MotoGP 2023 Season Preview
The Road Racing World Championship (MotoGP), which began in 1949, is the top category of motorcycle racing, and winning the championship is the highest honor for motorcycle manufacturers, teams, and riders.
The best of science and technology is unleashed to create racing bikes within the regulations. In the MotoGP class, the pinnacle of the Road Racing World Championship, regulations stipulate a 4-stroke 1000cc, 4-cylinder engine with a bore of 81mm. Honda's MotoGP bike, the RC213V, is powered by a liquid-cooled DOHC V-type engine with an official output of over 170kW (230ps). All manufacturers do not share precise output figures. Top speeds are nearing 360 km/h.
Professional engineers and mechanics work day and night at the race tracks to maintain the racing bikes so that they can run fast and perform at their best, and the world’s most skillful riders can compete for the title. The 2023 season kicks off with the Portuguese GP in March, followed by 21 rounds held in countries around the world over a nine-month period ending in November.
The 500cc class era, in which two-stroke engines were mainstream, ended in 2001, to be replaced by the MotoGP class in 2002, where four-stroke engines took over dominance. In motor sports, the development race intensifies each year, and the MotoGP class is no exception. In order to keep costs and speeds down, various rules have been established, such as prohibiting engine development during the season, limiting the number of engines that can be used, and restricting the minimum weight and gasoline tank capacity. Despite these strict regulations, technological innovations continue, and the MotoGP class, where riders compete at speeds in excess of 300 km/h, continues to mesmerize spectators.
If a rider crosses the finish line at 350 km/h, they would have traveled approximately 97 meters in one second. At that speed, it is not unusual to see only 0.1 or 0.2 seconds separating the three riders on the podium. Riders battle for every 1/1000th of a second, and technology gained from such competition is utilized in the latest production bikes.
Honda has achieved numerous technological innovations and set trends in the racing world, winning ten riders' and twelve constructors' titles in the pinnacle class over the 22 years since 2002, when the MotoGP class began.
Eight-time world champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is one of the most noted riders for the 2023 season. Marquez has been out of the title hunt since breaking his upper right arm in the 2020 season, but after undergoing his fourth surgery last year, he will be in perfect condition to take on the challenge this year.
Marquez is one of the most successful riders in the history of Grand Prix racing. 20-year-old Marquez debuted in the MotoGP class 13 years ago, to become the youngest grand prix winner and world champion. Since then, he has taken full advantage of the performance of Honda's MotoGP bike, the RC213V, breaking many records, including the record for most wins in a single season (13). This year, the team focused on developing the 2023 RC213V during testing in Sepang, Malaysia in February and five days in Algarve, Portugal in March.
Marquez shared his ambitions for the new season.
“I’m glad to be able to race together with the Repsol family, who have been with me for so long. Portimao, the last test before the season opener, was very important. I am looking forward to moving forward and starting the season."
Injuries and surgeries have made the past three years mentally challenging for Marquez, in which he managed to win three grands prix. This year, he is determined to make up for the disappointments of the past three years.
Joining Marquez as teammate is Joan Mir, the 2020 MotoGP world champion. Mir, a newcomer to the team, spent February in Malaysia and March in Portugal, getting accustomed to the RC213V and conducting vital tests to determine the base setting for the season.
Mir spoke after the Malaysian and Portuguese tests.
“It's an incredible feeling to be racing for the first time in the full colors of the Repsol Honda Team, and it's a great honor to be riding for a team that is a household name in the MotoGP class. I hope to live up to the expectations. Things are going well in Malaysia and Portugal. Now we just have to wait for the season to start."
Standing 181 cm tall, Mir is expected to make full use of his size in contrast to Marquez, who is smaller at 169 cm. Mir, who is gaining speed with each time on track, is a serious challenger to Marquez. The two will be closely watched as they inspire each other to improve their results.
Alex Rins, a new member of Honda's satellite team, LCR Honda Castrol, is also expected to make his mark in his new home at Honda. Rins has had many great battles with Marquez in the past, and last year at the end of the season, he took two wins (five in total). Usually a quiet rider, Rin’s sharp and passionate performance on the track is exciting to watch. In Malaysia and Portugal, Rins has on the new bike endlessly, and in the Portugal test, he took a big step forward by moving onto a more race-focused test menu.
“My dream is to be world champion. I have worked hard and fought hard to achieve this. To become a world champion, I need to work and fight with the best professionals, and manage everything. This is my seventh year in the highest class. Every year I learn something new. I have grown in the mental side, learning how to handle pressure calmly, and I have learned how to be faster on the track. I am looking forward to the new challenge of competing for Honda.”
Rins' teammate Takaaki Nakagami, entering his sixth season with LCR Honda IDEMITSU, has fully recovered from the injury to his right little and ring fingers sustained at the end of last year, and enters the season in perfect condition. He spent the tests in Malaysia and Portimao testing new components and explored bike setups. With his experience second only to Marquez, Nakagami will be an encouraging presence for Honda.
“My goal this year is to be more competitive. This year there will be sprint races on Saturdays, and it will be a season like we have never experienced before. Especially in the sprint races, the starting grid will become more important, and speed will be needed more than ever. My focus during the tests was how to find more speed. I am ready to fight. I hope to have a successful season, not only in my own riding, but also in finding a good bike setup."
This year’s season opener will be the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal, where Honda will again field four racing bikes from two teams.