Ayumu Sasaki classified as runner-up around the long, fast and technical layout of the historic Silverstone circuit as 2023 MotoGP™ resumed with the British Grand Prix and round nine of twenty.
The Japanese star steered his FR 250 GP machine to another podium finish in the Moto3 category as his plight to move into 2023 title contention continues apace. The LIQUI MOLY IntactGP Husqvarna team gathered with the rest of the world championship paddock after a summer break that lasted over four weeks and brought MotoGP to the 18-corner weave of turns and kinks that forms the challenge of Silverstone.
Motorcycle racing has a long tradition at the site, despite also being known as the home of Britain’s F1 community and annual Grand Prix meet. The first two-wheel world championship fixture took place in England’s midlands in 1977 and Silverstone welcomed MotoGP back in 2010. Since then, it has been the habitual scene for the UK fans to get their yearly GP fix of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.
Sasaki’s bright run of form prior to the hiatus meant he counted on four consecutive podium finishes in Moto3 and had drawn to within 10 points of 2nd spot in the standings. The Japanese immediately got to work through a chilly and windy Friday practice programme and was then equally quick through Saturday that was heavily affected by a summer storm and incessant rainfall. The conditions were very difficult for Q1 and Q2 and Ayumu rode conservatively to lock 7th place on the grid and confirm the first slot on the third row. Teammate Collin Veijer was attempting Silverstone for the first time in Moto3 and qualified 23rd after he couldn’t quite make the breakthrough in Q1.
Sunday dawned dry and with friendlier skies as British fans assumed more space in the many grandstand seats and prepared for a full race schedule, opened by 15 laps of Moto3 around the 5.9km course. Sasaki lunged into the leading select and rarely budged out of the top five as the front running group numbered up to twenty riders for most of the distance. Veijer was also impressive. The Dutchman set the fastest lap in a charge from mid-pack into podium contention.
At the crucial moment of truth – the final circulation – Sasaki went hard and pushed into P2 and just ran out of corners to relegate David Alonso. The gap was a marginal 0.152 of a second at the flag as Ayumu extended his streak of trophies to five and obtained that P2 spot in the championship. Veijer’s costly mistake with half a lap remaining meant he slipped out of the podium tussle but still recovered for 9th and a top ten classification; his second in a row and the second occasion he is less than one second behind the winner.
Sasaki now has 119 points and is 22 from P1 in the Moto3 standings while Veijer is 15th in his rookie term. The team are 3rd in their respective table and Husqvarna Motorcycles is also 3rd in the Manufacturers championship.
Ayumu Sasaki: “Today was a difficult one: windy and cold. I knew it would be a big group and I was expecting that type of race. I knew I had to stay calm. On the last lap I went back to P5 and I thought ‘I need to come back!’ I made a great last lap. I’m happy with P2. We wanted the win but it was tricky. I hope we can do it now in Austria.”
Collin Veijer: “It was a good day and happy to have a dry race. My start was pretty good and I grabbed some positions. My mistake on the last lap was a bit stupid but I tried something different and lost the rear and had a bit of a twist. Anyway, I came back from 23rd to the front so I’m very happy with the progression. We learned a lot and now onto the next one.”
For the first time in the 2023 season the Moto2 Grand Prix closed the Sunday agenda. The intermediate class was disputed through 17-laps and Darryn Binder and Lukas Tulovic qualified 14th and 23rd for the fifth and eighth rows of the grid but through some of the worst of the rainy weather on a damp Saturday in Silverstone. Moto2 dealt with the fresh layers of MotoGP rubber on Sunday afternoon but Binder was fighting for space early on when contact with Jake Dixon forced a Long Lap penalty. He recovered from the setback to challenge his teammate for 15th and a duel for the last championship point. Lukas tried to grab the position and the pair were separated by just half a second at the line! The team will stay in Silverstone for a test on Monday.
MotoGP will reach the halfway stage of the season in two weeks. The CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich will play out around the speedy confines of the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
Darryn Binder: “Not the best race today. I suffered in the contact with Jake, which from my point of view was a pure racing incident. There was no way for me to see him on the outside. I don’t even know how he got there because it’s not the place for a pass. It was definitely not my intention to touch him. I got a penalty, served it and rode to bring the bike home after that. We’ll test tomorrow where we will work and improve.”
Lukas Tulovic: “For this difficult weekend, the result was somewhat reconciliatory. There was a lot of chaos in the first corners, actually though the entire first lap. I had a good start but was pushed wide in the first corner, which probably saved me from being wiped out a few seconds later. I got a few crash parts in the front wheel, then thought I had a flat tyre. The bike soon felt rebalanced and jumped some places. I was on my own from then on, after Darryn had done his long lap. I had a clear path to the front and made sure that I rode my rhythm and did clean, consistent laps. Shortly before the end, I made a mistake in turn 3. That cost me a lot of time, so Darryn was able to catch up again. In the end, unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the last World Championship point, but after this treacherous weekend it still feels like damage limitation. Now we'll see what we can find tomorrow at the test here in Silverstone, and then hopefully in Austria, on a track I'm more familiar with, we can start further from the front.”
Results Moto3 British Grand Prix
1. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS 33:35.396, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.152, 3. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM +0.203, 9. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +0.941.
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 141 points, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 119, 3. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda, 109, 15. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 34.
Results Moto2 British Grand Prix
1. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) 35:37.758, 2. Aron Canet (ESP) +2.546, 3. Pedro Acosta (ESP) +3.883, 15. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +29.061, 16. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna +29.556
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) 156 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 154, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 104, 19. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 13. 21. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 6