So there we have it, that was the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season.

It started in July, it was contested over 14 rounds in Europe, Joan Mir won the title, everyone wore masks and celebrations were enjoyed at a social distance… well, they were supposed to be.

Off track it’s been odd and on track it’s been odd too - nine different race winners, 15 different riders scoring a podium - but the racing, well that has been just as excellent as ever.

The final round in Portimao wasn’t a classic per se but as the sun sets on a season few will forget, let’s do this one last time with Crash.net’s Winners & Losers from the Portuguese MotoGP

2020 Portuguese MotoGP - Winners & Losers

 

 

WINNERS

Miguel Oliveira

We’d almost forgotten about Marc Marquez until Miguel Oliveira started channelling him en route to an extraordinary second MotoGP win of the season in Portimao.

In a polar opposite of his shock maiden win in Styria, a race he led for all of about 100 metres - albeit the last 100m to the flag - Oliveira was so dominant in his lights-to-flag success from pole position that he was a mere dot on the horizon for anyone following behind.

Of course, his Portuguese followers - a fanbase he will have multiplied tenfold this weekend as he went from a Portuguese sporting star to veritable God - won’t have forgotten him as they cheered him on each time he ended a lap with an increasing margin back to his rivals. It is just a crying shame that they weren’t there to witness it in person… bloody coronavirus!

Yes, you can look at Oliveira’s intimate knowledge of the track - not least one that other riders were finding harder than usual to master - but at no point did you see an ounce of pressure emanating from his cool demeanour. Let’s just say you’ll never see a more crushing display than that one.

With wins in Styria and Portugal, it goes without saying this was an excellent second season for Oliveira but look beyond the headlines and there is more to his season that meets the eye. Not the best qualfiier and riding a Tech 3 KTM that while competitive wasn’t the best in the field, eight top six finishes is a very impressive return.

He came into the year with a point to prove after being passed over for Brad Binder in the factory KTM team and boy did he make it…

Franco Morbidelli

Only a few races ago, it would have been a stretch to imagine Franco Morbidelli overhauling Fabio Quartararo to end the year as top Yamaha rider but then we gave up predicting anything this season a long time ago.

It has been a truly impeccable end to the year for Morbidelli with three wins, five podiums and two pole positions earning the Italian a deserved ‘silver medal’ and some vindication after being shuffled down the Yamaha hierarchy coming into the year. As for Quartararo? He ends the year in eighth...

Yamaha’s lack of direction on the 2020 spec Yamaha M1 can go a long way to explaining why Morbidelli emerged on top, but this was nonetheless a season that gathered momentum and is a credit to a rider that has had to knuckle down and is clearly enjoying the rewards.

Speaking in the post-race press conference, read between the lines and Morbidelli feels vindicated having been reduced to what he described as a four-strength Yamaha rider.

This is a result he will gain both strength and satisfaction from, not just because he was second overall but because it’s a cheeky finger up at those who were too hasty to dismiss him....

Pol Espargaro and KTM

On the day he watched Oliveira once again steal the headlines as a KTM race winner, we should pay tribute to Pol Espargaro, the man that went a long way to making that success happen.

HIs final race in KTM colours before a move to Repsol Honda, deep down Espargaro will be wondering whether he’s made the right decision as his labour - from the difficult first days to the hours and hours of development riding - finally bore some ripe fruit in 2020.

Alas, that fairytale first win didn’t come his way and he will admit to feeling a bit jealous of his team-mates, but end-to-end Espargaro was KTM’s talisman in 2020, just as he had been in previous years. Fourth place marked his seventh top four finish this season, lifting him to fifth overall, a result the team would never had imagined pre-season.

In fact, what a year it has been from KTM. We expected a step forward but three wins, eight podiums and tremendous strength in depth across two teams is a return few can begrudge.

It’s a shame Espargaro is leaving - and KTM will really miss him - but with Binder and Oliveira leading its efforts in 2021, it has a future brighter than that iconic livery.

EVERYONE

Crack out the montage!

We must pay tribute to everyone involved in MotoGP - from Dorna, to the teams, to riders, to every single person that do their bit however small - for keeping the show on the road in the most challenging and unprecedented of scenarios.

We had to wait for the restart but once it was underway, at least for an hour on a Sunday it was ‘corona-who?’

There were cases of the virus, as Valentino Rossi and Iker Lecuona know only too well, but MotoGP incubated itself effectively, teams and sponsors coped without the spectators and the riders put on a fantastic show from start to finish.

So, to you all, we raise a toast and say cheers!

LOSERS

Suzuki

After the joy, the celebrations, the praise it was lavished just seven days ago…. What a difference a week makes for Suzuki!

It was a really quite awful first weekend as champions for Suzuki as the very fabric of its run to the top came unstuck with Joan Mir retiring from the race with technical issues, Alex Rins’ pace dropping off a cliff and its form looking very inconsistent. 

One thing that hadn’t changed though was qualifying, except that’s because it was bad. Joan Mir and his de facto #1 Suzuki started 20th. He then got caught up in two incidents on lap one, the latter of which was a thump into the side of Pecco Bagnaia, enough to dislocate his arm.

It means the triple crown goes begging, with even Yamaha managing to leapfrog it for second, albeit almost solely on the strength of Franco Morbidelli. However, this will be a bitter moment in a season of sweeter success because Mir after all is the champion, while Alex Rins in third is still a fantastic outcome.

Ducati may be champions but, at the end of the day, it took six bikes to defeat Suzuki’s two, so who is the real winner really?

Valentino Rossi

We know he’s a legend but this final round and to be honest the entire second half of the season - even ignoring his break with coronavirus - for Valentino Rossi was a desperate one.

The aforementioned issues with the Yamaha M1 again lay blame for much of this and to his credit he finished on Maverick Vinales’ tail and ahead of Quartararo in Portimao. But it typified a year in which Rossi wasn’t just off the pace, he was completely anonymous.

So it wasn’t the crowning finale for Rossi before he swaps navy for teal in 2021, but a change of scenery might well be just what the doctor ordered next season...

 

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