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The Italians are driving the drama as MotoGP reignites for the rest of 2023

Published On:: 23/7/2023

2023 MotoGP is just eight rounds old and is preparing to warm Michelin race rubber after a five-week summer hiatus.

The fearsomely fast, long and flat challenge of Silverstone for the Monster Energy British Grand Prix beckons on August 5-6. The tingling, carnival feel of a Grand Prix will buzz from the moments the gates swing open at the historic circuit with the Monster Energy Compound offering-up FMX shows, DJ sets, concerts, fan immersion activities and the chance to try some of the latest ice-cold cans.

From Friday morning the roar of MotoGP will then be impossible to miss. So far, 2023 has been infused with an Italian flavor. The bright yellow, the #46, the speed, the charisma. Valentino Rossi once dominated and then transcended MotoGP, but Grand Prix racing is still pungent with Italian supremacy and Rossi’s shadow arches over the 2023 20-round campaign.

Why and how is the championship distinctly red, white and green, and what is causing the Tifosi to get all animated as the racing resumes?

MotoGP burns hot thanks to a combination of three ‘T’s: technical, tactics, talent. The cauldron of ideas and efficiency in Borgo Panigale, Bologna means that reigning champions Ducati have the best race bikes on the grid. Ducati’s vision and tactics in arming the factory Ducati Lenovo team with the latest 2023 spec and then providing three other squads with this awesome engineering has created a dominance. They have won all bar one Grand Prix this year: Portugal, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

“I feel very good on everything, on braking, entry, corner speed. I'm very happy that we are moving in my direction in terms of what I like on my bike. We lost a bit of top speed but we gain a lot of handling so that is the more important thing,” said defending world champ and standings leader Francesco Bagnaia at the beginning of the year. “For sure to overtake now you have to take some risks, you have to be aggressive. It’s like this,” he adds. “You have to be prepared. This new bike suits very well on my riding style better than the old one. We are fighting in a good direction.”


No matter how fast a motorcycle moves, it won’t go anywhere, without a supremely brave and committed individual onboard: the talent. In 2023 Bagnaia may frown at small slips in Argentina and the United States but otherwise the #1 has been outstanding. Victories in Portugal, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands were all earned by less than 1.2 of a second.


The 26-year-old from Turin was the second rider to emerge from Rossi’s VR46 Academy as a world champion when he claimed the 2018 Moto2 title. This year Bagnaia’s toughest opponent comes from a close source. Marco Bezzecchi is not only steering his rival’s title-winning motorcycle from ’22 but is a friend and stablemate from VR46. The 24-year-old is currently excelling in just his second season in the MotoGP division and in the confines of Rossi’s Ducati-equipped Mooney VR46 outfit.


‘Bezz’ brings a cool, steely nerve to the show. His triumphs in Argentina and Le Mans were a breakthrough both for the #72 and for the Mooney VR46 crew. Along with Spaniard Jorge Martin (another Ducati runner), Bezzecchi is ensuring that Bagnaia is keeping his peripheral vision as wide as possible for the championship dispute, with only 36 points dividing the trio (a GP winner earns 25). Bagnaia was dealt an intense lesson of pressure in 2022 and the same degree of expectation and scrutiny is now surrounding his friend.


“I feel just stronger with my body. Last year was just the beginning and I was adjusting my physical preparation to the MotoGP. I was already OK, but now I feel a little bit better. I have more the bike in my hands…and I can ride a little bit better and manage more kinds of situations,” said Bezzecchi, who has claimed GPs in Moto3 and Moto2 as well as top three championship rankings in both classes but has never really vied for a crown. “It’s good to be close to Pecco for the moment but honestly I’m still not thinking about the championship. First of all, because we saw that having the Sprint and the GP in the same weekend it’s very easy to lose everything very quick. So, I just want to continue thinking weekend by weekend, race by race, enjoy the bike and my guys that are fantastic.”


“In the track it’s difficult to have friends,” he smiles, in reference to the duel with Pecco. It’s tough because in MotoGP the rivalry is very high, the competition is very high. To have a friend like him and like the other guys from the Academy makes a bit better. So, I hope to continue in this way.”


MotoGP might be infested by Ducati but the series has been tight and unpredictable. More than half of the MotoGP grid have laid their hands on a Grand Prix trophy from the eight rounds to-date: the highest rate of parity ever seen in the sport (except for the truncated pandemic-influenced 2020). Fabio Quartararo has been lacking potency and prizes but his class is never in doubt. Resurgence is only a matter of time…and whether the Yamaha M1 will allow him to qualify better and return to the sharp end. 


Props at this point to LCR Honda’s Alex Rins. The Catalan used his expert mastery of the Circuit of the Americas to own round three in Texas but is now fighting back from a double right leg break, courtesy of a crunching spill at the sixth GP of the year in Italy. A gold star also gets awarded to Bezzecchi’s teammate, Luca Marini. The 25-year-old stomped to his first MotoGP podium result in the USA – behind the flying Rins – but Luca’s intelligence and perception of his craft and the wider issues of MotoGP means he is becoming something of a sage.


The world championship hasn’t been only about the Il Tricolore and the ‘Fratelli d'Italia’. 2023 has ushered in the most transformative era of Grand Prix with the application of the Saturday ‘Sprint’ – a half-distance dash for championship points and bragging rights. For the most part, MotoGP stars have accepted the ‘more risk, more danger’ circumstances. As pointed out by several of the protagonists themselves; they are here to race, right? It’s a full-blown blast: chuck the softest tires on the bike, half fill the fuel tank, forget about strategy, and go for it. Bagnaia has embraced the concept to the best effect with seven podium appearances and three gold medals. Bezzecchi has also chipped in with a checkered flag. In terms of reaction the Sprints have been an instant hit with a reported 27% surge of people watching on TV (a 51% rise on Saturdays). 


MotoGP has been in a hurry as the field of aerodynamics advance. The top speed count was decimated again along the snaking and wonderful 1.1km main straight at Mugello as South African Brad Binder rasped to 366.1kmph (227.4mph). The prototype motorcycles are certainly not slowing, and the public are responding to the spectacle. After sizable but typical crowds in Portugal, Argentina and the USA, MotoGP witnessed an explosion of interest at the more traditional circuits and venues on the calendar. A record-breaking 280,000 heaved the fences across the three days of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans while 230k filtered through the gates to find space at the Sachsenring in Germany. There were also noticeable crowd swells in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.


Like a fine Italian espresso, MotoGP is a rich, perky hit and keeps going strong. The largely British crowd will be next for the unfiltered experience!

In This Article:

Marco Bezzecchi

Francesco Bagnaia

Fabio Quartararo

Alex Rins

Luca Marini