Top six for Husqvarna Motorcycles at the Lusail International Circuit and round 19 of 20 in MotoGP means the world championship is decided but Ayumu Sasaki has a great chance of P2 in 2023.
LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna IntactGP were again protagonists in the Moto3 class at the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar as Ayumu Sasaki fought for the victory and finished 6th after a close dispute while Collin Veijer used the potential of the FR 250 GP to capture 10th: two seconds from the winner. The results were obtained around the spectacular Lusail International Circuit and for the penultimate round of a long, consistent and successful season for the team and the brand.
MotoGP flew from Malaysia to Qatar and for the second event in the season-closing triple header. Lusail usually opens each MotoGP campaign but the slew of new constructions and a major facelift for the circuit meant a delayed winter scheduling for 2023. The nineteenth Grand Prix of the current term was also the 21st at the venue and the 16th under the incredibly impressive lighting system that permits motorcycle racing action well into the cool and humid evening hours.
Husqvarna Motorcycles’ double podium haul in Sepang the previous weekend meant that both Veijer and Sasaki went to Qatar full of confidence. Sasaki had acquired his tenth podium in Malaysia and had narrowed the gap at the peak of the championship to just 13 points. Veijer was flush with enthusiasm after the rookie’s maiden win in the heat and was keen for more plunder in a stunning end to his first GP year.
Moto3 practice sessions took place in mid and late afternoon and where the FR 250 GPs were again among the fastest sect of the class. Both racers eased into Q2, which occurred early Saturday evening and ended with 4th for Sasaki and 5th for Veijer; decent from the Dutch teenager in his first sighting of Lusail and ensuring Husqvarna Motorcycles had two slots on the second row.
The 16-lap race began at a similar time on Sunday and with the last of the Qatari natural light falling across the desert landscape. The pair were fixed in a large lead group that saw the top fifteen divided by just two seconds. The proximity produced enthralling entertainment. Sasaki led several times but was also bumped and barged and with two laps to go had to rally from the depths of the top ten. He finished 6th and had to save a massive ‘moment’ out of the last turn that almost saw him crash. Veijer was among the second phase of the pack and rode to 10th.
MotoGP 2023 will see the final chequered flag of the season next week. Sasaki holds 243 points, 18 in front of 3rd in the standings with 25 left to fight for in Spain. Veijer had moved up to 8th in the standings and is now 7th; he cannot rise any higher. Husqvarna Motorcycles will confirm 3rd in the Constructors championship and IntactGP are leading their peers by 35 points for the Teams’ title. The Circuito de Ricardo Tormo is the traditional site for the season curtain drop and the flat and twisty layout will host yet another championship celebration.
Ayumu Sasaki: “A difficult race and I knew it would be a big group and we’d be fighting together. I was comfortable at the beginning and there were some aggressive moves. That was OK but with a few laps to go a few things happened that caused a slight break in the group. I didn’t have enough time. I was making my fastest lap, faster than qualifying, but it was not enough to catch for the win. Disappointing to lose the championship like this. This is a part of sport I did not expect. I gave my best, so I am happy for this. I will try to enjoy my last race now.”
Collin Veijer: “I couldn't get off the line today and I don't know why. The pace was very slow because there was so much overtaking. The positions changed quite often during a lap across the whole race. Towards the end, I tried to attack as much as possible but it was very difficult. We’ll put this one behind us quickly and concentrate on the last race.”
IntactGP were able to count on their full line-up for Moto2™. Fortunately, Darryn Binder could join Lukas Tulovic despite some pain and discomfort in his left hand and right ankle as a result of his blameless crash the previous weekend in Malaysia. Binder passed a fitness test and then toughed-out the laps and sessions through Friday and Saturday while Tulovic was attempting to make his own gains in terms of speed and confidence.
After Q2 on Saturday evening, Tulovic managed the 17th fastest lap while Binder was 20th for the seventh row of the grid and with work to do for the 18-laps on Sunday night. With each rider negotiating their own personal objectives as well as looking to hunt Grand Prix points. Binder started well and edged into the top fifteen. He rode strongly to score 14th while Tulovic crashed out with a third of the race on the counter.
Valencia, Spain will bring the show to a close next weekend.
Darryn Binder: “I think I can be happy today. I had a good start and I was doing my best to stay in that front group but unfortunately I couldn’t quite hang on. I was struggling a bit physically by the middle of the race. It wasn’t easy but by the end I was able to block out what I was feeling and find my pace again: I think my fastest lap was the last one. There are a lot of positives to take considering how I was a week ago. Although the position was not fantastic, I got some points and the race time was one of the closest to the winner this season.”
Lukas Tulovic: “My weak point of the whole weekend was the braking phase. That was one of the reasons why I was a real target in the race and lost a lot of places. I tried to comb my way back but then realised that the front tyre was slowly wearing off. Unfortunately, I was a bit too wide and hit a bump on the curb, although I had already taken it before and nothing happened. I simply lost the front in a fast corner when turning in. There was nothing I could do. That's annoying and I'm very sorry for my team.”
Results Moto3 Qatar Grand Prix
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 33:50.694, 2. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS +0.068, 3. Deniz Öncü (TUR) KTM +0.163, 6. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +1.566, 10. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +2.019
World championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 271 points, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 243, 3. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS, 225, 7. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 136
Results Moto2 Qatar Grand Prix
1. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) 35:32.117, 2. Manuel Gonzalez (ESP) +2.643, 3. Aron Canet (ESP) +2.652, 14. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +16.306, DNF. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna,
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 328.5 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 249.5, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 194, 19. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 34, 24. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 12