Features 18 Apr 2023

Three Things: 2023 MotoGP race winners

A closer look at the significance of each victory in the opening rounds

A new era of the MotoGP World Championship is upon us that includes an updated weekend structure and the addition of a sprint race featuring at each round in 2023. With the fresh format providing more opportunities for success and heartbreak, CycleOnline takes a closer look at the significance of each premier class victory across the opening three rounds in this Three Things feature.

Image: Supplied.


For the first time since 2006, a European venue hosted round one of the MotoGP World Championship and the action at Portimao didn’t disappoint. With a new weekend format including an additional premier class race on Saturday, anticipation levels were peaking ahead of the opening round in Portugal and it was reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia who cemented himself in the history books as the first-ever MotoGP sprint winner. The Italian edged Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) by just three-tenths in the approximately half-length, half-points encounter that has become a popular addition to Saturday’s program. Bagnaia went on to win the Portuguese Grand Prix the following day, holding off Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) to achieve his 13th race win in the premier class, the weekend also marking the first time since 2018 in Moto2 that he had won a season-opening race. Additionally, he is the only rider so far to win both the sprint at GP races on a given weekend.


The sprint race format delivered its share of surprises at Termas de Rio Hondo, with an arguably unexpected candidate, Brad Binder, storming to an exciting and impressive victory. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider qualified a lowly P15 in the challenging conditions earlier that day, but delivered a clinical performance to slice his way through the field and reach the lead by lap three. He was able to withstand the charge of Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) and take a slim (0.072s) yet crucial victory in the outing. It was the first time since his gutsy Red Bull Ring victory in 2021 that he took the chequered flag first in a premier-class encounter, and the third time he has done so to date in MotoGP. Wet conditions for the Argentine GP the following day threw a spanner in the works, with Binder and Bagnaia among the fallers. Ultimately, it was Bezzecchi who splashed his way to a clear 4.085s victory, marking the Italian’s first MotoGP victory, also the first for the Mooney VR46 Racing Team in the category. The result also elevated him to the lead of the championship standings, sitting nine points clear of Bagnaia at the conclusion of round two.

Image: Supplied.

Circuit of the Americas (COTA)

Determined to make up for the DNF in Argentina, Bagnaia was on a mission in Austin and posted a new all-time lap record of 2m01.8920s at the venue to secure pole position. A commanding performance in the sprint race on Saturday saw him take a convincing 2.545s victory ahead of Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol), moving to within a single point of championship leader Bezzecchi won was P6 in that bout. Bagnaia was the favourite entering Sunday’s race, however, he crashed out of contention for the second week in a row, unable to complete the race. The number 63 was in the lead but trailed by Rins at the time of the fall, with the Spaniard capitalising on Bagnaia’s mistake to ride a controlled race to victory. Rins is no stranger to the top step, having won on five prior occasions in the premier class with Team Suzuki Ecstar, however, this win is sure to hold extra significance in his career. The achievement comes just three rounds into his stint onboard the Honda, ending the manufacturer’s 539-day winless streak (the brand’s last victory was with Marc Marquez at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix). It was also the first time the LCR Honda outfit had won a race since Cal Crutchlow’s success at the 2018 Argentine GP. That said, Rins certainly wasn’t on a winless streak with his prior top step success coming in the final round of the 2022 season at Valencia. Making matters sweeter, Rins is now third in the 2023 MotoGP World Championship standings with 47 points, trailing Bezzecchi (61) and Bagnaia (53).