September 2020

Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Choose Your (WorldSBK) Weapon

It has been said before, and I will say it again, it is a welcome feat of logistics and determination that there is a 2020 WorldSBK season going on, and a near miracle that we media types are allowed in to cover it from inside. Thank you to all involved, without exception.

Given my shockingly bad air travel experiences at the first two ‘season comeback’ rounds in Jerez and Portimao, my media enterprises empire (a laptop and the soft machine that thumps its keyboard) quite literally set sail for the rest of the championship, by motorcycle. Which is fair enough, as I am covering a championship that is indeed based on production-derived motorcycles.

Somewhere between the Picos de Europa mountains of Asturias and the swimming pools of Calpe near Valencia - and exactly between the Teruel and Catalunya rounds in chronological terms - my mind was distracted from a heat-induced intermittent loss of friction between throttle grip and throttle barrel by thoughts of a much more extreme version of the real road bike scenario; WorldSBK racing.

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MotoGP Riders To Test At Portimao Before Le Mans MotoGP Round

MotoGP is set to make its debut at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao in November, as the last race of the 2020 season, and as a brand new track on the calendar, the teams, factories, and riders have no data on the circuit. To help them prepare for the race, Dorna has organized a test at the circuit ahead of the race.

The timing of the test is a little unfortunate. The test is due to take place on October 7th and 8th, directly before the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Though only a limited number of riders are due to take to the track - one from each team and factory, with the exception of KTM and Aprilia, the factories who have concessions for the 2020 season - those riders face a punishing schedule. Two days of testing at Portimao on Wednesday and Thursday, a flight to Le Mans on Thursday night, then practice for the French Grand Prix on Friday morning. That is then the first weekend of three, with a double-header at Aragon following on from Le Mans.

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Misano Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On VR46 Riders Lapping Misano, The Moto2 Rider Market, And Ai Ogura

VR46 Academy On Top Of The World

As days go, Sunday was just about perfect for the VR46 Academy. Franco Morbidelli became its first ever MotoGP race winner, Francesco Bagnaia backed him up in second and Sky Racing VR46’s Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi scored a fairly comprehensive one-two in the earlier Moto2 outing.

All four are supremely talented riders. But the countless hours of testing at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli begged the question: should riders be limited in terms of how often they test at one of the tracks on the MotoGP calendar?

Such track experience was even more crucial this year as the track was resurfaced in March. Despite much improved grip levels, bumps all around the track remained. On Sunday Jack Miller noted, “It makes me worry and I said it also in the Safety Commission on Friday afternoon, 'if you guys knew the track was this bumpy, nobody said a single thing leading up to this. You guys are riding here once a month a least'. Anyway it just shows practice can help I think.”

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 162: Mulling Over Misano Madness

The San Marino Grand Prix at Misano threw the 2020 MotoGP championship yet another curveball, producing the fifth winner in six races and the fourth first-time victor in the premier class. On Tuesday, the Paddock Pass Podcast crew gathered remotely to chew over the events of the weekend. David Emmett and Steve English talk to our man on the ground, Neil Morrison, about a wild Misano weekend.

We start off with Franco Morbidelli, of course, the Italian taking a well-deserved win, but cover so much more. We talk about the VR46 Academy, and what it means for Italian racing, and Valentino Rossi's legacy in MotoGP. We talk about Rossi's teammate, Maverick Viñales, and discuss where he went wrong in the race, and why he is so fast in practice and struggles so badly in the race.

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Misano MotoGP Test Subscriber Notes: What Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, KTM, And Ducati Were Working On

The Covid-compressed 2020 season has very little room for maneuver. To fit fourteen races into nineteen weeks means making a lot of sacrifices. One of those sacrifices is testing: of the original three one-day post-race tests planned, only one remains, at Misano, on Tuesday.

What is the point of a midweek test in the middle of a year where so much development has been frozen to cut costs? "I think it's just a lot a people getting bored during the week, not moving anywhere, not doing anything, so they're trying to keep each other busy, keep themselves busy," joked Jack Miller.

The Pramac Ducati rider may have said that in jest, but it is easy to believe he is right. Engine and aerodynamics development is frozen for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, which already cuts down dramatically on the options for progress with a bike for this year and next. So surely the teams and factories wouldn't have much to test?

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Misano MotoGP Test Fina Times: Viñales Ends Test On Top Of Timesheets

Maverick Viñales ended the only in-season MotoGP test as fastest, getting within a tenth of his own circuit lap time in the afternoon session at the Misano track. Takaaki Nakagami ended the day in second, having tested the 2020 Honda RC213V, while Johann Zarco was third fastest, ahead of the two Suzukis of Alex Rins and Joan Mir.

Times of second session:

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Misano MotoGP Test 4pm Times: Zarco Leads While Most Riders Rest

A depleted field took to the track for the second half of the Misano MotoGP test in the afternoon, with many teams already having completed their programs in the morning session.

Johann Zarco is currently fastest of the afternoon session, with the second fastest time of the day. Maverick Viñales is second quickest, with Takaaki Nakagami third. Fabio Quartararo is currently fourth fastest, while Miguel Oliveira sits ahead of Alex Rins.

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Misano MotoGP Test 1pm Times: Espargaro Fastest As Suzuki And Ducati Close The Gap

It is a surprisingly busy test at Misano on Tuesday, with a lot of experimenting going on. At 1pm, as the track closes for lunch, Pol Espargaro still leads, though Joan Mir is now in second, with Pecco Bagnaia third fastest. Alex Rins is now fourth quickest, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and Takaaki Nakagami. The two Yamahas of Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo are now seventh and eighth, though Quartararo is only three tenths off the best lap of Espargaro.

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Misano MotoGP Test 12pm Times: Espargaro Fastest As Yamaha Tests A New Exhaust

In an already condensed schedule, MotoGP is cramming a test in between the two rounds at Misano, to allow the teams and factories to make up for the loss of testing time this season. All of the riders bar Stefan Bradl and Franco Morbidelli are taking to the track, Morbidelli sitting out today's test with a stomach bug.

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