A sad picture on the day of the Argentine Grand Prix with the orphaned box of the most successful team of the last 3 decades makes you think. After numerous falls, superstar Marc Marquez hasn’t finished 3 race laps since the beginning of the season. Similar situation for his new teammate and 2020 World Champion Joan Mir, who was injured in his crash in the newly introduced sprint race on Saturday and had to forfeit for the Argentine GP (© Repsol Honda).

Thoughts on the questionable development in two-wheel sport

Where to go with MotoGP after a disastrous start in a new future, many fans of two-wheeled sport are probably asking themselves at the moment. What organizer Dorna and most media like to play down is an absolute disaster for the sport and its fans. With a format borrowed from WorldSBK, the aim was actually to upgrade the series and thus ensure more spectacle on Saturday as well. But literally the shot backfired at the season opener in Portimão. Looking at Pol Espargaro’s crash and his fatal impact on the tire wall, one is immediately reminded of the earlier years of racing. Some also wonder why there is a so-called FIM Safety Commission and what these people are doing at all. We have often observed such gentlemen in better hotels and at this point we will spare ourselves the description of our opinion about them. Due to excessive willingness to take risks, no fewer than 4 riders from the premier class were missing from the first GP and in Argentina it was already five. This is definitely something to think about.

Aerial view of the Autodromo do Algarve, near the coastal town of Portimão, behind the so-called VIP tower of curve 10, which was almost unsecured for the drivers before Saturday to protect fallen riders from serious injury. However, the beaming man from Granollers, a neighboring town of the Circuito de Cataluña near Barcelona, flew into a tire wall on Friday. The next day, his team boss Herve Poncharal spoke of the Catalan’s return soon. The truth, however, was that it took a week for Pol to even leave the hospital’s intensive care unit (© MotoGP).

The Sachsenring as a role model for others

We had hoped that with the new format of the first race on Saturday, financially challenged fans would be able to afford a cheap opportunity to attend a race only on Saturday. In many places it is easy to forget that the true fans of racing are not the ones who act as selfie hunters on the finish line before the start. Rather, it is those who often cannot even afford to visit the Grand Prix. There are more than enough of them in Spain, the country of rights holder Dorna. However, if you are looking for cheap tickets for Saturday only, you will usually be bitterly disappointed. Apparently, most of the organizers, including Dorna, only really care about the VIP guests with their tickets that cost several hundred euros. Luckily for the fans from Germany and the nearby neighboring countries, there is a laudable exception with the Sachsenring. For as little money as there with a Saturday ticket, there has not been such a cheap offer in Europe for decades to treat yourself to the premier class in a race live.

Sachsenring in 1955 with the start of the Grand Prix – on the only part of the track that still exists today, along with the finish corner. For more on the early years of motorcycle racing, see our richly illustrated and ever-expanding history. If you are a fan and have never attended a race on this historically very important route, you are strongly advised to catch up. The Saxon hospitality is proverbial and you feel almost everywhere in the middle of the action and, above all, incredibly close to the action. In terms of catering, we have never found such a variety and quality at truly fair prices anywhere in the world during our countless visits to races. Above all, you don’t have to wait indefinitely, as with most other routes, until you are served, due to the large number of stands.

The concern of many fans is absolutely justified

Looking at the many serious falls and their consequences, one rightly wonders about the purpose of the new format. But you should also take into account the incredible pressure the riders are under, especially in MotoGP. This explains, at least in part, their high willingness to take risks, which in the newly introduced sprint race sometimes involved almost grotesque proportions. If you think about how KTM, for example, has recently been burning up their homegrown products from the point of view of many observers, you begin to understand the pressure that weighs on the heroes of racing better. With Remy Gardner, Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez, the oranges got rid of three of their most deserving pilots at the end of the 2022 season, most of whom had been carefully built up for years beforehand. After finishing 19th in the 2015 season and eighteenth in 2016, Jack Miller got another chance to prove himself in his third MotoGP season. Such a thing is unthinkable today and one must not lose sight of the fact that for most people at the controls of power in the premier class today only business and profit count. While 50 to 60 years ago in motorcycle racing the majority of the starting field still consisted of private riders, the scene has changed completely in modern times.

A Honda 250 cc factory machine with 6 cylinders – even then there were fights for world championship titles with the highest technical effort. On the other hand, today’s development with the so-called “ride-height-devices” (a height adjustment for improved traction) and electronic means such as slip control seems almost ridiculous to some observers. High-siders still exist and problems caused by defective mechanics also often lead to falls. This is exactly why experienced drivers like Honda ace Marc Marquez are among the critics of this development and would like to see some of it abolished.

Where is a race visit still worthwhile today?

From a fan point of view, this question can actually be answered very easily. In terms of atmosphere and real fan enthusiasm, as well as proximity to the action, hardly any other event can hold a candle to the Sachsenring. In addition, there is a very rich offer in terms of supporting program and catering, which in our experience no other MotoGP Grand Prix can match. Since Valentino Rossi’s retirement, the Italian classics such as Mugello and Misano have gone downhill, similar to Spain with Jerez, Motorland Aragon and the GP of Catalonia for a number of years. Assen in the Netherlands, on the other hand, is still worth a trip, especially in WorldSBK. However, some visitors have to be more than turned a blind eye to the incredibly high “littering” of many inconsiderate idiots, as in Mugello. In a word – garbage strongholds probably hit the nail on the head the most. Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring in Styria are beautifully situated and popular with many fans, but staying overnight in the vicinity is almost exclusively possible with a tent or camper van. In addition, the majority of MotoGPs in particular drive at a speed that is far too high for today’s times. Apart from the overseas races, from a European point of view, Le Mans and Barcelona are the most important. Both routes offer many natural grandstands and spectacular spots, so there is a lot on offer for all ticket categories.

Sachsenring curve 6 photographed by us on the track in 2017 – in terms of atmosphere and enthusiasm, even among the population, this event can hardly be topped. With new venues such as Kazakhstan and India, however, rights holder Dorna may not only have made new friends. Numerous fans, not only from the Czech Republic, miss the GP in Brno more and more.

What’s next – the Texas and Jerez Grands Prix

Many German fans are hoping for the return of Stefan Bradl as HRC test and reserve driver (for Joan Mir or Marc Marquez), as well as his Bavarian colleague Jonas Folger (who is new to KTM in the same position) as a replacement for Pol Espargaro that has been missing for a long time, and should Marc Marquez and Joan Mir not be able to get back into action soon due to their injuries, their World Cup ambitions are likely to come to an early end. The former is considered the top favorite for the Grand Prix in Austin/Texas, should he be able to compete there from April 14th. However, he would have to face a “double long lap penalty” in the next race, which of course drastically increases the danger of the multiple world champion possibly falling in the next race. At the latest for Jerez, Dani Pedrosa (KTM) can be expected to see him again, who has already been announced there with a wildcard. The former Repsol Honda ace is still in the top three of the winners list there.

The program in Central European time – the Tissot sprint race and the resulting omitted FP4 are new, especially in MotoGP. That’s why it’s important to classify for Q2 (second qualifying) on Friday in the premier class. This ensures even more excitement in the first and second qualifying (the overall best time of these two training sessions counts). However, this also increases the pressure on the drivers to finish in the top ten on day one in order not to have to go into Q1.
While Marc Marquez is the lone leader in Texas, things are completely different for Jerez. With Valentino Rossi (ITA, left, seven wins), Mick Doohan (AUS, top right, 4) and Dani Pedrosa (SPA, bottom right with 3 wins), former top drivers adorn the top of the rankings. As a KTM test and reserve rider, however, the latter cannot be expected to triumph again on his return, in order to draw level with “Quick-Mick” (© MotoGP).