Bezzecchi tops first day of 2023 pre-season

For the first time since November, the entire MotoGP grid has assembled for a three-day test at the Sepang International Circuit as testing got underway, which followed a shakedown test for test riders and rookies earlier in the week.

There will be five days of testing ahead of the start of the 2023 season on 26 March, with a two-day outing in Portugal – host of the opening round – exactly a month from now.

Ducati led the way all day at Sepang, with sophomore rider Bezzecchi guiding his VR46 Desmosedici – decked out in its special winter testing livery – to the best time of the session with a 1m58.470s on lap 54 of 55 of his programme.

All riders had been out on track come the end of the opening hour of running, which began at 10am local time, with reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia going top on his factory Ducati with a 2m00.177s lap.

At the end of hour two, it was Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin who had taken over on his Ducati with a 1m58.737s.

This would stand as the benchmark for much of the day, as the riders worked through their test programmes.

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Martin would break the silence of the lunchtime lull with around two hours and 30 minutes remaining, but it would be another hour before his session-topping time was challenged.

Enea Bastianini, who moves from Gresini Racing to the factory Ducati squad alongside Bagnaia for 2023, went fastest of all with a 1m58.732s.

But it would not be enough to keep him top of the pile come the chequered flag, as Bezzecchi – who suffered a small tumble during the day – on his 2022-spec Ducati edged clear with a 1m58.470s with around 10 minutes of the session remaining.

VR46, as well as Gresini Racing, will race year-old bikes in 2023, with the factory Ducati squad and Pramac getting the full works-spec machines.

Aprilia’s Vinales did some back-to-back comparisons between his 2022 bike and his new one, which has been subtly updated.

He ended the day 0.130s behind Bezzecchi, stating to the media halfway through the day that he was pleased with the improved agility of his RS-GP.

Bastianini was third ahead of Martin, with Bagnaia rounding out the top five from the sister Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro – who made similar comments to Vinales, but admits he expected a little more grunt from the new engine than what was delivered.

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Johann Zarco was seventh on the second Pramac Ducati ahead of Gresini duo Fabio Di Giannantonio – starting his second season in MotoGP – and Alex Marquez.

The Yamaha charge was led by Franco Morbidelli, who bested teammate Fabio Quartararo in 11th by 0.082s as the sole M1’s on the 2023 grid put the new bike through its paces.

Marc Marquez was 12th on the first of the Hondas, 0.954s off the pace, as he got to work on the four versions of the RC213V he has at his disposal for the test.

He headed VR46’s Luca Marini and the RNF Aprilia duo of Miguel Oliveira – who crashed on Friday – and Raul Fernandez, with Jack Miller the leading KTM in 16th from Honda’s Joan Mir.

Mir headed former Suzuki teammate Alex Rins, now also a Honda rider but at the satellite LCR squad, with Tech 3 GasGas rookie Augusto Fernandez 19th from teammate Pol Espargaro – both of whom suffered falls during the session.

The field was completed by LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami, Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Honda tester Stefan Bradl.

Testing continues on Saturday from 10am local time.

Pos. Rider Bike  Time   Gap  Laps
Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 1’58.470   55
Maverick Vinales Aprilia 1’58.600 0.130 67
Enea Bastianini Ducati 1’58.732 0.262 54
Jorge Martin Ducati 1’58.737 0.267 67
Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 1’58.857 0.387 58
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 1’58.941 0.471 49
Johann Zarco Ducati 1’58.966 0.496 56
Fabio Di Giannantonio Ducati 1’59.021 0.551 47
Alex Marquez Ducati 1’59.036 0.566 53
10  Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 1’59.118 0.648 59
11  Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 1’59.422 0.952 58
12  Marc Marquez Honda 1’59.424 0.954 58
13  Luca Marini Ducati 1’59.469 0.999 50
14  Miguel Oliveira Aprilia 1’59.730 1.260 50
15  Raul Fernandez Aprilia 1’59.813 1.343 54
16  Jack Miller KTM 1’59.826 1.356 53
17  Joan Mir Honda 1’59.832 1.362 53
18  Alex Rins Honda 1’59.963 1.493 66
19  Augusto Fernandez GASGAS 2’00.027 1.557 58
20  Pol Espargaro GASGAS 2’00.078 1.608 58
21  Brad Binder KTM 2’00.085 1.615 60
22  Takaaki Nakagami Honda 2’01.204 2.734 49
23  Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha 2’01.239 2.769 58
24  Stefan Bradl Honda 2’03.501 5.031 3
25  Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 3

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