The Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider was virtually unstoppable, with a smooth pole-to-flag victory
Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) took his second victory of 2020 at the Grande Premio Meo de Portugal. The untouchable number 88 finished 3.1 seconds clear of second place Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), who helped Ducati claim the Constructor crown, with the Australian getting the better of third place Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) on the last lap as the 2020 MotoGP season drew to a brilliant close.
From pole position, Oliveira led the field plunged into Corner 1, closely followed by Morbidelli and Miller. Miller then tried to get past Morbidelli at Corner 5, but the Australian went slightly wide and Morbidelli didn’t hesitate to take P2 straight back. At the end of the opening lap, Oliveira had a lead of over half a second, and still pulling ahead. World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) got himself within the top 10 from P20, but almost went down on Lap 2 at Corner 3. Mir hit the back of Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) at the tight right-hander, causing him to drop back down to 20th.
By Lap 3, Oliveira’s lead was up to 1.5 seconds and the Portuguese rider was into the 1:39s, with Morbidelli and Miller failing to keep up. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was now P4, ahead of Pol Espargaro and Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team), the KTM rider recovering from a Corner 1 mistake to eventually get the better of Crutchlow on Lap 7. Fellow KTM star Oliveira’s lead was now over three seconds. The gap Miller (P3) and Pol Espargaro (P4) was 2.7 seconds, with the latter having Crutchlow, Bradl and Zarco right behind him. The battle for the Constructor crown, hence, was going the way of Ducati as the best-placed Suzuki (Rins) was in P8, while both Miller and Zarco were ahead. On Lap 9, Oliveira set another fastest lap of the race – a 1:39.855 minutes – while his lead was now creeping up to the four-second mark.
With Miller 3.4 seconds up the road – and half a second behind Valencia GP nemesis Morbidelli – Pol Espargaro’s podium hopes in his final KTM appearance were slipping away. The battle for the lower ends of the top 10 was a feisty one as Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) were embroiled in an almighty tangle, the Japanese rider eventually getting the better of the Frenchman for P9. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) then also passed Quartararo. Espargaro then went wide at Corner 8, almost losing the front on Lap 12. Crutchlow was now back up to P4 but Pol Espargaro quickly returned to P4. Behind the duo were a whole host of riders: Bradl, Zarco, Rins, Nakagami and Dovizioso, with the three 2020 Yamahas now occupying P13, P14 and P15 – Quartararo leading Maverick Vinales and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP teammate Valentino Rossi.
With 11 laps to go, Oliveira’s advantage was up to four seconds. Meanwhile, Suzuki’s fading hopes of the Triple Crown took another blow as both Dovizioso and Nakagami slid past Rins, the latter dropping to P10 with Mir still not in the points – P16 for the World Champion. In the fight for P2, Miller was still shadowing Morbidelli at just under half a second. And then, with 10 laps to go, the 2020 World Champion’s race was over. A problem with his GSX-RR saw Mir pull into pitlane and it wasn’t the weekend Mir nor Suzuki would have been planning after an epic season. There were no such troubles for a rider on a bike that looked set to become Constructor Champions, Miller set his first 1:39 of the race to haunt Morbidelli.
The battle for second was now getting interesting with 8 laps to go. It was almost identical to the Valencia showdown between Morbidelli and Miller, but this time it was for P2 as Oliveira’s lead was now 4.3 seconds. Miller, however, went wide at Corner 13, losing some ground to Morbidelli, and they were nearly seven seconds ahead of Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard now had breathing space back to a sensational battle for P5; Zarco was leading it from Crutchlow, Dovizioso after a Corner 1 pass on Bradl and Nakagami. Rins was now P14, with Suzuki’s Triple Crown hopes seeming impossible, and barring a mistake from Morbidelli and an upturn in speed for Rins, P2 in the title was lost as well.
With five laps to go, the fight for fifth saw Crutchlow run wide, and drop to P9, just ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). 7.6 seconds up the road, Miller was back on the tailpipes of Morbidelli, Oliveira was still over four seconds clear and soaring to a victory on home soil. Three laps remaining and Miller had been following Morbidelli for two races and could as well have been completely used to the Italian’s riding style by now. But still, the number 43 couldn’t get close enough to pounce. Nakagami was picking up some great late-race pace, the Honda man just over a second behind Pol Espargaro.
Onto the last lap of the season, and Oliveira seemed to have an easy run to victory. For his part, Miller seemed very close to Morbidelli and the move came at Turn 13! Miller was through and held it into Corner 14 but ahead, Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira was a winner on home soil, his second win of the season, and the third for KTM this year.
Below are the results of the 2020 MotoGP season finale
And there it was, with Ducati clinching the Manufacturer’s title for the 2020 MotoGP season, while an enthusiastic Oliveira has already made mental plans for a KTM victory next year. All things considered, with the entire situation regarding the global pandemic, and ten winners in 14 races, the 2020 MotoGP season was an unforgettable one, and if the 2021 season has even a hint of the amount of spice, it too might just be that exciting!