If Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia needed a wake up call on the first day of his 2023 MotoGP World Championship title defence, then he certainly received it en route to the third fastest time in P2 at Portimao.
The Italian shook out as the best of the broad Ducati contingent in the crucial second Friday session, which is now used to determine which ten riders will pass through to Saturday’s Q2 qualifying session.
However, the reigning champion’s day was not without drama after pulling off a mighty Marquez-style save through the high-speed downhill final corner when the front began to wash out.
Dragging the GP23 back up with the help of the steep camber, Bagnaia was able to swallow the heart in his mouth and regroup for a 1’37.856 lap, enough to put him third overall as the fastest of the six Ducati riders making it through to Q2.
“Our first practice day for 2023 went well,” Bagnaia said. “With used tyres, we are quite competitive, and even in the time attack, we managed to set a good lap time.
“In the first attempt, I risked falling at the last corner, while with the second soft tyre, I managed to close only one lap before the red flag came out following Pol’s crash.
“In any case, we can be happy and ready to face the first Sprint Race of the season.”
Bagnaia was chased on the timesheets by Luca Marini in fourth, the VR46 Racing rider recovering impressively after setting his time in the dying moments of the session, just ten minutes after crashing at Turn 10.
They will be joined in Q2 directly by Jorge Martin (5th - Pramac), Johann Zarco (7th - Pramac), Marco Bezzecchi (9th - VR46) and Enea Bastianini (10th - Ducati Lenovo).
“It was difficult to concentrate this afternoon, but I managed,” said a relieved Bastianini. “The last two time attacks went well, although I was expecting more.
“I still have to figure out how to get the most from the new bike, but I’m learning its strengths. For now, I am satisfied with the progress made during the day, and we will try to make more tomorrow.”