The Grande Premio de Portugal at the Algarve International Circuit hosts the first of 21 rounds in the 2023 MotoGP World Championship this weekend.
Husqvarna Motorcycles is set for participation in both Moto3™ and Moto2™ classes for the very first time thanks to the LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna Intact GP team.
Somewhat unusually, MotoGP will fire up Grand Prix engines on European soil as the calendar opens in southern Portugal this week. It has been over fifteen years since the championship last started on the continent. The Algarve International Circuit, close to the town of Portimao, first staged MotoGP in 2020 and has been an ever-present site since; the technical demands of the climbs, drops and cambers of the 4.5km layout providing a challenging mix of speed. The facility has entertained pre-season testing sessions for all three classes and is now building-up to the first event of the longest ever Grand Prix campaign.
Husqvarna Motorcycles embarks on its fourth world championship year but with the added commitment to the Moto2 category. The team have completed tests in both Jerez and Portimao with Moto3 riders Ayumu Sasaki (22 years old, winner of two Grands Prix with nine podiums on the FR 250 GP in 2022 while classifying 4th in the championship) and rookie Collin Veijer (18 years of age) as well as welcoming 2022 MotoGP rider and former Moto3 GP winner Darryn Binder (25, from South Africa, making his debut in Moto2) and Lukas Tulovic (22, from Germany and the 2022 European Champion) for the intermediate division.
Veijer and Tulovic will have to grapple with the demands of Moto3 and Moto2 as new recruits for Husqvarna Motorcycles. Binder has the same status, both coming to a new factory and competing in Moto2, but already has eight seasons of Grand Prix experience to call on. Sasaki’s second year in Husqvarna Motorcycles white and blue sees the continuance of a very strong alliance from 2022; the union represents a good chance of a fourth successive year of Moto3 spoils for the brand.
The Grande Premio de Portugal gets underway with the first Moto3 Practice1 at 09.00 GMT this Friday.
Ayumu Sasaki: “I’m excited! A new team structure and I think it is a stronger background than what we had before: I have everything I need to be stronger than in 2022. Of course, our expectation is very high but we have to take the championship race-by-race and keep our target of always trying for podiums and always being at the front. We have to read the category to be up there consistently. That’s the main thing and then we reassess in the middle of the season. From the tests we have done we are capable of making our target. We have to focus. I cannot wait to start in Portimao.”
Collin Veijer: “I can’t wait to start my first season in the Moto3 world championship. My expectations for this year are to learn new things and to improve every lap. My goal is to be Rookie of the Year and I will try my very best for this. I know I can count on my team and we will work hard together.”
Darryn Binder: “Super-excited to start the first race of the season and it’s certainly different to begin in Europe. Portimao is a crazy track and I really enjoy riding here. Pre-season has been good and I’m excited to run out in the Husqvarna Motorcycles colours for the first time. I hope we’ll have a decent weekend to start the year.”
Lukas Tulovic: “Finally we can get going! The winter break has been a bit longer for me compared to the guys who were in last year’s world championship. I’ve been kicking ass all winter to arrive here fit and ready for Moto2. Testing was awesome. I got to know everybody in the team and the new bike. It was exciting and positive. I have a lot of confidence to start the season. Expectations? I said last year that I was looking to the top ten because I was comparing my lap-times in the European Championship to the world championship and I think it is a realistic target, maybe not at the first race but we will try to be there. I think we can be optimistic and hope to make some progress.”
Peter Öttl, Team Manager: “It was hectic winter getting everything ready but we had two good tests where we fine-tuned the preparation for the season. Collin missed the first one because of a small injury but made his laps in Portimao just fine and worked well with his group. He has good potential and, as a rookie, he will need some time. It’s very exciting to get the championship started in Portugal and we know Ayumu is very competitive; he was riding for wins and podiums last year and that is his – and our - expectation again for 2023. The team have been pushing a lot in pre-season and I want to thank them for this. Now we go racing!”
Jürgen Lingg, Team Principal: “We are proud that Husqvarna Motorcycles has such great confidence in us and we are happy to finally be on the race track. It has been a busy winter but also necessary to organise and prepare this massive project. It's great to see the riders take to the track for the first time in the recent tests. It feels very good. We have a really good package in all classes. We are looking forward to the season finally getting underway and we hope for good results, which will definitely come.”
Jens Hainbach, Head of Sports Management Road Racing: “2023 is a shiny new start for Husqvarna Motorcycles in MotoGP and we could not be happier with our old and new partners that have allowed us to put this historic brand into both Moto3 and Moto2. We have a lot of faith in the team to lead the charge with the FR 250 GP and allow Ayumu-san the chance to fight for the title while we are curious to see how Collin can progress and expand his potential at this level. Moto2 is a platform for development and both Darryn and Lukas will have their own goals and trajectory and it will still be a big bonus for us to have the Husqvarna Motorcycles livery in this category.”