Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Pedro Acosta claimed the opening day honours in Moto2 as 2023’s World Championship action commenced at Portimao.
Friday was almost in the hands of Britain’s Jake Dixon as the Inde GasGas Aspar rider set the pace in morning practice before sitting second in the combined times by the close of play. Just 0.098s split the number 96 from Acosta’s 1’42.391 benchmark after two 40-minute sessions, with Gresini’s Filip Salac sliding into third late in the afternoon.
Dixon had led the times as first practice fired up, setting a 1’43.046 to hold off the advances of Acosta by a mere 0.055s. Yamaha VR46 Master Camp’s Manuel Gonzalez was the next in line on Friday morning, ahead of the Marc VDS pairing of Tony Arbolino and Sam Lowes.
A turn five crash midway through the opening session dented the Kent rider’s early progress. Fermin Aldeguer displacing Lowes for fifth on the CAG SpeedUp with Fantic’s Celestino Vietti and the second SpeedUP of Alonso Lopez heading Salac and Gresini teammate Jeremy Alcoba in the top ten positions.
American Racing’s Rory Skinner kicked off his full-time Moto2 career from 20th in the times with a 1’44.643 as a rain shower struck with 15 minutes to go, silencing the track.
Acosta was up to speed and intent on success as second practice fired up. The former Moto3 Champion setting a 1’42.681 target with his fifth lap as Arbolino kicked off the afternoon with a turn five crash in the opening five minutes.
Lowes was up to second and just 0.081s adrift of the leading Spaniard with his seventh attempt. Dixon circulating eighth as the afternoon developed with Skinner refining his top 20 pace before the Aspar rider swept through to take the lead with a 1’42.489 and ten minutes to go.
Idemitsu Honda saw its sole rider for this weekend, Somkiat Chantra, crash out at turn 14 after Ai Ogura was forced to sit out of the opening races due to a left wrist injury sustained at Rocco’s Ranch at the start of the month. Aron Canet losing his Pons at the same corner as the session counted down.
Acosta was back in charge with five to go as he gained a tenth of a second on the Brit’s earlier offering. Arbolino bettering his own teammate for third seconds later with Gonzalez rounding out the top five.
Salac split the front runners for third as the penultimate minute played out. Lopez sliding out of a red hot lap at the familiar turn five as Vietti improved to sixth with his final effort. Canet and Aldeguer rounded out the top ten on the opening day of 2023 with Pertamina SAG’s Bo Bendsneyder, Italtrans’ Joe Roberts, Fieten Olie’s Barry Baltus and Chantra completing the provisional promotion places ahead of Saturday morning’s final practice.