MotoGP 2023 sprint races: Everything you need to know

From the 2023 season, MotoGP will introduce sprint races to grand prix weekends. Here is everything you need to know.

Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

First reported by Autosport on Friday of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend and officially confirmed by MotoGP on Saturday, sprint races will take place at every event next year.

These will be half-distance races with half-points on offer and will have no bearing on the starting grid for the main grand prix.

Why is MotoGP running sprint races?

MotoGP is currently trying to re-position itself in the motorsport landscape amidst a drop in interest in the series.

The series tried to boost this by releasing a behind-the-scenes docuseries entitled MotoGP Unlimited on Amazon Prime in March. But the series was deemed a failure and a second season of it was shelved not long into filming.

In a bid to better understand what it needed to do, MotoGP owners Dorna Sports ran a global fan survey in conjunction with Motorsport Network – which had over 100,000 responses.

One idea that was given huge support was to introduce a sprint race to grand prix weekend format, copying a similar move Formula 1 made in 2021 and what World Superbikes has been doing since 2019.

It is hoped sprint races will offer better value for fans both watching from the track and from home, which in turn should attract more sponsorship and boost overall worldwide exposure.

When will MotoGP sprint races take place?

From the 2023 season, MotoGP will run sprint races on the Saturday of every grand prix event.

This sprint race will take place at 3pm local time for each event, with the usual qualifying session happening earlier in the day to decide the grid for it.

Jorge Viegas, FIM President, Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, Herve Poncharal, IRTA President

Jorge Viegas, FIM President, Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, Herve Poncharal, IRTA President

Photo by: Dorna

How will MotoGP sprint races work?

MotoGP sprint races will run to half of the total distance of the main grand prix. So, for example, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone consisted of 20 laps: therefore, the sprint race will be run over 10 laps.

To accommodate the sprint race, weekend's format will be altered slightly. Two practice sessions will continue to take place on Friday, but will be extended. It is not clear yet how long FP1 and FP2 will now be, however the new format will ensure actual weekend track time remains unchanged from 2022. This will also mean tyre and engine allocations won’t be altered.

The combined standings at the end of FP2 will determine who goes through into the first qualifying session and who goes directly through to the pole shootout session.

On Saturday morning, a 30-minute FP3 session will take place ahead of qualifying – with the current FP4 session essentially being replaced by the new FP3 session.

Qualifying will remain unchanged from the format that has been used since 2013, with the results from it decided the grid for both the sprint and the grand prix.

This is a departure from the systems used in F1, whereby qualifying determined the grid for the sprint race, which determined the grid for the grand prix. It is also different to WSBK, where the sprint Superpole race decides the top nine for the second main race of a weekend.

The 20-minute warm-up will be removed from Sunday’s schedule.

From 2023, MotoGP sessions across all days will form the last class to go out in each part of the day. Currently, MotoGP sessions are between Moto3 and Moto2 on Friday and Saturdays, with MotoGP typically last on Sundays.

Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team

Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The plan is to ensure MotoGP races run as the final race every Sunday from 2023 to allow for better fan engagement by allowing for track invasions.

However, it is not yet clear how this will work in regards to avoiding clashes with the start times of F1 races on weekends when both series are racing. At present, MotoGP always runs before the scheduled start of a European F1 races if there is a clash.

Will riders score points in MotoGP sprint races?

Half points will be awarded to riders in the top nine positions of the sprint races.

In a normal grand prix, the top 15 riders score points in a system of: 25, 20, 16, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

In the sprint race, the winner will score 12 points, with the remaining eight positions down to ninth scoring 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

The introduction of points-scoring sprint races in 2023 means for the first time since the Dutch Grand Prix in 2015, points will be scored on a Saturday of a MotoGP weekend.

Will sprint races count as MotoGP grand prix wins?

One of the main questions surrounding the sprint race is how it will appear in the career statistics of riders, given it is a race in its own right. 

Dorna has confirmed sprint race victories will be counted totally separate to grand prix wins - therefore a rider who takes their first MotoGP victory in a sprint contest will not be classed as a grand prix winner.

How many MotoGP sprint races will there be?

Sprint races will be held at every grand prix event in 2023 on the Saturday.

Assuming the 2023 calendar will consist of 21 races, there will be 21 sprint events. As a result, there will be a total of 42 MotoGP races.

Darryn Binder, RNF MotoGP Racing

Darryn Binder, RNF MotoGP Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Has MotoGP raced on Saturday before?

In recent history, MotoGP raced on a Saturday at the Dutch Grand Prix at Assen.

From its inception as an event in 1925, the Dutch TT was held on the last Saturday of every June and this tradition remained up until 2015.

The race was held on Saturday rather than Sunday due to religious reasons.

For 2016, the Dutch GP fell in line with the rest of the race on the MotoGP calendar by being run on a Sunday in a bid to help boost attendance at the event.

What do the riders think of MotoGP sprint races?

The news of sprint races being added to the MotoGP schedule for the first time has drawn mixed reactions from riders.

Some, such as Jack Miller and Joan Mir, have been positive about the idea, with six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez telling Autosport that it will make the series “more spectacular”.

“I think it's a wise decision, especially because it's in favour of the show,” Marquez told Autosport in an exclusive interview about sprint races.

“As a rider I like Sundays, because that's when the races take place. Sprint races will make MotoGP more spectacular and give a different point of view of the weekend. There will be less time for testing, and that will make the work of the factories even more important.”

However, some riders such as reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro have been against sprint races.

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Quartararo said: “I think it's totally stupid. I'm not the one who makes decisions about race formats, but I think we're entering a totally stupid format. If we do it from time to time, like in Formula 1, I think it can be interesting, but every Saturday...

“Honestly, there are circuits where you are physically exhausted, like Assen, Mugello. When we finish the race, we are exhausted. Honestly, I don't think it's right to do this without asking the riders' opinions. Or at least I wasn't asked.”

According to Dorna Sports, the FIM and the International Race Teams Association, the proposal was unanimously backed by teams.

When will the first MotoGP sprint race be?

The first MotoGP sprint race will take place at the opening round of the 2023 season at the Portuguese Grand Prix on the weekend of the 24-26 March.

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