The reigning champion took the first honours of 2023 in an epic last-lap battle with Martin, as Marquez took an important top 3
MotoGP™ history’s first-ever Tissot Sprint did not fail to deliver at the Grande Prémio TISSOT de Portugal!
The jaw-dropping first race of 2023 had fans glued to their screens as an epic last-lap battle saw Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) go down in the history books as the first winner of a Tissot Sprint, after getting the better of Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) in an epic last lap battle. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) also continued to weave his name throughout MotoGP™ history bagging himself a podium in the landmark event.
There was anticipation in the air as MotoGP™ history was about to be made ahead of what was not only the first-ever Tissot Sprint, but also the very first race of the 2023 season. The riders and teams were about to venture into new territory with a whole host of questions yet to be answered.
Blink and you miss it!
The 2023 MotoGP™ season sprung into life as the lights went out and the adrenaline kicked in for the fastest motorcycle racers in the world. It was a fantastic start from ‘The Beast’ Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team), who flew from 6th on the grid into 2nd place as the grid barrelled into Turn 1. Marquez took the hole shot, whilst a determined Bagnaia came charging through on his teammate pushing him wide at Turn 3, and opening the door for Martin to take advantage and slot himself into P3.
As they came across the line for the first time Marquez was swallowed up by the following Ducatis of Bagnaia and Martin, who used their Ducati power to blast past the eight-time World Champion, demoting the Spaniard to 3rd spot in one fell swoop.
It was a disastrous start to 2023 for ‘The Beast’ and his factory Ducati career as early lap drama for the Italian saw his race end in the Turn 5 gravel trap. Bastianini went down after getting caught out on the outside of Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) as the number 10 lost the front mid-corner.
Nine laps to go and it was the determined Jorge Martin who took the lead down into Turn 1, ‘The Martinator’ edging away from Pecco by almost half a second in just one lap.
Miller on the move
Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) were carving their way through the pack pushing Marquez back to P5. Determined as ever, the home hero Oliveira gave the Portuguese fans something the shout about, forcing his way through an extremely narrow gap to push his way past the eight-time World Champion.
With Miller and Oliveira having made their way up into 3rd and 4th respectively, their sights turned to the two Ducatis leading the race. It wasn’t long before Miller had a look at his former teammate Bagnaia, slotting up the inside at Turn 5, and putting his Red Bull KTM in 2nd place with seven laps of the Tissot Sprint to go.
One lap later and Miller fancied his chances at victory, firing his KTM up the inside of Jorge Martin to take the lead. The Spaniard wasn’t going to go down quietly, and after sitting behind the KTM for a little bit ‘The Martinator’ used the power of his Ducati to put himself back in front of the Aussie.
Quartararo battered down the order
Whilst the battle raged on at the front, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) had found himself stuck in battles he didn’t want to be fighting. Struggling his way through the opening stages of the race, the Yamaha man had been pushed back to 14th spot and well out of contention to fight at the front.
Using his indomitable champions’ spirit, the Frenchman managed to muscle his way back up to P10 with 6 laps to go. Despite running at a pace faster than the leaders, Quartararo couldn’t manage any higher than 10th place.
The story sounds all too familiar in the Quartararo camp, as he faces the mammoth task of bringing home solid points in Sunday’s race starting from 11th on the grid once again.
Bagnaia bounces back
After sitting pretty in 3rd spot for a few laps and watching the action unfold, Bagnaia decided it was crunch time with 3 laps to go. The Italian proceeded in moving back in front of the 2nd placed Miller at Turn 1, chasing down a half-second gap to Jorge Martin who had begun to run away with the lead.
It was soon the last lap time and Bagnaia had made his way right up to the rear wheel of Jorge Martin’s Prima Pramac Racing Ducati, and a two-way battle for the first-ever Tissot Sprint victory was lining up perfectly on the final lap.
With Bagnaia shadowing the Spaniard’s every move and applying the pressure, Martin made the tiniest of mistakes at Turn 5 and was swiftly punished by the reigning Champion as he hooked up his factory Ducati and blasted past the Prima Pramac Racing man on the exit of the corner.
It was smooth sailing for Bagnaia for the rest of the lap as he brought home his first victory of 2023.
The battle for 3rd
The fight for the final spot in the top 3 started heating up nicely with drama at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap. Oliveira shot his Aprilia up the inside of Jack Miller, snatching 3rd away from the Aussie for a brief second but pushing them both wide and opening the door for Marc Marquez to take two in one, putting himself in 3rd.
Oliveira got back in front on the last lap but a mistake in the closing stages of the lap meant the home man dropped down to 7th, and it was Marquez who snatched a podium ahead of Miller and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing).
After an incredible opening to the MotoGP™ season, we have a chance to catch our breaths before it all starts again on Sunday. If Saturday is anything to go by, you do not want to miss any of the action from the race at 14:00 local time (GMT)
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1:38.577
2. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.149
3. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.224
4. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.226
5. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) +0.285
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 0.228
7. Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) + 0.292
8. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.418
9. Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.440
10. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.445