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MotoGP Portimao: First blood to Marquez in P1 as Mir chases

Alex Marquez had the honour of topping the first timed session of the 2023 MotoGP World Championship season with an eye-catching turn in Friday’s opening free practice for the Portuguese MotoGP at Portimao.

Preparing for his first event with Gresini Ducati - having made the switch from LCR Honda over the winter - the younger of the Marquez brothers rose to the summit via a string of rapid laps in the closing minutes.

Stopping the clock with a 1’38.782secs lap, Marquez was just 0.8s adrift of Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia’s lap record-breaking effort from testing at the same Algarve venue earlier this month despite sketchy weather conditions initially.


Indeed, proceedings for the 45mins session began slowly amid light rain before improving conditions brought the entire field out in the final ten minutes looking to steal a march on proceedings.

With the lap times set on Friday now being used to determine which ten riders will progress directly into Q2 from P1 and P2, there is now greater emphasis on securing a quick time out of the box, particularly in Portimao where rain is in the air.

For the time being, however, Marquez sits pretty at the top of the order, just 0.045secs clear of new Repsol Honda signing Joan Mir, the 2020 MotoGP World Champion settling into his RC213V around a circuit where each of his two career front row starts have occurred.

As expected, however, Ducati appeared strong across its eight bikes with Mooney VR46 duo Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi maintaining their strong form from pre-season testing to end the session third and fourth, while the Pramac Ducatis of Johann Zarco and initial pace setter Jorge Martin were fifth and seventh, sandwiching top Aprilia man, Maverick Vinales.

Despite relying on a used rear tyre for his time attacks, Fabio Quartararo was an encouraging eighth best for Yamaha, just ahead of defending champion Bagnaia, while Repsol’s Marc Marquez held down a provisional Q2 spot in tenth position.

Among those who will need to improve this afternoon if they want a direct pass to Q2, Aleix Espargaro just missed the provisional cut in 11th, while Jack Miller - despite ending the session as the best of the KTM riders in 12th - also missed out.

Enea Bastianini - now with the factory Ducati team having been replaced at Gresini by session pace-setter Alex Marquez - also has some homework to do between sessions after taking 15th, while home favourite Miguel Oliveira could only manage 16th on the RNF Aprilia.

Despite the indifferent conditions, there were only two fallers; Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli came down just seconds into the session at Turn 8 with a slow but violent high-side that fortunately left him unhurt and able to continue, while Gresini’s Fabio di Giannantonio - who suffered concussion in a crash at the Portimao test - was also down at Turn 5.

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