A positive ‘debut’ on Indian asphalt as Ayumu Sasaki races to 3rd place at the first ever MotoGP visit to the Buddh International Circuit.
2023 is the 75th season for MotoGP and despite the age and long history of Grand Prix motorcycle racing there is still time and space for ‘firsts’. The IndianOil Grand Prix of India was not only the thirteenth round of twenty this year and the opening date of seven overseas (non-European) events in the next eight weeks but was the inaugural running of MotoGP by the hosts.
The Buddh International Circuit had entertained F1 between 2011 (the year of the facility’s opening) and 2013 but had not staged a world championship Grand Prix since. The weaving layout of 5km and 13 corners represented a technical collection of turns, joined in part by one of the longest straights of the series where MotoGP machinery touched 350kmph speeds. The section also asked a lot of the Moto3 motorcycles (230kmph) as the riders and teams not only had to learn the best lines around ‘BIC’ but also configure their race set-ups to cope with the switch between flow and fully committed braking points.
Ayumu Sasaki was both proficient and a little unlucky on Friday and Saturday. The Japanese had a slow speed but fiery crash on Turn 3 but was also consistently hovering around the top of the leader board. He was chasing teammate Collin Veijer in fact as the rookie was the fastest in adaptation to Buddh and steered his FR 250 GP to P1 on Combined Standings.
Saturday afternoon was complicated by a heavy but brief rainstorm that meant the Moto3 riders were also the first to explore the limits of the track in the wet. The Q2 session was briefly delayed to allow for the worst of the conditions to pass but Sasaki rode well to capture 3rd and the final slot on the front row as Veijer was close and ranked 9th; for the third row.
Moto3 ran through 16 laps at midday on Sunday. Sasaki powered away with leader Jaume Masia but could not hold pace with the Spaniard and was soon counting Kaito Toba for company in 2nd. Veijer was also impressively competitive once more and demonstrated the excellent progress the Dutchman has made in his first Grand Prix campaign. Lap-times were tight and track space also. The trio battled hard until some unexpected contact between the teammates into the penultimate corner left Veijer on the floor and Sasaki surviving to claim 3rd. Collin could not finish the race but Ayumu collected his seventh podium of the year and the first since the Austrian Grand Prix, meaning he is now 3rd and just one point from the lead in the championship. Veijer is 13th. LIQUI Moly IntactGP Husqvarna team are ranked 2nd in the Teams standings and Husqvarna Motorcycles is 3rd in the Constructors table.
Sasaki heads to his home Grand Prix with much expectation in front of native fans and followers at the Twin Ring Motegi next weekend.
Ayumu Sasaki: “Around the middle of the race I was quite comfortable following the leader but then my front tyre was gone and I was struggling a lot in the braking zones. On the last lap I didn’t want any contact with Collin but I just went a little bit wide and he was trying to turn in from the outside. I guess it was a racing incident. I feel sorry for him but we will take this result today and keep on fighting for the championship.”
Collin Veijer: “The conditions were similar to yesterday so I felt good. I struggled a bit at the start of the race because a lot of people were overtaking me on the straight but finally I found the pace. I tried to close the gap to the riders in front of me and could eventually reach Ayumu and that battle for 2nd. The race ended in an unfortunate way but I think we can be happy with how the weekend was up until that point. I’m looking forward to Japan where I will do my best again.”
The Moto2 arm of the team was happy to welcome Darryn Binder back into the fray. The South African had recovered from his back injury sustained at the Austrian Grand Prix in August and was immediately into play around the Buddh curves. Darryn emerged through Q1 on Saturday and was smart and competitive in the mixed dry/damp state of the track in Q2 to qualify 5th, in the middle of the second row. The lap-time and result represented the best Saturday of the year so far for the crew and also the Moto2 ‘debutant’. Sadly, Lukas Tulovic crashed on Turn 7 and had a successful operation to plate a broken left collarbone on Saturday evening.
Moto2 was set for 17 intense laps and in hot mid-afternoon timing on Sunday but the race had to be restarted after an incident at Turn 1. For the shortened distance Darryn made a positive getaway and was proactive in the third group. His 7th place by the finish line was just 11 seconds from the winner and gave him – and the team – their highest classification to-date.
The unique layout of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit will bring the Grand Prix of Japan to life next weekend.
Darryn Binder: “So good to be back racing again. Starting on the front two rows made a massive difference. I managed to stay out of trouble on the first corners and laps! I wanted a little bit more and I wanted to go with some other riders but I don’t have the laps under my belt right now. Overall I’m super-happy with how the weekend went and how we started this section of the calendar.”
Results Moto3 Grand Prix of India
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 31:58.245, 2. Kaito Toba (JPN) Honda +5.477, 3. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +5.784, DNF. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 174 points, 2. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 174, 3. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 173, 13. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 58.
Results Moto2 Grand Prix of India
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) 22:29.844, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA) +3.543, 3. Joe Roberts (USA) +6.506, 7. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +11.644, DNS. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna,
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 236 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 197, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 146, 19. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 22. 21. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 12