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MotoGP Portimao: ‘Exciting but demanding’ - Riders talk sprint race shake-up

Riders have given a cautious thumbs up to MotoGP’s overhauled race format shake-up ahead of the Portuguese MotoGP in Portimao, branding it ‘exciting’ albeit ‘physically demanding’.

MotoGP rounds will swell to become double-header events at each of this season’s 21 grands prix, with a half-distance, half-points ‘Sprint Race’ to prelude Sunday’s conventional full distance encounter.

Introduced in an effort to stem a dip in spectator attendance at some venues and boost TV viewing figures, the extra race has resulted in a shake-up of the format as a whole. Now, Friday Free Practice 1 and 2 will be used to determine which ten riders will progress directly to Saturday’s Q2 session.


The short practice session previously prior to Q1 remains, but will be held on Saturday morning and become known as Free Practice 3 in place of an erstwhile third 45min session.

With points available to the top nine riders, the scoring system will be tweaked to 12-9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, before returning to a familiar ‘25 for a win’ format for Sunday’s MotoGP main show.

While the change drew a mixed reaction when it was first announced last season, riders attending Thursday’s pre-event press conference offered a more enthusiastic tone in front of the media and the assembled Dorna top brass looming in their periphery.

Pecco Bagnaia
“Excited like always before starting a new season. It changed a bit the strategy of the weekend, the way to work, because now with the second practice, you have more time so you have to do the time attack in the second practice, not in FP3 so it changes a bit.

“I tried a sprint race and I feel good on it, but it’s a different way to approach the race because you have to push like hell and not concentrate too much the rear tyre

“It’s a different way to approach the race and I think after three or four races, we will understand better, how to work, how to improve, how to approach the weekend, but it’s a good change, I like it.”

Fabio Quartararo
“I think we come from a season last year with 21 races and we go straight away to do a full season with sprint races. If it can help for the fans to grow up the sport is good, but also you need to think that there is extra risk for all the season.

“There are 21 events, so of course you need to make it on the limit because there is a certain amount of points in the championship.”

Marc Marquez
“Honestly I like it but the schedule, for me, is too demanding for the riders.


Friday is already counting from the Q1/2, so FP2 is like a qualifying practice - it’s quite demanding to have 21 races like this. I think we will enjoy it on the track and you will as a spectator but of course in the future we have safety commission and all these things we will adapt a bit.

Aleix Espargaro
“I am really excited, we talk a lot about the sprint races, we will have to try and see. The second weekend will be better than the first, step by step but I can’t wait to try and see.

“Friday was quite relaxed, but now it is important because it counts towards qualifying, so you have to wake up more aggressively on Friday morning.”

Miguel Oliveira
I don’t know what to think of the sprint races for the moment, I think it will depend on your position in qualifying.

“At the end of the day there are some points, but not a lot, so you risk but the reward might not be enough and it doesn’t change anything for Sunday’s starting grid. I think we will discover what the sprint races really mean after the weekend has passed.”

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