In 2023, MotoGP introduced sprint races for the first time in the series’ history and ran them at every grand prix weekend – except the Australian GP sprint, which was cancelled due to bad weather.
The idea behind the sprints was to offer more value for money for fans at the track and attract a bigger audience watching at home.
Of the 20 rounds run this year, 15 events showed an uptick in Saturday attendance (Austin figures not available, India was a first event, Indonesia and Argentina dipped, while Australia’s schedule was altered due to the weather, meaning the GP ran on Saturday).
However, not a single race in 2023 was started with the entire full-time grid present, which a number of riders blamed on the increase in races.
“It’s not a coincidence. It’s a big problem,” 2021 world champion Quartararo said. “I think it’s already a dangerous sport, but as a rider, I can guarantee you that in the sprint race, you get much more tired in the sprint than in the long race.
“And physically the bike that we are using is every time more physical and I don’t think we need one sprint race in every single GP.
“You are in Valencia, it’s the end of the season, you know that it’s always full. So, why do you want to add another one on Saturday? We cannot follow to do this anymore.
“I am not the guy that organises everything, I don’t know what the opinion is for all of the other riders. But I don’t think it’s the correct way.
“Now 42 races or 44, it will not really change much. But it’s a shame that we do all these races and we see that nobody from the original grid was there doing all of the races. So, it’s a shame.”
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, race start
Next year’s calendar is set to swell to 22 rounds, with the return of Aragon and the postponed inaugural Kazakhstan taking the number of races including sprints up to 44.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro believes increasing the calendar size isn’t the best thing for MotoGP and says the riders have been pushing to have the number of sprints reduced.
But he also acknowledges that Dorna Sports also faces a tough task in trying to maximise the visibility of MotoGP and that “nobody has the right answer” to the problem right now.
“You guys think in the safety commission we riders didn’t push to reduce the sprint races?” he added.
“Every single safety commission, all riders. The line is very fine, but I understand also the position of the championship.
“The tracks last year were empty. They say the crowds improve so much and they believe it’s because of the sprint races.
“I’m not sure [if this is the case]. If they told me I had to race 25 races because then we will have three times more spectators, then I will race 25 [races].
“I love this sport, but I’m not sure if it’s the solution and we are not machines.
“I have a very good life. I come to the races on a private jet on Thursday. But my mechanics comes Tuesday and they leave Monday and they earn nothing. So, we have to find the balance.
“Nobody has the right answer to improve the championship. I’m critical of the schedule and the calendar.
“But at the same time I recognise that Dorna is working hard and trying to change the situation.
“They have a new guy in Dorna [CCO Dan Rossomondo] trying to improve [things], they changed the schedule, they are trying to make us closer to the fans.
“They are trying things, so you have to applaud this. But in the other hand, riders suffer from this.”