Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro set the fastest ever lap – on two wheels – at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on Day 1, testing on board his premier class machine, the Spaniard’s impressive 1:40.170 under Jonathan Rea’s fastest WorldSBK Superpole record, which was a 1:40.372 set in 2019.
Aleix Espargaro wasted no time in getting down to very respectable lap times on the opening day as he and teammate Bradley Smith were the only current full-time MotoGP riders lapping on their premier class machines – due to concession rules allowing Aprilia to do so – with Smith second quickest but still a second down.
For the rest of the current MotoGP riders present, it was street machinery and track familiarisation, with factory test riders taking on the task of starting to dial in each machine ready for November. The general feeling from most? A tough track, but a great circuit.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) said the circuit was “sweet” but “scary”, and teammate Maverick Viñales particularly liked the fast, flowing final corner. Second in the Championship Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) said the wheelies will be a challenge on MotoGP bikes. Many said point blank that they expect Yamaha to start the race weekend as favourites, with the track seemingly suiting the YZR-M1’s characteristics….
“Riding here is very interesting, because the track is beautiful and technically quite difficult. It‘s a very strange track because of the many elevation changes. But it‘s beautiful and the asphalt is good, it has good grip. You can enjoy it a lot when you‘re riding here. It looked more difficult on television, a bit more tricky, but in real life it‘s good. There are three or four points that are a bit scary, because you have big jumps. It will be difficult to keep a MotoGP bike in contact with the ground there, but in general it‘s a very sweet track to ride, so I like it. It was also a good day for a test here, because we had good conditions, which is important when you‘re getting familiar with a new track.”
“The track is different from what we are used to, because of the changes in elevation, and most of the corners have blind entries. But overall I felt really good. It‘s the kind of track that I like, because you need a lot of flow and corner speed. I already had a good feeling with my standard street bike and I think it will be even better when I‘ll ride with the MotoGP bike, I’ll be even faster. The track looks amazing and it‘s a lot of fun to ride. The biggest challenge here are wheelies. We will have to work hard on this because there‘s a lot of changes in elevation and we need front contact, so we will have to change the bike a bit, for sure. The last corner here is amazing, I love it. I expected the track to be longer, it‘s actually quite short, but I like it.”
Jorge Lorenzo – Test Rider
“Of course it’s not easy to start riding a MotoGP bike again after a nine-month break. Tomorrow we are going to play with the settings some more to see if we can improve and make a big step. The track is wonderful. It’s unique, compared to other tracks it has a lot of elevation changes, and that’s a lot of fun to ride. Hopefully tomorrow I will have a good feeling, and we can get more work done.”
On the other hand, the Ducati riders seemed a little more reserved about tackling the venue on their MotoGP machinery. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) all attacked the layout on superbikes as they focused on familiarisation, with test rider Michele Pirro putting in the laps on the GP20 to get the Borgo Panigale factory some data for the Portuguese Grand Prix. Pirro’s fastest time on Wednesday was a 1:41.654.
Back at the now-anointed “favourites” Yamaha, Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli was also on track alongside the aforementioned Viñales and Rossi, meaning Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was the only Yamaha absentee on Wednesday as the Championship leader focuses on his upcoming home GP.
Viñales’ R1 superbike was only one of three street machines fitted with transponders, with his 1:43.699 enough to see him end the day over a second quicker than the other two whose laptimes we know: Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), respectively. Viñales completed 41 laps in the afternoon session.
Also on Yamaha business was test rider Jorge Lorenzo, who enjoyed his first time on a MotoGP bike for the first time since February’s Sepang Test. The five-time World Champion set a best time of a 1:44.910 as he got reacquainted with the Yamaha and ‘The Spartan’ will be back on track on Thursday to continue his and Yamaha’s work on tyres, the gearbox and general base settings for the Grand Prix at the venue,
Stefan Bradl was joined by Alex Marquez in Portugal for the first MotoGP test at the Portimao circuit, both riders familiarising themselves with the new track.
“It was a good day, good weather at a nice track with a good layout and new tarmac – it was nice to try it. The Honda RC213V-S was really nice to ride, everything was nice! The layout is quite difficult, but I think the rider will be able to make a lot of difference here. I’m looking forward to returning here on the MotoGP bike at the end of the year, I think it will be an interesting race. But right now, my attention is back fully on Le Mans.”
“It was a great day today with the weather, pretty much perfect conditions. We followed our test plan after the track condition improved. This was an advantage to having a lot of riders there, the circuit was cleaned quite fast. The circuit is a great challenge, but you can really enjoy it with a MotoGP bike, the elevation changes are great. We were fast and completed our test plan for today and have a few runs tomorrow before heading to Le Mans.”
KTM’s Dani Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Pirro, Suzuki’s Sylvain Guintoli and Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori will be lapping Portimao on Thursday as the respective factory test riders continue to gather useful data, with everyone else heading to Le Mans for the French GP.
Quartararo, Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) were the only full-time riders not in attendance at the Algarve layout, but we’ll see them all in action this weekend at Le Mans!
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