||KTM||149.5||+35.092|
|26||9||Davide PIZZOLI||ITA||BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy||KTM||149.5||+35.216|
|27||2||Gabriel RODRIGO||ARG||Kömmerling Gresini Moto3||Honda||149.2||+40.329|
|28||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||MAL||Petronas Sprinta Racing||Honda||148.7||+46.973|
|24||Tatsuki SUZUKI||JPN||SIC58 Squadra Corse||Honda||151.4||2 Laps|
|5||Jaume MASIA||SPA||Leopard Racing||Honda||151.5||4 Laps|
|21||Alonso LOPEZ||SPA||Sterilgarda Max Racing Team||Husqvarna||150.0||7 Laps|
Moto3 World Standing 2020
|32||Khairul Idham PAWI||Honda||MAL|
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of motogp.com