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?
Join us next weekend for more as we go racing once more, this time at Termas de Rio Hondo. This time last year, Aprilia made history. Who will do the honours in 2023?
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!”
MARC MARQUEZ: “First of all I’m very sorry to Oliveira, to him, his team and fans because were at the Portuguese GP. I made a big mistake, it wasn’t my intention, obviously, because my intention wasn’t even to overtake Martin. I had a massive lock on the front, maybe the hard front option was not ready, after that lock I released the brakes and the bike went inside. I could avoid Martin but not Oliveira. The first thing I did was try to understand his condition, looks like he is ok. For that reason I am more quiet because he is ok. Of course I’m sorry to him. Yeah, I made a big mistake. I will be penalized in Argentina and I completely agree. Sometimes these things happen in races and this time I made a big mistake.
“I have a few injuries, but that’s not important. Most important is Miguel is ok. I will come back when I feel ready.”