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Aussie watch ahead of the 2024 Portuguese MotoGP™

Matt Clayton
Wednesday, 20 March 2024

Up, down, turn it around – the undulating and spectacular Portimao circuit hosts round two of the calendar on Sunday, with Jack Miller keen to get his season off the ground after a tricky Qatar weekend.

Grab a ticket for the rollercoaster and strap yourself in; round two of the MotoGP™ season sees the world championship make a quick stop in Europe for the Portuguese Motorcycle Grand Prix (March 22-24), where the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve will undoubtedly produce some of the best TV images of the year as the riders strut their stuff.

Known more colloquially as Portimao, the 15-corner, 4.59km track has an 85-metre difference between its highest and lowest points – check out the downhill stomach-churning descents of Turns 8 and 11 – and has been a hit ever since it came onto the calendar in 2020, bringing Portugal back into the fold after the series stopped visiting Estoril in 2011.

The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2024 returns to Phillip Island on October 18-20, 2024. Register your interest for all the latest ticket information.

Pecco Bagnaia started the defence of his back-to-back world titles with a controlled showing in Qatar, but a night race on a flat track in the middle of a desert is a very different challenge to what awaits the riders this weekend – and there’s a quartet of Aussies set to be in the thick of things.

Here’s three talking points to consider for round two.

The only way is up for Miller

The ups and downs of Portimao offers a chance for Australia’s Jack Miller to rescue his MotoGP™ season from the basement after Qatar; the KTM rider dug himself out of a hole to make Q2 at Lusail before a pointless Sprint and crash in the Grand Prix left him anchored to the foot of the championship table in what shapes as a big year.

The TV image of Miller crashing out at Turn 1 on the second lap – just as GasGas rookie Pedro Acosta set the fastest lap of the race as the Spaniard ran as high as fourth on debut – was unfortunately timed, but a fair juxtaposition of the narrative between the two riders, Acosta’s teenage brilliance seemingly set to be rewarded with a seat at KTM’s main team at some point.

Miller found solace from his forgettable Qatar weekend in the performance of teammate Brad Binder on the same bike, the South African taking second in the Sprint and Grand Prix to be the one interloper arguing with an armada of Ducatis up front. Miller has a Portimao second (2020) and third (2021) on his CV, and has qualified no worse than fifth in five previous MotoGP™ starts at the track. More of that would be a welcome relief this weekend.

Agius after points as Moto3™ pair push on

It had been while since Senna Agius had raced in Qatar – “I was just a kid back then” mused the 18-year-old after finishing just outside the points in the first Moto2™ hit-out of 2024 – and the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP rider will be better for the run this weekend at a circuit he knows much better, improving on his season-opening 17th place a genuine possibility.

Agius came on strong as the laps counted down in Qatar, which was in direct contrast to Moto3™ compatriot Joel Kelso, who went for broke in Doha with a soft tyre gamble that didn’t quite pay off despite finishing eighth for BOE Motorsports. Kelso had a season-shaping accident after last year’s chequered flag fell in Portimao, clattering into the back of race-winner Dani Holgado after the Spaniard slowed down on the straight and celebrated after his victory, Kelso running into him and breaking his left leg. Kelso tested at Portimao in the off-season, laying any demons he had of 2023 to rest before this weekend.

Fellow Aussie Jacob Roulstone – Holgado’s 2024 teammate at GasGas Tech3 – was also in action over the world championship weekend at Portimao 12 months ago as part of the Red Bull Rookies Cup undercard, and the 19-year-old landed a top-10 result on debut in Doha two weeks ago that earned high praise from team boss Herve Poncharal. Consolidating on that – and pushing up in Q2 from his starting spot of 17th – are immediate goals this weekend.

Quartararo’s long road back

Normally, a trip to Portimao would be one Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo would be relishing – the 2021 world champion has often been electrifying around the undulating layout, taking two of his 11 premier-class wins at the track and dominating in 2021 to such an extent that he won by 4.8secs, light years in MotoGP™ terms.

That, unfortunately for the fast Frenchman, was then; Quartararo was downbeat after Qatar two weeks back when he finished 17 seconds behind Bagnaia in 11th. When asked afterwards whether Yamaha’s M1 is the worst it has been in terms of competitiveness, he unleashed. “Comparing to how the level is right now, I would say yes,” he began, adding “we improved … but the level of our bike comparing to the others, it's true that we are more far than ever.”

Quartararo’s struggles aren’t unfamiliar to riders on Japanese machinery – he was the leading Yamaha or Honda across the line at Lusail in what Honda’s Joan Mir called “the Japanese Cup” – and a swift improvement will be needed at Portimao if the out-of-contract Quartararo isn’t chasing alternative employment for 2025.

Portugal MotoGP™ fast facts
Circuit name/location: Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Portimao
Length/laps: 4.59km, 25 laps (MotoGP™), 21 laps (Moto2™), 19 laps (Moto3™)
Grands Prix held/debut: 4, 2020
Most successful rider: Fabio Quartararo (two wins)
2023 podium 1st: Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), 2nd: Maverick Vinales (Aprilia), 3rd: Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati)

The 2024 Portuguese Motorcycle Grand Prix will be available to watch live on Foxtel and Kayo. See our What time does the 2024 Portuguese MotoGP™ start for Australians? article for timings.