If the race were tomorrow, Pecco Bagnaia looks more than ready to start the revalidation. World champion on the back of his Ducati, with the number 1 in the fairing, it shows who is the rival to beat this upcoming MotoGP campaign. The winter tests have underlined the superiority of the manufacturer from Bologna and the driver from Turin, the fastest in the last two days of testing in Portimão, the scene of the first Grand Prix of the season on March 26 in Portugal.
After crushing his own track record, set in 2021, and being the first and only rider to go under 1m,38s at the Algarve International Circuit this Sunday, the Italian wanted to remain cautious despite the clear dominance of his machine at throughout the preseason. “The test is one thing and the Grand Prix is another totally different. I am very happy with how these five days have gone, including also the three days we had in Malaysia a month ago. We have improved in each session”, analyzed the reigning champion. “I like the new bike a lot and I prefer it to last year’s, but now we have to keep our feet on the ground and continue working.”
Without losing his smile, but less optimistic, Marc Márquez recognized after finishing 14th, eight tenths behind the recordman that in Honda they still cannot find the key. “We’re not where we want to be, we’re far away in rhythm, but now you don’t gain anything by doing bad blood,” he acknowledged. “If tomorrow was the race we would be from five to ten,” he added. The Japanese factory has had a winter of emergencies where it has tried many things under the leadership of Ken Kawauchi, the new technical director of the brand from the disbandment of Suzuki, who has nurtured talent to several teams with his departure from the contest. Despite the changes in direction and the pressure from his star, his mount remains similar to the one that ended infamous last year in Valencia.
With seven bikes in the top eight, the last day of testing in Portugal once again made clear Ducati’s superiority over the rest of the brands. In fact, the Italians finished each of the six pre-season tests with the fastest time. Only Fabio Quartararo, frustrated on Saturday and satisfied on Sunday, managed to slip the Yamaha into the middle of the little train desmosedicis this last day. “We have taken a giant step forward”, the Frenchman congratulated himself after experiencing a rather irregular testing period. The weekend in Portimão served the drivers for the first time to familiarize themselves with the concept of racing by sprint, the great novelty of the season in MotoGP. Most of them tried soft tires to unreservedly attack the distance of 12 laps, the medium-distance format of the Grand Prix on Sunday that will premiere on the afternoon of Saturday the 25th on the Portuguese track and that will distribute half the points in the fight for the title .
“I had some scares, but it was already the plan, to see how the tire falls and a touchdown to have things clearer and be better prepared for the race. The goal was not to hold anything back and give everything”, commented Àlex Márquez, who this year is making his debut on the back of a Ducati with the Gresini team. Despite suffering a fall in the last rehearsal, Marc’s brother sees himself capable of going out to fight with the best from the first date of the World Cup. With Ducati in the lead and Aprilia following close behind, the rest of the factories have a lot of homework to do if they want to question Italy’s dominance in MotoGP.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.