2023 MotoGP season will start in Europe for first time in 17 years​

Portuguese MotoGP in Portimao takes over from Qatar as host of 2023 MotoGP season opener, only the fourth time in 37 years curtain raiser has been held in Europe

Joan Mir - Suzuki Ecstar

The 2023 MotoGP World Championship season will kick off on the European continent for the first time since 2006 after the Portuguese MotoGP at Portimao was announced as the campaign’s new curtain raiser.

Speculation over which venue would get the prestigious nod to host the first event on the 2023 Grand Prix Motorcycling calendar has been rife since organisers for the Qatar MotoGP announced it required a date change to later in the season.

This comes after the decision to begin major redevelopment work at the Lusail International Circuit, which includes upgrading the floodlight system around the only night-time venue on the schedule.

While most predictions centred around the likelihood of Dorna keeping to its more recent tradition of beginning the season with flyaway events - four of which made up the opening four 2022 MotoGP events - it has instead chosen the Portimao venue in Portugal’s southern Algarve region for the honour.

With Portimao to host the official pre-season testing prior to the race weekend, the decision to keep the same 24-26 March date throws up the intriguing prospect of temperatures still being cool, with the Algarve’s average March conditions averaging only around 18-degrees.

It is one of the reasons why Europe’s MotoGP leg doesn’t normally begin until May and why Qatar was chosen as the new first round hosts from 2007 to allow Dorna to begin the season earlier. 

While the more clued up among you will point out that Jerez hosted the 2020 MotoGP season opener, Qatar is still counted as the de facto curtain raiser as it was able to host Moto2 and Moto3 as planned before COVID-19 threw the schedule in disarray.

Ironically, it was the COVID-related travel issues that enabled Portimao an unexpected opportunity to host MotoGP for the first time in 2020. It was then allowed to retain a place on the schedule for 2021, hosting two events in the end as scheduling problems rolled over into 2021.

Ignoring 2020, Jerez was also the host of the last European-soil first round of the season back in 2006 during a two-year stint. 

Prior to that you have to go back to 1986 for the last European season opener - in Jarama - until 2005 with Suzuka (Japan - pictured above in 2000), Eastern Creek (Australia), Shah Alam (Malaysia), Sepang (Malaysia) and Kyalami (South Africa) getting the role before that.