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MotoGP Indonesian GP

10 things we learned from the 2023 MotoGP Indonesian Grand Prix

The final push to the end of the 2023 MotoGP season began with a dramatic Indonesian Grand Prix weekend in which the title picture swung back and forth. Jorge Martin's crash while leading opened the door for Francesco Bagnaia to reclaim the points lead he'd lost following the sprint race, while more key details emerged about Marc Marquez's switch to Gresini. Here's what we learned

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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MotoGP’s return to the Mandalika International Street Circuit for the second edition of the revived Indonesian Grand Prix went off largely without controversy, with the track surface re-laid after last year’s problems with asphalt breakup.

Pramac’s Jorge Martin took the championship lead for the first time with his fourth-successive sprint win, as Francesco Bagnaia struggled to eighth from 13th on the grid. Victory in the grand prix looked assured for Martin before he crashed while leading by three seconds, opening the door for Bagnaia to complete a sensational charge through from 13th to snatch the win.

The factory Ducati rider now leads the standings again by 18 points, with Indonesia perhaps marking a momentum shift for Bagnaia after a difficult recent run.

Elsewhere, the future of Marc Marquez’s MotoGP career was the major talking point of the weekend, while the VR46 Racing pair put in a heroic effort after recent injuries.

With much to unpack, here are the 10 things we learned from the 2023 MotoGP Indonesian Grand Prix:

1. Marquez’s Gresini switch is putting rivals on edge

With his Honda chapter coming to a close, riders are anticipating big things from Marc Marquez on a Ducati in 2024

With his Honda chapter coming to a close, riders are anticipating big things from Marc Marquez on a Ducati in 2024

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

It was the story that dominated the headlines on the run-up to the Indonesian GP. Formally confirmed on the Thursday prior to the event, Marc Marquez’s move to Gresini Ducati for the 2024 season is complete.

He explained that it was the “toughest decision of my life” to leave behind his Honda crew, but expressed the importance of rediscovering his joy for racing again. This motivation (not that it needed it) was pretty well justified during his dismal Indonesian GP in which he suffered a double DNF.

While months of speculation will now follow as we all ponder just what Marquez will able to do on a year-old Ducati next season, the news already had some of his rivals worried.

“He’s going to make our life really difficult, for everyone,” Fabio Quartararo said. “Marc is the reference of the last 10 years and he will be on a really competitive bike. So, yeah, I think he will make our lives super difficult next year.”

Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales added: “I see one more Ducati who is strong. One more!

“It’s always difficult, nothing is easy in this world. We’ll see. I think inside Ducati, it will be difficult. But I see every rider who goes there is super-fast.”

Some, including championship leader and future stablemate Francesco Bagnaia, were much more pragmatic about Marquez’s move.

“I think it’s good for us, good for the sport,” Bagnaia stated. “For sure Marc will find a good base – the best base – for sure on our bike. He will feel comfortable and he will not take too much time to be better and faster than the situation he is in right now.

“I think it will be nice to share that with him, it will be interesting to see what he can do. I think it will also be a good competition for him. We are eight riders, very competitive riders. It will be interesting.”

Alex Marquez told TNT Sport at the weekend that Marc will retire in 2024 if he cannot rediscover his enjoyment for racing again. However, having gone through the same thing, he believes Marc will banish all those doubts upon his first test of the Ducati in Valencia in November.

2. Bagnaia shows his mettle in Indonesia fightback

Bagnaia's lowly grid position didn't appear likely to yield a big result, but his Sunday recovery demonstrated his title-winning steel

Bagnaia's lowly grid position didn't appear likely to yield a big result, but his Sunday recovery demonstrated his title-winning steel

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Francesco Bagnaia lost the lead of the world championship for the first time since before April’s Spanish GP on Saturday in Indonesia. A general struggle to get pace out of the soft Michelin rear tyre meant he failed to exit Q1 and could only manage eighth from 13th on the grid in the sprint.

With Jorge Martin dominating the sprint, it seemed unlikely Bagnaia would be leaving Lombok heading the standings again.

But a supreme fightback and capitalising on Martin’s crash in the grand prix has allowed Bagnaia to open up to his championship lead to 18 points – the biggest it’s been Saturday at the Indian GP. He also became the first rider to win a dry grand prix from outside the first four rows since Marco Melandri in Turkey in 2006.

Since winning the Barcelona sprint, Bagnaia’s season has come of the rails a bit. His Catalan GP crash and resulting injury lost him heaps of points in Barcelona and Misano, while his error in the Indian GP proved a gift to Martin. In Japan, he simply didn’t have the pace of his Pramac counterpart despite solving braking issues that had been hindering him.

But the Bagnaia expected emerged in the Indonesian GP. Starting 13th, Bagnaia was sixth at the end of lap one. At the end of lap two he was fourth and in the podium places on lap three.

And while there’s still a lot to play for, this victory – and the way it was achieved, with him fighting back and Martin making a crucial error while untroubled in the lead – feels like a momentum shift in the title race.

“From my side, this victory means many things,” Bagnaia said. “We were so competitive again, and I was missing it a bit because many times I’ve been struggling. So, to have this performance again was very, very important. To win is always very important and in a moment when Jorge was out, the main thing was to take the most points as possible.

“And we did that. But from my side, after the crash in Barcelona it was not an easy period. And honestly winning today is giving us a lot of motivation – not only for me, but also for my team. They are trying always to give the maximum possible. And also this weekend we managed to improve our situation a lot. This morning we improved a bit and in the race even more.”

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3. Martin’s error creates costly points swing

Martin will find himself under more pressure to recover the ground lost to Bagnaia in the points race after his Indonesia crash

Martin will find himself under more pressure to recover the ground lost to Bagnaia in the points race after his Indonesia crash

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Jorge Martin only had two non-finishes to his credit in 2023 prior to last Sunday. Since tangling with Alex Marquez in America, winning three GPs (all of them on weekends where he also won the sprint) and consistently banking points.

His sprint win in Indonesia, which gave him a championship lead for the first time in MotoGP and also sealed a fourth consecutive constructors’ championship for Ducati, continued his unbroken rostrum run dating back to the Catalan GP.

When he leapt from sixth to first into Turn 1 at the start of the Indonesian GP, it looked like his grand prix to lose. Indeed, come the start of lap 13 he was three seconds in the lead when he crashed.

Martin explained that he got dirt on his tyres from running slightly wide at Turn 10 on that lap, which led to him tucking the front on the way into Turn 11.

“I had three seconds [advantage], I had already done the hard work. It was just making laps to finish,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s not easy when you are front with those seconds to keep the concentration for sure.

“But I was running in a safe mode, let’s say. So, I’m happy my speed is there, and I’ve been fast in all the tracks. It’s been 14 races without a mistake. It’s just statistics. It was coming sooner or later and finally it was here. So, the races still remaining I feel confident to fight for victory.”

While, as he put it, “shit happens”, it was a mistake that came in a moment he could have inflicted big damage to chief title rival Bagnaia, opening up his advantage to at least 13 points assuming the latter finished second.

Martin said after his sprint win that leading the championship wouldn’t change his approach, and maintained that the pressure is on Bagnaia. But he may well just be starting to feel the heat as the reality of his error sets in.

4. VR46 “superhero” heroics deserve praise

Battling performances from Marini and Bezzecchi to finish on the sprint podium earned praise from Marquez

Battling performances from Marini and Bezzecchi to finish on the sprint podium earned praise from Marquez

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

There was a real risk just a few days before the Indonesian GP that neither VR46 rider would be able to participate. Luca Marini needed to get the all-clear to race after missing two rounds with a collarbone fracture he suffered after a collision with team-mate Marco Bezzecchi in India. Then Bezzecchi fractured his in a training crash at Valentino Rossi’s ranch last Saturday.

Having had surgery on his fracture on the Sunday before flying to Indonesia on Wednesday and arriving on Friday morning for his medical check ahead of FP1, Bezzecchi could seldom consider he’d be a podium finish in the sprint just 24 hours later.

Team-mate Marini scored a maiden pole and was second in the sprint. His grand prix was ended on lap two by a collision with KTM’s Brad Binder, for which the South African was penalised, but Bezzecchi upheld VR46 honour with a fine ride to fifth.

Rightly, their performance across the weekend garnered praise from the entire paddock. Marc Marquez branded the pair “superheroes” after the sprint, noting how they treaded “that line between superhero and stupid” brilliantly. Rossi raises them tough in that Academy.

5. Oliveira confirms Honda approach as it looks for Marquez replacement

Oliveira has emerged at the top of Honda's list to replace Marquez, but it's not a certainty to happen

Oliveira has emerged at the top of Honda's list to replace Marquez, but it's not a certainty to happen

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Prior to the Indonesian GP, Autosport reported that current RNF Aprilia rider and five-time MotoGP race winner Miguel Oliveira was top of Honda’s list to replace Marc Marquez next year.

The Portuguese rider is thought to have a clause in his contract with Aprilia that allows him to leave should a factory team offer him a deal. Oliveira confirmed that there had been an approach by Honda, but says “nothing concrete” was put on the table. Aprilia spent much of last week batting away suggestions that its riders are free to leave.

RNF boss Razlan Razali told MotoGP’s world feed coverage during the Indonesia weekend that no such clause in Oliveira’s contract existed, though the Portuguese rider would later refute his team boss’s claim.

6. Quartararo strengthens his indispensability with Indonesia podium

Quartararo's storming ride underlined why Yamaha needs to keep him on beyond his current deal

Quartararo's storming ride underlined why Yamaha needs to keep him on beyond his current deal

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

In a week in which one MotoGP champion decided his future, Indonesia came as a timely reminder for Yamaha as to why it must do all in its power to keep Fabio Quartararo beyond 2024.

The 2021 world champion anticipated a stronger weekend in Indonesia, with the track layout and the stiffer construction rear tyre doing less to hamper the underperforming M1. A solid fifth in the sprint gave way to a supreme performance in the grand prix, in which he hunted down race leaders Bagnaia and Maverick Vinales to get to the chequered flag in third.

Quartararo set the third-fastest lap of the GP with a 1m31.116s versus a 1m31.314s for Vinales and 1m31.324s for Bagnaia. More impressively, that time came on lap 18 of 27 for Quartararo, while Vinales’ and Bagnaia’s were on laps 13 and seven.

The Frenchman branded it his best podium of the year due to its fighting nature, but predictably the M1’s lack of grunt to be able to overtake stunted a charge that arguably should have won him the race on a better bike.

“I really pushed like hell, and when we ride alone we can really make our riding style and this is good,” he said. “But when we are behind, we ride totally different to Ducati, Aprilia, basically all bikes. The only bike I overtook was Aleix [Espargaro] because he had the soft tyre and he was really, really struggling.”

7. Gresini confirms Marquez’s new crew chief, and he’s a good ’un

Carchedi will be Marquez's crew chief when the Honda rider makes his Gresini switch for 2024

Carchedi will be Marquez's crew chief when the Honda rider makes his Gresini switch for 2024

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

During the Indonesia weekend Marc Marquez confirmed that Javi Ortiz, his tyre technician, would be the only member of his current Honda crew coming with him to Gresini. As was already known, long-time crew chief Santi Hernandez would be staying behind.

Marquez conceded this will be “strange” for him given the long, successful partnership – as well as their deep friendship – the pair have shared. But the eight-time world champion will be getting a strong replacement. Gresini team director Michele Masini confirmed Frankie Carchedi will become Marquez’s crew chief.

Carchedi currently works with Fabio Di Giannantonio at Gresini, and previously was Joan Mir’s crew chief at Suzuki between 2019 and 2022 – winning the title with the Spaniard in 2020. Because of this, Marquez says he isn’t going to Gresini “with my eyes closed” as he knows the calibre of crew chief Carchedi is.

8. MotoGP riders nearing GPDA-style union

Guintoli has been put forward as the front man of the new MotoGP riders union

Guintoli has been put forward as the front man of the new MotoGP riders union

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Over the Indoneisa weekend, Autosport broke the story that MotoGP is nearing the creation of a riders’ association akin to that of Formula 1’s GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association).

Talk of a riders’ union has floated around for a while but has largely come to nothing. But in recent weeks the riders have united more on core issues such as safety. This was apparent in India when they stood together to inspect the track and approve it from a safety perspective.

The association should give the riders a voice on matters of most importance to them, with one-time World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli set to helm it. He is currently learning all of the legal and judicial processes involved to shape his proposal to the riders, which he will do in Thailand.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro says Guintoli is the right person to lead this association because “Sylvain is a good guy with good experience, speaks good English, knows the championship, is still working for Michelin [as a test rider].”

9. Espargaro pragmatic over Tech3 seat loss

Pol Espargaro will vacate his Tech3 seat for hot shot Acosta in 2024, but has vowed to accept the decision in a mature fashion

Pol Espargaro will vacate his Tech3 seat for hot shot Acosta in 2024, but has vowed to accept the decision in a mature fashion

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The other major rider market news prior to the Indonesian GP was that of KTM resolving its logjam and placing Moto2 championship leader Pedro Acosta at Tech3 in place of Pol Espargaro.

It is a decision he accepted mutually with KTM and bears no grudges, while in Indonesia he said he’ll have chances to return to full-time competition in 2025. For next year, he will act as a KTM test rider and contest in some wildcards.

Espargaro getting the chop does come in a year in which he missed the first half of the championship due to serious injury and really hasn’t been given much time to get himself back up to speed. But the eight-time MotoGP podium finisher was pragmatic over the situation when he spoke about it last Thursday.

Interview: What compels a MotoGP rider to return to something that almost killed them?

“Well, it’s not actually a disappointment,” he began. “It’s what happened. For sure I want to be a racer next year, I feel I’m fast. I’m not as fast as I would like to be but I’ve been away for quite a long time.

“The bike has changed a lot and I haven’t been able to be as fast as I want. But even like that I’ve been fast enough. But things go like that and I need to take it in a mature way, don’t be a child screaming and crying. Just taking a new chapter in my life in the most mature, best way possible. It’s the only way it’s going to work for both parts.”

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10. Michelin’s milestone moment

Bagnaia became the 500th rider to win a GP on Michelin tyres since 1973

Bagnaia became the 500th rider to win a GP on Michelin tyres since 1973

Photo by: Dorna

The Indonesian GP marked a significant milestone for Michelin, as Francesco Bagnaia became its five hundredth grand prix winner.

The French tyre manufacturer registered its first GP success at the 1973 Isle of Man TT with Jack Findley. The century mark was hit in 1987 at the Brazilian GP courtesy of Wayne Gardner, who would go on to win the 500cc title for Honda that year.

Mick Doohan scored victory number 200 in 1996 in Brazil on his way to that year’s title, while Sete Gibernau won the 300th GP for Michelin in 2003 at the Dutch TT. Marc Marquez claimed its 400th win in 2018 at the Spanish GP on his way to his fifth premier class championship.

Of course, since 2016 Michelin has been sole tyre supplier for the MotoGP class. But it has had to weather several storms in this time, including several high profile failures at the start of 2016.

The French firm has been MotoGP's exclusive supplier since 2016, after taking over from Bridgestone

The French firm has been MotoGP's exclusive supplier since 2016, after taking over from Bridgestone

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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