WATCH Alex Rins surge from P23 to P10 in one lap; MotoGP title contender?

Alex Rins emphasises his credentials as a potential 2022 MotoGP title contender by overtaking 13 rivals on the first lap in P23 to P4 charge

Alex Rins - Suzuki Ecstar, 2022 MotoGP

Alex Rins consolidated his burgeoning status as a title contender for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship with a terrific charge to fourth in Portimao, headlined by his surge from 23rd to tenth on the opening lap alone.

The Spaniard has emerged as one of key standout performers of the season so far with a series of strong front-running efforts in all five races, including a run to the podium in Argentina and COTA.

However, he delivered one of the best performances of his MotoGP career in Portugal with a charge from the back row of the grid, the consequence of a tyre blunder in changeable conditions during qualifying.

Nevertheless, the three-time MotoGP race winner got his head down come race day, kicking off his afternoon with a mesmerising opening lap that saw him pick off 13 rivals to leap from 23rd to come round to the line in tenth.

It was momentum he continued deep into the top ten, Rins reaching the chequered flag in fourth place to bring some joy to the Suzuki team following Joan Mir’s exit from third position at the hands of Jack Miller.

The result sees him ascend to the head of the standings, level on points with Portimao winner Fabio Quartararo.

“It was a good race for me, I finished quite a long way up considering my grid spot. These points are very important, and it’s great to have moved up the standings; I’m now in second place, on equal points with Fabio. 

“Honestly, I believed in my potential today, even if it seemed tough from so far back. I knew I could have a good rhythm and a strong finish. The contrast between yesterday and today is massive, yesterday we didn’t feel much like celebrating but now we can be happy with the race. Now let’s go to Spain and Jerez!”

Rins Renaissance | Is Alex a MotoGP title contender?

Of the 24 riders coming into the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, it was Rins that arguably arrived in Qatar bearing the greatest weight of pressure to revive a reputation blunted by a difficult 2021 campaign.

Sloppy errors while running in strong positions became an all-too-frequent occurrence for Rins last season as he struggled to recover the spotlight trained on his title-winning Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir.

Indeed, with contract negotiations for 2023 looming and his seat appearing very precarious, Rins needed something special from the off. His 7-5-3-2-4 run is not only that, but it also demonstrates the consistency he lacked for much of the last two seasons.

The latest evolution of the more powerful Suzuki GSX-RR appears to suit Rins better than Mir, more so now that the set-up has been tuned back towards tyre durability, with the 26-year old appearing far more confident leaning on it.

This steady progression puts Rins and Suzuki in an enviable spot in terms of the overall standings, not least because he - and Mir before his Portimao DNF - are the only riders to show strong form in each of the season’s five races.

Staying cool under pressure hasn’t been a strong suit of Rins’ in the past but he is certainly putting convincing argument as a potential title contender…