Points and presence in both Moto3™ and Moto2™ categories for the first time for Husqvarna Motorcycles as the MotoGP™ World Championship launches in the Algarve sunshine.
The Grande Premio TISSOT de Portugal represented round one of twenty-one in 2023 MotoGP and gave the teams and riders a level playing field; both for the knowledge of the Algarve International Circuit – scene of the last pre-season test for all classes – and for the parity in the empty championship standings. Portugal was the start of a new campaign and with all to play for.
The LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna Intact GP team made their debut as a force in both Moto3 and Moto2 and with some exciting possibilities through the Dutch, German, Spanish and South African representation in their ranks. The weather was bright, sunny, breezy and stable across the three days.
On Saturday Ayumu Sasaki shone in the conditions to capture his third career Moto3 Pole Position with the FR 250 GP and ensure the best possible view along the sloping main straight. Collin Veijer made a very encouraging start to his Moto3 Grand Prix career with 14th place and a decent mid-grid space.
Sasaki used his experience and racecraft to position himself at the peak of a group that numbered 14 riders and saw multiple changes for the lead. The Japanese bided his time, measured his pace and kept free of drama until the decisive final lap but could not force his case and crossed the line only a second behind winner Daniel Holgado to take 6th. Veijer was running mid-pack and with steady speed as part of the second sect. The Dutchman picked up his first points for a worthy 12th.
Ayumu Sasaki: “A difficult race and the conditions were very different to yesterday. It was hard to race. I was trying to use the positive parts of our technical package and in the end we finished 6th, when I think we expected better. But, we learned from this, we got some points and we will do better in Argentina.”
Collin Veijer: “My first race was not bad. It felt a bit difficult in the first laps and finally got some feeling and could push a bit more. Next time we know we can be with the front group. The speed is there. Overall, I’m happy. We have some points and we’ll move onto the next one.”
Husqvarna Motorcycles debuted in the Moto2 intermediate division of the MotoGP World Championship but was reduced to one-rider. Lukas Tulovic tried to push through Free Practice on Friday in Portugal but his injured right hand was too painful for more than a few laps. The German had to withdraw from the Grand Prix and is set to undergo MRI scans to know the extent of the damage.
Darryn Binder gave the white and blue livery lofty profile in the 21-lap affair on Sunday. The South African started from 11th on the grid and was tussling for track and a top ten place throughout the distance. Towards the end he made a mistake tipping into Turn 5. He was able to remount but lost the chance for points as he made it home in 16th.
Darryn Binder: “Definitely not the ending I was looking for in my first Grand Prix but I need to take the positives to Argentina and that was a good start and good speed in the right part of the field for the first three quarters. My small mistake was very costly. I picked up and fought back from 21st to 16th and just short of the points. I feel that we have the package to do very well. I’m still figuring it out but I’m sure we’ll be fighting for some good positions very soon.”
Lukas Tulovic: "This was not that day of qualifying I had prepared for all winter. I tried to recover as much as possible in the days ahead of the race weekend. We really tried everything. The injury gets worse with riding, we finally made the decision to sit out this weekend. At the same time, we pulled out all the stops and had an MRI scan done. This then revealed the real injury that had not previously shown up on the x-ray. Nothing was broken, but the impact had crushed and compressed a bone. According to the doctors, the external healing process should be quite quick but it will also take some time for a full recovery. This means that Argentina also falls into the water for me. The focus is now fully on the healing process to hopefully be ready to race in Austin again."
The Gran Premio Michelin de la Republica Argentina will bring the paddock together again in a matter of days where the flat Termas de Rio Hondo will constitute round two.
Results Moto3 Grande Premio TISSOT de Portugal
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM 34:27.061, 2. David Muñoz (ESP) KTM +0.160, 3. Diogo Moreira (BRA) KTM +0.175, 6. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +1.090, 12. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +6.904
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM 25 points. 2. David Muñoz (ESP) KTM, 20. 3. Diogo Moreira (BRA) KTM, 16. 6. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 10. 12. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 4.
Results Moto2 Grande Premio TISSOT de Portugal
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) KTM 36:04.193. 2. Aron Canet (ESP) +1.358. 3. Tony Arbolino (ITA) +4.460. 16. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +40.233
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) KTM, 25 points. 2. Aron Canet (ESP), 20. 3. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 16. 16. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 0.