News Round Up: Whither 2020, A Possible 2021 Calendar, And Dovizioso And Lorenzo As Test Riders

The last intense three weeks of this intense MotoGP season is upon us. On Thursday, the diminished paddock reassembles in Valencia for the last of the back-to-back races, with the Grand Prix of Europe this coming weekend, the Valencia Grand Prix a week later. Then, two weeks from today, the paddock will pack up and head down to Portimao, for the last race of the 2020 season. If all goes well, of course.

There is a slightly revised schedule for the two weekends at Valencia, practice starting an hour later in the mornings, 20 minutes later in the afternoons, to avoid the chilly conditions which can prevail at Valencia for FP1 and FP3. And while Sundays are the usual format at Valencia – Moto3 at 11am CET, Moto2 at 12:20, and MotoGP at 2pm – the final weekend at Portimao is a little different. To keep the MotoGP race in its usual 2pm Central European Time slot, the race will be held at 1pm local time in Portugal, which uses GMT. That means MotoGP will be racing before Moto2 in Portugal.

If MotoGP races in Portugal. As of Monday, November 2nd, the race is still definitely on, albeit without fans, rather than with fans as had originally been planned. Cases continue to rise in both Portugal and Spain, with both countries enforcing new restrictions on movement. The MotoGP paddock already had its plans changed at Aragon, when the authorities informed Dorna that the paddock had to be empty by midnight on Sunday, forcing a quicker departure from the circuit than anticipated.

Non-zero chance

What are the chances of the 2020 season being brought to an abrupt end? Greater than zero, as has been the case throughout this pandemic-affected year. But the threat to the last three races is diminished, now fans have been banned from Portimao. The teams have been told to stay at Valencia between the races, and not go home between Valencia and Portimao. Keeping the bubble intact until the end of season is Dorna's best chance of making this last stretch of races go off without a hitch.

It leaves fans in the lurch once again, of course. There are those who have bought tickets, and will now have to wait for the refunds process to get underway. Refunds have been a painfully slow affair throughout the year, as coronavirus-stricken businesses such as ticket agencies and travel firms try to both pay their own costs and return the money to fans who bought tickets. Then there is the task of trying to get refunds out of airlines and hotels.

And 2021?

As we approach the end of 2020, we can start to look ahead to 2021. In an interview with Paolo Scalera of GPOne.com, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta revealed that there will be a calendar for the 2021 season announced very soon, possibly this week or during the race weekend. "The dates will the normal ones," he told GPOne.com. "The calendar will have 20 Grand Prix." Ezpeleta also explained that there would be three reserve circuits, that would be ready to host a race should it be impossible to hold a race. The calendar will likely be announced once F1 has announced its schedule for next year.

Though Ezpeleta doesn't mention when the calendar would start or how it might play out, there are a few credible rumors doing the rounds of the paddock. The 2021 calendar is expected to kick off in Qatar, as usual, at the end of March. But there will be a couple of changes: firstly, the Sepang test will almost certainly be dropped, early February being too soon in the year to be sure of being able to travel. Instead, there will be one test in Qatar, then back-to-back weekends at the Losail International Circuit.

From there, the series is likely to head back to Europe, for races at Portimao and Jerez. That would put the Jerez race roughly back in its normal slot, the first weekend of May. This is as far as rumor stretches, but given Ezpeleta saying that the dates would be "the normal ones," it is easy to extrapolate a calendar very similar to the original European leg of the 2020 calendar from there. That would entail going to Le Mans in mid-May, then Mugello, Barcelona, the Sachsenring, Assen, Finland, Brno, Austria, Silverstone, Misano, and Aragon.

Scheduling around Covid-19

Keeping the series in Europe for the first part of 2021 would greatly simplify logistics in case travel restrictions are still in place due to the coronavirus, while holding open the possibility of flyaways at the end of the season. The Australian Grand Prix Corporation announced that Phillip Island is scheduled to be held on October 24th next year, but like everything related to this calendar, it is all provisional.

That is also where the three reserve circuits come in. Should it not be possible to race at certain circuits, Dorna will have others ready to replace them. Holding back-to-back races like this year is also an option. Above all, much will rest on the control of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the availability and adoption of a possible vaccine. Until there are one or more effective vaccines in widespread use, the virus will continue to be in charge.

If the 2021 MotoGP calendar is still up in the air, the line up for next season is pretty much all but set. The only unconfirmed seats are the second seat at Aprilia and whether Tito Rabat will hold on to his seat in Avintia, or be replaced by Luca Marini.

Dovi's choice

With so little to speculate about contracted riders, attention has turned to the question of test riders. The key to the 2021 test rider market is currently Andrea Dovizioso, who has decided to leave Ducati at the end of the year. It is no secret that he has attracted a lot of attention from various factories as a possible test rider.

There had been rumors of interest from KTM, where he would have partnered with Dani Pedrosa as a formidable dream test team. There was also interest from Aprilia, both as a test rider and as a contracted rider, but given Dovizioso's desire to still compete for a championship, Aprilia does not look like a viable option in the short term.

That leaves two choices: Yamaha and Honda. According to Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont, they key to Dovizioso's decision will be his desire to be able to compete in MX races, which the Italian uses to keep his racing senses sharp (and because he loves riding a motocross bike more than he enjoys racing in MotoGP). Puigdemont reports that Yamaha is currently more open to allowing Dovizioso to race motocross bikes than Honda is. The objection from HRC is that the risk of injury is high from racing an MX bike.

Return of the Marc?

However, the option of riding for Honda is very attractive. Dovizioso would have a chance to race as a wildcard in 2021, and would be available to replace riders should they be injured. The uncertainty surrounding Marc Márquez' return from injury means that there is a realistic chance that Dovizioso could be replacing the (still) reigning world champion for the start of the 2021 season.

There are still a lot of question marks over Márquez' return to racing. It is now clear that the Spaniard will not be racing again in 2020. His humerus, the bone in his upper arm, is recovering from injury far more slowly than expected, a relatively common complication with very complex fractures such as Márquez suffered, and as evidenced by the fact that the plated bone fractured again after the first surgery. There have been credible reports of Márquez requiring a third operation to fix the bone again, but still no confirmation of this from Honda.

The plan and expectation is that Marc Márquez will be fully fit and ready to race in March 2021. But given the very slow progress he has made with his broken right arm – an injury he suffered back in mid-July, now three and a half months ago – there is reason to believe those expectations may still be optimistic.

Dovizioso vs Lorenzo, Yamaha vs Aprilia

Andrea Dovizioso's ultimate aim is to return to racing full time in 2022. Given the contract situation at Yamaha and Honda, Yamaha would offer him a better chance of that happening. Valentino Rossi has a one-year deal to race for the Petronas SRT team for the 2021 season, with an option to extend. Everyone else in both Honda and Yamaha have two-year contracts, or more, in the case of Marc Márquez.

Jorge Lorenzo's fate depends on what Andrea Dovizioso decides to do. If the Italian decides to take the Yamaha test rider role, there may not be a place for Lorenzo. But as he confessed to Spanish sports daily AS.com, he has a second option with Aprilia, who have decided to part ways with current test rider Bradley Smith. Lorenzo has also spoken with Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis, he told AS.com, and Jarvis said that he was currently waiting to hear the test plan from Japan for next year.

This is what might make a role as test rider at Yamaha less attractive for either Lorenzo or Dovizioso. In 2020, Yamaha decided to scrap its test team in Europe and focus on testing in Japan, as travel restrictions imposed because of Covid-19 made it impossible for Yamaha to get engineers and equipment to Europe very easily. That meant that Lorenzo did not get to test the Yamaha M1 between the Sepang test in February and the Portimao test in October.


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year: 
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Comments

There is a fuzzy image on the horizon. It could be a mirage or an elephant looming large. Why should Dovizioso take a test rider role when he could slot into the factory Repsol team on the 2021 grid? What is HRC's best option at the moment? Yamaha may be more open to Dovizioso riding motocross as a Yamaha tester because their European test team is in disarray. Honda may end up needing a factory rider. All we can do is wait and watch it all unfold. I too, feel like a drowning fan clinging to a piece of flotsam whenever these news bits are posted to your website, Mr. Emmitt. Thanks for saving me...(my motogp fan identity).

I believe that image on the horizon is a MIR-age. And there is a championship in his not-to-distant future. Dovi to Suzuki satellite team? Pretty please?

Lorenzo stays

Dovi to Honda Test

Aprilia has a Test guy lined up, and another may be added. Crystal ball anyone?

:)

Cheers 'Shrink...With the Hamamatsu Hammer about to take the team championship I think Dorna should force Suzuki to come up with a satellite team. And put Dovi and Aron Canet on the bikes. That's all I want for Christmas considering this season has given me more than I could have hoped for. ;-)) The next 3 weeks will be amazing.

It's quite obvious that the US is way too infectious to even consider being on the 2021 calander 

is the common fear associated with injuries in this area of nerve and ligament damage? I am no expert and am just guessing but is it the bone structure that needs three attempts to get right or the incredibly complex gathering of 'electrics' effecting feel and strength in this region? I'm sure Alberto will explain it all in due course in a crystal clear manner......

The dream of Dorna has always been in recent times is to have six manufacturers with four bikes each, twelve works-coloured, twelve satellite-coloured, but basically the same. The door is allegedly open for the VR46 team to arrive (weren't Dorna quoted as saying VR was the only future additional slot available a while ago?). So, 24 bikes with the symmetry of 6 x 4. Avintia goes, Suzuki arrives, surely with a PROPER sponsor, not a shadow Motul/Ecstar internal that provides materials and marketing instead of the big cash an external backer can provide, and would need to for Suzuki to build bikes 3 & 4. This team being run either by Gresini or Petronas-if the rumours of technical and strategic disagreements with Iwata are to be believed- and a second Aprilia team. VR46 could feasibly run the Yamahas if Petronas jump, Suzukis if they don't or Aprilias if guarantees could be made about serious development and technical/financial commitment (Piaggio group are having a good year globally..). Whatever happens, 2020 has been immense and the near future looks pretty good as well. With Lewis Hamilton's recent comments, even he might end up entering a proper championship 😂

6 months is a long time to be out of the game. And a question mark around starting next season? I can't help wondering if we're entering a new era.

Re Dovi and motorcross, which MotoGP manufacturer has dominated the off road racing world in recent times? That might be enough of a carrot to tempt Dovi away from other camps. 

Dovi would certainly look good in orange.

I will be surprised if MM comes back in 2021 the same gun rider he was prior to his injury I hope I'm wrong time will tell he is needed to give the kids some competition.

I will be surprised if MM comes back in 2021 the same gun rider he was prior to his injury I hope I'm wrong time will tell he is needed to give the kids some competition.

I am surprised that it is taking so long for Marc to heal up and return. Even if he doesn't until after first Winter Test, when he does I expect him to nearly immediately be at pace up front. And much like he was. 

It is difficult to ignore the ominous coincidences between Doohan's career and Marquez'. Five world championships for HRC vs six. Doohan reverted back to the screamer engine just to screw with the heads of other Honda riders. Honda kept building a more and more extreme motogp bike that Marquez continued to win races and championships with - and probably enjoyed humiliating his stablemates in the process. Doohan's career ending crash came at the turn 2 and 3 section of the Jerez track that was the same location of Marquez' most recent highside. And in an interview, Doohan spoke about how a rider feels an urgency to return to racing even before an injury has fully healed. And that was his downfall...

Whether it was the practice sessions at Andalucía or a French tilt-n-turn window, it's crystal clear that Marquez stressed his injured arm too soon after surgery. Each day that he does not post a video of himself riding any type of motorized two wheeled vehicle is another day of uncertainty about his future. Marquez' injury did not create the uncertainty and unpredictability of the motogp season, it was a product of it. He probably got caught out by Michelin's new rear tire.

For anyone who is a fan of Neil Spaulding's tech talk, check out this podcast: 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/whats-gone-wrong-for-ducati-in-mot...

While driving up and down the M1! I don't usually wish to promote another's podcast over our esteemed editor's Paddock Pass (which I hoped to see today, maybe tomorrow?) but Spalders' insight is fascinating, though I normally need to listen to them at least twice to completely understand what he's talking about! Suzuki's meticulous inch by inch development and early use of this new shock was a revelation, as was Honda's engineers shaving minuscule amounts from their frames. Obviously a fleeting departure from Motomatters and the Paddock Pass podcast of course 😃

To me, Neil Spaulding is something of a motogp tech guru - both in knowledge and the delivery of the knowledge. His discussions about the nature of the universe of motogp technology kinda lulls my mind into a peaceful zone. First heard him speak as a guest with Dunn and Morrison during a practice session of the lower classes and thought, "Wow. I want to hear more of what this guy has to say." Later on he was a guest of Birty and Day, and either they were unprepared or didn't understand that gurus usually don't offer knowledge without inquiry first, but there was a fair amount of dead air on the mike.

Really enjoy the camaraderie, insights, humor and flow of English, Morrison and Emmitt on the Paddock Pass Podcast. I don't recall if Spaulders has ever been a guest, but would love to hear him hook up with the regulars sometime in the future. 

Wow! How unusual is this? And it has gone under the radar. Eager to hear more info. 

STILL really impressed with how few engines they have used (esp Morbidelli).