As The Race reflects on the 2023 motorsport season - one that featured a record-equalling Formula 1 schedule, no fewer than 39 MotoGP races, and no shortage of on- and off-track drama in IndyCar and Formula E - we’ve asked our writers to recount their standout motorsport memory or feeling from the past 12 months.
In the latest edition of our rundown, website editor and The Race MotoGP Podcast host Matt Beer looks back on a MotoGP title fight that helped him rediscover the fan-esque appreciation for racing that had been lost somewhat in years and years of working in the industry.
Do I actually like motorsport?
It had become a bit of a running joke among friends and family that trying to make conversation with me about motorsport at a social event or mentioning events in F1 to me on a (rare) weekend I wasn't working was a non-starter.
It wasn't because I was jaded about or disillusioned by motorsport. Just the practicality of 20+ grands prix (plus sprints!) in Formula 1 and MotoGP overlapping with being a parent to young children and really, really wanting to give my very best to the latter. And having been on some form of website newsdesk shift somewhere for maybe 90% of all the F1 or MotoGP weekends of the last 17 years perhaps meaning a little mental erosion.
My approach to work had caused a lot of harm over those years in various ways - now there was a bit of subconscious over-correction going on and it was making me forget to actually enjoy watching the thing I spend 2000+ hours per year commissioning/editing words about.
I still loved my job. But because of the creative interaction with the brilliant people I have the privilege of working with on The Race. I'd get (very) excited about storylines, ideas, possibilities and website analytics.
But about what might happen in a particular race or title fight? Not so often these days.
Until MotoGP 2023. What a crazy beautiful thing that turned out to be. And how refreshing it was for me to purely enjoy a motorsport season that much.
MotoGP had always been the part of motorsport that kept my raw fan senses twitching more. But it's not usually great at title fights. It didn't look like it would be this season either - though the degree of off-track intrigue was such it felt like that barely mattered (cheers, Marc Marquez) for much of the year.
Our 2023 memories so far
- Jack Benyon: A poignant Nashville IndyCar trip
- Ben Anderson: The other F1 returnee who enjoyed his 2023 comeback
- Sam Smith: When Formula E's big on- and off-track stories intersected
- Mark Hughes: A statement drive that drew a line under years and years wasted
And then suddenly we really did have a title fight, too. One with that rare intensity where from late September onwards everything really, really mattered. Every practice session with Q1/Q2 implications, every tyre choice, every mid-pack move involving either Pecco Bagnaia or Jorge Martin. They all really, really counted.
I was glued to that Dorna TV graphic showing the points as they stand mid-race. It rarely stood still. Sometimes it basically turned itself upside down when you least expected it.
Usually you need to be really invested in an outcome to enjoy a sporting contest that much. With this one, I just didn't want it to end, didn't want either of them to stumble in a way that prevented it going down to the wire.
I had a (probably obvious to listeners of our podcast) fondness for the spirit with which Martin was going about life and racing. But also huge admiration for Bagnaia, to the extent I'd have been sad for him had he lost even if when pushed I'd argue that Martin was the year's stronger performer (satellite riders just should not be able to do what he did).
And there's the promise for the future, too.
This year was amazing. Now throw in Marquez on a competitive bike. A recovered and acclimatised Enea Bastianini maybe giving us the intra-team Ducati fight I was sure the 2023 title race would be pre-season. So many significant rider moves to play out, so many marques trying to improve and now with concessions to help them, so many riders racing for 2025 deals. Next year could make this year look tepid.
Friends and family, you're welcome to ask me about MotoGP when I'm not working. I promise I won't shut that conversation down.