Bastianini made headlines throughout the 2022 season as he guided his satellite Gresini Ducati to four victories and a series of podium finishes, earning a place in the factory team for the following season.
Much was expected from the Italian as he joined the same team as reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia last year, but an injury in the sprint race in the opener in Portugal sidelined from the first quarter of the campaign.
Bastianini was just finding his feet at the works team when he suffered another fracture in the Catalan GP and it wasn’t until the Indonesia weekend in October that he could make a proper comeback.
There was even talks of Pramac rider Jorge Martin taking his place in 2024 in the wake of his title challenge, but Bastianini managed to retain his seat following a stellar victory in Malaysia as Martin missed out on an automatic promotion by losing the title to Bagnaia.
Returning to the venue of his maiden win on a factory Ducati in the first pre-season test of 2024, Bastianini ended up a strong third on the timesheets behind Bagnaia and Martin, and also showed comparable pace to the duo on long runs.
It is this speed that has delighted the top brass at Ducati, with Tardozzi claiming he is now able to demonstrate the same version of himself that secured him a seat in the factory team in the first place.
“Enea is absolutely over the moon because after a really bad year he had last year, struggling with confidence with the bike, all the injuries, the accident in the first race in Portimao, it was something really heavy to have on his shoulders,” Tardozzi told motogp.com.
“He had a good race in Malaysia but he was struggling until the end in Valencia. But now he is another rider, he’s the Enea Bastianini that we saw in 2022 and we are really confident that he will be one of the contenders.”
Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Bagnaia feels it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the Sepang test, as a variety of variables make it difficult to get a complete picture of the pecking order.
However, he is certain that Bastianini will be fighting at the front this season, praising him for the consistency he showed in the sweltering Malaysian heat.
“It’s very difficult to predict during a test because many riders are testing many things,” he said.
“I did a good long run but I was having a problem during the long runs and I was a bit slower than…