Sprint races, a final round title showdown, trials, tribulations and sensations - that was the year 2023 in MotoGP... but who were the big standouts? This is BSN's Top 10 MotoGP Riders of the 2023.
First up is Aleix Espargaro in tenth place…
|10th. ALEIX ESPARGARO
|1st [Rd.9 British MotoGP, Rd.11 Cataunya MotoGP]
While it is perhaps a bit much to describe Aleix Espargaro’s 2022 MotoGP campaign as his ‘breakthrough’ - because after 13 seasons in MotoGP, it’s less a breakthrough and more finding the spare key to unlock the door and walk through - it was still the long-awaited (belated) coming together of all those erstwhile ‘there or thereabouts’ ingredients for MotoGP's steeliest stalwart.
On the flip side, heightened expectations raised the level further still for Espargaro in 2023 and - by comparison - it appeared to play on the mind of both the Spaniard and his Aprilia Racing team to maintain its newfound edge on a consistent basis.
Indeed, while revelling as the underdog role was certainly worth a couple of tenths last season, Espargaro struggled to establish the same string of consistency that made him a persistent thorn in the side of Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia for much of 2022.
Then again, if 2022 was a very high standard to either maintain or build on, then - in isolation - this was still a strong campaign for Espargaro, one that bucks the trend of riders with a double digit season tally to their names often heading the other direction down the grid.
Having finally prised the monkey off his back last season, he was more emphatic in evicting it entirely in 2023 with two of the year’s hardest-fought wins at Silverstone and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to his credit.
Proving there is no substitute for experience when it comes to both holding nerve and taking chances simultaneously in tricky conditions, Espargaro then capped off his British MotoGP triumph with a crowd-pleasing lunge for victory on the final lap.
Going on to lead a historic 1-2 for Aprilia on the cosiest of home soils in Spain, you’d struggle to find a more symbolic result for any rider in MotoGP.
In short, if Espargaro's 12th season in MotoGP had been worth the wait, then this difficult follow-up 'album' was still a mighty fine effort.