2023 Looks Set to Be a Vintage Year for MotoGP
The post-pandemic world has been difficult to navigate for MotoGP, with dwindling on-track attendances, dropping TV figures and the ever-looming shadow of F1's meteoric rise to transcendental global acclaim. However, 2023 is shaping up to be a vintage year for MotoGP and this past weekend in Le Mans proved just that.
(Image Credit: MotoGP)
In 2023, MotoGP has become the first world championship to race 75 seasons and the French GP in Le Mans this past weekend was the 1000th GP in the championship. This was truly a landmark occasion for the sport and it was fittingly backed up by a record attendance. 278,805 fans attended the Grand Prix over the course of the weekend in Le Mans, the largest gathering in the sport's history. Even more fitting was the fact that the action on display in both Saturday's Sprint and Sunday's Grand Prix demonstrated the frenetic excitement that has become commonplace in the 2023 MotoGP season which is now just five rounds in.
The Sprint is a brand new addition for the 2023 MotoGP season - a half-distance, half-points dash on every Saturday of every Grand Prix weekend of the year. The goal of the Sprint: to encourage more fans to consume the greatest two-wheeled spectacle in the world. The end result, although divisive has been ferocious, exhilarating racing and a visible boost in on-track attendance. Save for Austin, each Sprint has been a wild rush for MotoGP fans to witness and has offered the chance for rider/machine combinations to pick up victories that may otherwise be unattainable in Sunday's longer Grand Prix (such as the rocket off the line KTM underneath Brad Binder, a two-time Sprint winner). In Le Mans, the Sprint delivered once again, with Pramac Ducati's Jorge Martin ending as a comfortable winner as the likes of Honda's Marc Marquez, VR46's Luca Marini, reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia and KTM's Binder fought ferociously for the final two podium spots behind.
Thankfully, the Sprints have done nothing to diminish the quality of the main event on Sundays. In Le Mans, it was a war of attrition, as Bagnaia lost his championship lead in a confrontational clash with Aprilia's Maverick Vinales, Marquez dropped his Honda in the closing stages and Miller dropped his KTM for the second day in a row. That, plus the likes of Alex Marquez and Marini's scary crash just before the Dunlop Bridge on the Le Mans circuit paved the way for VR46 Ducati's Marco Bezzecchi to take a commanding second win of the year, ahead of Martin in second and home-hero Johann Zarco in third aboard the second Pramac Ducati. Despite the numeorus incidents, it was another enthralling race, off the back of a dramatic showdown between Binder and Bagnaia in Jerez.
The promise of the Sprint, plus the excitement of Sunday's races has contributed to a positive progression in trackside attendances. Aside from Le Mans' record attendance, which was more than 50,000 higher than last year's event, multiple venues this year have seen an increased attendance. The season opener in Portugal saw attendance rise from 75,900 in 2022 to 123,608 this year, and 163,479 fans cheered on their heroes across the weekend in Jerezr, up by approximately 40,000 over 2022. Here's hoping the upward trend continues.
Along with record attendances, 2023's vintage MotoGP season credentials are bolstered by the exciting championship picture that is playing out. Reigning champion Bagnaia has failed to finish three grand prix and showed his class by winning the other two and leads Bezzecchi in the championship standings by a solitary point. KTM look like a genuine threat, as do Aprilia if they can get their act together. Even Alex Rins has won aboard the troublesome Honda which looked far better underneath the returning Marquez in Le Mans. Even with Yamaha out of the picture, having multiple manufacturers in contention for GP victories is making this MotoGP season an unpredictable spectacle, full of several riders capable of taking to the top step of the podium. Last year, the title was a arguably a two-horse race, this year it looks to be wide open. In summary, all the ingredients are being cooked to perfection thus far in the 2023 MotoGP season, long may it continue as the sport fights to boost its popularity.
MotoGP returns for the Italian GP at the Mugello Circuit on June 9-11. Check out the championship standings below.
2023 MotoGP Riders' Standings
1 - Francesco Bagnaia - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 94 Points
2 - Marco Bezzecchi - Mooney VR46 Racing Team - Ducati - 93 Points
3 - Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 81 Points
4 - Jorge Martin - Prima Pramac Racing - Ducati - 80 Points
5 - Johann Zarco - Prima Pramac Racing - Ducati - 66 Points
6 - Luca Marini - Mooney VR46 Racing Team - Ducati - 54 Points
7 - Maverick Viñales - Aprilia Racing - Aprilia - 49 Points
8 - Jack Miller - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 49 Points
9 - Fabio Quartararo - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 49 Points
10 - Alex Rins - LCR Honda CASTROL - Honda - 47 Points
11 - Aleix Espargaro - Aprilia Racing - Aprilia - 42 Points
12 - Alex Marquez - Gresini Racing MotoGP - Ducati - 41 Points
13 - Franco Morbidelli - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 40 Points
14 - Augusto Fernandez - GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 - KTM - 30 Points
15 - Fabio Di Giannantonio - Gresini Racing MotoGP - Ducati - 25 Points
16 - Miguel Oliveira - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 21 Points
17 - Takaaki Nakagami - LCR Honda IDEMITSU - Honda - 21 Points
18 - Dani Pedrosa - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 13 Points
19 - Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 12 Points
20 - Jonas Folger - GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 - KTM - 7 Points
21 - Joan Mir - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 5 Points
22 - Danilo Petrucci - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 5 Points
23 - Michele Pirro - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 5 Points
24 - Lorenzo Savadori - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 4 Points
25 - Raul Fernandez - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 3 Points
26 - Stefan Bradl - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 2 Points
27 - Iker Lecuona - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 0 Points
28 - Enea Bastianini - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 0 Points