MotoGP Portimao: the calm before the storm

MotoGP Portimao: the calm before the storm

We’re here now, tomorrow the first Grand Prix of the 2023 MotoGP season kicks off. How are the riders? Quite well, especially the Ducatis which, led by Pecco Bagnaia, are already the favorites for the new championship. But there are also all the others, ready to give battle to the troop in red. Marc Marquez is currently out of the title, but who knows… All the others, on the other hand, are ready for the fight, for the new Sprint Race, for a season with as many as 21 GPs scheduled (if confirmed). Below are the declarations and expectations of Bagnaia, Quartararo, Bastianini, Espargaro, Oliveira, Miller, Marini, Mir and Zarco. From MotoE to MotoGP, who will be the 2023 champions? It’s time for bets before the start of activity on the track, but various names are repeated. Like those of Diogo Moreira or Ayumu Sasaki for Moto3, needless to say that Pedro Acosta is indicated as the clear favorite for Moto2. More varied indications for MotoE and MotoGP, in the premier class someone is also betting on themselves. Here are all the hypotheses from the ten riders seen today in the various press conferences. Pecco Bagnaia: Salvadori (MotoE), Moreira (Moto3), Vietti (Moto2), Bagnaia (MotoGP) Marc Marquez: Torres, Moreira, Acosta, Bagnaia Fabio Quartararo: Rabat, Sasaki, Arbolino, Quartaro Enea Bastianini: Casadei, Moreira, Acosta , Marc Marquez Aleix Espargaro: Granado, Moreira, Acosta, “Max and My Dad” Miguel Oliveira: Granado, Holgado, Acosta, Bagnaia Jack Miller: Rabat, Kelso, Arenas, Marc Marquez Luca Marini: Granado, Sasaki, Vietti, Bagnaia Joan Mir: Rabat, Moreira, Acosta, Mir Johann Zarco: Rabat, Sasaki, Acosta, Zarco Pecco Bagnaia “I’m happy with the preseason, two years ago we were in trouble while now everything is perfect, the new bike suits my style better” he underlined the reigning MotoGP champion. “During the tests we had time to improve the race pace. We are now in a better position than the others, but I am sure that Fabio, Marc, Aprilia, the other Ducatis, will be in front.” Looking to 2022, “I lacked grip when cornering and turning, but the engineers worked hard to give me better bike. Now there is more cornering speed, which was what I was asking for.” World champion encore? “Since I can remember only Marc and Vale have repeated each other. It’s something I’m working on, number 1 is an extra motivation. It will be difficult to defend the title but we will try.” On Bastianini: “We are smart enough to understand that we have to work together. It is important to work together immediately to do well.” Favorite pressure? Everyone clearly points to this. “Every year is a different story” is the answer. “Now they say me but everything can change in 21 GPs.” Fabio Quartararo “We had many new things to work on, but then we went back to the basics” admitted the 2021 world champion. A move that Franco Morbidelli also implemented. “We still have to figure out how everything works and we’re back to the previous set up that I feel best with. But we still have to work to improve.” However, something has changed: “We’ve made progress with the engine, it’s still not enough but it’s better, even if we’re still far from where we need to be. Then on the last day of testing we went well on the flying lap, we set really good times, but we are still missing something compared to Ducati. We’re all a bit at the limit and it’s a matter of details, but I expect a step during the season: if we want to stay ahead, we need evolution and development.” MotoGP races ‘double’ with the Sprint Races on Saturday. “Physically I have taken a step forward compared to 2022: we have 42 races and the pressure will increase in some sessions, it will be an intense year.” However, Quartararo promises a battle with Bagnaia: “He had crazy times in the tests and we know that Ducati is the best at the moment. But there are also the others, we will all try to make life difficult for them.” Bastianini & Espargaro Starting tomorrow, the adventure as a Ducati Team rider will begin for ‘Beast’. “I’m excited, it’s nice to be in red. For the moment, however, only many photoshoots, now we begin” joked Bastianini. Does the factory team mean more pressure? “The pressure is the same as last year, the work in the garage is also the same, everyone is relaxed and motivated. I’m coming from a great season, well beyond expectations, but now it will certainly be more complicated. There are many competitive Ducatis, but that’s not all: I would say that all the MotoGP riders are really fast.” Who’s the best? “I can’t tell. However, number 1 is Pecco and I have to learn from him, especially at the beginning.” Aleix Espargaro has just had an operation, but the physical situation is not a problem. “I was worried during the tests, then I did many tests and decided to have surgery. It went better right away and now I feel ready.” With a 2023 RS-GP that “It’s not a revolution but an evolution of what was missing. Power, aerodynamics… In general it was a step forward, but now we need the race test to understand the comparison with the others. If we took one step and the other three, then the bike doesn’t work!” Watch out for Aprilia this year: “We are no longer a surprise and we will have to maintain that extra pressure.” Oliveira & Miller Miguel Oliveira has left KTM for Aprilia, the season then kicks off in Portugal. It will be an exciting start for the only Portuguese in the world championship, who doesn’t want to set goals: the feeling with the RS-GP isn’t perfect yet. “There are moments in which you are doing very well and others in which you still need to improve. It’s normal progress, I’m not 100% with the bike but it would have been too much in five days. I will understand more during the GPs. Now let’s think about having fun, understanding what we have in hand and giving our best.” Jack Miller, after the recent announcement that he will become a father, is excited for the adventure with KTM. “It’s always difficult when you change brands, you have to readjust,” he stressed. “But I always feel better on the bike, it’s a challenge that I gladly embraced.” Attention also to Luca Marini, chasing the step forward with his Ducati VR46. “We hope to start again with the same feeling as in the tests” he declared. The #10 driver indicates greater difficulties in qualifying and overtaking, something to work on again this season. “This year everyone is even more motivated with the new format. It won’t be easy for anyone, but Bez and I can fight for the top.” Mir & Zarco The 2020 world champion has a great commitment ahead, the one with Repsol Honda. “Moving to this team is a big challenge for me,” said Joan Mir. “It’s been a difficult winter, the bike is completely different and it’s not easy to find something extra. But we have improved in each test and then we will see where we are.” What goals? “We have to be realistic: it’s a big change and it takes time to adapt. It’s not easy to put it all together, but I expect to finish the season higher.” What a duel then with Marc Marquez: “I have a very competitive box mate and this is always an extra motivation to improve.” Finally here is Johann Zarco, the most expert of the Ducati house. Where can it start? “It would be nice to be in the top 3 straight away” he admitted. While aware of his work: “I need to change my approach to the bike for a moment to better exploit the strong points of the Ducati. But now I feel more natural in the saddle, times will come.” Bagnaia is the reference, but Zarco wants to find his own style, chasing that first victory that hasn’t arrived yet. “In 2021 I came close to it twice,” he recalled. “Everyone asks me and clearly I want it too. I changed something and I will certainly try again.” Photo: Ducati Corse



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