Ayumu Sasaki delivered his eighth top-four result of 2023 after another riveting Moto3™ contest at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and narrowed the margin to P1 in the standings.
Round eleven of the 2023 world championship delivered MotoGP to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and for a traditional home for the sport since the series first circulated the flowing layout in 1992. The Catalan date has been a firm fixture in MotoGP but the ’23 edition took place at the later date of September rather than the usual June slot.
The LIQUI MOLY IntactGP Husqvarna team were prepped for overcast and slightly stormy conditions that threatened to bring showers among warm and humid air. The event was busy, 71,000 fans streamed into the facility a short distance north of the city of Barcelona, despite the erratic weather and the three classes served another feast of motorsport entertainment and action. While Ayumu Sasaki and the blossoming Collin Veijer ensured the FR 250 GP was again a protagonist in Moto3, the Moto2™ wing of the team was missing Darryn Binder due to the back injury the South African sustained almost two weeks ago in Austria. Australian talent Senna Agius again stepped into the breach next to Lukas Tulovic in a substitute role.
Husqvarna Motorcycles was also looking to top their best Moto3 finish at the circuit, which was a 5th place in 2020. Sasaki has appeared in an official post-race press conference for the last six races in a row and was optimistic of continuing his podium streak and closing the 26-point gap to the top of the championship standings.
After Saturday’s qualification rush the Japanese was less than a second from the top of the pile and started from 13th while a fall for the fast Veijer in Q2 resulted in a broken left foot and the youngster had to withdraw from the Grand Prix. Moto3 ran for 18 laps and Sasaki was hovering around the top ten among the large front-running group in the first stages of the chase. He bided his time and two crashes from rivals and contact on the last lap allowed Ayumu to make his way safely to 4th; still less than three tenths from P1.
13 points means a significant gain in the championship standings after the flag had fallen on the first Grand Prix of the second half of the season. Sasaki has reduced the deficit from 26 to 13. Veijer is 15th. The squad are 2nd in the Team’s table and Husqvarna Motorcycles is still 3rd in the Manufacturers competition.
Ayumu Sasaki: “I think we did our maximum today. It was a big group and a risky race but we managed to score great points. The team did really well to prepare the bike for me today and I could control the race well. We didn’t have the easiest time on Friday and Saturday so to leave here with P4 and close to P1 in the championship makes me happy. We have to make sure we are fast again in Misano.”
Collin Veijer: “The second day here in Catalunya started very well: we were near the top on combined standings and I was ready for a good Q2 but unfortunately I high-sided and fractured my 2nd, 3rd and 4th metatarsal bones in my left foot. Not much more to say but I’m angry and frustrated with myself. We will focus on a quick recovery and try our best for the next races.”
The wide gathering of fans at Catalunya saw the Husqvarna Motorcycles colours flying in Moto2 for the first time. Lukas Tulovic had European Championship star Senna Agius in the pitbox alongside him and the pair pushed their machinery to the limits to obtain 22nd and 21st places respectively on the grid for the 21-lap affair on Sunday.
Tulovic applied himself to the task of breaching the top twenty and chased hard. He was battling inside the group, won a duel with Borja Gomez and managed to take 19th by the flag. Agius, making his third appearance for the outfit, sustained a Long Lap penalty and then crashed at Turn 7.
Lukas Tulovic: “I didn't have a good start but I had a great first corner. I quickly realized that quite a few riders were going wide, so I made a good move into Turn 1. I made up a lot of places, but unfortunately, I had a contract with my teammate Senna at the entrance to Turn 3, which almost threw us both to the very back. Of course, it is very unfortunate for both of us. I then tried to make the best of it. I was able to overtake a few riders and then I was alone again quite early. I rode at my constant pace, which was just as good as that of the riders in front of me. I'm even more annoyed about the collision because it cost me so much time and places and I have the feeling that I could have easily kept up with the group in front of me. From a purely pace point of view, it was a solid race and so we now have to take the positives into the future.”
Agius Senna: “I got caught up in the first lap chaos that you have from being far back on the grid. After the Long Lap I had to reset but I had a very weird crash in Turn 7. I was sitting in the gravel and I couldn’t quite believe it. I’m very sorry to the whole team. This is below my standards and I hope I can have a good day at the test tomorrow and have a new approach in Misano.”
Results Moto3 Gran Premi de Catalunya
1. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS 33:00.945, 2. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda +0.076, 3. Jose Rueda (ESP) KTM +0.234, 4. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.289, DNS. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 161 points 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 148, 3. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda, 129, 15. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 47.
Results Moto2 Gran Premi de Catalunya
1. Jake Dixon (GBR) 36.51.330, 2. Aron Canet (ESP) +0.206, 3. Albert Arenas (ESP) +1.027, 19. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna +25.537, DNF. Senna Agius (RSA) Husqvarna
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 186 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 164, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 142, 19. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 13. 21. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 12