P2, P1, and P1 again. The name is Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) ladies and gentleman and it’s the rookie sensation who once again claims victory in Moto3™ as the Spaniard produces a final lap stunner to pip Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) to victory at the Grande Prémio 888 de Portugal. 70 points from a possible 75 is Acosta’s at the beginning of his Grand Prix career, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) wins the battle for third to stands on the rostrum.
The big news ahead of lights out was two more riders were to join Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) in starting from pitlane. Judged to have been riding irresponsibly in Q2, second in the Championship Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Deniz Öcnü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) had a mountain to climb in Portimao. Öncü’s was a five second penalty added on, the same as Alcoba.
On the start line, polesitter Migno launched off the line perfectly to hold off Leopard Racing’s Xavier Artigas and Foggia ascending into Turn 1, with Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Valresa Aspar Team) slotting into P4. It was line astern around the opening lap at the rollercoaster, but the front straight saw Artigas take the lead as Migno got shuffled back to P5. Championship leader Acosta was getting busy in the opening exchanges, with Migno retaking the initiative at Turn 5 on Lap 3.
After making a fantastic start, Artigas’ race was over at Turn 3 on Lap 4. Contact from Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) behind, Artigas could do nothing as his Honda chucked him off, thankfully the rookie was ok. Meanwhile, it was the other Leopard machine of Foggia leading the way from Acosta, with Migno third. The leading 13 on Lap 5 were split by 1.9 seconds, a typical lightweight class freight train had formed.
As we’re now used to seeing, the Leopard Racing Honda was an absolute missile. Even tucked in the slipstream, Acosta, Migno, Rodrigo and co. couldn’t draft past Foggia into Turn 1, and the Italian was looking good leading for several laps. More drama then unfolded at Turn 3, this time on Lap 8. Katio Toba (CIP Green Power) ran into the back of Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3), ran wide and into the path of Izan Guevara (GASGAS Valresa Aspar Team). Nothing the latter could do, Toba collected the rookie and both were down – riders ok.
Because of the incident with Artigas, Rodrigo was handed a long-lap penalty, and the Argentine dived through the penalty lane and slipped from P3 to P15. Three 1:47s in a row saw Rodrigo bridge the gap to the leading group, with Masia now making moves with eight laps left. The Qatar GP winner was up to P3, past Migno and Garcia, to tuck himself right behind teammate Acosta and long time race leader Foggia. Acosta then decided to break Foggia’s rhythm with seven laps remaining, Turn 3 the chosen spot, but Fogga wasn’t having any of it.
Again, Turn 3 hosted a crash involving two riders. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and rookie Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) were in the gravel from the leading group, Fernandez getting it wrong in the braking area and taking out the helpless Japanese rider. With five laps to go, Alcoba and Öncü were brilliantly inside the points but 13 seconds adrift of 13th placed Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride), however, the focus was on the leaders. Foggia was still leading from Acosta, Migno and Garcia had got the better of Masia with five to go.
Acosta, Foggia and Migno, heading onto Lap 18 of 21, were three abreast into Turn 1. Acosta broke late, ran wide, with Migno taking the inside line and the lead of the race. It was now Migno from Foggia and Acosta, but that changed in a flash. Foggia was back leading from Acosta and Migno, with six tenths covering nine riders. Three to go, nine riders in with a shout of victory. Moto3™ producing the goods yet again.
Two to go. Still it was Foggia holding the P1 baton, and on Lap 19 he produced his fastest lap of the race. It was now squeaky bum time and somehow, launching into Turn 11, Acosta got his KTM pulled up to the apex as the riders desperately tried to get themselves in prime position for the last lap. Foggia led Acosta, the latter backing into Turn 3 but no way through. Just behind, Garcia somehow saved a highside but that was the Spaniard’s podium hopes over.
Masia was up to P3 but then drama at Turn 5: the Spaniard slid down the road, his hopes of a race win were over too. Now, it was a straight fight between Foggia and Acosta. Again, Acosta was a monster on the brakes at Turn 11 and must have clawed back five bike lengths. Then, at Turn 13, the rookie sensation made his move: late on the brakes, up the inside, full lean angle, clean pass. Now, two corners remained before a run to the line. Coming over the crest of the final corner, Acosta’s KTM was squirming but somehow he didn’t crash, but did that give Foggia the chance as they both went full gas to the line? It did, but Acosta held it and won his second consecutive race by 0.051s. Simply sensational from the number 37 who continues to take the Grand Prix scene by storm, Foggia makes it back-to-back podiums in Portimao after a fantastic race.
Polesitter Migno managed to win the battle for the final spot on the podium, that’s the Italian’s first rostrum since the 2019 Valencia GP. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) missed out on a dream podium by just 0.031s, but that’s a fantastic P4 for the Japanese rider. Rodrigo did excellently to finish P5 after his long lap, he beat Antonelli and Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) by less than a tenth as the fastest seven riders finish 0.773s apart – incredible racing again in Moto3™.
Garcia was in amongst it throughout but that late, out the seat moment on the last lap cost the Spaniard. P8 isn’t a disaster for Garcia but he would have been hoping for more. Also hoping for more was Masia. Despite the Turn 5 tumble, the former Championship leader salvaged P9, but it was a damaging day for his title aspirations with teammate Acosta winning again. Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PrüstelGP) picks up another top 10 in 2021, he led Nepa and teammate Jason Dupasquier over the line. Filip Salac (Rivacold Snipers Team) took home P13 from Portimao, with Alcoba and Öncü doing fantastically well to pick up the remaining points from pitlane starts.
With Binder failing to score points from pitlane, Acosta sails into a 31-point lead in the overall standings after just three races. The golden rookie has taken 70 points from a possible 75 in the opening three races, the elder statesmen have a job on their hands to stop Acosta in 2021.
Next up: Jerez. Another track Acosta knows well. Will the dream Grand Prix debut season continue? You wouldn’t bet against it.
1. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
2. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) + 0.051
3. Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) + 0.584
4. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) + 0,615
5. Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) + 0.675
6. Niccolo Antnonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) + 0.729
7. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) + 0.773
8. Sergio Garcia (GasGas Valresa Aspar Team) + 1.245
9. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 12.487
10. Ryusei Yamaka (CarXpert PruestelGP) + 12.508