2023 is set to prove a historic year for MotoGP™. The biggest season ever awaits, with 21 destinations set to thrill fans across the world as the Championship takes on a revamped format.
Sprint Races, in detail!
The eagerly anticipated MotoGP™ Sprint debuts at the season opener in Portimao in late March, and will take place every Saturday afternoon on GP weekends from here until the end of the season. The addition of the race means riders now face a new type of challenge, one that will demand more from them mentally and physically throughout a weekend, but it is not something they are shying away from.
It’s no surprise to see factory KTM new boy Jack Miller become one of the most vocal supporters of the new weekend format. Speaking recently during a media debrief, the four-time GP winner believes his dirt track and motocross background could prove advantageous due to the shorter nature of those races while he is delighted to be able to play a part in one of the most significant changes to the sport in history.
"I went to Australia at the end of last season and I was able to do a dirt track race at home and it took me half a day to get back into the quickness of everything and how fast everything happens and how everything is so important off the start line or else the race is pretty much done.
What are riders' thoughts on the new sprint race format?
"If we look statistically in the past, the first half of the races are always my strongest. I’m super excited to have the Sprint in this year to shake it up a bit, to put on an extra show for the fans on a Saturday and also for us as riders, it’s exciting. MotoGP has been the same for 50-something years and to have such a radical change and be there in it, it’s such an amazing time to be in the Championship.
"There will be some questions, but after the first one or two, there won’t be any more questions. Everyone will love the Sprint races. I’m sure there will be people who prefer the Sprint to the general races.
On the other side of the KTM box, Brad Binder was equally supportive of the change: "I’m really excited for the Sprint. I know I’m much better in a race (than practice) I’m really looking forward to having more races. I’ve never been huge fan of FP4 anyways. I think it adds something really cool to the Championship and makes it interesting for all of us.
The new MotoGP™ Sprint Race format explained in detail
The change presents a new challenge for riders and teams to swiftly adapt and devise the right strategy for the race weekend. World Champion Fabio Quartararo emphasised the importance of finding the key to a successful weekend.
"I think it’s going to be a great challenge for the riders. We have to be consistent. This is the word we have to say.
"You need to be really consistent and try make the best result possible. Mentally and physically, it’s going to be a different level to last year.
"Super exciting!" - MotoGP™ Team Managers on Sprint Races
"It’s going to change quite a lot for me I think, especially on Sunday. Normally on Saturday, we have a practice that we used to prepare for Sunday, but now we have a race. It’s going to be difficult to prepare for the real race on Sunday. On Friday we have to qualify for Q2 directly but also think about the race. As I said, I think it is going to be a really intense weekend, but it is our job to perform and we are going to do it well.
Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) also feels like the reshuffling of the deck will be a boost in entertainment value for fans across the weekend, with the Italian predicting plenty of wheel-to-wheel combat on Saturday afternoons: "It’s going to be more exciting for the fans. One more race every weekend, and everyone likes to battle so there’s going to be more rubbing for sure."
Coming into the 2023 campaign as the rider to beat, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) revealed that his preparations for the change in format are already well underway, and he feels they "are already prepared to do a race weekend." Enea Bastianini joins the World Champion on the factory Ducati this year, but he struck a worried tone, though somewhat jokingly, that perhaps the Sprint won’t suit him. "My speciality is to be fast in the second part of the race, and it can be a problem for me, but I want to try and be fast in the first part!"
What must change for riders to prepare for Sprint races?
At Prima Pramac Racing, Johann Zarco highlighted the fact that there won’t be any time to waste over a weekend, stressing the importance of Friday’s work and the need to hit the ground running: "You have a little bit less time to relax, you must perform immediately. With qualifying, you need to be on the first row and get a good start. There are some riders with good qualities for this. It will also be good to understand what you need for the long race on Sunday."
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) also believes the change will be for the betterment of the Championship, recently stating that the MotoGP™ Sprint "could spice up the whole Championship."
When the details of the new GP weekend format were released last season, eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez was glowing in his praise for the change: "I like the new schedule. I love racing so I like it. It will be interesting to understand. The first ones will be fun because everyone wants to push. In the end it’s a sprint. The whole… for me it’s good. In the morning we make FP3 (to be called FP) which is like FP4 now. It’s perfect."
Box office any time he is on the track, we’re sure the #93 will absolutely be one to watch in the shortened race format. Indeed it’s exciting times in MotoGP™ ahead of the new campaign, with more racing bringing more spills, more thrills and more drama than ever before. We cannot wait to get started.
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