Americans Joe Roberts, Cameron Beaubier have pace during Moto2 sessions in Portugal

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Joe Roberts will line up eighth for the Moto2 race Sunday at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, which has become a quasi-home circuit for the Southern California native.

Last season, Roberts became the first American to win a pole in Moto2 in 10 years, and he moved from American Racing Team to Italtrans Racing Team this year. He was fastest in both Moto 2 practice sessions Friday.

“It’s a nice way to start coming back to Europe,” Roberts said. “Kind of like a home away from home because I’m basing myself in Portugal now so it’s nice to be here. I love this track so much. Every time we come here, it’s always been great with the test and the race last year. So I’m not surprised.

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“The lap times kind of come quite nice, and we’ve just been working really well, and it just kind of came really easy. It’s cool to have that. But the important day is Sunday. The good thing is our paces seems pretty good, so yeah, I’m happy about it.”

MotoAmerica Superbike champion Cameron Beaubier, who took Roberts’ slot at ART this year, qualified 13th for Sunday’s Moto2 race, which could offer the chance for an American victory breakthrough. Roberts finished a career-best third for his first podium and also captured three pole positions last year.

“We know the fast lap is there,” Roberts said after setting the best time Friday. “Considering the conditions with the rain and wind, it’s a good time and a solid start, but the eyes are on Sunday for sure.”

It’s been an eventful weekend at Portimao in MotoGP’s premier class. Six-time MotoGP champion Marc Márquez was back on his Honda after an eight-month recovery from a broken arm that he suffered in the 2020 season opener.

After three surgeries, the Spaniard was third fastest in the first practice Friday.

“Difficult to find a single word to describe my first session, but I feel very HAPPY!” Márquez wrote in Spanish on his Twitter account.

Marquez, 28, qualified sixth Saturday.

There were two significant incidents Saturday. Jorge Martin was sidelined after being injured in a crash that sent him to the hospital, and Pole Espargaro also had a high-side wreck but was cleared to return.

Fabio Quartararo won the pole position after Pecco Bagnaia’s fast lap was canceled.

Sunday’s race is the third of the season. Johan Zarco, who also crashed in qualifying Saturday, leads the standings with 40 points.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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