January 2021

Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 183: Your Questions Answered

In the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, the crew answer some of your questions. Steve English, Neil Morrison, and Adam Wheeler take a deep dive into some of the burning questions on your mind. 

Among the questions answered: Is Valentino Rossi a spent force? Should he retire or is he still capable of winning? Should Honda sign Andrea Dovizioso to replace Marc Marquez if Marquez can't ride in 2021, or should they stick with Stefan Bradl? What happens to Suzuki now without Davide Brivio? Can they succeed and find a replacement? And finally, what is the value of a test team and how has it changed over the years? The crew explain how the importance of test riders has increased and expanded over the years.

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Editor's Blog: A Personal Update, And An Update About The Site

In the early hours of January 12th, 2021, Dave Emmett, my father, died of complications caused by dementia and multiple myeloma at the age of 83. He was a warm, generous, immensely kind human. He hated the inactivity age and his disease forced upon him. It left him frustrated and unhappy. So death came as a relief to him.

I post this not to solicit sympathy, but as an explanation and an apology for the lack of updates to the site. My brother Peter and I have been caring for my father and my mother off and on for the past 3 months, up until his death. My mother, still sprightly and healthy, needs help sorting out my father's estate and the thousand other things which you don't realize that the death of a loved one involves.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s biggest winners: Rossi and Honda

MotoGP’s four-stroke era enters its 20th season in 2021, so here are the biggest winners, plus why MotoGP technical rules will remain unchanged till 2026

The 2021 MotoGP season will be the 73rd season of motorcycle grand prix racing and, more significantly, the 20th year of the four-stroke MotoGP world championship.

In 2002 the premier-class engine size was changed for the first time since 1949, with 990cc four-strokes introduced to eliminate the 500cc two-strokes.

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MotoGP 2021 Calendar: Austin And Argentina Dropped, Portimao And Qatar Double Header Inserted

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the MotoGP calendar. The second and third rounds of MotoGP, at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina on April 11th and at the Circuit Of The Americas on April 18th have been officially postponed. In their place, Qatar will host back-to-back races at the Losail International Circuit on March 28th and April 4th, and reserve circuit Autódromo do Algarve at Portimao will host a race on April 18th.

Though officially only postoponed, the Argentina and Austin rounds are almost certain to be canceled, a move which had long been expected. The logistical and cost challenges of organizing races in the Americas, added to the spread of Covid-19, especially in the Austin area, were always going to pose problems for the two races, and it had long been rumored they would be replaced.

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Jerez WorldSBK Wash Out After Rain Stops Play

Rain forced the WorldSBK teams assembled at Jerez to abandon the test planned for the past two days. Though the weather was better on Thursday than it had been on Wednesday, the track took a long time to dry out, and with only 8 days of testing for the season, the teams decided to call off the test instead.

Honda and Kawasaki will return to Jerez next week, with Honda testing for two days, on January 27th and 28th, and Kawasaki to test on 28th. The forecast for that period is currently for good weather, which promises a dry track.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 182: What Triumph Has Meant For Moto2

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is a special edition focusing on Moto2. Moto2 commentator Neil Morrison is joined by WorldSBK commentator Steve English and On Track Off Road's Adam Wheeler to discuss the state of the Moto2 championship, and the effect the switch to Triumph engines has had on the series.

After a few thoughts on the series, Neil Morrison interviews Triumph's Chief Product Officer Steve Sargent about their involvement in Moto2. Sargent talks about why Triumph got involved, the pressure they were under in terms of reliability, and the sales and marketing benefits they have seen from their involvement. Sargent also explains some of the logic behind Dorna's remit to Triumph in creating the 765 Moto2 engine, including allowing for an expanded role for electronics, to help prepare engineers and crew chiefs for MotoGP, as well as riders.

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Rain Means Track Is Mostly Silent At Jerez WorldSBK Test

Heavy rain throughout the day meant no action for most of the WorldSBK grid at Jerez for the first test of the year. Nothing was to be learned in the wet, and so the day was spent sitting in garages hoping for better weather. Maverick Viñales, who had been intending to test on a Yamaha R1 production bike, decided to abandon the test altogether.

No such luxury for HRC MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl, who put in a total of 20 laps on the RC213V, as he worked his way through a list of test items for the 2021 Honda MotoGP machine. Bradl was joined on track by Leonardo Taccini, Orelac World Supersport rider, making his debut on the ZX-6RR.

All hope is now on better weather tomorrow, though the forecast is not positive. Light rain is forecast for most of the day.

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Bikes Back On Track As WorldSBK Testing Resumes At Jerez

Despite the best efforts of the coronavirus, the winter break is nearly over, for the WorldSBK series at least. On Wednesday, half of the WorldSBK grid take to the track at Jerez for the first major test of the 2021 season. They will be working on their preparations for the season opener, not at Phillip Island, due to the travel restrictions still in place for Australia due to the pandemic, but at the Assen circuit in The Netherlands on April 23rd.

The weather does not look like playing ball for the first full test of the season. The forecast is currently for rain on both days of the test, heaviest on Wednesday but easing off on Thursday. Wednesday may see a dry spell in the afternoon, but whether that means the track will dry enough to produce usable data is open to question.

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Interview: Suzuki's Ken Kawauchi And Shinichi Sahara On Winning In 2020, Plans For The GSX-RR In 2021, And Satellite Teams

In the last weeks of December, Japan's leading MotoGP journalist Akira Nishimura spoke to the two Japanese leaders of Suzuki Ecstar's championship winning team. In the interview, Team Director Shinichi Sahara and Technical Manager Ken Kawauchi gave their view of what Suzuki did to win the 2020 MotoGP title with Joan Mir, and the MotoGP team title for the Suzuki Ecstar team.

Interviewing Kawauchi-san and Sahara-san in their native language means they are more open and able to express themselves a little more freely than they would when speaking English, a second language for both of them. Thanks to Akira-san's excellent English, he is able to convey much more of what they have to say.

Though the interview was recorded before the shock announcement that Davide Brivio would be leaving Suzuki, Kawauchi-san and Sahara-san lay out how they saw the 2020 season, where the Suzuki GSX-RR was strongest and its rather glaring weakness, and what they will be working on for the 2021 season. And they set out their objectives for the coming season, and how they hope to achieve them.

Q: In the 2020 season, many things were different from the ‘normal’ seasons, including the race calendar, hygiene protocols, and so on. What was the toughest thing for you?

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Extra Qatar MotoGP Test Scheduled To Replace Sepang Test

The cancellation of the MotoGP test at Sepang - a result of the state of emergency imposed by the Malaysian government in response to rising numbers of cases of Covid-19 in the country - threw a spanner in the works for the MotoGP teams preparing for the start of the 2021 season. Losing days of testing meant less time for the MotoGP rookies to acclimatize to the new class, and less track time to gather data for the coming season.

To address this issue, Dorna and IRTA announced that there will be an additional test in Qatar at the beginning of March. In addition to the original test scheduled for March 10th - 12th, there will be three more days of testing a five days earlier. On March 5th, there will be one day of a shakedown test, where the test riders will get to ride the MotoGP machines to ensure they are all working as expected, as well as a chance for the MotoGP rookies - Enea Bastianini, Luca Marini, and Jorge Martin - to get their first taste of a Ducati Desmosedici.

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