Fast. Flowing. Fierce. Hold on to your hats as the second half of the season kicks off with the British GP.
Silverstone. One of the longest venues on the calendar, one of the fastest, and one that’s created some true modern classics. This year, we also move back to the international paddock in the shadow of the glorious Silverstone Wing, adding an extra dash of adrenaline and new challenge to the mix. All in all, it’s a perfect place to get back on track after summer break, with everything to race for as the second half of the season gears up to deliver more of the world’s most exciting motorsport. And on the way in, there’s plenty to talk about!
Picking up where they left off?
The first part of the Championship has seen some ups and downs for reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), but in the last few race weekends the kinks have really been ironed out: two GP wins, a Tissot Sprint win and not off the podium when he didn’t take victory, it’s some form Pecco found before the summer break… so can he keep that rolling as we get back underway? He won here last year, so the omens are good for the #1.
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) is another who put together a serious charge heading into summer, slightly further back in Assen but still taking some big points and hanging on to that second overall. He’s just a single point ahead of Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) though as the number 72 got right back in the fight at the front last time out.
Interestingly too, Bagnaia extended that gap thanks to that glorious win at Assen, but since Le Mans he’s not actually the high scorer after taking 107 points from the French GP to the Dutch GP. Martin has banked 111 – gains he’d need to accelerate to overtake the reigning Champion but a formidable charge as he, Bagnaia, and Bezzecchi have shared all the top steps since Jerez.
Recharged & reloaded
Since Jerez means Brad Binder’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team) stunning Sprint win at the Spanish GP, and the South African is the first in the standings looking to hit back as we get back in business. He has a score to settle after missing out on those podiums after track limits infringements in Assen too, so can he get back on the rostrum?
That painful take two on Sunday at the Dutch TT, meanwhile, saw Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) move up and take to the podium for the first time this season. And it clearly meant a lot. It’s been a harder start to the season than many expected for both Espargaro and Aprilia, but if there’s a venue with good memories to head back to after that uptick, it’s Silverstone: the venue that staged the Noale factory’s first podium in the MotoGP™ era in 2021. Yes, only in 2021!
That’s also true of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), with Assen falling flat but Silverstone another venue the number 12 has previously taken by the horns. He took his first win there in 2016, and last year he almost made MotoGP™ history by winning with a third different bike as his Aprilia crossed the line just half a second off Bagnaia. That remains on the table as history to be made, and Top Gun will want to shoot from the hip after a tough start to 2023.
Assen was a downturn in momentum for a few, including the other rider in the running for that win with a third machine: Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). He took no points at Assen and neither did Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), who arrived at the Dutch TT on a roll of three MotoGP™ podiums in a row for the first time ever. Can they bounce back and find some more luck?
More to come?
It wasn’t a bad weekend for the likes of Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) at Assen, but it wasn’t the heights they’ve already raced at earlier in the season. Marini’s consistency is paying off as he sits 11 points off Zarco, however, whereas AM73 will want to bank some more as he sits 10th despite also already taking a podium.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), meanwhile, had a Dutch TT of two halves. Saturday was a stunner as he took his first Sprint podium, setting up some expectation for Sunday, but the GP race saw him crash out with Zarco and head into summer break apologising to his compatriot and with a broken toe to heal. He should be back up to full power at Silverstone and will want, as ever, to qualify well to try and replicate and extend that Saturday prowess from Assen.
Quartararo’s teammate Franco Morbidelli is also looking for more, and in his case from the middle of a “silly season” maelstrom as rumours abound regarding who’s going where in 2024. That’s also the case for Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), with both looking to start the second half of the season on a high.
Reset & rebuild
One of the headline quotes to come out of MotoGP™’s visit to Goodwood, meanwhile, was Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) confirming he expects to be at 100% from Silverstone. And he’ll be expecting to challenge at the front. There’s been a little more time for Miguel Oliveira (CryptoData RNF MotoGP™ Team) to recover some strength too, and teammate Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team). As ever, however, much of the spotlight will be squarely back on Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)…
The number 93 is expected back on track, and after a glorious start to 2023 with pole and a Sprint podium gave way to more injury struggles, the next story was then all about the bike. So can Honda make their way back to the truly impressive form we’ve seen over much of the past two decades? And the biggest question doing the rounds, with rumours ranging from the plausible to the fantastical: will Marquez be along for that ride? Before we likely get any real answers, Silverstone awaits, and it’s a venue MM93 has reigned.
We also expect the return of Repsol Honda teammate Joan Mir after he was sidelined through injury, and the return of their two World Champions will surely be a boost for the team and factory. We won’t see Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) back just yet though, with Iker Lecuona on duty from Most WorldSBK to Silverstone to replace his compatriot. Finally at Honda though, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) keeps quietly bagging those points and retains that one singular DNF in a GP race this year, which is no mean feat in itself. Can that continue as we head into the second part of the season?
Another rider back on track will be Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3). After a first taste up The Hill at Goodwood, the Spaniard will be fully reunited with his whole team this time round as he takes his place back in the GASGAS garage to go racing again. It’s been a long few months of recovery, but he’ll be beaming to rejoin rookie teammate Augusto Fernandez. And Fernandez has been busy in the interim, taking a best GP finish of fourth so far and taking consistent points as one of only two riders, along with Morbidelli, to score in every Grand Prix race so far. He also loves Silverstone, so could prove a dark horse.
Bagnaia just extended that gap thanks to that glorious win at Assen, but Martin and Bezzecchi remain close enough for everything to change in a weekend. Check out the times for the racing action below to see how chapter nine unfolds at the fierce and fabulous Silverstone circuit, and see if we make a little history with a ninth different winner in nine races at the track!
SHOWTIME: CHANGES AT THE BRITISH GP
The Monster Energy British Grand Prix sees the introduction of the new entry system for Q2. The first session for MotoGP™ is now FREE Practice 1 and doesn’t count towards Q2, with only the re-named Friday afternoon session, called Practice, deciding who goes through.
The British GP also sees a change to the running order on Sunday. The Tissot Sprint is set for lights out at 15:00 on Saturday as ever, but the Grand Prix gets going at 13:00 (GMT+1) – BEFORE the Moto2™ race.
Tissot Sprint: Saturday 15:00 (GMT +1)
Grand Prix Race: Sunday 13:00 (GMT +1)
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