Late-race incident denies Joe Roberts MotoGP Moto2 podium, says ‘rubbing is racing’

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American motorcyclist Joe Roberts was moments away from a career-best MotoGP Moto2 finish and his second career podium in the series when he was bumped out of the way by Remy Gardner. But that did not keep Roberts from enjoying his fourth-place finish or deter from his feeling that this is going to be his best season yet.

“The last lap, I had an idea of where I wanted to pass Aron (Canet),” Roberts said after the race. “All weekend I’ve been really strong in the uphill right hand corner. I took a little bit of a chance on that corner, but I felt confident. The next corner: I didn’t have the confidence in the front (tire) to brake super late and I felt Aron was going to come up there.

“I didn’t realize Remy was there. I felt I had the line for the next corner. Then I felt a bike hit from the side, which is questionable, but I grew up racing in America Flat Track and ‘rubbing is racing’ is the term that we use a lot back home, so if that’s the way you want to ride that’s okay by me. I don’t mind that kind of racing.”

The hint of menace in his words were offset by the wide grin on his face.

After a sixth-place finish in the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar and an early retirement in the Grand Prix of Doha on that same circuit, Roberts was encouraged by his performance in Round 3.

Before the season started, Roberts told NBC’s Leigh Diffey: “The main thing is figuring out the structure of the race, when to push, what the pace is like. … I didn’t know how quick everyone was going to be at the end of the race. Because when you’re at the back, you’re just working your way forward and doing what you’re doing. You’re not managing a race.”

Last Sunday, he showed incredible pace from the start, leading the first and second practice sessions. He was third in Practice 3.

As the front tire wore during race conditions, Roberts and the rest of the field were forced to manage their grip level.

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On the final lap, Raul Fernandez held a comfortable lead while Canet, Roberts and Gardner were nose to tail.

Roberts passed Canet for second. Canet quickly passed him back, bringing Gardner alongside.

Gardner and Roberts touched. Roberts almost wrecked with just a couple of turns remaining. The loss of momentum took him out of contention for the runner-up finish and sent him back to fourth. After the race, Roberts enthusiastically displayed the tire mark on his right shoulder and arm from Gardner’s front tire.

Roberts MotoGP
Joe Roberts led more laps at Portimao in Round 3 than he has in any previous race. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)

“I’m really happy honestly,” Roberts said in the post-race conference. “It’s great for the team. I led the most laps I’ve ever led in a world championship race. There are a lot of positives to take away from this race.

“I didn’t have the pace to pull away. I had my rhythm; couldn’t really give much more than I was giving, especially with the limits of the front tire. It was really slippery out there. … I gave my best on the last lap to try and get to second.

“The key for me is to be consistent everywhere. Fight for wins when we can fight for wins – and fight for top-fives if that’s what we can get.”

Gardner is the points’ leader over Fernandez. Canet and Roberts are tied for sixth in the points.

“I honestly thought that these guys were going to go wide, both of them, and I could have taken second, but they managed to keep it online,” Gardner said of the incident. “Joe kind of block-passed me there, so I just stopped it and just shoved it up inside. I think we had a little bit of a touch, but I had the line and there’s nothing he could do.”

“Race P4!,” Roberts posted later on Instagram. “Stoked to have led the laps we did and be in the fight. Last lap got a bit hairy but that’s how it goes sometimes. Step by step we are getting there!”

Fellow American Cameron Beaubier scored his first top-10 in his third Moto2 start.

He worked his to eighth by Lap 4, but was slowed when two rider crashed in front of him. After falling to 11th, he charged forward again and was running ninth at the checkers.

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.