Yamaha 'nightmare', Honda decisions - five key questions at MotoGP Portimao test

What to watch out for in this weekend’s final 2023 MotoGP pre-season test at Portimao.
Joan Mir, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February
Joan Mir, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February

1. Will Ducati repeat its Sepang domination?

Whether you looked at one-off lap times or average pace, Ducati riders dominated the opening test of the year at Sepang in February.

Seven of the fastest nine riders were on Desmosedicis, with only Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales (third) and Aleix Espargaro (sixth) mixing up the pack.

“If you looked at the [average] pace, me, Martin, Pecco, Bez and Enea were the fastest,” confirmed VR46’s Luca Marini, who also set the quickest outright lap time on last year’s GP22.

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2. How many Hondas will Marc Marquez have?

While Ducati and Aprilia appeared to have made light modifications to their well-rounded machines, Marc Marquez whittled four different Hondas down to one preferred bike during a relentless run of data gathering that included riding without wings.

But the eight-time world champion warned even the preferred bike, which he took to tenth place (just behind brother Alex on a year-old Gresini Ducati) was not good enough to win the title and Honda needs to deliver more for Portimao.

3. Can Yamaha solve its qualifying ‘nightmare’?

After a scare at Valencia, Yamaha riders Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli were pleased with their 2023 engine power and top speed in Malaysia, selecting a final version for the racing season.

But while Quartararo’s pace was competitive the bike ‘didn’t work’ in qualifying spec, with low fuel and new tyres, leaving the Frenchman 17th and Morbidelli 20th.

“With old tyres I'm feeling super happy,” said 2021 world champion Quartararo. “Then we put a new tyre, and it's a nightmare.”

Solving the qualifying issue, as well as a final decision on aero and chassis parts, will be among Yamaha’s priorities in Portimao.

4. Home star Oliveira a dark horse?

Plenty of home attention will be on Miguel Oliveira, gearing up for his debut season at RNF Aprilia.

The Portuguese impressed with fourth on his RS-GP debut at Valencia in November, but was only 15th fastest at Sepang.

However, the methodical multi-time MotoGP race winner was closer to the top ten for average pace and, having taken a runaway victory at his home track in 2020, could surprise this weekend.

5. Can KTM catch-up?

KTM/GASGAS struggled the most on paper at Sepang with Pol Espargaro best of the RC16s in 13th place followed by Brad Binder (14th), Jack Miller (18th) and rookie Augusto Fernandez (22nd).

But having had several weeks to pour over the data from the range of new parts on offer, will the Austrian factory put the right pieces together and bounce back at Portimao?

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