A sunny and sold-out Circuito Ricardo Tormo brought 2023 MotoGP to a conclusion and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing closed the book on a twenty-round season with fierce competitiveness at the Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana. Brad Binder followed up his runner-up finish in Saturday’s Sprint by leading the race for a long spell and recovering to classify 3rd after a mistake. Teammate Jack Miller also fronted the pack but slipped out at Turn 11. In Moto3™ Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Deniz Öncü missed the podium by fractions of a second but takes P4 in the championship for the season.
Valencia was packed on a sunny Saturday for the last MotoGP Sprint of the season and the finale to an intense period of races that has seen the championship visit Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and Qatar in the last six weeks. The crowds returned in force and packed the speedway setting of the Circuito Ricardo Tormo for Sunday’s Grand Prix races and the last flurry of 27 laps of the campaign.
Jack Miller and Brad Binder both started from the first and second rows of the grid and enthused by their speed through qualification as well as the South African’s competitiveness in the Sprint, which saw #33 cross the line just 0.190 of a second from the win. On Sunday both sliced to the front and were running 1-2 for an early phase. Brad then ran wide into Turn 11 and then had to make some forceful moves to recover ground to 4th; just 2.3 seconds from the winner by the end and was awarded 3rd spot due to a tire pressure infringement by another rider. Jack had taken over control of the race with his teammate’s error but then made his own misjudgment several laps later into the same section of the layout and crashed.
Binder has excelled in Sprints in Argentina, Spain, Austria and Thailand while spraying podium Prosecco in Spain, Austria, Britain and Thailand. Miller also made the Grand Prix rostrum in Spain (Jerez for round four). Work and thoughts will already switch to 2024 with the one-day official test taking place from 10.00 until 17.00 CET on Tuesday.
Brad Binder, 3rd: “A 3rd place is a 3rd place, even if we didn’t actually go to the podium! I gave away a couple of podiums this year, so I know it’s not fun. Anyway, quite cool to finish in 3rd after coming close. I took an un-needed Long Lap but did well to save the crash because the front tire had been cooling down. A tricky day. I tried to fight my way back through but had no rear tire left at the end. We won two Sprints this year but it would have been good to sign off with a main victory. We just need a little bit more in this off-season to fight. Thanks to all my crew. We’ve made a big step this year and there’s more to come.”
Jack Miller, DNF: “Not much to say. I didn’t do much different compared to the previous lap. I’d had a few moments with the front so decided to take it easy and not do anything too savage and, yeah, she just got away from me. It could have been an amazing result…but we’ll take stock and bounce back. It has been a year of firsts in many ways and a bittersweet way to end because it’s nice to know we have pace and we’re heading in the right direction. We have been working our butts off. The rider is just one small part because there is so much going on behind the scenes. It’s a battle to better a MotoGP during a season like this and with the small window. Everyone has worked tirelessly, so I thank them all for that.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “It was a great season in that we improved the bike, and the riders put themselves in a position where they could change styles to suit it. It was a very intense calendar and, overall, we’re happy with 4th in the championship with Brad and 2nd in Constructors but this is just a step. I was impressed by how much we could improve in just one season, especially qualifying, and we know there is a little bit more to do if we want the championship. 3rd place was good today after leading the race. We can see the level of this category: just one little thing can really change the results. So, we have to put everything together lap-by-lap to achieve the target. It’s difficult but we recovered a lot this year. We will try again in 2024 and we will keep the focus.”
Results MotoGP Grand Prix of Valencia
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati 40:58.535
2. Johann Zarco (ITA) Ducati +0.360
3. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +2.347
DNF. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
World championship standings MotoGP
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati, 467 points
2. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 428
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati, 329
4. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 293
11. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 163
KTM GP Academy
Top three championship medals still had to be decided in Moto3 and with both Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Daniel Holgado and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Deniz Öncü in with a chance of 3rd place for 2023. Both riders had suffered crashes during the practice and qualification schedule (Öncü heavily on Friday and Holgado in Q2 to leave him 18th on the grid) but were straining the cables of the KTM RC4 for the 20 laps on Sunday. Also in play was Jose Rueda; determined to finish a consistent and strong rookie season with a top result.
The lead group consisted of seven riders and with Öncü was part of the posse. Rueda also. Holgado had to play catch-up after some poor luck into Turn 2 caused him to veer off track to avoid falling riders. The Spaniard had a strong race to recover to 8th. Öncü rallied hard and scored 5th on the last lap: 0.3 of a second from the win. Rueda was a solid 6th and Filippo Farioli was a creditable 12th for his fourth batch of points this season.
The Valencia classification meant Öncü and Holgado finished 4th and 5th in the world. Rueda was 9th and Farioli 24th. KTM aced the Constructors championship by 67 points over their next nearest rival. The brand clocked 6 wins and 15 podium appearances in total from twenty rounds.
Red Bull KTM Ajo had been crowned as Moto2 Teams Champions for the third year in succession at the previous event in Qatar. Pedro Acosta had wrapped-up the 2023 title the race before in Malaysia. Valencia was a home-coming send-off for the youngster who will move to the MotoGP class in a matter of hours after the flag had fallen in Spain. Moto2 rattled around the Ricardo Tormo layout for 22 laps and with Acosta seeking an eighth win and fifteenth podium and Albert Arenas hoping to end his term with the team with another top ten result.
Acosta was lucky to avoid crashing during a major moment through Turn 4 early in the race and the incident cost him time and positions, causing the champion to finish in 12th. He was bested by Arenas who made a steady 10th to confirm 14th for the year.
Aside from the post-Grand Prix testing activities, MotoGP will get rapid and earnest with more testing dates in Malaysia and Qatar in 2024 and the first round of the 22-date calendar will take place at the Losail International Circuit on March 9-10.
Results Moto3 Grand Prix of Valencia
1. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna 33:03.409
2. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS +0.082
3. Ivan Ortola (ESP) KTM +0.128
5. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo +0.384
6. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +3.589
8. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +6.105
12. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +9.663
Final world championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 274 points
2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 268
3. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS, 245
4. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 223
5. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 220
9. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 121
24. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 19
Results Moto2 Grand Prix of Valencia
1. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) 34:33.384
2. Aron Canet (ESP) +3.986
3. Alonso Lopez (ESP) +6.455
10. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +12.549
12. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +14.044
Final world championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 332.5 points
2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 249.5
3. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP), 212
14. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 85