MotoGP Austria: Sprint races confirmed for 2023

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

Sprint races will be added to the MotoGP schedule for every round in 2023 in a bid to raise the visibility and popularity of the championship.

Unlike similar additions in both Formula One and WorldSBK, the Saturday afternoon sprint races will have no bearing on Sunday’s feature race grid, with qualifying and the all-important shootout for pole position remaining as it currently stands. While half points will be awarded for the new half-distance contest.

One talking point in the Austrian paddock was the confusion of the premier class riders, who were neither informed or consulted on the new schedule before the ideas were leaked to the media, with reaction to the 2023 plans met with mixed opinions.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta explained “We need more spectators and a better show,” before IRTA boss and Tech3 team manager Herve Poncharal confirmed that mileage across the weekend will stay the same with a reduction in practice - thereby no extension to engine allocation with Michelin in discussions regarding tyres.

While the finalised plans are still to be confirmed, the general schedules are expected to run two longer duration practice sessions on Friday with the combined times determining direct entry to Q2, guaranteeing Friday increased significance and exposure.

On Saturday morning, the premier class will have one 30-minute free practice session (similar to the current FP4) followed by Q1 and Q2 for qualifying. The Sprint race will then take place at 15:00 with a 15-minute grid procedure and will be approximately 50 per cent of the full race distance, with the same sporting rules as a full-length Grand Prix race on Sunday.

Sprint races will not determine the grid for the main Grand Prix but points will be awarded for the first nine finishers, with the winner receiving twelve points, nine for second, seven for third through to one for ninth.

Sunday will retain its current format of Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP Grand Prix races while MotoGP sessions will be the last of each block, in a bid to standardise the format of the race weekend and maintain the same order throughout each event.

“We are going to introduce, starting next year, a sprint race on the Saturday afternoon of every Grand Prix; not like in Formula 1, but in every Grand Prix,” FIM President, Jorge Viegas confimred from Spielberg on Saturday. “We think that after two years of COVID, when all of us made incredible sacrifices to keep having this important championship, it’s time to give more exposure, in the TV, but also to the spectators.

“We need more spectators, we need a better show, and we need to fill the Saturdays. There are some details that still need to defined, decided together with the teams, together with the riders, together with the manufacturers. This Sprint Race will not count for the grid; the grid is defined by the qualifying.”

“It has been the aim of the Championship; FIM, IRTA, and Dorna, from the beginning to try to improve every time, as much as we can, everything in the sport: the safety, the show, everything,” Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports said. “We are working in all the areas but especially in that. We have been looking at other sports for different possibilities and we are trying to offer a better show, especially for the fans, the promoters, and television.

“It’s very important to us to offer a new schedule which will, in our opinion, improve our presence in all the Grands Prix. This has been something discussed obviously with the FIM, with the manufacturers, and with the teams, and then yesterday, I talked with the riders in the Safety Commission. Even if the Safety Commission is for safety, since the beginning, I has been very proud to talk with the riders about different things. Obviously the matter to inform the riders is something that must be made by their individual teams, but yesterday we had some discussions and I’m very happy to hear the President of the FIM announce what we want to announce today.”

“Back from the summer break, we had a very important meeting together with Mike Trimby to represent the teams as IRTA, with Carmelo and Carlos Ezpeleta,” IRTA President Poncharal confirmed. “This was really the first time that we saw the project, and from the very beginning, we liked it a lot. If you don’t move forward, you make a step backwards, I think, and although our show is great, maybe the best on Earth, that doesn’t mean we cannot have room for improvement, and there is room for improvement.

“As Carmelo said to us also, yes, we looked at what is happening somewhere else, and we would be stupid to not look at what is happening somewhere else and works somewhere else. From the very first point I really liked it, we had a meeting with all our colleagues in the Independent MotoGP teams, and universally they supported and they liked it a lot, thinking that it’s going to help also the teams’ business because the media, I’m quite sure, will like it a lot, will love it; the sponsors when the media are more active, will like it a lot.

“So all I can say is we have in mind not to create any inflation, so therefore engine allocation, tyre allocation will remain the same; mileage on the weekend will remain more or less the same. So, there will be no more track action. We will try not to give more work to the riders, but there will be more action, more excitement, which is what MotoGP is all about.

“I’m very proud to be part of the Championship, to have Carmelo and Jorge next to me to announcing this important news. For sure, as Jorge said, there are still important things to be fine-tuned. We always listen to everybody and when it is something which is visible and clearly an improvement, we will adapt ourselves. But overall, I think this is an important day for MotoGP, and I believe 2023 will be even more exciting.”