MotoGP: BT Sport team give verdicts as sprint races arrive for 2023


MotoGP revealed its weekend schedule for 2023 at the Aragon GP on Saturday, with sprint races included.

The premier class of motorcycle racing will bring in sprint races at every single race weekend from next year, with half distances being run of a full GP and half points on offer.

It’s an intriguing and exciting time for the series, then, but what do the people set to call the action make of the idea? We spoke to Gavin Emmett, Neil Hodgson and Michael Laverty at BT Sport to find out…

Gavin Emmett

“For the fans it’s brilliant. It’s absolutely superb for the fans and great for us as a TV station showing racing because what fans want is more racing. I’m an old fuddy-duddy purist, so I’m not a massive fan of it, from a traditionalist point of view. The Grand Prix for me was always about the one big event on a Sunday. That’s just because I’m boring, an old fart! I actually think it’s brilliant for the fans. I think it’s gonna be great. It’s gonna get more eyes on it. For people at the tracks like on a Saturday, it’s not just qualifying, there’ll be a race going on. So it gives you even more reason to make a full weekend out of it. I think it’s a positive thing, whether it’ll bring new people to the sport, I don’t know. But the people that are already who are coming to the racetracks, it’ll keep them happy.

“I think [a sprint at ever race] is better than being three rounds. If they’re three rounds that worked for a particular manufacturer, then it could work even worse, because you get more points. I think the fact it is every round I’ve not got any problem with. Some of the riders don’t like it but lot of the riders do like it, because that’s when they have the best part of the weekend which is enjoying racing.

“It does take a little bit of something away from the great spectacle, that’s it for me as a I’m a bit of a statto. I’m a historian of the sport and love it and the fact that it was always you only have one chance, no second chances. And that was always the point of it being very challenging. World Superbike always had its second race and always had a two race format. But MotoGP was different because it is the pinnacle of two-wheel motorsport and then it was you had one chance to get it right and the best of the best got it right, more often than not.”

BARCELONA, SPAIN – JUNE 05: The MotoGP riders start from the grid during the MotoGP race during the MotoGP of Catalunya – Race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on June 05, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)

Neil Hodgson

“I’m the opposite of Gav, because I’m young! I literally can’t wait. Over the years, we’d have a red flag come out, and they’ll stop the race and then they’ll reassemble on the grid and they go ‘right, it’s actually now just gonna be a 12-lap dash’ and they’re stunning races.

“So to think every weekend we’ve got the chance to watch a proper scrap, and it’s fewer tactics involved less saving tyres and fuel and all that. It’s just boring all that. As a fan, and that’s what I am, I love it. I’m not bothered about that side of it, what I like is the pure racing and a good fight.

“l’d have loved it, the more the merrier. I raced superbikes a lot where we got two races anyway. I did four seasons of Grand Prix racing, and I hated the one race. I hated the fact that after all the work you could get knocked off in turn one and you’re done. I’ve flown to Australia and been knocked off in turn one and flown home and it’s a bloody long way to go for a race! A couple of the riders have moaned because I think it caught them off guard and they weren’t consulted about it, and nor should they have been, because it’s nothing to do with them, really. But once they get their heads around it, they’ll love it.

“[Dorna] have gone all in and I think that they’re aware that we’re at a pivotal point in the sport obviously with Valentino Rossi retiring, Marc [Marquez] has been injured and the global crisis. If you keep doing the same thing, you’re just gonna get the same results. So why not have a go?”

Michael Laverty

“We’re an entertainment business at the end of the day so I think the riders are accepting that. You look at the business end of it, all their salaries are coming back a little bit. So it’s up to Dorna to try and rejuvenate the package and drum up the sponsorship interest that will keep the riders in the lifestyles that they’ve become accustomed to. So from that point of view, they’ll look at it and go ‘yep, makes sense.’ But they’ll probably be thinking, the extra workload and extra risk, that’s a bit of an issue. But I think most racers, when they stop and think about it, they started this because they love to race. So that side of it, once they get into it, they will enjoy it.

“It’s just a massive shift away from Friday, Saturday being all about qualifying and lap times and then Sunday was your race day whereas now you’re going to race on the Saturday afternoon.

“I remember when it first got introduced to BSB and it was a big change to be racing on a Saturday night and then have a night’s sleep and then race again. In some ways, it gives you a little bit of a better idea of the whole starting process of what you needed to do better for day two essentially for the second race.

“I did think that perhaps an introduction of maybe three or four at certain venues and trialling it [would be the way to go] but now they’ve just completely overhauled the format, all the practice sessions including the fan interaction on Sunday morning instead of a warm up for the lower classes. So it’s a massive shift in how MotoGP has been for I don’t know how many years so yeah, it’s a massive shift.

“But fair play to them, you’ve got to be innovative, you’ve got to be prepared to make those bold decisions. They’ve copped a bit of flack for it but Dorna are there to try and promote the series. And it’s got people talking about it now at the moment, and I think it will be a good spectacle. Now you’ll tune in on a Saturday afternoon, perhaps, and then we might get you back on Sunday as well to watch the feature race.”

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