Italtrans Racing Team’s Joe Roberts is a Grand Prix winner! Grabbing a golden opportunity in a red-flagged and dramatic intermediate class encounter at the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal, the American bolted nearly three seconds clear in only a seven-lap sprint, taking the first intermediate class win for the USA in 32 years, and the first in any class since 2011. Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) took second to extend his points lead by a margin after drama for key contenders, with Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP 40) completing the podium.
A first start saw Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) take the holeshot from Aron Canet (FlexBox HP40) before the Spaniard then hit the front, but an isolated rain shower at Turn 2 then caught out eleven riders, including the top six at the time.
The leading trio of Canet, Beaubier and Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) were joined in the gravel trap seconds later by Chantra, Arbolino, Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing), Albert Arenas (Autosolar GasGas Aspar), Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Zonta van den Goorbergh (RW Racing) and Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) as the sudden shower caused some chaos, with the red flag shown immediately thereafter.
None of the riders involved in the Turn 2 pile-up were able to take part in the 7-lap restart, meaning we had a revised grid of 18 riders: Autosolar GasGas Aspar Team’s Jake Dixon fired from pole position and took the lead on the opening lap, with Roberts starting second, but disaster struck for the Brit at Turn 7 as he slid out.
Roberts then put the pedal to the metal, and the American was absolutely hammering clear. The Californian was three seconds ahead of the fight for second in the blink of an eye, before managing his nerves on the final couple of laps to take a historic win – eleven years on from the last American Grand Prix victory and 32 years on from the last in the intermediate class.
Championship leader Vietti fought his way back into second for a valuable 20 points as key rivals were denied the chance to score, making the most of his slice of fortune as he extended his title lead out to 34 points. The Italian managed to find a way through on Navarro on the penultimate lap, before defending well on the final lap to secure his fourth podium in the opening five races of 2022. Navarro was delighted with third though, a first rostrum visit since Silverstone last year. Strong rides came in from Marcel Schrötter and rookie Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 MasterCamp) to take fourth and fifth.
Fellow rookie Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) ended up sixth after Fermin Aldeguer (Lightech Speed Up) was demoted a place to seventh on the final lap afetr a track limits infringement, and rounding out the top ten were Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), Barry Baltus (RW Racing) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team).
Moto2™ heads for Jerez next, with a fair few serious contenders looking to bounce back and get some serious points. Who will come out on top in Andalucia? We’ll find out next weekend!