Marco Bezzecchi was marked out as a potential title contender coming into 2024, having finished third in the standings last year with three wins on his year-old Ducati.

But adapting to the 2023-spec Ducati that won the championship last year has so far proven difficult for the Italian, who qualified 15th at the Qatar Grand Prix and could only finish 14th in the race.

Bezzecchi’s struggles center on lacking feeling on the front end, an issue which thwarted factory counterpart Enea Bastianini when I stepped onto the GP23 last year.

Unable to charge into the corners as he would like and get the bike to turn, Bezzecchi found in Qatar that he was burning up his rear tire trying to get the rear of the GP23 to come round using the throttle.

“We had taken a step forward in the warm-up, and I was happy because I finally felt pretty good on the bike,” Bezzecchi said of his Qatar GP.

“But then, as soon as I started the race, my front end locked up a lot and I still can’t explain why.

“At that moment I began to lose sensations when braking and entering the corner, so I began to open the throttle earlier because I was missing something in terms of entry speed.

“That led me to run out of rear tire very soon. I tried to manage the situation, but with 11 laps to go I had already switched to [engine] map C, which is the one with the least power, and there was still half a race left.

“It has been a very difficult weekend for me. We found some interesting things, but we have also seen that it is very difficult to right a grand prix that starts in the wrong way.

“In Portimao, we hope to find a better base from Friday to do better on Saturday and Sunday.”

Marco Bezzecchi, VR46 Racing Team

Photo by: Media VR46

He added: “I don’t have feeling with the front tire when braking, the bike doesn’t turn and that’s why I lose speed on the approach [to the corners] and I open the throttle too late.

“Or I go into corners too slowly, precisely because the bike does not turn, so I open the throttle too early and this way I run out of tires.

“I’m struggling, but I’m working hard so I’ll get there. It’s a frustrating situation, but also motivating.”

The other three GP23 runners in Qatar didn’t encounter the same struggles at Bezzecchi, with VR46 team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio seventh in Qatar, Alex Marquez sixth and his Gresini team-mate Marc Márquez fourth.

As such, Bezzecchi says focusing on using their data will be more important than looking at the factory riders’.

“Obviously I look at the fastest riders, but the Marquez brothers and my team-mate have the same bike as me and they have managed to be faster, both in time attack and pace,” he said.

“So, I want to focus on them and study the data to understand what I’m missing and why I can’t do what they do right now.”

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