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Bagnaia just holds off Viñales and Bezzecchi as the fight for fourth lights up Portimao
Drama, penalties, and some stunning moves in the fight at the front: the season opener was full of stories
Sunday, 26 March 2023
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) made it double delight in Portugal, backing up a first Tissot Sprint win with the Grand Prix trophy to match. It was far from easy, however, with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) pushing the Italian all the way to the flag on Sunday, just 0.687 off that elusive first win with Aprilia. Completing the podium came Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), the sophomore able to pull clear of a gloves-off fight for fourth.
There was drama in that fight at the front early on, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) heading in hot and making contact with home hero Miguel Oliveira (CryptoData RNF MotoGP™ Team). Marquez has a suspected fracture in his 1st metacarpal on his right hand but said he expects to ride in Argentina, whereas Oliveira was bruised but rider ok.
Off the line, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) defended the holeshot but it was close as Oliveira got an absolutely barnstorming start. The shuffling in the pack then began, and the first frisson of drama hit for Marc Marquez as he went past Martin, the number 89 came back and the number 93 was briefly out the seat. Still, Marquez held onto a place near the front of the fight.
At the end of Lap 1, it was Oliveira leading over the line in front of his home fans, ahead of Martin and Bagnaia, but the number 1 struck at Turn 1 to head through on Martin. Not long after, the Ducati Lenovo machine attacked for the lead as well, and not long after that came the drama.
Marc Marquez clipped Martin before making contact with Oliveira just ahead of both, with the number 93 and the number 88 both going down as they collided and slid out of the race. Martin was also forced into the run off, losing some time, and that changed the playing field: it was now going to become a race-long duel for the win, with Bagnaia leading Viñales by almost nothing.
Lap by lap, the two remained evenly matched. When Bagnaia pulled away, Viñales pulled it back. Right down to the final lap, as it went from over a second to seven tenths to half a second… but the Aprilia just couldn’t quite strike. Bagnaia kept his cool to finish the season opener in perfect style, taking his first Grand Prix win of the year. Viñales took second and again just tenths from that history-making win on a third different machine, and he’ll likely be targeting that in Argentina.
Meanwhile, Bezzecchi had been glued to Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), but he was able to pull clear of that scuffle to take a calm, measured and impressed third. The fight for fourth then seriously went off.
After huge gains off the start, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had caught his new teammate and Alex Marquez, and not long after that, Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) arrived on the scene too. Not to be left out, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) then also joined the party, with the last few laps a real scuffle to remember.
After a serious final push from Zarco, it was the Frenchman who took P4 – just hundredths ahead of Alex Marquez. Binder was forced to settle for sixth with Miller for close company, with Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro just behind. Fourth to ninth was covered by just over a second. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) completed the top ten, ahead of Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) after the number 36 also had a Long Lap to contend with.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) gained some points as the final finishers.
After the flag, there was more drama too – or more, another arc to Marc Marquez’ eye-catching weekend in Portugal, full of good speed but ending with that mistake. He’ll have a double Long Lap to serve in Argentina, and have a check up on his hand beforehand. Will he be able to repeat more of his Saturday heroics and race?
PECCO BAGNAIA: “For sure it was a very long race, I wasn’t used to the long race! In any case I’m very happy. We did an enormous job all pre-season, this year we have started how we wanted. I’m very happy, we have to keep going. I miss my fiancee here to be close to everybody. Thanks to my team, and to the academy, for the incredible job they have done all pre-season!”
MAVERICK VIÑALES: “I feel good. I feel the job we did this weekend has paid off, actually quite happy. Arghhh, I missed sometime the overtake, and I was trying it very hard cause I know Pecco had a bit more, but I tried and tried and tried in the last lap, braking late but my rear tyre was already really down and I couldn’t make anything more. Congrats to my team, we worked well and wow, I’m actually really happy. That’s the beginning, we’re building up the team and the new bike, I don’t know what to say, I’m really happy and we’re going to fight at the front and that’s the target and we did it today.”
MARCO BEZZECCHI: “I feel very happy because yesterday I made a mistake but I was already fast. I knew today the start was the key and I started very well, and then I tried to just push when I was behind Maverick, I just watched him and didn’t loook behind, and I was very fast. This is all for the team so thanks to them and thanks to all my family and friends at home, and now we go to Argentina!”
Pecco Bagnaia powers to another superb win at Portimao. Two Ducatis on the podium in Sunday’s Portuguese GP with Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Racing Team) in third
After winning the first sprint race in MotoGP history yesterday, Francesco Bagnaia dominated once again the Portugal GP, the opening round of the 2023 season held this afternoon at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão.
Starting from second on the grid, the World Champion could impose himself from the opening stages, as he managed to gain the race lead already on the second lap. Thanks to an impressive pace and good tyre management, Bagnaia could fend off Maverick Viñales, who stayed close behind him throughout the race. Pecco secured his second win of the season, crossing the line with a 687-thousandths advantage over the Spaniard. The Ducati Lenovo Team rider scored his 12th MotoGP victory, bringing his lead in the standings to 12 points. The Ducati of Marco Bezzecchi, VR46 Racing Team rider, also finished on the podium today, with the Italian protagonist of a remarkable comeback after starting from eighth on the grid.
After the first round of the 2023 season, Ducati and the Ducati Lenovo Team also occupy the first position in the constructors’ and teams’ standings.
Francesco Bagnaia (#1, Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1st
“This is definitely the best start to the season I have ever had in my career, so I can only be happy. My team and I did a great job during testing, so the bike setup was already pretty much defined at the beginning of the weekend. In Argentina, the situation will definitely be different. Still, my feeling with the new bike is incredible, so I think we will be ready to face any condition.”
Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager)
“Being the World Champion and having the number 1 on your fairing gives you the awareness that you have the means to be able to win, and since Pecco got his first win two years ago, he has continued to do extraordinary things, and today was yet another demonstration of that. However, the Championship is only at the beginning and is really long, so we must keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard. Congratulations also to Marco Bezzecchi, who also did a beautiful race!”
With Bastianini also forced to sit out the GP of Argentina after suffering a fracture in his right shoulder in the Sprint Race yesterday, it will be only Bagnaia to take part in the next round, scheduled next week, from 31st March to 2nd April, at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
Mir collects valuable experience as Marquez apologises for his mistake
A dramatic first Grand Prix weekend of the year concluded with Joan Mir recovering to 11th place. An apologetic Marc Marquez was left to lament his mistake which took out home hero Miguel Oliveira.
Joan Mir approached Sunday’s 25-lap Portuguese Grand Prix with an open mind, aiming to gather as much data as possible after his efforts on Saturday were cut short. A solid start saw the #36 maintain his grid position as the field settled into their early rhythm in Portugal. After serving his long-lap penalty for his contact with Quartararo the day before, Mir rejoined in 15th and was able to progress through the field to finally cross the line in 11th. His first points as a Repsol Honda Team rider, Mir is satisfied with the information he and the team were able to gather as there are now clear areas to work on in the coming races.
From pole position, Marc Marquez did his best to stay with the front group. Unfortunately at the start of the third lap, Marquez made a mistake and locked the front – releasing the brakes to avoid contact with Jorge Martin. This resulted in Marquez colliding with Miguel Oliveira, ending both of their races. Marquez immediately apologised to the RNF Team before heading to the medical centre to check the condition of Oliveira and his own injuries.
Marquez was diagnosed with a potential fracture in the first metacarpal of the right hand and will travel to Spain to assess the injury further. He also received a double long-lap penalty for the Argentina GP.
The MotoGP World Championship will now head directly for Termas de Rio Hondo for the second round of the 2023 season.
“The crash from yesterday impacted today a lot, not just because of the long lap penalty. If I was able to finish the Sprint race I would have had a lot more understanding of the bike because today’s race was the first time I was able to do more than ten laps in a row on the Honda. This meant I spent a lot of today learning, so from this side today was a positive because I understood more. I still need more time to improve how I am riding and how the bike is behaving, especially to get the most out of the tyre over the race. With a bit more knowledge we could have made a very good race, but I am happy to have the experience now.”
“First of all I want to say that I am very sorry to Oliveira, his team and the Portuguese fans because it was his race. I did a really big mistake today, of course it was not my intention to have this happen, my intention was not even to overtake Martin at that point, but I had a massive lock with the front. Maybe the hard front was not fully up to temperature, I released the brakes and the bike went inside. I avoided Martin but made contact with Oliveira. I straight away went over to Miguel and then in the medical centre I went to check on him – fortunately it looks like he is OK and this is the most important thing. On my side I have some pain in my right hand and with my knee but this is not so important at the minute. I fully accept and respect the penalty of the double long-lap during the Argentina GP because I did a mistake.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo came back from another difficult start at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve and crossed the finish line in 8th place. Franco Morbidelli also secured his first championship points of the 2023 season. Though not able to engage in battles during the Grande Prémio de Portugal race like he had hoped, he kept at it and took 14th place.
Quartararo was starting from tenth on the grid due to Enea Bastianini being unable to take part in today‘s 25-lap Race. The Yamaha rider had hoped for a better start than in the Sprint, but it wasn‘t to be. He had his work cut out for him when he completed the first lap in 15th place. He put his head down to overtake several riders, and with Miguel Oliveira and Marc Marquez having crashed out, the Frenchman breached into the top-10 by lap 9.
With a big gap to the riders ahead and Jorge Martin stalking him, the number-20 rider couldn‘t ease off for a second. Pushing all the way, he was able to overtake Luca Marini with a brilliant move in Turn 2, with six laps to go. Martin followed him, but the Ducati rider was unable to keep up with Quartararo and crashed. With five laps left, the Yamaha man fancied his chances to enter the fight for fourth. On the penultimate lap, he overtook Aleix Espargaró for eighth place, which he held across the finish line, 8.543s from first.
Morbidelli was in a difficult position, starting from P16 as 20 MotoGP riders all dived into the first right-hander. Once the order settled at the end of the chaotic first lap, the Italian was at the back of the pack.
The number-21 rider had hoped for an improvement compared to the Sprint but didn‘t have the feeling he was looking for. Nevertheless, he battled with Fabio Di Giannantonio and Augusto Fernandez, aiming to collect as many points as possible. With several riders retiring from the race, the Yamaha man moved up to 14th place. He took the chequered flag 27.050s from first.
Today‘s results earn Quartararo his first 8 points, putting him in 10th place in the overall standings. Morbidelli sits in 17th place with 2 points. After Round 1, the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team is in 8th place in the team championship with 10 points, and Yamaha are on the board in the constructors championship in 5th position with 8 points.
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team will now travel straight to the Termas de Río Hondo track for next weekend‘s Gran Premio de la República Argentina.
We didn‘t have the first round we had hoped for. Fabio again had a difficult start. This is something we need to fix. Him dropping back that far impeded his race today, because his pace was actually pretty good, as it was yesterday in the Sprint. That said, riding from fifteenth at the end of the opening lap to eighth place shows there is potential. Morbidelli didn‘t find the improvement he was looking for. We need to go over the data and make sure he feels able to get more out of the package at the next round. We are flying straight to Argentina from here. We will regroup for the next race. We are determined to find the missing performance.
Of course, it was a difficult race, mostly because of where I qualified. Yesterday, I had an issue with launch control, but this time I chose a line that wasn’t correct, so we were super far behind. The pace was not too bad. If you look at my last lap of this race, it was very close to my fastest lap in last year’s race. I think the pace we all had during this weekend was extremely fast. I’m hoping to be fighting more towards the front in Argentina.
It was a very tough race. In the test, I was off the pace by 0.6s, and today I was off the pace by 0.5s, so I improved 0.1s. I need to focus on the positives. We did improve slightly, and I was very consistent in the race. I managed to bring the bike to the end of the race, and I got two points. I definitely hope there will be more positives in Argentina. I’m looking forward to it.
Gas & Gas
ROOKIE AUGUSTO FERNANDEZ BEGINS MOTOGP™ ADVENTURE WITH THREE WELL-DESERVED POINTS IN PORTUGAL
Did you enjoy your Sunday like we did in Portimao? The weekend had not been easy so far for the GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 team. Pol Espargaro’s nasty accident on Friday ruled him out of the Portuguese Grand Prix, and the technical issues encountered by Augusto Fernandez at the start of the sprint were not exactly what the team had in mind for the opening round. However, there was another chance on Sunday’s race to do things well, which is exactly what MotoGP™ rookie did today in Portimao.
Lining up on the grid in nineteenth for his first-ever MotoGP™ race, rookie Augusto Fernandez was eager to perform well. Both rhythm and confidence on the bike progressed in the right direction over the weekend at the Autodrómo Internacional do Algarve, and the race was a first real test on the distance for the Spaniard. Gloves on, helmets on, visors down: Lights went out at 14:00 (GMT+1) for twenty-five laps on the 4.592 km long layout.
From P19, Fernandez gained a few positions within the first laps, following a good race start and crashes at the front. It took him a few laps to adapt to his GASGAS RC16 weight with a full tank, but once his balance was found, he started to get on with a solid race pace. Managing the end of the race was a strong point of Fernandez in Moto2™ last year, and it seems that the Spaniard has brought this skill to the MotoGP™ class too. The final part of his race was his best performance, with his fastest lap set in 1’39.461 on lap 19, in which he managed to overtake Franco Morbidelli. He completed his first MotoGP™ race in thirteenth, with three points in the bag and a first positive experience to feed from for the upcoming round in Argentina, from March 31 to April 2.
“I am happy with my first race. After the sprint yesterday, I was really looking forward to getting back on the bike today. I struggled a bit at the beginning, but I knew that I could have a good pace until the end. I am happy with the end of my race, which we finished strongly. It is good to have race experience, and I am already looking forward to next week.”
Augusto Fernandez – Portimao – 2023
Augusto Fernandez – Portimao – 2023
“What an emotional opening round to the 2023 MotoGP World Championship we just had, in addition to adapting to the intense new format. Mixed emotions of course for GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3, but if we just focus on today, we would like to congratulate Augusto Fernandez for his first rookie race in MotoGP.
He struggled a bit at the beginning of the race with the bike’s weight with a full tank, but then he adapted, set his rhythm and really did a solid race with a strong pace all the way until the end. After twenty-five laps, he rode his last lap in 1’39.6, which is faster than the fastest lap of the race simulation done in Portimao Test two weeks ago. He finished thirteenth today and scored three points, twenty-one seconds from the leader, less than one second gap per lap, so we can say that this is a very strong result for him.
Thank you to the Pierer Mobility Group who has provided us with strong support this weekend that helped us improve our performance.
I would like to finish with a little word for Pol Espargaro who was transferred to Barcelona last night. We know that his mind is already focused on his comeback, and I know he will be back with us sooner than later. The whole team wishes him a speedy recovery. Time to pack and fly to Argentina for the second round in Termas de Rio Hondo!”
STANDING OVATION WORTH DEBUT FOR MARQUEZ AT PORTIMAO
The result was there on paper, but then it is all about making it happen, especially when starting from 12thplace on the grid. Alex Marquez did not disappoint, as he made it back to the top five for the first time since over a year (he was fourth in 2021 at Portimao).
After a good start, the Spanish rider managed to quickly get up to speed and made the most of the opportunities given – also due to a few crashes ahead of him. The #73 battled for third with Bezzecchi for most of the race, then towards the end, he had more to defend his position from the determined KTM riders trailing him – with only Zarco able to pip him almost at the line. Still, the valuable points scored today give him plenty of confidence to pack for Termas.
On the other side of the garage, it was a weekend to forget for Fabio Di Giannantonio. After starting from last place on the grid, the Rome-born rider had to deal first with a coming together with Morbidelli, and then with a forearm problem that forced him to retire.
5th – ALEX MARQUEZ #73
“I tried in every way to maintain fourth place but I didn’t close the door enough at Turn 14 and Zarco took advantage. Being the first race I can’t complain, and surely we’ll head to Argentina with great confidence. I gave 100% and even had a look at the podium… something that hadn’t happened in a while.”
DNF – FABIO DI GIANNANTONIO #49
“It surely wasn’t the weekend I was looking for. We didn’t have a bad start to the race, but then I lost a front winglet in a coming together with another rider and then after a few laps the right forearm wasn’t responding the way it should have. I couldn’t hit the brakes anymore and therefore had to retire. Now we need to recover the fitness condition for Termas, and quick.”
TOP 10 FOR ALEX RINS IN PORTIMAO
LCR Honda CASTROL rider Alex Rins has finished 10th in his first race with his new team and bike, grabbing solid information for the Championship that has just been inaugurated.
The maiden race of 2023 has meant some light for the team, as the Spaniard has carried out a great start: he occupied the 15th spot of the grid and did several overtakes until placing himself in the Top 10. He’s been constant throughout the full extension of the race, which has allowed him to determine which areas to improve, thinking ahead of the next rounds.
Alex Rins 10th
“This has been my first race weekend with Honda, and we’ve confirmed which areas can improve. As a rider and team, you always want to be in front, but the key element after today is that we’ve had some positives during the race. I want to try new parts in Argentina because there is potential, and we are working hard to reach our goals. Many thanks to the team for its job”.
TAKAAKI NAKAGAMI SCORES FIRST POINTS OF THE SEASON
LCR Honda IDEMITSU rider Takaaki Nakagami has ended 12th at the Grand Prix of Portugal after a demanding race at the Circuit of Portimao.
Nakagami and the team have taken a step forward, confirming his previous good feelings on the bike. Even though there is room for improvement, there has been a progression, and to inaugurate the season grabbing solid points means the extra motivation to keep pushing. Things this way, Argentina will be another place to keep working and another chance to keep pushing.
Takaaki Nakagami 12th
“I’m quite positive after this race. It’s been quite difficult because rivals didn’t make it easy, and we needed to manage the situation, but overall, we’ve got important points and know which path to follow to reach the competitors. Let’s see what we can do in Argentina; I can’t wait to be there”.
Solid and strong: Red Bull KTM roam the top MotoGP™ positions at Portuguese Grand Prix
MotoGP 2023 – Round 1 of 21, Algarve International Circuit – Race
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing depart the Grande Premio TISSOT de Portugal with well-earned top seven positions for Brad Binder and Jack Miller respectively as MotoGP scorched into life under glaring Algarve sunshine and watched by a large noisy crowd at the International Circuit. In the other classes KTM machinery celebrated victory in both Moto3™ and Moto2™.
Strong KTM RC16 debut for Jack Miller with 4th place in Saturday’s inaugural Sprint followed by 7th position in Sunday’s Grand Prix affair
Daniel Holgado takes his – and Red Bull KTM Tech3’s – first Moto3 Grand Prix victory in the class as KTM lockout the podium
Pedro Acosta in a class of his own to win Moto2 for Red Bull KTM Ajo
MotoGP moves directly to Termas de Rio Hondo for the Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina next weekend.
The Portuguese Grand Prix got down to business once more with the full-length 25 lap distance on Sunday. The Red Bull KTM racers started from 5th and 15th positions on the grid.
Jack Miller is still new to the team and had logged less than eight full days on his race-bike before lining up for the second time for round one. The Australian extended his education in finding the precious tenths on the ragged edge by competing for the top five and then taking part in a five-rider slugfest for 4th. One of those rivals was Brad Binder. The South African somehow ignored neck and shoulder pain to enter his most exciting phase of the weekend. Less than one second covered the quintet at the flag and Brad was just ahead of Jack in 6th. The duo swap positions in the early championship rankings however: Miller is 5th and Binder 8th.
The team quickly disassembled the RC16s post-race for the freight and the long trip across the Atlantic to Argentina, in time for round two next weekend.
Brad Binder, 6th: “Today was pretty good. It has been a hard weekend because it was very tough for me to get comfortable on the bike. I was suffering a lot but today my team made a big step forward with my RC16 and I was much more confident in the end. The last five laps were really demanding physically but the step forwards we made was very satisfying and I’m hoping for more in Argentina. I just need to figure out how to be 100% fit there.”
Jack Miller, 7th: “I was pushing a lot towards the end and into unknown territory with the tires. The bike was really stable but I made a small mistake with my gearing and it was hectic there. I was trying everything I could to make the pass and get it done but it was impossible. We learnt a lot about our strengths and weaknesses today. The tire conservation was really good as was the feedback I was getting from the bike through the duration. I’m happy with where we are and I know we can work to be stronger. We are having fun building this project.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “We had a very busy winter test and made a lot more work than we expected. We had some issues and some curiosity to go deeper and deeper with the technical package and we waited until the last moment to put everything together. The riders were only able to push at the first race and, honestly, it was a little bit late but it was not a big problem. Jack has a lot of experience and as soon as he feels good then he is ready to push and since Friday he was on the charge! Today he did great, to match what he did on Friday and Saturday. He still needs to understand the full possibilities of the bike’s behavior but he is ready to go. Brad was struggling with his neck but the bike setup was much more in the direction he wanted. He had a super-good race. Yesterday his distance to the winner was eight seconds and today it was the same but at double the laps, so this was significant. A massive improvement. Let’s go to Argentina. A blank page again, and we’ll see.”
Grande Premio TISSOT de Portugal photographs can be found HERE
Results MotoGPGrande Premio TISSOT de Portugal
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati 41:25.401
2. Maverick Viñales (ESP) Aprilia +0.687
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati +2.726
6. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +8.247
7. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +8.381
World championship standings MotoGP
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati, 37 points
2. Maverick Viñales (ESP) Aprilia, 25
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati, 16
5. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 15
8. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 10