Some of the LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna IntactGP Team remained in Asia after round fourteen in Japan two weeks ago and made the most of the free weekend before the calendar explodes into activity and brings the 2023 season story to a swift conclusion. They travelled to the touristy island of Lombok for the second edition of MotoGP at Mandalika and were greeted with a freshly tarmacked course and a better state of readiness compared to the circuit’s slightly rushed debut in 2022. Eighteen months ago tropical rainstorms washed-out the Grand Prix but the weather forecast was much more positive with bright skies and typically high temperatures coating the weekend and around the beachside site.
Sasaki, who was a victim of the rainy conditions last year, continued his excellent vein of form during Friday practice sessions. The Japanese has been consistently fast and competitive at almost every Grand Prix so far in 2023; a fact born out through his eight podiums and five runner-up finishes to-date. Hot on his rear slick was Collin Vejier; as usual the rookie was discovering the 17 corners and 4.3km layout for the first time.
The protagonists in Moto3 were split by one second from 1st to 15th positions and Sasaki occupied 11th while Veijer charged through Q1 to place 4th in Q2 on Saturday afternoon. The ranking meant the same allotment for the start grid on Sunday and 20-laps. Sunday morning began in dramatic fashion as Ayumu could not avoid slipping off the bike on the Sighting Lap. The team were able to quickly get repairs made on the grid and the Japanese could start the GP.
Compared to the fragmented breakaways in Japan and India in the weeks previously, Mandalika initially pushed 12 racers together for half of the distance. Sasaki had issues at the start and dropped to the outskirts of the top twenty while Veijer took turns with four other riders to lead the race. The Dutchman made some excellent progress, particularly with his overtaking through Turns 16 and 17. In the final short drag to the line Collin missed his first trophy by just six hundredths of a second! Sasaki made the finish in 18th and three places away from the points.
Sasaki is still 2nd in the championship standings and the gap to the leader is now 16 points. Veijer sits in 12th. IntactGP were P1 after Japan in the Team’s championship and currently keep the same status by just 3 points and Husqvarna Motorcycles remains 3rd in the Constructors contest.
Another fast and flowing prospect will zoom quickly into view as MotoGP moves south and further east for the Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix next week.
Collin Veijer: “A good feeling again today and we had the pace to fight. The start was not too bad, directly into 2nd and then I tried to judge it. I think we did a very good race overall although we just missed the podium again! We’ll try in Australia and see what happens. I’m ready!”
Ayumu Sasaki: “I want to apologise to the team for my mistake on the out-lap. They did a great job to fix the bike but unfortunately it was not 100% and I could not ride as I wanted to. I finished the race in P18, or something like that. I made a mistake and learnt from it. We need to keep positive and keep going. Australian next and we have another chance.”
Moto2™ brought Lukas Tulovic back into play after recovering from a broken left collarbone and foot during practice at the Grand Prix of India. The 23-year-old passed a fitness test on Thursday and took his #3 motorcycle around Mandalika for the very first time. Teammate Darryn Binder could count on his MotoGP experience from 2022 but had to adjust to the demands of Moto2.
It was the South African who lapped faster on Friday as he managed the 18th quickest circulation. Tulovic was clearly at a disadvantage both for fitness and full confidence but found his way to 21st. After the Q1 and Q2 outings on Saturday the pair booked 20th and 26th places on the start grid respectively for a hot and sunny Sunday. Moto2 raced around the Lombok layout for 22 laps. Binder started strongly and battled on the edge of the top ten, eventually capturing a well-earned 13th. Tulovic made it to the line with 22nd and a foundation to build on for the coming Grands Prix. The first test of which will come around the bends and beauty of Phillip Island in just a few day’s time.
Darryn Binder: “I’m happy with how the race went today and it’s the closest I have been to the front guys over the full distance. It’s the first time I’ve done three GPs in a row this year! I made a really good start but unfortunately I didn’t quite have that pace to go the full way with them. The group closed back up but I didn’t have it in me, and the rear tire was also under strain. A tough race but I’m happy with my performance. I need to sort myself out from Fridays and the get-go. I’m really, really excited for Phillip Island.”
Lukas Tulovic: “The trip to Indonesia was worth it for me. I had a lot of fun riding at this track. After the injury, however, it wasn’t so easy to get back up to speed. Nevertheless, we improved continuously over the days. The race started very unluckily because I had to avoid two crashing riders but then I caught up strongly until I just managed to catch a highside in Turn 7. This mishap cost me a lot of time. After that, the effects of the injury break became noticeable. Three weeks without a bike and not training so much, the last two thirds of the race were exhausting. I could no longer ride the bike as I wanted. So, I just tried to finish. Next week we continue in Australia, where I hope to be in better shape.”
Results Moto3 Grand Prix of Indonesia
1. Diogo Moreira (BRA) KTM 33:19.002, 2. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS +0.107, 3. David Muñoz (ESP) KTM +0.130, 4. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +0.190, 18. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +19.692
World championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 209 points, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 193, 3. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 192, 12. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 76.
Results Moto2 Grand Prix of Indonesia
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) 34:51.641, 2. Aron Canet (ESP) +2.044, 3. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) +4.716, 13. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +19.986, 22. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna +42.548
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 277 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 212, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 172, 18. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 31.23. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 12