Phillip Island staged the Australian round of the series for the first time in 1989 and for another 25 occasions since. The 2023 championship settled into the open and natural 4.4km layout where the flow of the course promised fast action and a different style of riding required to keep momentum and pace through the 12 corners.
The LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna IntactGP Team began the Grand Prix by optimising the setup of the FR 250 GP to run the turns, and cope with the comparative lack of hard acceleration and braking when contrasted with the Mandalika Street Circuit in Indonesia and the forthcoming Chang International Circuit in Thailand next week. Both Ayumu Sasaki and Collin Veijer applied the necessary commitment to the course and the opening practice sessions on a sunny Friday as one second split the top eleven. Sasaki managed P4, 0.3 from provisional Pole, while Veijer was P11.
Another regular ingredient of the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island is the inconsistency with the weather and Saturday brought cooler and windier surroundings. The Japanese was still rapid and thanks to some early teamwork in Q2 was able to take his eighth career Pole Position by over a tenth of a second from the rider in P2. Veijer was decent in his seventh and final flying attempt in Q2 and qualified 6th for the last slot on the second row.
Conditions became more extreme on Sunday with strong gusts, plummeting temperatures and heavy rainfall. The track provided grip but the circumstances were difficult and hard to judge. Both Sasaki and Veijer rode excellently to remain in the leading group of five riders. Ayumu led on the last lap but was attacked by Deniz Öncü and decided to be conservative and collect the full 20 points as runner-up for his ninth podium result of the season. Collin was slightly further back but made sure of 4th spot for the second race in succession; equalling his personal best classification for the third time in his debut GP campaign.
The Moto3 Riders World Championship table is close and unpredictable as the season quickly approaches a climax. Sasaki is very much in play thanks to his current standing of 2nd and has only a 4-point deficit to the leader. Veijer was 12th before coming to Australia and remains poised in the same rank after Sunday. IntactGP continue to lead the Team’s championship (by 11 points) and Husqvarna Motorcycles are 3rd in the Constructors competition.
The Thailand Grand Prix will increase the heat once more in MotoGP and with the flat and throttle-heavy course of the Chang International Circuit driving the series onwards.
Ayumu Sasaki: “A crazy race; I think the craziest I have ever had. I tried my best not to crash and I knew I had Deniz behind me. I could have overtaken him in the last two corners but I wanted to make sure of P2 and really close the gap in the championship. This was very important. Thanks to the team and we keep going.”
Collin Veijer: “I tried to get a feeling for the track in warm-up and it was OK, not too bad. It was so cold on the grid! Once we started, I warmed-up a bit and was doing alright in the first few laps and we built a big lead over the other riders. The last seven laps were really tough because of the cold. I could not move my fingers or toes any more. I just tried to be safe and bring P4 home. Big points and another big step. I think we can be very happy with this weekend.”
Darryn Binder led the line for the team in Moto2™. The South African explored the limits of the motorcycle and the class on Friday, suffering a slip at Turn 10 but then recovered well to find the 14th quickest lap of the day. Darryn was dedicated once more during Q2 on Saturday and ended the afternoon with a berth on the third row of the grid and in a decent 9th position. Lukas Tulovic is still feeling his way back from injury but the German was close to the top twenty on Friday and qualified with 24th place on the grid after Saturday’s sessions.
The 23-lap race was run in the same torrential conditions as Moto3 with air temperatures some ten degrees colder than on Friday and Saturday. Darryn was a victim of the wet into Turn 1 on the fifth lap while Tulovic was running 20th until the red flag was thrown after nine circulations due to the weather. Round seventeen will end the three-in-a-row sequence for MotoGP as the championship now decamps to Buriram in Thailand.
Darryn Binder: “Super-disappointed to end what had been a strong weekend this way. Even in warm-up today I felt quite confident. I knew it would be a tricky race in the wet but I still felt good. Going to the grid the conditions had become a lot worse, so I knew it would be tough. I just wanted to stay up and get some heat into the tyres but unfortunately into Turn 1 the wind grabbed me and the rear let go. There was nothing I could do. I wasn’t doing anything crazy but was still caught out. Luckily, I’m OK, so roll-on the next one. We have positives to take.”
Lukas Tulovic: “I went into warm-up with a good feeling. I was right behind Tony Arbolino, who was very fast today in these conditions. With him as a reference, I tried to increase my rhythm a bit and crashed. In the race, I lacked confidence. If you don’t have confidence in the rain, then things are going to be hopeless. So, I just tried to stay on the bike and finish. We’ll continue in a week’s time, hopefully in better conditions.”
Results Moto3 Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix
1. Deniz Öncü (TUR) KTM 39:57.919, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.407, 3. Joel Kelso (AUS) CFMOTO +4.391, 4. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna +23.062
World championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 217 points, 2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 213, 3. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 195, 12. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 89
Results Moto2 Guru by Gryfyn Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix
1. Tony Arbolino (ITA) 16:22.970, 2. Aron Canet (ESP) +15.088, 3. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) +15.614, 20. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna +1 lap, DNF. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna +19.986,
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 280.5 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 224.5, 3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 172, 18. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 31.24. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 12