Ayumu Sasaki has confirmed 2nd position in the 2023 Moto3 World Championship after ranking 1st at the Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana and the MotoGP season closer.
Plaudits and celebrations were the post-race scenes for LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna IntactGP at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit for the twentieth and last round of 2023 MotoGP as Ayumu Sasaki completed his best ever season and claimed 2nd in the Riders rankings, with eleven podium finishes thanks to the FR 250 GP. The Japanese ran to victory for the first time in ‘23 while teammate Collin Veijer sealed a fantastic debut season with 4th place in Valencia.
After the heat of Sepang in Malaysia and the night race and sandy abrasion of Lusail in Qatar, MotoGP landed back on European shores for the last leg of the triple header and the twentieth and final Grand Prix of a protracted campaign. The Circuito Ricardo Tormo is a very familiar racetrack for the teams and paddock and the 2023 Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana was the 26th GP to be hosted at the flat, 4km venue with a relentlessly curving layout. The stadium setting on three sides of the course gives Valencia a distinctive character and MotoGP benefited from some generously warm and bright late autumn weather in the afternoon periods.
The 2023 Moto3 title contest may have been decided in the Qatari desert facility near Doha but Husqvarna Motorcycles and Ayumu Sasaki still had goals to achieve, and the Japanese carried a healthy 18-point cushion over 3rd place in the standings coming to Spain. Veijer, at the tail-end of an impressive rookie tilt, could confirm a top-seven ranking. IntactGP also had the target to claim P1 in the Teams Championship so there was plenty on the line under the Spanish sunshine close to the east coast.
On Friday both Veijer and Sasaki were both less than seven tenths of a second from Provisional Pole and slotted effortlessly into Q2. The last qualification chrono of the year was customarily tight but ended with a brilliant 1-2 for the team with Veijer lodging his second Pole of the season and Sasaki in 2nd and only four hundredths of a second away.
Moto3 lasted for 20 tense and unpredictable circulations late Sunday morning. The temperatures crept up on the asphalt but also among the five-rider leading pack as the final dispute for podium space and points raged. Sasaki and Veijer placed the white and blue FR 250 GPs into the mix from the start and their front row berths; despite a Sighting Lap drama for Collin. Sasaki even clocked the fastest ever Moto3 race chrono as he vied for P1. For the eighth time in 2023 Ayumu fronted the field on the last lap but some excellent defensive riding meant he kept 1st to the flag for his third career win; the first ’25’ points since the Austrian Grand Prix in the summer of 2022 and for Husqvarna Motorcycles’ seventh all-time triumph in the class.
The flag fell on 2023 with boxes ticked and decent numbers accrued. Sasaki ended his term in Moto3 and his two-year stint with the team with his eleventh rostrum finish of the season and to raise his total to 22, with 20 of those obtained in Husqvarna Motorcycles colours. Veijer appeared on the podium twice in his maiden season and locked away 7th place in the championship as IntactGP were confirmed as the best team in the category!
Ayumu Sasaki: “I don’t have many words right now. My last race in Moto3 and the team have done an amazing job and they are worthy champions. I showed I can be also. The last week was hard for me but I want to thank everybody who supported me, especially all the fans, I wanted to give something back. It’s been a great season and I learned so much in the two years with this team. This win was a great way to celebrate with them.”
Collin Veijer: “I'm happy with P4, considering how difficult it was for me to achieve this result. We went out on the sighting lap, and I tried to push a bit, just to get a feeling. But then I high-sided quite heavily in Turn 2 and I had a lot of pain in my back. But the race went quite well, even though the handlebars were completely bent after the crash. But I always tried to make the best of it, and I did everything I could. Surprisingly, I was able to stay at the front for most of the distance and, above all, I set a very fast pace. Overall, we can be satisfied with this race. We also finished the championship in P7. We've made a lot of progress over the course of the season. So, I'm very confident going into 2024. The whole team has done a great job every time, which is underlined by winning the team’s classification. Ayumu and I scored a lot of points, and we can be very proud of that.”
Moto2 marked the end of Darryn Binder’s maiden season, both inside the team and in the intermediate category. The South African was still riding less than fully fit after his crash in Malaysia but keen to post more laps and speed ahead of the important 2024 test at the same track in the following days. Darryn qualified in 25th position on the grid after Saturday’s sunny programme. Lukas Tulovic’s own journey with the team came to a conclusion at Valencia. The German pushed to qualify in 21st for a seventh row slot.
Moto2 lapped Valencia 22 times and it was Binder who forged the better pace but could only manage 20th. Tulovic DNF-ed and wasn’t able to make the flag. After the Valencia test and the first taste of work for 2024 – including a new tyre supplier to both the Moto2 and Moto3 classes – the team will carry on winter prep until the new season quickly zooms into view with the Grand Prix of Qatar on March 10th.
Darryn Binder: “A really difficult race for me. I’d made up a few positions but I was missing feeling and couldn’t ride the way I wanted. I was taking a lot of risks without much reward. I had to turn it down and bring the bike home. Disappointing to end a tough season like this but, luckily, I have a great team that believes in me and I have another shot with them next year. 2024 starts with the next test so let’s get out there and begin work already. I want to get back to full fitness this winter. Roll on next year.”
Lukas Tulovic: “That was definitely not the end of the season I would have wished for here in Valencia. I took a gamble with the tyres after feeling very good with the combination on Saturday. Unfortunately, this was not confirmed in the race because I was struggling a lot more with the rear and was also at the limit with the front. I had lost two places, was then only eighteenth, and wanted to stay with the group because I sensed my chance would come at the end of the race. I didn't get that far after trying everything I could to stay with the group. I'm obviously very unhappy to finish the season in the gravel. I have no choice but to tick it off and put it behind me. I'm now looking forward to the winter break to clear my head and then we'll be back together in MotoE in the new year, stronger and fresher.”
Results Moto3 Valencia Grand Prix
1. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna 33:03.409, 2. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS +0.082, 3. Ivan Ortola (ESP) KTM +0.128, 4. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +0.266
Final World championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 274 points, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 268, 3. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS, 245, 7. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 149
Results Moto2 Valencia Grand Prix
1. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) 34:33.384, 2. Aron Canet (ESP) +3.986, 3. Alonso Lopez (ESP) +6.455
20. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +33.307, DNF. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna
Final World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 332.5 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 249.5, 3. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP), 212, 20. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 34, 24. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 12