Qatar won't host 2023 MotoGP opener - so which venue will raise curtain?

Necessary development work means Qatar cedes its status as the 2023 MotoGP World Championship curtain raiser; Indonesia, Australia or Malaysia to replace?

Jorge Martin - Pramac Ducati, start

Organisers for the Qatar MotoGP have announced it will be unable to take up its long-held status as the season-opening event in 2023 after confirming the Lusail International Circuit is undergoing redevelopment.​

Qatar made its debut on the MotoGP World Championship schedule in 2004 and has held the role of season-opener since 2007, with the exception of 2020 when COVID-19 forced a delay to the start of the season.

It has also held its event under floodlights - the first MotoGP round to do so - since 2008, but necessary development work around the circuit means it will need to negotiate a later date for the 2023 MotoGP season.

“Lusail International Circuit is set to undergo extensive renovation and remodelling to the paddock area and circuit facilities for 2023. The track is already confirmed on the MotoGP calendar until at least 2031, and the works will see the Middle East’s flagship motorsport venue further confirm its status as one of the world’s best-equipped racing facilities.

“The remodelling project will begin to take shape in 2022 and will see various areas redeveloped to create an even better experience for all those racing at and visiting the venue, from riders and teams to fans and guests. That includes new areas for spectators, establishing Lusail as a truly state-of-the-art, cutting edge racetrack.

“Lusail will host the 2023 Grand Prix of Qatar upon completion of the work, meaning the event will therefore not be the opening round, as it has been from 2007. Instead it will take place towards the end of the season, under the spectacular floodlights of Lusail as the sport returns to enjoy some incredible racing – as has become tradition at the Qatar GP.”

Start of the Indonesian MotoGP, wet, start

Which venue will host the 2023 MotoGP opening round?

It means MotoGP will need to source an alternative curtain raiser for 2023 with a handful of logical options on the cards.

The revived Indonesian MotoGP - held at the new Mandalika Circuit - was the second round of the 2023 MotoGP season, though its position on the edge of its rainy season might see it also have to move to a less volatile time of the year.

As such, Australia could be shuffled from its traditional October slot to March, a move that would likely be welcomed as the current date often sees the Phillip Island event hampered by cool, windy conditions.

It could potentially be twinned on back-to-back weekends with WorldSBK, with Dorna having already confirmed Phillip Island will return to its season-opening slot from 2023, usually held in the final weekend of February or start of March.

Alternatively, MotoGP could seek to save costs by combining pre-season MotoGP testing in Malaysia but rolling over into a race week at Sepang.