Marini: ‘Bad luck, hardest day’, Bezzecchi can ‘keep pace with the fastest’

Luca Marini’s hopes of completing a clean sweep of 2023 MotoGP winter testing came undone on the very final day, in Portimao.
Luca Marini, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Luca Marini, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

Quickest at Valencia and Sepang, the VR46 rider had exchanged the top spot with Ducati’s reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia on the way to second place on Saturday.

But Marini’s hopes of turning the tables on his countryman were blighted by technical issues with his GP22 on Sunday leaving the young Italian well outside the top ten as the final hour began.

Released from the garage for a time attack with just 20 minutes to go, Marini put the earlier problems behind him and delivered his best lap of the test, snatching fourth place, 0.342s from Bagnaia.

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“Overall I'm satisfied with the pre-season: there's a good atmosphere within the team and we've worked hard. I had fun, I feel good and I enjoyed every lap on the bike,” Marini said.

“[But] today was probably the hardest day, I had some bad luck and too many technical problems. At the end I gave my all, went out for the last 20 minutes and set my best lap time.”

Marini also put together a competitive Sprint race simulation, where he was again just three-tenths a lap (on average) from Bagnaia.

“I feel good, I can fight for the top 6 in qualifying and in the Sprint with the soft [rear tyre],” Marini said. “For the [Sunday] race, I think I'll opt for the medium rear, the performance aren't very different, but in terms of long-distance it's [better].”

Marco Bezzecchi, Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Marco Bezzecchi, Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

Bezzecchi: 'I'm not at 100% yet'

Marini’s late charge demoted team-mate Marco Bezzecchi to fifth place by just 0.041s.

Last season’s Rookie of the Year, who set an almost identical Sprint race pace to Marini, feels he still has several tenths of a second available.

“A good test, I'm happy even if the afternoon wasn't easy at all. Putting everything together was more complicated than we expected. We made a step back and then it started to feel good,” said the Assen 2022 podium finisher.

“I'm not at 100% yet, but we did a great job and the Sprint race simulation isn't bad either. I can improve by 2-3 tenths on the single lap and keep pace with the fastest.”

Team manager Pablo Nieto added: “We are ready to face the race in the best possible way. Ducati and the whole team have done a lot and we are a very solid team with two very fast riders.

“We just have to discover the new format of the weekend, the last real unknown factor.”

The revised format sees FP4 disappear, qualifying move to Saturday morning and the new Sprint race in the afternoon.

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