In years gone by, it would be unthinkable to challenge week in, week out on a one-year-old motorcycle. But recent years, and Enea Bastianini in particular, have proven it is more than possible to be competitive without having the very latest spec machinery.
That will fill Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi, plus Gresini Racing’s Alex Marquez and Fabio Di Giannantonio with plenty of confidence as the quartet head into seasons that look set to shape their future at the top of the sport.
After claiming top spot at both the Valencia and Sepang Tests, all eyes were on Luca Marini as the potential wildcard in 2023. The Italian backed that up with fourth in Portimao and now heads to the opening round of the season with the expectation that he’ll be competing for a debut premier class podium.
On paper, it might look like Marini has stayed still in 2023 by once again riding the 2022 Ducati, but crucially he’s riding Pecco Bagnaia’s title-winning machine rather than the same one he battled with throughout last year. The key difference: Bagnaia’s smoother, easier, far superior 2022 hybrid engine.
Marini has instantly glued with it and has showcased pace and form over one lap and race distance. After a handful of top five places without yet having enjoyed rostrum success, if Marini hasn’t graced the podium a couple of times at the bare minimum before the summer break then it will go down as a failure.
ROOKIE NO MORE
There was no contest last year over which of the premier class rookies impressed the most. Marco Bezzecchi was electric on his day and deservedly joined an elite club of MotoGP™ riders to bag a podium in their rookie campaigns.
But now expectations and pressures have been ramped up as the Mooney VR46 and the majority of paddock look towards the flamboyant Italian as being a regular front-runner. Much like his teammate, Bezzecchi will be looking to grace the podium on a frequent basis and will, without doubt, be secretly aiming to become a premier class race winner at one point throughout the year.
BACK TO HIS BEST?
Factory Ducati team boss Davide Tardozzi has been quick to remind everyone on more than one occasion that Alex Marquez is a two-time World Champion. Is he about to remind everyone of that fact in 2023? You would have to say yes.
His switch across from Honda to Ducati has been nothing short of seamless as the Spaniard instantly gelled with the GP22 in Valencia. His pace there after only one day was much improved compared to what he managed with the RC213V the day before and that continued into this year by setting his fastest ever laps of Sepang and Portimao.
It’s been two and a half years since he last stood on a MotoGP™ podium but it would be a huge surprise if that fruitless run was to continue much longer. Two rostrums to his name so far, expect that to at least double throughout the course of the season.
A REFORMED MAN
Welcoming a World Championship-winning crew chief into your corner was always going to help but it appears the introduction of Frankie Carchedi to Fabio Di Giannantonio’s corner has revitalized the Italian. Fast in Valencia, fast in Sepang and fast in Portimao before a big crash ruled him out of any further riding.
But it’s doubtful that crash will have knocked his confidence too much. He knows he has to improve on his 2022 form if he wants to stay in MotoGP™ beyond this season but pre-season pace points towards him challenging much closer to the front.