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.
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.”
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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.