A revamped Lusail International Circuit opens its gates to MotoGP once again with the return of evening sessions. [IMAGO]
The much-awaited 2023 Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix kicked off at Lusail International Circuit (LIC) on Thursday, promising a penultimate race for fans of the sport.
With only two races left in the season, the Lusail Circut may play a major role in naming the champion, as 74 points remain on the table, with the first 37 up for grabs this weekend.
In an unusual setting for the sport, the title race could be decided for the first time after the Tissot Sprint and the Grand Prix race.
Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia currently leads the championship by 14 points from Pramac rival Jorge Martin.
The reigning Italian champion has accumulated 412 points so far this season, while Martin has collected 398. Bagnaia has won six Grand Prix and Martin has won four.
Martin will aim to pick up points at the Tissot Sprint Race on Saturday, which will also see the top nine finishers competing for up to 12 world championship points.
Similar to Formula One’s Sprint Race that debuted in Qatar this year, the Tissot Sprint Race results are based on the results of the morning’s two qualifying sessions, with Sunday’s primary race setting the same driver grid.
In the sprint race, the winner will score 12 points, with the remaining eight positions down to ninth scoring 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Performing poorly on the Malaysian MotoGP Grand Prix, Portuguese racer Miguel Oliveira hopes to turn his luck around at the Lusail track.
“I like Qatar, it should be interesting with the new asphalt this year. The Lusail International Circuit looks like a track that could suit our bike,” Oliveira said ahead of the race. “Last year went quite well there, so hopefully, we can benefit from that this year, build up a good weekend, and then have a good result,” the RNF MotoGP rider added.
Since 2004, Lusail Circuit has hosted the opening of the MotoGP calendar each year as the only nighttime Grand Prix. This year, the facility has just completed some upgrades on and off the track.
The LIC can now host 40,000 people, with 15,000 spots being created to increase car parking capacity.
Lusail Hills, a new elevated viewing area positioned at Turn 1 of the track, can offer an up-close-and-personal view of the weekend action.
In alignment with Qatar’s goal of sustainability, 180,000 square metres of green space have been put in place to host 2,577 trees and nearly 27,000 other varieties of shrubs, succulents, and vegetation.
Several new buildings have also been constructed as part of the revamp, including a media centre, a medical centre, a paddock area, and a pit building. Fifty pit boxes have been created for the race, the largest among all international circuits.
This year’s 2023 season will mark the first campaign since 2006 where MotoGP had started somewhere other than Qatar – the opening round took place at Circuito de Jerez in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
2023 MotoGP Qatar Grand Prix sessions
Friday 17th November 2023
- Free Practice 1: 15:45 – 16:30 local time
- Free Practice 2: 20:00 – 21:00 local time
Saturday 18th November 2023
- Free Practice 3: 15:00 – 15:30 local time
- Qualifying: 15:40 – 16:20 local time
- Sprint: 20:00 local time
Sunday 19th November 2023
- Warm up: 15:40 – 15:50 local time
- Race: 20:00 local time