Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) has done it. He is a Grand Prix victor in 2023 – and he did in style! The Japanese rider put on quite some show as he fought tooth and nail in a five-rider scrap for victory at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana.
The final race of 2023 went down the wire in typical Moto3™ fashion as David Alonso (Valresa GASGAS Aspar Team) left everything he had out on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo as he pushed Sasaki right until the final corner. Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) was very much in the mix as well. The Spaniard came home in P3 after getting his elbows firmly out on the last lap, almost snatching second from Alonso in a close drag to the line.
The riders lined up on the grid for the final race of the 2023 Moto3™ season, and with the Championship decided it promised to deliver barnstorming lightweight action. Collin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) started from pole position but it was Sasaki who took the hole shot down in Turn 1 as the Moto3™ bikes barrelled in.
The Japanese rider had Veijer and Öncü for company as the riders scrapped for position in the opening sector. We lost a couple at Turn 2 as Vicente Perez (BOE Motorsports) and Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) went down and out of the race. Xavi Artigas (CFMoto Racing PruestelGP) was later awarded a double long lap penalty after causing the incident.
The top three remained line astern throughout the first lap as Joel Kelso (CFMoto Racing PruestelGP) and Ortola looked keen to threaten the podium spots. Veijer then took over the lead from his teammate one lap later as he dived up the inside at Turn 2. Veijer, Sasaki, Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Kelso, Ortola was the order as the race began to settle with 17 laps still remaining.
As the laps ticked away a leading group began to form as Alonso and Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo) put themselves in contention in a seven-bike battle for the lead – Alonso getting his elbows out as he got firmly stuck into the battle for victory.
The pace was hot as they were consistently putting times under the race lap record with Veijer leading the way lap after lap. With 10 laps to go it became it a battle of five as Kelso and Rueda began to fall off the back of the group.
A big move came from Alonso with seven to go as the Colombian chucked it up the inside of Öncü at the final corner with very little room to come through. The two made contact as they both ran wide and lost time to Sasaki and Veijer ahead.
Alonso quickly recovered the time in a matter of corners and one lap later he made his move on Sasaki to put himself into P2. Veijer, Alonso, Sasaki, Ortola, Öncü was now the order in the top five with Öncü finding himself almost a second back.
Veijer cracked for the first time with five to go as he finally lost the lead with a small mistake seeing him run wide and drop to fourth, promoting Sasaki to the lead with Ortola and Alonso hot on his tail.
Sasaki led the way on the penultimate lap as Deniz Öncü was now back in the mix and joined onto the back of the group. The heat was turned up as Veijer shot up the inside of Ortola to take third. Ortola bit back at the beginning of the last lap and it was now or never on the final lap.
Sasaki led the way as they barrelled through the first two sectors for the final time. Alonso was all over his rearwheel with Ortola shadowing Alonso’s every move. It came down to the final corner in the end as the Colombian tried all he could to throw it up the inside but had couldn’t find his way past the Japanese rider as he took his first Grand Prix victory ahead with Alonso fending off Ortola in close drag to the line.
It was heartbreak for Veijer after he led the majority to end up having to settle for fourth, and Öncü did recover to catch the leading group but didn’t manage to make any moves as he brought home P5. Rueda finished in a lonely sixth place with Kelso a further second back in P7. 1.5 seconds back from the Aussie was a 3-rider scrap for eighth place which was won by Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) who got the better of David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) and Ryusei Yamanaka (GASGAS Aspar Team) in ninth and 10th.
Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia) finished his 2023 campaign with P11 ahead of Fillipo Farioli (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing). The newly crowned Champion had a steady end to his title-winning season as he took 13th with Adrian Fernandez (Leopard Racing) and Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team) taking the final point-scoring positions.
And with that the 2023 FIM Moto3™ World Championship season sees its conclusion. It’s been a rollercoaster ride as always as we’ve witnessed the stars of the future do battle in the lightweight class. Many will move on to pastures new for 2024, so make sure you stay tuned!
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