A good break in Portugal rocketed Joe Roberts into top five in Moto2

Joe Roberts break
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

A good break in the Portuguese Grand Prix gave Joe Roberts his first Moto 2 win and propelled him into the top five – a position he looks to protect this weekend when the MotoGP series hits the track in LeMans, France.

Roberts has had his fair share of bad breaks and been on the wrong side of controversial calls in the past few seasons, so it was only a matter of time before he was on the fortunate side of fate.

After moving to Italtrans Racing in 2021, Roberts could not quite find the podium. With his former team American Racing, he earned his first podium in the Czech Grand Prix with a third-place finish.

In 2021, he almost stood on the box twice, including in the Italian Grand Prix where he came close to earning that elusive second podium before incurring a controversial penalty for exceeding track limits. He finished fourth.

An accident later in the season left him sidelined with a broken collarbone.

His other near miss that year was in the Portuguese GP, so fresh off his second top-10 in Round 4 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, he was in a great frame of mind entering the 2022 edition of that race.

Roberts saw a storm brewing when many of the leaders missed the signs.

“I don’t know why, but I had in the back of my mind that you can get localized rain showers here and I thought it could happen,” Roberts said on the MotoGP podcast. “When I came in to Turn 2 and I saw the bikes everywhere, I figured out really quickly that that was happening, so I rolled out of it a lot, but I still didn’t roll out of it enough as I had a huge moment too. I mean it was crazy slippery but sometimes that’s just how it goes with racing.

“It’s just a bit of bad luck for the guys that got to that corner first. I was lucky to be just behind and see it all happen and be able to react quick enough.”

The Lap 9 crash collected 11 riders, including the top six. Fellow American Cameron Beaubier was part of the melee while riding second at the time. So was the leader, Aron Canet.

It would not be a free pass for Roberts, however. Points leader Celestino Vietti also survived the incident.

“The race is going on, someone’s got to go and win it,” Roberts said. “I knew Jake [Dixon] was going to be strong. I had a feeling Celestino was also going to be strong as well. I saw Jorge’s [Navarro] pace and it looked pretty good in the first part of the race, so there were some riders in there that I knew were quick and could battle for the win.”

On the restart for a seven-lap dash to the checkers, Dixon got the hole shot, but crashed on the first lap when his front tire washed out. Roberts grabbed the lead and quickly built a three-second advantage that he kept until the end, becoming the first American to win a MotoGP race in more than 10 years. Ben Spies won the Dutch TT in MotoGP’s Round 7 of the 2011 season.

The victory rocketed Roberts from ninth to fourth in the points’ standings. With an eighth-place finish in Spain, he lost a position to Canet, who finished second in that race.

Roberts currently has a 10-point advantage over Marcel Schrotter in sixth.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.