Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi throws off the rookie title in 2023 as he heads into his second season in MotoGP and the most demanding one to date.
42 races, thanks to the addition of Saturday’s new sprint format, an ever-increasing calendar spanning 21 locations across 17 countries and one of the closest grids in history, Bezzecchi’s sophomore season looks a challenging prospect before the inaugural weekend even arrives.
One thing running in the young Italian’s favour is his bike of choice. The Ducati GP22 is the current title-winning machine, and while the Bologna factory is making strides with its 2023 upgrade, as Enea Bastianini proved last season, kicking off the year on the reigning hero can reap rewards.
“Well, I think the situation is similar but not the same,” Bezzecchi admitted on the comparison. “At the end of last year, when Ducati create the new bike, there were many more problems compare, I think this year. This year the new bike looks like is already very, very competitive.
“Of course, our bike is fantastic, I really like it, and I will try to fight for race victories - is my only target at the end, try to win my first race.
“Then from that moment I will see but to make a comparison in our world, I think is very difficult. But anyway, I will try to fight.”
With a year of experience in the top flight under his belt, the 24-year-old has been adapting his preparation, both for the added demands of 2023 and the weaknesses exposed last season - most notably the opening laps of Sunday’s race.
“Is something that is difficult to train [for], is difficult to replicate the MotoGP unfortunately,” he explained. “So of course I did some training but we will see when we will have our first race because with the MotoGP is everything different. But anyway, I think also this was depending a lot from the confidence on the bike.
“I had a lot of confidence last year, but the experience was not enough. So this creates me this weak point. I hope that this year I can improve race by race and try to be more aggressive in the beginning.
“Even if the number of laps will be similar to another normal weekend, anyway, the intensity of a sprint race is a lot more compared to normal FP4,” Bezzecchi said on 2023’s new sprint race addition. “So we had to change the preparation, me and Carlo - our physical trainer - we made I think a very good job. I think we will need the first maybe two or three weekends just to understand how to manage my body to be competitive in every session, but I think we made a good job during this winter so I can’t wait, really to see if everything went well.
“For the sprint race, honestly, I don’t know. I’m able to use the tyre very good from the beginning and I’m quite strong but without making any kind of this race…? Normally in MotoGP you have always to keep your tyres. Don’t be too much aggressive, front pressure, all this kind of stuff. So we are not really, really used to, not push because we push a lot, but to really go 100 per cent from the first moment. So I don’t know what to expect from the sprint race but I think I can be competitive in both.
“Fortunately, I [already] improved a lot from the beginning of last year to now,” he continued. “Watching the data in Malaysia was interesting. I wanted to watch again my first day on the bike, my second day to see what I changed during the test last year and honestly compared to this year is very different.
“With MotoGP right now is very important in the braking, to brake late, to be fast inside the corner, to bring a lot of corner entry speed. So fortunately I improve on these areas of the riding and also my way to manage the tyre is improved. I think that this was a good step during last year because as soon as I understood how to manage better the tyre I start to be also more competitive in races. More fast in the end of the race compared to the beginning. Still, I have of course a lot of stuff to improve because you never stopped to grow but I can’t complain for the moment.”
2023 sees more changes for the Mooney VR46 squad. While the team will no longer run its support class programme - thanks to the new partnership with Fantic - owner Valentino Rossi has seemed, at least to the outside world, to be less present and hands on in the lives of his academy riders due to his growing four-wheel commitments. Bezzecchi, however, disagrees.
“At the end, Vale is always with us anyway,” he confirmed. “So when we go to train, if he’s not there he follow us anyway, even if he’s in another part of the world, but most of the time when he’s at home, he’s training with us. So even if you don’t see him, he’s with us.
“We knew that this moment have to arrive. We knew it and we were, not prepared, because you never know what to expect but at the end now we have to look to try to be the best rider that we can. We have him fortunately on our back, just to try to support us anyway but trust me, he’s really, really present with us. I think we are very lucky. Of course it’s different. I miss him a lot in the paddock, but it’s like this. He have now a career in cars and is good for him. I’m happy for him. So it’s okay.
“Unfortunately yes,” Bezzecchi responded when asked if the nine-time world champion is still as fast as ever.
“Last time in Misano, he kicked my ass but next time, I will beat him!”