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  • Sachin Sen

SPRINT RACES: MotoGP’s New Trick to Get More Viewers and Spectators

MotoGP 2023 Portugal Sprint Race
MotoGP 2023 Portugal Sprint Race

2023’s MotoGP season has begun, and for the first time since 2006, a racing season started in Europe. The season opener occurred in Portugal, on the Portimao circuit. But that wasn’t the only change in the 75th year of the Grand Prix racing.

And this is the big one.

For the first time ever in the history of the sport, only the MotoGP class will have additional, what Dorna calls, sprint races on Saturdays of all race weekends. As the name suggests, it is a race run over a shorter distance, half the laps of the main race to be precise.

This means, for example, the first sprint race in Portugal was for 12 laps, which is half of the main race (25 laps) on the following day. Each sprint race will vary accordingly in length.

Likewise, the points awarded will be rounded off to half of the main race points as well. The winner of the sprint race is awarded 12 points, the man who comes second gets 9 points, while the one who finishes third gets 7 points. Also, the top nine finishers earn points compared to the top 15 in the main race on a Sunday.

And because there are 21 main races this year, the riders will be effectively racing a total of 42 races! That is some number…

Clearly, sprint races have been introduced with the idea that they’ll add variety to the usual racing routine, and hence, will bring more viewers and spectators. Have you really got bored of the practices and qualifying on Fridays and Saturdays, and racing on Sundays?

With one race weekend done, there are mixed emotions and reactions especially from the riders. While some love the added action and the unexpected brave opportunities that a shorter race may offer, others feel that sprint races will only increase the risk factor further given that riders will simply go all out. Some may want to cover lost points, while some may simply want to earn their first wins. A shorter race hardly requires any strategy with respect to fuel and tyre conservation. It’s going to be an all out war between the fastest motorcycles on tarmac.

2023 Begins at the Portimao circuit in Portugal

MotoGP 2023 Portugal Sprint Race

A surprise for the entire first race weekend was that Marc Marquez was on pole. Now generally, this would hardly be a surprise, but his season’s first tests and practice sessions didn’t really reflect that he would be able to command that position in the first race itself. Still, it’s a surprise you can expect when it’s Marc.

The race was over 12 laps and it was mayhem from start to finish. And it makes sense as the riders who aren’t regular podium finishers can also fancy to be there, or even stand on the top spot. It’s like all bets are off. Jack Miller, who was having his first race as a KTM rider, fancied a win, and so did Jorge Martin, who actually qualified on the first row on the third spot.

The sprint race results were hardly surprising though. Pecco Bagnaia won the race from Jorge Martin and Marc Marquez who finished second and third, respectively. Out of the 21 riders, 16 riders finished the race.

MotoGP 2023 Portugal Sprint Race

Among the riders who are unhappy with the new race format, Aleix Espargaro has been the most vocal with his criticism. He made it a point to specify that sprint races only add further risks to rider safety, as well as more pressure on the riders and the engineers.

It is too early to say whether or not the sprint races will be a huge success, especially for someone like me whose only connection with MotoGP is a TV screen thousands of kilometres away. On that note, India is set to host its first ever MotoGP race at Buddh International Circuit later in the season. We have our fingers crossed that it actually happens.

It will be interesting to see how the riders, the teams, and the MotoGP management cope with the additional race format, especially when it adds to the points tally of each rider. One race weekend down, 20 more to go, or, 40 races remaining to be raced!


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