Updated 11.08.23 to reflect the weekend changes at the Silverstone MotoGP and beyond
For the 2023 season MotoGP race weekends will include Sprint Races on the Saturday afternoon much like F1 and WSB.
The shakeup comes on the heels of a drop in interest and sponsorship for MotoGP.
Dorna and the powers that run MotoGP are doing all they can to turn this around.
It is unclear the exact reason for the lack of interest but it could be assumed the loss of many big names to retirement, the pandemic, very few countries offer it free to air on TV anymore and in many cases it is difficult to travel to the tracks in person to attend a race may all play a part.
To rectify this, Dorna asked fans to give them feedback about what is missing.
And one thing was very clear there needs to be more action across the weekend.
While being at a race is very exciting and there is lots to see there are large portions of the time where there is no racing and well it becomes a little boring at times.
If you have gone to the effort and expense to attend MotoGP fans want more track action, its pretty simple really.
From the results of the poll, the idea of MotoGP sprint races became Dorna’s latest plan to lift attendance and viewers at home.
So, let’s have a look at what they are and how they will change, hopefully for the better, the sport we love so much.
What are MotoGP sprint races?
These will be half distance races held on the Saturday afternoon of each race weekend starting in 2023. Half points will be on offer.
However the results of this race will have no bearing on the starting grid or outcome of Sunday’s main race.
Half the total race distance of the main GP race will be run as the Sprint Race in the premier class.
This of course means changes to the format of race weekends starting in 2023.
This will be one of the biggest changes to shake up MotoGP since the 2003 switch from 2stroke 500cc to 4stroke 990cc.
This change will see riders, teams track staff pushed to new limits and could prove to be a very exciting change from Dorna.
How will the race weekend change?
The old FP1 and FP 2 held on Fridays have sort of remained.
However, the old FP2 is now called “Practice” and is the sole timed session (of 60 minutes duration) which determines who goes to Q1 and Q2.
A “new” FP2 session of 30 minutes will be held on the Saturday and will not count towards qualifying, essentially replacing FP4.
The 20-minute warm up on Sunday has been removed from the schedule and replaced with a 10minute warm up session .
Qualifying itself will not change however the results will be used to determine grids for both the sprint race and the main race on Sunday.
Because the overall track time over the whole race weekend will not be increased there will be no change to engine and tyre allocation.
Since MotoGP are following on from F1 and WSB it is worth noting there is a difference here between the formats chosen by MotoGP.
F1 and WSB use the sprint races to determine grid positions for the main race of F1 and WSB use it to determine the grid for the second main race of weekend.
Schedule Changes for 2023
Another change announced to race weekend line up is the order of the classes.
As of 2023 MotoGP will no longer be between Moto3 and 2 but rather the final class or race of each day.
Dorna is changing this so MotoGP is always the last class on the track each day to allow for track invasion and more fan interaction.
Any Technical Changes for the Sprint Races?
The maximum fuel tank capacity for sprint races is 12 litres, as opposed to the main race which is a maximum of 22 Litres.
Teams are allowed to use a purpose-built fuel tank with this capacity or an alternative method of reducing capacity in the normal tank.
Other fuel tank regulations will be inline with those for full length races, e.g., ambient temperature of fuel, and so on.
How will points work for Sprint Races in MotoGP?
Much like the race being half the main race length, the points awarded for the Sprint races will be half the points available at the main race. They will also be awarded to less riders on the grid.
For example, in the main race the top 15 riders are awarded the following points: 25, 20, 16, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. With only the top 15 being awarded points at all.
In the Sprint race only the top 9 will receive points at all, awarded as follows: First position will be awarded 12 points, the remaining 8 positions awarded 9, 7,6,5,4,3,2,1.
This is important to remember because now championship points are up for grabs on Saturday as well as Sunday. Championship races have not been held on Saturdays since the Dutch GP in Assen stopped being held on the Saturday in 2015.
How do the riders feel about the extra races?
With Dorna’s statement that track time won’t change there is also no pay change for teams or riders.
However, no track time change does not mean nothing changes. Pressure on them to win now changes, there is additional pressure now on a Saturday not only to qualify but to win points towards the championship.
Not to mention the additional pressure on teams to have all maintenance and so on complete with two races in mind now not one.
This can be offset by the fact it will increase interest worldwide and therefore revenue and in time pay rises for all involved.
Still, it has been met with mixed feelings from the paddock, most notably Fabio Quartararo has expressed his concerns and displeasure with the idea, along with Aleix Espargaro.
Both pointing out the difficulties faced by riders physically and that at some tracks this is a very tough ask for them to race twice in one weekend.
Quartararo went as far as to say in an interview:
“I think it’s totally stupid. I’m not the one who makes decisions about race formats, but I think we’re entering a totally stupid format. If we do it from time to time, like in Formula 1, I think it can be interesting, but every Saturday… honestly, there are circuits where you are physically exhausted, like Assen, Mugello. When we finish the race, we are exhausted. Honestly, I don’t think it’s right to do this without asking the riders’ opinions. Or at least I wasn’t asked.”
However, six-time world champion Marc Marquez has enthusiastically welcomed the idea stating it will make the series “more spectacular”.
Going on to say in an interview for Motorsport.com
“I think it’s a wise decision, especially because it’s in favour of the show,” Marquez stated. As a rider I like Sundays, because that’s when the races take place. Sprint races will make MotoGP more spectacular and give a different point of view of the weekend. There will be less time for testing, and that will make the work of the factories even more important.”
Jack Miller and Joan Mir have also welcomed the idea of Sprint races to help lift the sport to a new and exciting level.
It is interesting to note that according to Dorna Sports, the FIM and the International Race Teams Association, the proposal was unanimously backed by all teams.
Personally, I think this is a really good thing.
For a while now, things have seemed a little stagnant with MotoGP.
Perhaps it is time for teams to be pushed, for riders to be pushed and a new generation of MotoGP riders is created.
Marquez points out with less time to work on the bike, test and make changes it will push the teams again to be better and faster on race weekend.
It has been a long time since MotoGP has been given a shake up like this one and I know I am looking forward to the additional excitement being added to the schedule as I am sure many other fans are.
Whether you agree with Quartararo and think they are asking too much or are more enthusiastic one cannot argue Dorna needed to do something to reinvigorate the sport and bring it to even greater heights.