Reigning MotoGP champion Pecco Bagnaia obliterated the Portimao lap record on the final day of 2023 pre-season testing.
The lap record had stood at a 1m38.725s – set by Bagnaia himself back in 2021 – coming into the day, but was lowered several times during the day. Bagnaia took over the top spot with a 1m38.154s two hours in, and then followed that up with a 1m37.968s in the final hour of eight.
The opening portion of the day rang in an ominous tone for MotoGP’s non-Italian manufacturers – as when KTM’s Brad Binder became the 11th rider to get himself below the 1m39s mark, he was the only rider in that top 11 not on a Ducati or an Aprilia.
Slowly but surely, however, even as the Ducati supremacy persisted, the ‘straggler’ manufacturers at least closed the gap on the timing screens.
The most notable of these was Yamaha, Fabio Quartararo dragging his M1 to a 1m38.302s, a phenomenal 1.3s day-on-day improvement to alleviate concerns at the end of a pre-season defined, for Yamaha, by struggles on new rubber.
This came, Quartararo confirmed, from a switch to “more or less” 2022-spec aero and last year’s set-up, and his improved pace kept him second for a good while.
Ultimately, compatriot Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) knocked him down to third, three tenths down on Bagnaia’s new record and four hundredths up on Quartararo.
VR46 Ducati duo Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi completed the top five, Marini having shrugged off a pair of technical stoppages.
Enea Bastianini (factory Ducati), Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati) – who had a pair of falls and was relieved to get his first crash on the Ducati out of the way – and Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) rounded out the top eight, which made it seven Ducatis in the top eight.
The only other Ducatis in the test were test rider Michele Pirro and Marquez’s team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio, and the latter had to sit out the day entirely after picking up a concussion in a crash on Saturday.
Despite Ducati’s show of strength, however, the field looked more compact, that perception aided by Binder being just half a second off in ninth with his KTM, having produced by far the RC16 bike’s best lap of the test, despite also having two falls.
Aleix Espargaro – who may require fibrosis surgery on Monday – led the Aprilia contingent in 10th, the RS-GP’s effectively not improving their laptimes in the second half of the day.
Honda’s contingent was headed by new factory rider Joan Mir in 13th, 0.794s off but curiously just 0.016s up on team-mate Marc Marquez and 0.020s ahead of LCR Honda’s Alex Rins.
While Quartararo found his groove on the Yamaha, team-mate Franco Morbidelli still appears in strife, having acknowledged on Saturday that he was well off Quartararo over a single lap and ultimately finishing the final test day in 19th.
|18||Pol Espargaro||Gas Gas||1’38.974||1.006||79|
|21||Augusto Fernandez||Gas Gas||1’39.667||1.699||64|