#PortugueseGP Saturday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The first Tissot Sprint was a stunner. 12 laps, 22 riders and a last lap finish! Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) came out on top as the final push came down to a duel, piling the pressure on Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) in the last few laps and finding a way through as the Spaniard headed ever so slightly wide. The fight for third was a mammoth battle from the off, too, with seven riders fighting for the top three throughout and ultimately, the rider on pole taking his first medal of the season: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
Marc Marquez got the holeshot despite a spectacular attack from a fast-starting Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team), but Bagnaia took over in second early on as a red duel let Martin also pickpocket into third. Marquez, Bagnaia, Martin and Bastianini was the initial leading quartet, with Marquez defending the lead until the final few metres of Lap 1.
Bagnaia and Martin then struck for the front and got past the number 93, with the leading trio enjoying a little breathing space for a few corners. Miguel Oliveira(CryptoData RNF MotoGP™ Team) had struck back into fourth too, and soon Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was also past Bastianini.
Drama then hit for the number 23, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) losing the front on the inside and rider and machine sliding into the factory Ducati, leaving the Beast nowhere to go. Meanwhile, further contact a little further back had also seen Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) overcook it against Fabio Quartararo(Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), with the Spaniard making contact and crashing out, and the Frenchman losing time.
Back at the front, Bagnaia led Martin led Marquez, with Miller moving up into fourth past Oliveira. Then came Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) vs Marco Bezzecchi(Mooney VR46 Racing Team) vs Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), but Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) was also intent on joining that party. So he did, and Bezzecchi crashed out of it not long after.
With nine to go, Martin slipped past Bagnaia for the lead as Marquez dug in ahead of Miller and Oliveira. Soon enough, the battle was truly on. Miller and Oliveira passed Marquez, and then the Australian picked Bagnaia’s pocket for second. By six to go, Miller hit the front, but Martin hit back. The chopping and changing let the Aprilia Racing pair also catch up, and it all bubbled up to one duel and one serious fight for third.
As Martin and Bagnaia started to inch away, the two-man decider for Tissot Sprint glory was set. The reigning Champion was gaining and gaining, and finally the door opened ever so slightly on the final lap – with Martin wide and Pecco through. It remained close to the line but the #1 remained so on track, taking that coveted first Sprint win as Martin was forced to settle for second.
Meanwhile, Miller vs Oliveira vs Marquez, plus two factory Aprilias intent on beating each other, set up a stunning grandstand finish in the fight to join Bagnaia and Martin’s date with Prosecco. Marquez had even enjoyed a two for one as the Australian and Portuguese rider went head to head at Turn 1, and once the number 93 was through, there was no looking back. The eight-time World Champion took the spoils.
Heartbreak for Oliveira later in the lap saw him overcook it and drop back in that fight, with Miller suffering no such bad luck and taking a hard fought fourth. Fifth went to Viñales as he won the factory Aprilia war, with Aleix Espargaro sixth and Oliveira crossing the line seventh. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) pipped Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) to P8, with that leaving Quartararo just outside the points in the first Sprint. El Diablo made progress after the early drama with Mir, taking P10 and just off the number 73 ahead.
Filip Salač is the first Czech rider ever to take pole in Moto2™, with the QJMotor Gresini Moto2™ rider putting in a stunner to just get the better of Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) at the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal. Top in testing and hot favourite heading in, Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completes the front row.
Celestino Vietti (Fantic Racing) heads up Row 2 but has a Double Long Lap pending from Valencia 2022, which could hamper his race. The likes of Tony Arbolino and Elf Marc VDS Racing teammate Sam Lowes will want to move forward from P8 and P9, as will Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) from P12 and the likes of Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Alonso Lopez(CAG Speed Up), right behind the Brit.
Looking back at 2022, Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) is very much an expected contender for the crown this year. And it’s off to a good start, with the Japanese rider smashing the old lap record for the first pole position of 2023.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s new rookie on the block, Jose Antonio Rueda, starts second as his hype carry over into the weekend. On his third GP start, qualifying nearly 20 places higher than his previous best speaks well of his season ahead… and that’s as he arrives as the first rider to win both the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies and JuniorGP™ crowns in the same year.
Joel Kelso (CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP) takes third and, like for Rueda, it’s his first front row in Grand Prix racing, with a previous best of fifth. Friday’s fastest, Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3), just missed out on the front row.
One of the expected contenders facing the biggest fight back is Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) as he starts in P16.