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.