Moto2™ and Moto3™ prepare to saddle up at Portimao
A three-day Official Test gives the intermediate and lightweight classes their last chance to prep for a blockbuster 2023
Thursday, 16 March 2023
Pre-season may be over for the MotoGP™ class, but there is still official track action left for the Moto2™ and Moto3™ fields. After both have had their own private tests at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto, they now head for Portugal for their official outing over three days of activity.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Where? The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, the venue for the season opener, hosts on Friday the 17th, Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th of March.
HOW CAN I FOLLOW THE ACTION?
There will be Live Timing on motogp.com and a host of content from the track to keep you up to date, including reports, interviews and more. A round up covering the three days will provide plenty of content on its conclusion too, including photos and the combined timesheets.
So where were we? Below is a rundown of some expected contenders – from the top ten returners in each class – as we get ready to glimpse the lay of the land for 2023.
Moto2™: meet the contenders
Ogura, Canet, Arbolino, Acosta… the list goes on!
With the reigning Champion moving up to MotoGP™, there’s chance for a new name to take the throne. First on the list of hopefuls is 2022 challenger Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), but with some injury struggles in pre-season it might take a little longer to see his hand, and he won’t be at the test. Once back up to speed, however, we can be very sure the Japanese rider has plenty in the locker… and teammate Somkiat Chantra is far from a slouch either, the Thai rider already a Grand Prix winner. That makes two… so who else can we expect to fight at the front in 2023?
Canet vs the top step
It’s an ongoing tussle: Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) vs the top step in Moto2™. And only in Moto2™, because the Spaniard is a winner in the lightweight class six times over. So that will be a key goal for 2023 after some stunning performances last season, but he’ll also want to retain his consistency. With his injury struggles – and ironclad ability to ride through them – teaching him a lot about pressure, or more about how to free himself from it, he’ll be an interesting one to watch. And so will Sergio Garcia, his new teammate fresh from fighting for the title in Moto3™…
When Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) is on it, he’s on it. With some impressive performances in Moto2™ already, we can be confident of more but his focus will also be on creating a more consistent season to really challenge for the crown. Teammate Sam Lowes has also got proven speed, and he’ll also want more consistency… as well as a dash more luck.
Shark Attack: Acosta vs 2023
The wonder rookie of Moto3™ was wonder rookie of Moto2™ more than a few times last season, including in Valencia to close out 2022 on the top step, but a mid-year injury derailed Pedro Acosta’s (Red Bull KTM Ajo) assault on the top. He won races though – as well as taking Rookie of the Year – and that pace was backed up in private testing at Jerez just this week. We can expect much, and with quick new teammate Albert Arenas in the box, both the Ajo garage and the dynamic inside it are sure to deserve some serious spotlight in 2023.
GASGAS Aspar’s double threat
Jake Dixon (GASGAS Aspar Team) is now a multiple podium finisher, but that isn’t a Grand Prix win and doesn’t taste like it. He wants victories and more consistency, and he has a very interesting new teammate: Izan Guevara. The reigning Moto3™ World Champion was in a class of his own last season in the lightweight category… what has he got on the next step of the ladder?
Vietti vying for redemption
If you’d told the world after the Catalan GP – in which Celestino Vietti (Fantic Racing) took a stunning win to put a tougher couple of races behind him – that by the end of the season he’d be seventh overall, no one would likely have believed it… including the rider. There’s talent, ability and serious speed in the Italian, so can he pull that magic back out of the hat in 2023 – and more consistently?
Alonso Lopez (SpeedUp Racing) only became a full time rider at the Italian GP, and my oh my did he go about making his presence felt. With more than just an ace up his sleeve at Phillip Island, the number 21 was a (somewhat) surprise challenger last season but he’ll be looking for much more than a win or two this year to make sure that magic moniker, shared with a certain two-time F1 champion, only gains ground. Teammate Fermin Aldeguer will also want to redress the balance of power too, having been the first to impress when the two were paired in the Moto2™ European Championship.
The American dreamer
Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) took some big steps in 2022. He became a Grand Prix winner and took a subsequent podium, and the American gives the feeling he’s on the cusp of making everything really fit together. He’ll be aiming to do just that in 2023 as he remains with the proven Italtrans squad, and gets a new teammate too: perennial Moto3™ challenger Dennis Foggia.
Meet the rookies!
It’s not just Guevara, Garcia and Foggia moving up from Moto3™ who will fight for Rookie of the Year. One interesting addition will be Darryn Binder (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) as he moves from MotoGP™ – and a respectable job of it too – into the intermediate class he previously skipped. Part of the new(er) Triumph era of Moto2™ was to make it fit into the middle between Moto3™ and MotoGP™ a little better, and Binder will be interesting to watch.
Rory Skinner (American Racing) is another with a different path, arriving from some stunners in BSB to take on intermediate class Grand Prix racing. But we’ve seen that work before. Kohta Nozane (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Team), meanwhile, arrives from WorldSBK and experience on bigger bikes too.
Alex Escrig (Forward Team) comes to Moto2™ having gone from European Stock glory to European Moto2™ frontrunner – and MotoE™ competitor – in the last couple of seasons, although he crashed in private testing so he’s a question mark for the Portimao test. Borja Gomez (Fantic Racing), meanwhile, arrives from runner up in ESBK after scoring points in Valencia on a second appearance as a replacement rider in Moto2™ too. How will they fare?
Moto3™: who will rule the class of 2023?
Sasaki, Öncü, Masia… Fenati? A reminder of some familiar names and an introduction to the newcomers
The top three may have moved to Moto2™, but they were the top three by just eight points – with Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) hot on the heels of both Garcia and Foggia by the close of 2022. And my oh my did Sasaki put in some performances, including that incredible victory in Austria despite two Long Lap penalties. The pre-season favourite? Likely for many.
Öncü lands at Ajo
Deniz Öncü wanted so badly to sign off from Tech3 with a first win, but it wasn’t quite to be in Valencia. Now his new adventure is already underway at Red Bull KTM Ajo, and that first win will be a serious target – as will the crown. Multiple podiums and some serious speed mean it won’t be a surprise to see the Turkish rider fighting right at the front from the off.
Leopard field the veterans
Jaume Masia returns to Leopard Racing in 2023, and he’s partnered with Tatsuki Suzuki to make a formidable force. Both have speed, experience and past success, and both will want a lot more of both.
Moreira wants more
Rookie of the Year in 2022, Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) already had some buzz before that as Maverick Viñales picked him as a pre-season favourite. That first podium evaded him but the Brazilian took consistent, considerable points and he’ll want to visit parc ferme on Sunday this season – as often as possible.
Migno & Fenati shoot for glory
Both veterans, both Grand Prix winners, and both very different riders. Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) won a race in 2022 before consistency proved tougher, and he’ll want to show he’s got more in the locker. Romano Fenati, meanwhile, returns to Moto3™ on the other side of the garage… having shown some serious pace last time he raced in the class.
Holgado heads for Tech3
After a rookie season with Ajo, Daniel Holgado moves to Red Bull KTM Tech3 in 2023. Moreira beat him on consistency last season, but Holgado does arrive having already taking his first Grand Prix podium – of which he’ll want many more.
Meet the rookies!
The headline act in the newcomers must be Jose Antonio Rueda, who joins Red Bull KTM Ajo. The first rider to win the title in both JuniorGP™ and Red Bull Rookies in the same season, and in style, the Spaniard arrives from that incredible 2022 with some hype. Fellow Rookies champion – but in 2021 – David Alonso will be another to watch as the Colombian joins the fray full time with GASGAS Aspar. He’s already made a few appearances in Moto3™ but now it’s full time and with eyes on that Rookie of the Year prize.
Some familiar faces from the Red Bull Rookies and the Finetwork FIM JuniorGP™ World Championship join the grid too: Rookies runner up Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Intact GP), JuniorGP™ runner up David Salvador (CIP Green Power), third in JuniorGP™ Filippo Farioli (Red Bull KTM Tech3), and JuniorGP™ race winner and frontrunner Syarifuddin Azman (MT Helmets – MSI). Veijer, however, is a question mark for this particular test, having crashed in Jerez.