While last fortnight’s Qatar opener highlighted the widening gulf between Yamaha and the frontrunners in MotoGP at the start of the 2024 MotoGP season, the Japanese manufacturer appeared to close the gap back in Portimao as both 2021 champion Quartararo and new recruit Alex Rins earned an automatic entry into Q2.

Quartararo ended up ninth quickest with a time that was just under half a second slower than pacesetter Enea Bastianini on the factory Ducati, while Rins was only a fraction of a second behind in 10th on the sister M1.

Crucially, both managed to beat not only the four Hondas but also the factory Aprilia of Aleix EspargaroGresini’s Alex Marquez and GasGas Tech3’s Pedro Acostarepresenting a significant jump in performance from the Losail weekend.

But Yamaha’s improved showing at the Algarve venue didn’t come as a surprise to Quartararo, who said he had a firm belief that he could get inside the top 10 in practice.

“It’s positive, even if I think we could have done a little better,” said the Frenchman. “But the most important thing today was to finish in the top ten and we achieved that, so, honestly, it’s good!”

“Unexpected? No. It was the target today and I could see quite clearly that we could do it. We got through for very, very little, but in the end it’s important to be in Q2 and even more with the track conditions we had, with really not much grip. It was important.”

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Quartararo revealed that Yamaha will be trialling a number of changes on the M1 on Saturday morning, which should further boost its prospects for qualifying.

The 24-year-old explained that it’s important for Yamaha to continue to test more items during grand prix weekends as it undergoes a wider revamp of the M1.

“We have many, many things to change for tomorrow,” he explained. “Of course, I think other manufacturers also but we have a little margin compared to ourselves from today.

“It’s important. Of course, it’s a step for me to be in a good position but we are still in a process where we have to test more things.

“We have new engineers like everyone knows since this winter and we are adjusting a lot in the electronics.

“That is a point where we have to make a massive step and this is what we will change tomorrow. Of course we will not go from a bike like this to a total change, but on the electronics we have a lot to work and improve .”

“Great achievement”

Rins described his return to Q2 a “great achievement”, having earned an automatic graduation to the second part of qualifying only twice during his injury-ridden 2023 campaign with LCR Honda.

But while he felt quick on the Yamaha straight away in opening practice, he warned that the problems he is facing on the M1 are “more or less similar” to what he encountered in Qatar earlier this month.

“From free practice I felt quite confident on the bike,” said the Spaniard. “This track is quite different to Qatar and I would say more to adapt a little bit compared to Qatar.

“During FP2, I was able to be quite competitive and I was able to enter into Q2. It was a great achievement for me because long time I couldn’t be in Q2.

“Also after the leg issue, it was many, many roots that I couldn’t be in Q2. So I’m really happy for this.

“But still we have room to improve. We have more or less similar problems as we had in Qatar. “So we are taking information and we are just improving the setting that we have.”

Additional reporting by German Garcia Casanova and Oriol Puigdemont

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