Features 19 Jan 2023

Top 10: Anticipated events of 2023

The most pivotal races on this year's domestic and international calendar.

After a return to normality in many aspects last year, the 2023 season is looking promising to deliver plenty of excitement and close racing. With new developments at both a global and domestic scale, CycleOnline outlines a selection of highly-anticipated events in this Top 10 feature.

Image: Russell Colvin.

1. SMSP lights up ASBK:
Set to light up the 2023 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) on 24-25 March, Sydney Motorsport Park will host round two of the series. The historic event will see ASBK return to the famed Western Sydney venue for the first time since 2019 through a partnership with Destination NSW – the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency. The unique two-day format at the 3.93-kilometre Grand Prix Circuit will see action commence during the day across all the key ASBK categories, with race activity highlighted under lights into the evening. Additionally, a pre-season test will take place at the venue on 1-2 February to officially commence the national superbike calendar, with night sessions to feature on the evening of the first day.

2. The Australian MotoGP:
Many MotoGP classics have taken place at Phillip Island, with the iconic fast and flowing 5.330km layout providing the perfect battleground for the world’s best to produce nail-biting action. When the Australian Grand Prix returned to Southern Victoria last year it was no exception, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) standing tall in what was arguably the race of the season. Marking round 17 in the 2023 MotoGP World Championship, the Australian MotoGP is sure to once again produce spectacular races across all classes, as Jack Miller rides at home on the RC 16 for the first time with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and Joel Kelso (CFMOTO Racing) looks to mount a front running charge in Moto3 – the number 66 notably scoring a season-best result of P8 last year at ‘The Island’.

3. Phillip Island start for WorldSBK:
Returning to its traditional season-opening spot on the Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) calendar, Phillip Island will host the first round of WorldSBK this year on 24-26 February. While the weather is always a variable at the circuit which overlooks the Bass Strait, it is usually improved in February and the warmer temperatures, accessibility to the WorldSBK paddock and suspenseful yet exciting atmosphere as the series commences will make this event one not to miss. Remy Gardner will make his highly anticipated Superbike World Championship debut with GYTR GRT Yamaha, as Oli Bayliss joins D34G Racing to commence his second year in the Supersport World Championship. The weekend also marks the first round of the 2023 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK), adding further action to the schedule with our top domestic talent vying to start their new campaign in the best possible way.

4. MotoGP opener moves to Portimao:
The 2023 MotoGP World Championship will commence with the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao, marking the first time a European round has hosted the season-opener since 2006. Lusail has been the venue for round one from 2007, the only real exception being 2020 when the premier class didn’t compete in the Grand Prix of Qatar due to coronavirus. The undulating 4.653km Algarve International Circuit tests rider and team’s capabilities, with a host of talent set to make their competitive debut with new teams and colours. Also, Portimao will mark the beginning of a new sporting format introduced to MotoGP, which will see the premier class contest a sprint race on the Saturday of each round.

5. The Bend ASBK decider: 
In recent years The Bend has become synonymous with concluding the ASBK Championship late in the year, and for good reason. The world-class venue in Tailem Bend is widely enjoyed by riders and fans alike, and the late November early December time slot allows riders competing overseas the opportunity to come home, after their seasons are complete, to contest the final round of ASBK. Such internationals are notably headlined by Jack Miller, who last year brought along a group of talent to compete in South Australia including Endurance world champion Josh Hook, German Marcel Schroetter and Harrison Voight in Supersport. Each year the event continues to grow and attract more international contenders, which heats up the excitement further when championships are usually on the line entering the final round.

Image: Foremost Media.

6. MotoGP debuts in Kazakstan and India:
New venues always bring high levels of anticipation, and for 2023 the MotoGP World Championship will venture to Kazakstan and India as it continues to broaden its scope. With round nine between 7-9 July on the brand-new Sokol International Racetrack, Kazakstan becomes the 30th country to host a motorcycle Grand Prix since 1949. Meanwhile, India is set to host round 14 at the renowned Buddh International Circuit on 22-24 September, featuring an equal mix of left and right-hand corners.

7. Darwin Triple Crown:
Marking the halfway point once more in this year’s ASBK calendar, national superbikes will return to Hidden Valley Raceway on 17-19 June. In recent years the outing in Darwin has proved pivotal, with the scorching climate coupled with the Hidden Valley layout and its attributes always providing a challenge. Continuing to make this round unique, the Supercars championship will also be present and competing. If previous year’s schedules continue to be a reference, then Superbike competitors will get three races as opposed to the standard two, making it vital for competitors to bring their A game with more points up for grabs.

8. 1000th Grand Prix at Le Mans:
Le Mans is set to host the 1000th Grand Prix as the French GP marks the fifth stop for this year’s MotoGP calendar on 12-14 May. Last year, the event won the Best Grand Prix title, and the venue located in northwestern France has featured on the world championship calendar for 36 years! With home hero Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) expected to come out guns blazing in a bid to regain his premier class title and the charismatic Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) full of surprises, the historic French GP this year is sure to be one to watch.

9. New BSB Showdown commences at Oulton:
Set to undergo its biggest format change in the last 12 years, the Bennetts British Superbike Championship will feature a new points system and Showdown for 2023. A main season and Showdown will still feature throughout the year, however, there will no longer be a limit of eight title fighters, meaning points won’t be altered before the Showdown commences. Throughout the season three different points systems will feature. Across the main season, race points will be awarded to the top 15 on the scale of 18-16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. For Showdown events, first at Oulton Park and then Donington, the points per race value will increase to 25-22-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. Then, for the Showdown finale, championship points will be awarded to the first 15 riders on the scale of 35-30-27-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-4-2. A potential 105 points are up for grabs at the final round, so riders will still need to bring their best to the end of the season, but the new structure emphasise consistency across the regular season, something that could very well favour McAMS Yamaha’s Jason O’Halloran if recent seasons are a guide. One to watch also will be Australian Josh Brookes, who makes the switch to FHO Racing BMW after a challenging 2022 campaign with MCE Ducati.

10. Second class added to MiniGP:
Following a successful inaugural season, the FIM MiniGP Australia Series will return for 2023 with a new 190cc category to join the championship alongside the existing 160cc class. With certain riders having shone in the 160cc category in the FIM MiniGP World Series, but not yet reached the age to compete at the next level on other Road to MotoGP programs, the new 190cc class provides an opportunity for young talent to continue their development. 10-14-year-olds can compete in the 160cc division on Ohvale GP-0s, with 10″ wheels, as the 190cc class will be contested on Ohvale GP-2s with 12″ wheels, allowing 12-16-year-olds to hone their craft and abilities. Spearheaded by multi-time Mi-Bike Australian Superbike champion and Ohvale Australia director Wayne Maxwell, the 2023 FIM MiniGP Australia Series calendar will span across five rounds and four states between mid-March and September, with coveted opportunities to compete in MiniGP World Series Finals again up for grabs.