A new adventure for all and the start of a pivotal run in the fight for the 2023 crown. Who's coming out on top in India?
This is it. The fight for the 2023 crown is about to ramp up to an incredible finale, and it all starts with a whole new adventure for everyone: India. Buddh International Circuit welcomes the world’s most exciting sport for the first ever IndianOil Grand Prix of India, organised by Fairstreet Sports, and there is everything to play for.
The dynamic at the top
A whole new venue is a reset of sorts, and after that crash in Barcelona saw reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) riding through the pain barrier on home turf at Misano, the title fight is also a little closer as Pecco now sits only 36 points clear of Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing). So will the #1 remain so at a new track? His modus operandi has often been building his speed and performance, improving those details over time until he’s seemed untouchable. So it will be an interesting race between Bagnaia and Martin to see who can adapt the quickest, especially as Martin arrives from a near-perfect weekend.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) wasn’t at full tilt at Misano either though and he’ll want to seize the opportunity to take a new track by the horns, as will Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who is no stranger to that himself. The South African may see Buddh International Circuit as a big opportunity to hit back after a disappointing Sunday at Misano. It wasn’t overall for KTM though, and they had some goodies at the test as the orange push continues to gain momentum overall.
One thing that may play in Ducati’s favour at a new track is also data. With eight bikes, although not all the GP23, there’s information at their fingertips. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) will want some of that as the Frenchman looks for a lot more form, and it was a tougher weekend at Misano for Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), who then topped the test, and Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) too. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) also seemed to lose some ground he’d made up. On the other side of the Ducati Lenovo Team box we know we won’t have Enea Bastianini on duty either, with Michele Pirro likely called up now he’s off wildcard duty. Can the Ducati armada hit the ground running?
Speaking of data, Aprilia certainly have more of that now they’ve got four bikes on the grid. Misano saw a complete switcharound though as Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) went from doing the double to struggling to get into the top ten as the last Noale machine home on Sunday, with teammate Maverick Viñales leading the charge and making the difference as he’d promised on Thursday. In terms of Aleix’s ascent up the Championship that’s not ideal, but the bike had that pace so that’s another big positive.
The 2022 machine also had pace in the hands of Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) and teammate Raul Fernandez, which is more good news. Raul Fernandez took his best result yet in an impressive P8, and Oliveira has been on a solid run since much of the rest of the grid decided to let him race in peace. He was hot on the heels of Viñales on Sunday. If we’re talking about the challenge of a new track too, Oliveira is the most recent winner at a new venue – twice. He did it at Portimao and then again at Mandalika, so we know the Portuguese rider isn’t averse to eating some adaptation for breakfast.
Reset & reload
For Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who arrives fresh from becoming a father, a new track is probably good news if it can offer that reset. Since impressing a whole lot earlier in the season, it’s been a tougher run for a few races and ‘Thriller’ wants to get back to doing just that. Fellow RC16 riders Pol Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez at GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 too, with the latter losing his run of scoring on every Sunday so far last time out. For a rookie though, a new venue could prove a real injection of opportunity, with rivals’ experience now solely that of their machinery and not the track.
At Yamaha, they’ll hope a new track brings new opportunity too. After Team Manager Massimo Meregalli praised their new engine at the Misano Test but Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) said he’d been expecting more all round, the dynamic remains an interesting one. Quartararo will certainly hope that the new layout will cut the deficit to those ahead as everyone races to get to grips with Buddh International Circuit, and teammate Franco Morbidelli will want to cut his own deficit… but he is now the only rider who’s scored every Sunday.
Grabbing the spotlight
For many reasons, the spotlight was on Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) at Misano. His Grand Prix race may have seen him come home in seventh, but it was some performance as he played all his cards right and finished some distance closer to the winner than the next Honda did to him. The other reasons? The rumour mill about Marquez’ future rolls on…
The next Honda home at Misano was Stefan Bradl on wildcard and testing duty though, so not a true metric, and this time round he’ll be at LCR Honda Castrol replacing Alex Rins. More data, more experience and more work once again goes into that road back to the top for Honda. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will want to show he’s got the measure of the German too. For Joan Mir, meanwhile, the mission is the same: rebuild. It’s been a tough season so far with injury and then a run of DNFs, and the Mayorcan could find that a new track proves a good new challenge as everyone takes on the same new turf at the same time.
SHOWTIME IN INDIA
The schedule and timezone are a little different for the IndianOil Grand Prix of India, so tune in for the main events and make sure to check out the full schedule below!
Tissot Sprint: Saturday 15:30 (GMT +5:30)
Grand Prix Race: Sunday 15:30 (GMT +5:30)