2023 shapes up to be a massive year in MotoGP.
With the introduction of "sprint races" on Saturdays, the entertainment levels are sure to be as high as ever. The decision to implement these races has proven to be a contentious one within the paddock.
The teams listed below are the lead contenders to take out the title this season. Italian Francesco Bagnaia of Ducati is the reigning champion and will look to go back to back in 2023 but will face stiff competition from the rest of the grid who will look to knock him off his perch.
REPSOL HONDA RC213V 2023:
Honda has had their work cut out for them in preseason testing. Being a dismal 16 seconds behind the leaders per race left many scratching their heads as to what the underlying performance issues could be. Marc Marquez alone tested three different setups on three different bikes in the recent testing session in Sepang.
Inside the Repsol Honda garage, we’ve seen a few changes ahead of the new season. Pol Espargaro has made way for 2020 champion Joan Mir’s arrival following the unfortunate departure of Suzuki from the MotoGP landscape. The factory team has brought on a new crew chief Giacomo Guidotti who was previously Takaaki Nakagaami’s crew chief at LCR Honda to work with Mir.
Despite these large-scale changes both on and off the track six-time champion Marquez is still unhappy with the bike and has made no apologies in expressing his concerns with it in Sepang.
“I’m happier with my physique than with the bike," he said.
Marquez's comments at the Valencia testing at the end of 2022 triggered an overhaul of the bike.
"With this bike, we cannot win," he said.
Mir doesn’t seem any happier with the RC213V stating that they "are far from Ducati and Aprilia". Their bike is an attempt to recognise and fix the mistakes which have been committed since the team's last World Championship win in 2019.
Team Manager Alberto Puig has assured fans that we can expect plenty of changes to the RC213V before the season kicks off in late March.
MONSTER YAMAHA YZR-M1 2023:
Team Monster Energy Yamaha seems to be attacking the engine and horsepower issues that have long plagued the YZR-M1 head-on. A new power unit has allowed Yamaha to venture further into the world of aero-wings.
Previously, the bike didn’t have enough horsepower to carry the wings without it being a hindrance, weight-wise, but the 2023 bike sports much larger aero-wings than we’ve seen on the previous Yamahas. With the upgraded side-pods, there will be a hopeful boost in downforce that would give the M1 bike the boost it needs to be able to consistently compete with the Ducati and Aprilia on a power basis.
Despite the power changes, Yamaha still consistently sat behind the satellite Ducatis during testing. They seem to be fine-tuning the bike and making gradual improvements to the engine and fuel capacity, but still, they have a massive job ahead of them before the final test and subsequent opening round in Portimao.
APRILIA RS-GP 2023:
We all shed a tear watching the Argentine GP last year. Watching Spaniard Aleix Espargaro claw his way to the top of the World Championship table and taking not only his but Aprilia’s first victory in the modern MotoGP era. It was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Unfortunately, in the following months after this breakthrough victory, Aprilia seemed to throw issue after issue at Espargaro. The Japanese GP in Motegi was a painful example.
After qualifying, his team accidentally kept his RS-GP bike in the pit-lane setting, which prevented the bike from reaching over 100km/hr. This forced Aleix to start the race from the pit lane which resulted in him finishing 16th and out of the points. This along with many other issues eventually led to him finishing fourth in the championship.
If these trivial issues can be resolved, we might just see Espargaro back at the top of the table. Teammate Maverick Vinales seems to feel better about the developments than Aleix.
“With this year's Aprilia I can ride more naturally, and the feeling it gives me is that I have more speed," Vinales said.
Espargaro is more reserved about the bike overall, taking into consideration issues with the bike's braking and cornering.
"I think we are just behind Ducati, but we still need to be able to stop the bike better and gain some power down low," he said.
Aprilia seems to be attempting to correct previous issues in cornering power, while also making the bike somewhat easier to ride. Aleix has spoken of a new engine and hopes that will give them the push they need as they enter the season.
Team Ducati Lenovo Desmosedici 2023:
The biggest change to the Ducati Lenovo Desmosedic set-up this year, is the rider. The bike has undergone minimal changes following the World Championship and Manufacturers Championships victories of 2022.
While there have been small technical changes, such as slightly updated aero-wings, along with a smaller air intake on the front fairing — personally, the garage dynamics this season interests me far more.
Australian Jack Miller has moved onto KTM for the upcoming season and Italian Enea Bastianini has transferred from satellite Ducati outfit Gresini Racing to the factory outfit, joining reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia on the Desmosedici.
The relationship between the two riders will be interesting to follow after their battle in the Valencian finale last season. Bastianini claims he hasn’t spoken with Pecco about roles in the team yet but is "ready to collaborate".
Whether or not they actually collaborate, is pure speculation until they get on the track.
GASGAS/ RED BULL KTM RC16 2023:
The introduction of the GASGAS team comes with it an entirely new bike and team set up. The team has recruited the experienced Spaniard Pol Espargaro and rookie teammate Augusto Fernandez to pilot the RC16 machine.
During the Sepang testing, the team were spotted testing a bike with both ground effect fairings and downwash ducts — bikes generally only have one. Whether this is a permanent change or just part of testing remains to be seen.
KTM has also developed the engine in hopes of improving lap times for both the GASGAS team and the factory KTM outfit. The biggest change in the factory KTM is the arrival of Jack Miller, who seemed to be hopeful about the KTM in Valencia, yet disappointed in Sepang.
“The expectation was too high,” Miller said.
The return of Dani Pedrosa for the Jerez GP is exciting and expectations will be on Jack Miller and Brad Binder to put the outfit back in the top 10