MotoGP: More From The Saturday Sprint Race At Portimao

MotoGP: More From The Saturday Sprint Race At Portimao

© 2023, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By Michael Gougis.

MotoGP Portugal: A New Era Begins, With A New Lap Record

By Michael Gougis

Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia started his MotoGP title defense with a win in the series’ first-ever Saturday Sprint Race at the Tissot Grand Prix of Portugal, with Jorge Martin a close second and Marc Marquez a surprising third.

After 12 tense laps, the top seven across the line were separated by less than three seconds. And after the race was over, depending on which rider was speaking, the Sprint Race was either dangerous and encouraged risky riding or a lot more fun than the full-length races. The riders on the podium, not surprisingly, seemed to like the Sprint Race format a whole lot more than the others.

Practice:

Marco Bezzecchi led the time sheets after Saturday’s single practice session was over, although his best lap time–1:38.577–was well off Friday’s best laps. Both factory Ducati riders wound up on the ground, leaving Fabio Quartararo as the Mooney VR46 Racing Team’s closest competitor, followed by Aleix Espargaro. Bagnaia was fourth, just ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the satellite CryptoDATA RNF Aprilia RS-GP.

Friday’s quickest rider, Jack Miller, was a full 1.5 seconds off of his best lap, and the Honda brigade also had trouble. Joan Mir was ninth, Takaaki Nakagami 11th, Marc Marquez 16th and LCR Honda’s Alex Rins, winner of the last Grand Prix of 2022, was 18th.

Qualifying:

Marc Marquez came out hard in Qualifying One, slicing 1.556 seconds off his morning practice time, resetting the lap record and then heading back to the garage to rest. Miguel Oliveira got closest with a 1:37.849 and took the final transfer spot to Qualifying Two. Alex Marquez caught Franco Morbidelli on his flying lap and was balked briefly, the slight hesitation  leaving Marquez third and out of Qualifying Two.

The final qualifying session saw Miller re-assert himself as the fastest man on the grid during the first run, a 1:37.549 on his second lap lowering the lap record again. But Miller found himself on the ground when he tried to up the pace, and Bagnaia who recovered from his morning spill and went quickest on his sixth lap, lowering the lap record again to a 1:37.290.

 

Jack Miller (43) slid off in Turn Three in the final qualifying session, ending up fifth on the grid. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Jack Miller (43) slid off in Turn Three in the final qualifying session, ending up fifth on the grid. Photo by Michael Gougis.

Two laps later, Marquez, who had tucked in behind Enea Bastianini, took his recalcitrant RC213V by the neck and wrung it for all it was worth. The result was pole position, his 64th, a new lap record of 1:37.226 and a surprised look on his face back in the garage.

Marc Marquez (93) battled his way through the first qualifying session, tucked in behind Enea Bastianini (23) in the second qualifying session and took pole, smashing the lap record. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Marc Marquez (93) battled his way through the first qualifying session, tucked in behind Enea Bastianini (23) in the second qualifying session and took pole, smashing the lap record. Photo by Michael Gougis.

Bagnaia remained second, ahead of Jorge Martin and Oliveira, with Miller fifth ahead of Bastianini. Quartararo only managed 11th, nearly seven-10ths off the pace and with a steep hill to climb (figuratively and literally) in the Sprint Race that afternoon.

 

Sprint Race:

Marquez took the holeshot and led for the first several corners, but by the end of the lap Bagnaia and Martin had pushed him back to third. On the next lap, Luca Marini tried to go under Bastianini in Turn Five and lost the front, taking both out of the race.

 

Marc Marquez (93) leads the field at the start of the first-ever MotoGP Sprint Race on Saturday as Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (1) pushes teammate Enea Bastianini (23) wide while Jorge Martin (89), Maverick Vinales (12) and the rest of the pack follow. Bagnaia won, with Martin second and Marquez third. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Marc Marquez (93) leads the field at the start of the first-ever MotoGP Sprint Race on Saturday as Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (1) pushes teammate Enea Bastianini (23) wide while Jorge Martin (89), Maverick Vinales (12) and the rest of the pack follow. Bagnaia won, with Martin second and Marquez third. Photo by Michael Gougis.

Miller showed real speed, leading on Lap Seven on the factory KTM, but Martin pushed him back to second a lap later and then Bagnaia took the runner-up spot. On the penultimate lap, Oliveira, running fourth, dove under Miller into Turn One and pushed wide, opening the door for Marquez to slam through for the final podium position.

 

Francesco Bagnaia (1) snatched the Sprint Race win from Jorge Martin (89) on the last lap. Miguel Oliveira (88) tried to pass Jack Miller in Turn One and both ran wide, allowing Marc Marquez (93) to slice through for the final podium spot. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Francesco Bagnaia (1) snatched the Sprint Race win from Jorge Martin (89) on the last lap. Miguel Oliveira (88) tried to pass Jack Miller in Turn One and both ran wide, allowing Marc Marquez (93) to slice through for the final podium spot. Photo by Michael Gougis.

On the last lap, Martin waited late to hit the brakes going into Turn Five, trying to defend against Bagnaia. But Martin was too late on the brakes, ran wide and Bagnaia was through and eased away to win by 0.307-second at the finish line.

 

Fabio Quartararo (20) started the sprint race from the fourth row, dropped to the back of the field due to Joan Mir's crash at the start and fought back to 10th by the end of the 12-lap Sprint Race. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Fabio Quartararo (20) started the sprint race from the fourth row, dropped to the back of the field due to Joan Mir’s crash at the start and fought back to 10th by the end of the 12-lap Sprint Race. Photo by Michael Gougis.

 

Maverick Vinales (12) beat teammate Aleix Espargaro (41) to fifth, the highest placing for the Aprilia squad. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Maverick Vinales (12) beat teammate Aleix Espargaro (41) to fifth, the highest placing for the Aprilia squad. Photo by Michael Gougis.

 

Americans Joe Roberts (16) and Sean Dylan Kelly (4) qualified 19th and 24th for Sunday's Moto2 race. Photos by Michael Gougis.
Americans Joe Roberts (Above) and Sean Dylan Kelly (Below) qualified 19th and 24th for Sunday’s Moto2 race. Photos by Michael Gougis.

Americans Joe Roberts (16) and Sean Dylan Kelly (4) qualified 19th and 24th for Sunday's Moto2 race. Photos by Michael Gougis.

 

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