Bagnaia hits back, Marini close, Aprilia unleash more aero!
The penultimate day of pre-season testing was a very busy and intriguing one in Portimao…
The curtain has come down on the penultimate day of MotoGP™ pre-season testing, and it’s a familiar name on top as reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) took over late on. Pecco deposed thus-far King of Pre-Season Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) as the number 10 was forced to settle for second, with Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales rounding out the top three on a fully dry, action-packed Saturday.
Here’s a factory-by-factory rundown of what we’ve seen on Day 1:
DUCATI, PRAMAC, VR46 & GRESINI:
Bagnaia was the fastest by the end of play, the reigning Champion hitting back against Marini after the number 10 was fastest for much of the day. Bagnaia’s advantage was just over two tenths, with new teammate Enea Bastianini outside the top ten in P17 on Day 1… but it’s unlikely that’s much to worry about. He worked a lot on used tyres and had a couple of technical niggles to overcome early on, before a crash ended his action early, rider ok.
Both sides of the Ducati Lenovo Team garage now look set – both have the updated aero and Bagnaia continued with the downwash ducts rather than the “ground effect” fairings seen previously. Bastianini was the same. The single wingnut setup on the left handlebar, used for the holeshot, was on all machines.
Back to Marini and the Italian’s super run in pre-season kept rolling on the penultimate day. He was second, with teammate Marco Bezzecchi in seventh. Marini was also grinning after competing with Bagnaia and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) for top honours. Meanwhile, Gresini Racing MotoGP™’s Ducati newcomer Alex Marquez slotted into fourth as he continues to impress, and his teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio ended the day in P9. Diggia suffered a crash and headed to local hospital for a further check up.
Completing the top ten was Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing). He was seen with a different chassis, one that’s been spotted before and could be part of an ongoing experiment from Ducati. The number 89, meanwhile, went the opposite way to the factory duo elsewhere – putting in a whole lot of laps with the ground effect fairings. Teammate Johann Zarco was P13, not far off Martin by the end of Day 1. He had a different front fairing and air intake to the rest, and the “wings” were a little different too. The Fernchman was the only Ducati with this setup, previously tested by Michele Pirro last season.
Aero updates and innovations were the name of the game down in the Aprilia Racing garage. The Noale factory had a few small aero pieces, including a wing bolted onto the swingarm, some wings that are attached to the front forks and an improved rear wing.
A glance at the timesheets makes for pretty reading for Aprilia. Viñales was a consistent threat at the summit, as was Miguel Oliveira (RNF MotoGP™ Team). The Portuguese rider has been given a few Aprilia goodies to test in Portimao, a noticeable one being some aero that hangs off the side of the front wheel.
Oliveira ended the day in P6, one place behind an upbeat Raul Fernandez (RNF MotoGP™ Team) who took a little longer to pounce up towards the pointy end of the timesheets, but heading into the final couple of hours the sophomore climbed to P5. That made it three Aprilias inside the top six, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) ending Saturday’s action in P11.
Both the Spaniard and teammate Viñales crashed in the early hours of testing, and Espargaro explained to us during After The Flag that he hurt the ankle he damaged at Silverstone in the small off. The number 41 admitted he also struggled with arm pump on Saturday, “not a disaster”, but far from ideal.
Alongside Ducati, Aprilia appear to be the factory that are looking most comfortable heading into the final day of testing. Fernandez and Oliveira’s speed will be a massive boost especially.
The most notable upgrade we saw in the Yamaha box on Day 1 was a radical new piece of aero on one of Franco Morbidelli’s (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) bikes. You can see it in the picture below – there’s a new set of wings just above the sidepod and below the standard set of wings. Morbidelli was also continuing to lap with two different chassis that he has available.
In Fabio Quartararo’s (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) corner, both of his YZR-M1s were fitted with Yamaha’s larger aero, suggesting that’s the direction he prefers. The 2021 World Champion was trying different front-end set-ups as he explores what can be done with the bike now the aero is – seemingly – decided.
A late time attack saw Quartararo climb up to eighth, 0.8s away from top spot, with Morbidelli finishing P21 having completed 95 laps – five more than Quartararo. A very busy day for the Iwata factory, with another coming up on Sunday.
FREE: Portimao Test underway as riders head out on track 11/03/2023
Lots of things were going on at HRC as they tried to finalise the directions they want to be taking in 2023. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was doing a lot of work on Honda’s updated wings and air intake, as well as a new chassis that has been brought to the Portimao Test.
The number 93 suffered a small crash during the afternoon, but the eight-time World Champion was perfectly ok. A P19 finish doesn’t make for promising reading, but 78 laps suggests it was a day of working things out – and yet more proof the fitness is there. Marquez confirmed the afternoon rhythm was disrupted by testing “big concepts”, so Sunday’s outing will be focused on getting the best out of what Honda already have.
14th place Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) was also giving Honda’s new chassis a good runout. The 2020 World Champion admitted he didn’t feel great on Day 1 and struggled a bit – and a crash didn’t help in the afternoon. Fast corners and power delivery are the main areas of improvement for Mir ahead of the final day.
Regarding the chassis, LCR Honda duo Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) had the older chassis fitted to both their RC213Vs. Rins ended the day as the fastest Honda in P11 and having not much in the way of new parts to try, the two-time 2022 race winner has been focusing on continuing his adaptation to the new bike. It looks like a step forward has been made.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder was the lead KTM on Day 1, in P15, but he had close company from new teammate Jack Miller just behind him. The visible work going on was centred on aero, with each having one bike with the “ground effect” fairing and the downwash ducts and one bike with only the “ground effect” fairing.
It sounded like the Austrian factory overall has switched to the engine that sounded different in Sepang, with that overheard once again.
At GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3, Pol Espargaro was down the timesheets but likewise had the aero split seen at Red Bull KTM, and his teammate Augusto Fernandez likewise. For the first time, the two GASGAS riders also had the same chassis, and Fernandez was a little closer as he prepares to face down his first race weekend in MotoGP™.
One more day of testing lies ahead on Sunday. It’s a pivotal day for every factory and team before we get set to get properly down to business.