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It just had to be, didn’t it? Home hero Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) set the pace in the 70-minute MotoGP™ FP1 session at the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal with the fastest-ever Algarve International Circuit two-wheel lap: a 1:40.122. Portugal’s first premier class winner heads Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) by 0.040 seconds at the beginning of the final weekend of the season, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completed the top three.
And it was Oliveira who led the opening stages in an extended session as the riders got to grips with the Algarve rollercoaster for the first time on Grand Prix machines. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) then took over at the summit with the Hondas of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) sitting P3 and P4 with 50 minutes to go, before Viñales slotted into P3.
Viñales then went P1 with a 1:41.427 and with 36 minutes left on the clock, 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) slotted himself into P2 as the riders got some important laps around the majestic Algarve International Circuit under their belts. And it was close, eight tenths covered the top 14 with just under half an hour left on Friday morning, as Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) then set the best time of the weekend so far: 1:41.235.
Quartararo then became the first rider to dip into the 1:40s with a 1:40.877, Bradl just behind him on track improved his time to go 0.043 behind in P2. But as expected, improvements were being fired in across the board. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) leapfrogged Aleix Espargaro for third place as four manufacturers sat inside the top four with 15 minutes remaining: Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Aprilia, with Ducati and KTM sitting P6 and P7 thanks to Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and Oliveira.
With two minutes to go, the goalposts were moved by Viñales on fresh medium rubber and quickly after, Oliveira and Aleix Espargaro went P2 and P3 on the same combination of tyres. Savadori, who has experience in Portimao from his superbike days, then made it two Aprilias in the top three as the Italian went P2.
On his final flying lap, Oliveira returned to the summit and made it a Portuguese number one in Portuguese Grand Prix FP1. A great start to his home Grand Prix for the Styrian GP winner, with Savadori finishing 0.175 off in P4 behind Viñales and teammate Aleix Espargaro. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completed the top five ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Mir, Quartararo, Nakagami and Bradl, the German rider completing the top 10.
It really is a phenomenal sight to see the riders attacking Portimao on Grand Prix machines, and we get to see them do it all over again in FP2. Tune in for the Friday afternoon session at 14:00 local time (GMT+0).
1. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) – 1:40.122
2. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.040
3. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.114
4. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.175
5. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.558
6. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.573
7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.734
8. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.755
9. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.756
10. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.798