MotoGP Valencia injury update: Who's in & who's out for the season finale?

MotoGP heads to its final round of 2023 this weekend, but as ever this year there are injuries to be considered and riders to be replaced

Aleix Espargaro, 2023 MotoGP Qatar Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

A number of riders are heading to Valencia this weekend for the final MotoGP round of 2023 either nursing injuries, or replacing someone whose injury is keeping them out of action.

There has not been a single full-distance Grand Prix race in 2023 that has been started by all 22 full-time MotoGP riders. Pol Espargaro’s P2 crash on Friday afternoon at the first round in Portimao kicked it all off, and now we are heading into Valencia still with replacement riders on the grid.

The biggest injury coming out of last weekend in Qatar was felt by Miguel Oliveira, who broke the same bone in his shoulder blade as that which kept Enea Bastianini out for much of the early part of 2023 after his Portuguese Sprint crash back in late March. 

Oliveira is out of this weekend’s season-ending Valencian Grand Prix as a result of his injury, and he will be replaced by Aprilia’s regular fill-in, and official test rider, Lorenzo Savadori in the RNF Racing garage. (There has been no official announcement yet but Savadori is listed in place of Oliveira in the RNF team’s media debrief schedule for this weekend, as shown below.)

Oliveira’s injury happened in a crash at turn six in the Qatar Sprint with Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard was also hurt in the crash, with a fracture in the top of his left fibula. Espargaro attempted to race the Qatar Grand Prix the day after the crash, but retired mid-way through as a result of the injury. The #41 will attempt to ride this weekend, but he will probably only find out on Friday whether he will be able to complete the weekend. It is also worth noting that, as a factory rider, Espargaro has an important test coming up next Tuesday in Valencia, and it may turn out that he decides to forego the Valencia race to be in a better condition for the Valencia test, but that is only speculation.

2023 looks like it will be Alex Rins’ only season with Honda, as he will move to Yamaha next year. Despite his win in Texas seven months ago, Rins’ year has been a nightmare, and he has only completed one Grand Prix since his leg-breaking crash in the Italian Sprint back in June. That came in Indonesia last month, and was followed up by more issues with his leg, and another surgery as a result. That most recent surgery kept Rins out until last weekend in Qatar (he has been replaced by Iker Lecuona in Sepang and Lusail), but the #42 will attempt to race one more time for the LCR team this weekend in Valencia. Whether Rins will be ready for a Yamaha YZR-M1 debut on Tuesday is uncertain.

More MotoGP injury news that came out this week has been regarding the now-two-time WorldSBK Champion Alvaro Bautista. The #19 returned to MotoGP for the first time in five years at the Malaysian Grand Prix one-and-a-half weeks ago, but his weekend was a disaster. He was rarely not last, and finished the Grand Prix 53 seconds off the win. Bautista spoke at the end of the Malaysian weekend of a lack of strength in his left arm, and Ducati has confirmed this week that he has in fact suffered spinal damage as a result of a crash while testing in Jerez before the Malaysian Grand Prix. Specifically, Bautista has been diagnosed with a C6-C7 hernia and disc protrusions in the C5-C6 vertebrae. The Spaniard will now be aiming to be fit for the WorldSBK’s 2024 preseason tests in January.