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Ducati: Bastianini has rediscovered 2022 form after stellar Sepang MotoGP pace

Enea Bastianini has rediscovered his mojo and will be a serious contender for the MotoGP title this year, according to Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi.

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bastianini made headlines throughout the 2022 season as he guided his satellite Gresini Ducati to four victories and a series of podium finishes, earning a place in the factory team for the following season.

Much was expected from the Italian as he joined the same team as reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia last year, but an injury in the sprint race in the opener in Portugal sidelined from the first quarter of the campaign.

Bastianini was just finding his feet at the works team when he suffered another fracture in the Catalan GP and it wasn’t until the Indonesia weekend in October that he could make a proper comeback.

There was even talks of Pramac rider Jorge Martin taking his place in 2024 in the wake of his title challenge, but Bastianini managed to retain his seat following a stellar victory in Malaysia as Martin missed out on an automatic promotion by losing the title to Bagnaia.

Returning to the venue of his maiden win on a factory Ducati in the first pre-season test of 2024, Bastianini ended up a strong third on the timesheets behind Bagnaia and Martin, and also showed comparable pace to the duo on long runs.

It is this speed that has delighted the top brass at Ducati, with Tardozzi claiming he is now able to demonstrate the same version of himself that secured him a seat in the factory team in the first place.

“Enea is absolutely over the moon because after a really bad year he had last year, struggling with confidence with the bike, all the injuries, the accident in the first race in Portimao, it was something really heavy to have on his shoulders,” Tardozzi told motogp.com.

“He had a good race in Malaysia but he was struggling until the end in Valencia. But now he is another rider, he’s the Enea Bastianini that we saw in 2022 and we are really confident that he will be one of the contenders.”

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bagnaia feels it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the Sepang test, as a variety of variables make it difficult to get a complete picture of the pecking order.

However, he is certain that Bastianini will be fighting at the front this season, praising him for the consistency he showed in the sweltering Malaysian heat.

“It's very difficult to predict during a test because many riders are testing many things,” he said.

“I did a good long run but I was having a problem during the long runs and I was a bit slower than normal. So you can say, 'Long-run Pecco wasn't fast'.

“So it's very difficult to know, it depends on tyres, it depends on many things, but I think one rider that will be competitive back [again] will be Enea because I think he worked well and he was quite constant.

“Martin for sure. But also, [Marc] Marquez did a good test, improving every day. Alex [Marquez] was also competitive here and he demonstrated.

“So this test is very competitive. But also KTM and Aprilia. Maybe the start of the season [will be] more open compared to other years."

Bastianini felt more in tune with the 2024-spec Ducati compared to the GP23 he rode last year, with the confidence translating into improved speed in both short and long runs.

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The 26-year-old declared he was satisfied with the performance at Sepang and is hoping to hone the bike further in the final pre-season test in Qatar.

“I've improved compared to last year,” he said. “Also, it was important for me to be fast on the time laps. We have made it into the 1m56s [bracket], and if you told me before here, [I would have said] it was impossible. But we have made this and it is good.

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“We are ready to race but also we have to try some other solutions in Qatar and it's important to change the track to see how is the reaction of the bike.

“For the moment the new aero is [working well] but we have to check that. Also the results and the other solutions of the bike. But the package is good.”

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