September 2020

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ — the bare, lone MotoGP paddock

The MotoGP world championship goes on despite the Covid mechanics, but after attending two of the last three races I’ve seen how much has really changed

In just a few months the global Covid pandemic has taken grand prix racing back to where it was half a century ago. Now the paddock is what it used to be: a bunch of blokes (almost exclusively) tinkering with motorbikes and riding them around in circles as fast as they can.

Thus the MotoGP world championship is in its purest, most unalloyed state – those people who pine for the ‘good old days’ should be delighted.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 165: Did Barcelona Reshape The 2020 MotoGP Championship Fight?

The MotoGP race in Barcelona shook the tree of the 2020 championship, allowing a couple of riders to ascend and others to tumble to the ground. That gave Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast.

At a track notoriously tough on tires, the weather conditions played an outsized role, and we start off with a look at the decision which led to riders being caught between the soft and medium fronts. The conditions also caused a few crashes, including by Valentino Rossi, and we debate whether this could have been Rossi's last chance of a win in MotoGP.

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The 2021 MotoGP Rider Line Up Nearly Complete: Four Question Marks Remain

With the announcement of their line up for the Factory and Pramac teams, Ducati has brought the 2021 MotoGP silly season a big step nearer to its close. The two pairings of Jack Miller/Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco/Jorge Martin means that only four seats remain open, and of those, only two are truly uncertain.

The known unknowns, to steal a phrase, concern the LCR Honda seat and the Avintia Ducati seat vacated by Johann Zarco. Takaaki Nakagami is still in talks with HRC over his seat at LCR Honda, the only open question whether he will get an update to the 2021 Honda RC213V, or have to contend with the 2019 bike he is still racing (the engine and aerodynamics freeze mean that the 2021 spec bike will be the same as the 2020 machine currently being ridden by Cal Crutchlow, Alex Marquez, and Stefan Bradl as Marc Marquez' temporary replacement).

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Ducati Confirm Factory And Pramac Line Ups: Bagnaia Joins Miller, Martin Moves Up With Zarco

As Pecco Bagnaia let slip at Barcelona on Sunday night, Ducati today announced their rider line up for the 2021 season, in both the factory team and the Pramac squad. As expected, there were no surprises: Pecco Bagnaia gets a promotion to the factory team alongside Jack Miller, while Johann Zarco is promoted to the Pramac team, where he will be partnered with current Moto2 rider Jorge Martin.

Bagnaia had been expected to get the nod over Zarco after a string of strong performances since his return from injury. It had been clear that the Italian had made a big step forward during testing and at the first two races at Jerez, his march stymied only by a crash at Brno in which he broke his leg. Though Zarco had been strong at Brno, grabbing pole and a podium, since then, his star has waned a little.

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Barcelona MotoGP Subscriber Notes: A Champion Arises, A New Mr Consistency, Yamaha Speed, And Maverick's Misery

It turns out there is someone who wants to win the 2020 MotoGP championship after all. A couple of people in fact, and they are now starting to make an effort to actually win this thing. After last week at Misano, when the top four in the championship were separated by just 4 points, it was hard to discern a shape to the 2020 title chase. Unseasonably cold weather, a punishing track for tires, and the usual run of random racing incidents events shook up the championship at Montmelo. Now, a pattern seems to be emerging from the fog of racing war.

After Misano, just 4 points separated the top four. A week later, there are 24 points covering the first four places, and 8 points – twice what covered last week's top four – the gap from first to second place. The points spread between the top ten has nearly doubled, from 27 to 50 points.

At Misano, Takaaki Nakagami was highlighted as a rider still in with a shot of the championship, not least by Repsol Honda boss Albert Puig, in defense of the job Honda have done in 2020. The LCR Honda rider was seventh, but trailed the leader Andrea Dovizioso by 21 points. With 7 races still left to contest, Nakagami had a shot at the title which was anything but theoretical.

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