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Bagnaia kicks off his MotoGP™ world championship in imperious style

Monday, 27 March 2023

Pecco Bagnaia got his title defence off to the perfect start in Portimao, while pole-sitter Marc Marquez went from hero to villain after taking out home hero Miguel Oliveira.

Ducati's Pecco Bagnaia kicked off his MotoGP™ world championship encore in imperious style, the Italian taking a maximum 37 points from the Portugal weekend after winning the inaugural Sprint Race on Saturday, then taking control of Sunday's 25-lap Grand Prix proper from second on the grid.

Sunday's race was defined by a lap three crash between Marc Marquez (Honda) and home hero Miguel Oliveira (Aprilia), with Marquez sending Oliveira skywards after misjudging his braking at Turn 3 and hitting Ducati's Jorge Martin.

Marquez and Oliveira were out on the spot, while Martin continued outside of the top 10 before a crash on lap 20. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) and Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) rounded out the podium, while in the Sprint, Bagnaia passed Martin with a lap to go to claim victory, Marquez finishing third.


Aussie Watch

Jack Miller finished his first weekend with KTM in fifth place in the world championship standings, the Australian finishing seventh in Sunday's Grand Prix after a fourth-place result in the Sprint 24 hours earlier.

The 28-year-old briefly ran in the podium places after the Marquez/Oliveira incident, but the power of the Ducatis behind him proved telling in the latter stages, Miller unable to repel the straight-line grunt of Johann Zarco and Alex Marquez, and falling behind KTM teammate Brad Binder with four laps remaining.

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While Bagnaia, Vinales and Bezzecchi were in a class of their own up front, Miller was part of a five-bike train from fourth-placed Zarco to Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) in eighth that was covered by less than half a second at the chequered flag after 41 minutes of racing.

In Moto3™, Joel Kelso left Portimao with a broken ankle after taking ninth in his first race with the CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP team, the Darwin teenager finishing 1.268secs behind race-winner Dani Holgado (KTM) after a career-best third in qualifying.

Soon after the chequered flag, Kelso dramatically clattered into the back of a slowing Holgado as he removed a tear-off from his helmet visor; the 19-year-old high-sided and was taken to the circuit medical centre. Kelso retained consciousness throughout, but was confirmed to have broken his ankle an hour after the race.

Kelso got the holeshot and led the opening lap, and fought in the front pack all the way through the 19-lap race, narrowly missing out on improving on his category-best eighth place at Phillip Island last year.

Surprise packet

Given Honda's dire pre-season pace, Marquez's Saturday pole was both stunning and standard, given the Spaniard's propensity for the dramatic. Just 14th after practice, Marquez fought his way through Q1 and then latched onto the back of Ducati's Enea Bastianini for his final lap in Q2, setting a new circuit record with a 1:37.226 that pipped Ducati's Pecco Bagnaia by 0.064secs. "It's not most polite way to do a lap time – but it's one of my strongest points," Marquez said.

Number to know

9: Places gained for Binder from his qualifying position of 15th in Sunday's race, more than any other rider on the grid.

Portuguese Motorcycle Grand Prix: top 10

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 41mins 25.401secs
2. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +0.687secs
3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) +2.726secs
4. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +8.060secs
5. Alex Marquez (Ducati) +8.125secs
6. Brad Binder (KTM) +8.247secs
7. Jack Miller (KTM) +8.381secs
8. Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) +8.543secs
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +9.294secs
10. Alex Rins (Honda) +11.591secs

Riders' championship standings (top 5)

1. Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) 37 points
2. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) 25 points
3. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) 16 points
4. Johann Zarco (Ducati) 15 points
5. Jack Miller (KTM) 15 points

What's next?

Round 2: Argentina (Termas de Rio Hondo), Apr 2