Motorcycle Racing

What we learned from the final MotoGP pre-season test of 2023

Bagnaia goes into the defence of his MotoGP crown on top form

As the flurry of social media posts from the paddock at 5:30pm on Sunday correctly pointed out, it’s now time to go racing in MotoGP in 2023.

Two final days of testing at the Algarve International Circuit brought this year’s pre-season phase to a close, with Ducati maintaining an ominous 100% hit rate across all test days ahead of the new campaign. Reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia led the field with a lap record effort on the second day of the Portugal test, and there was no hiding who the pack believes is the biggest threat in 2023.

There were standout – for completely different reasons – headlines from the Japanese powerhouses, while the next phase of MotoGP’s aerodynamics war was kickstarted.

So, with just two weeks to go until the 2023 season starts, here’s what we learned from the Portugal test.

1. “Changed man” Bagnaia and Ducati threaten 2023 stranglehold

Bagnaia goes into the defence of his MotoGP crown on top form

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“I think he’s looking stronger this year than in last year, even in the run he had in the back-end of the season in 2021, the run he had coming back into last season. I think this year he seems more of a changed man, a confident man, and he’s riding pretty impressive.”

That was Jack Miller’s assessment of former team-mate and reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia following Sunday’s final day of running at the Portugal test.

Bagnaia topped both days at the Algarve track on a GP23 he feels is now “100%” ready for the opening round of the season. But it was his test-topping time on Sunday that really hammered home his and Ducati’s apparent advantage. The Italian dipped underneath the existing lap record with a 1m37.968s that led Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo to comment, with a hint of despair, “f****** hell” at the end of his media debrief when he looked at the times.

Ducati’s GP23 isn’t a radical departure from the bike Bagnaia won the championship on last year, but has been refined to deliver him better handling. While his time attack effort (which he wasn’t surprised at) was exceptional, the impressiveness of the 2023 Ducati package was not confined to the glory run.

With the impending sprint race revolution, most of the field opted to simulate that on the final day in Portugal. While MotoGP’s analysis sheets don’t account for tyre age on its individual rider runs analysis, Bagnaia said afterwards that on his second…

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