Francesco Bagnaia starts the season as the favourite, Fabio Quartararo as the underdog

Can the Italian Francesco Bagnaia, known as “Pecco”, do it? Since the creation of MotoGP in 2002, replacing the old 500 cc class3, only two drivers have managed to retain their title of world champion in the premier category of speed: his compatriot Valentino Rossi and the Spaniard Marc Marquez. At the dawn of the Portuguese Grand Prix, the first of the twenty-one meetings on the 2023 calendar, Sunday March 26 at 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Paris time), the outgoing is the big favorite.

On Saturday, Bagnaia struck from the start by winning the first “sprint” race in MotoGP history at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve circuit in Portimao. This is the great novelty of the season in the premier category of speed motorcycling: each of the twenty-one Grands Prix on the calendar is now preceded by a race lasting around twenty minutes, which represents around a third of the points to be won. assign to the world championship standings.

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The Turinese easily won ahead of Spaniards Jorge Martin (Ducati-Pramac) and Marc Marquez (Honda). Leader of the official Ducati team, he is the figurehead of a sacred armada: as in 2022, the manufacturer from Bologna has eight motorcycles on the starting grid (out of twenty-two competitors). Besides the two machines from the official team, there are two others at Pramac Racing, two at Gresini Racing and two at Sky Racing Team VR46.

Of these eight riders, only the first four benefit from the latest evolution of the Ducati; the others having to be satisfied with the 2022 model. The two versions should however be very close, because the Italian manufacturer, renowned for its ability to innovate by exploiting the intricacies of the regulations, has opted for a cautious strategy.

Difficult start to the season ahead for Quartararo

“Last year we wanted to try too many new things and we missed our start to the season”recognizes Davide Tardozzi, the manager of the transalpine team. “We will innovate less this year because our priority is to continue on the path set out in 2022”continues Gigi Dall’Igna, the general manager of the competition division of the Bologna group.

After a series of retirements in the spring, Ducati had dominated the second part of the championship by a large margin, which had allowed Francesco Bagnaia to make an improbable comeback. While he was 91 points behind Fabio Quartararo in June, Pecco won the title in Valencia (Spain), on November 6, 2022, during the last Grand Prix of the season.

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