But no one knows more about headhunting engineers than KTM, which nabbed the co-inventor of MotoGP’s seamless gearbox from Honda and a top suspension technician from Öhlins
All’s fair in love and war. Motorcycle manufacturers have been stealing talented riders from rival brands since people first raced bikes around in circles more than a century ago. So much so that the MotoGP rider merry-go-round is considered a central part of the racing game.
The MotoGP engineer merry-go-round is less of a thing, but it’s getting bigger and spinning faster, because as the racing gets closer the worth of every technical detail increases.
The most important thing to take from this is that no matter how hi-tech racing becomes it’s the human that makes the difference. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then so too is one factory robbing another of its brightest brains.
While most of MotoGP is still in launch mode, the test riders and concession teams have been busy preparing for the 2021 MotoGP season at Jerez. Honda, KTM, and Aprilia have been taking advantage of the warm spring temperatures at the Circuito de Jerez to test their bikes ahead of the first official test of the season at Qatar.
On track are Honda's test rider - and provisional replacement for Marc Marquez, should he not be fit at the start of the season - Stefan Bradl, KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa, and Aprilia's test rider/candidate for a full-time ride, Lorenzo Savadori. As Aprilia are the only factory still with concessions, not yet having scored sufficient podiums to lose their extra testing and development privileges, Aprilia's number one rider Aleix Espargaro is also there, testing the 2021 spec of the Aprilia RS-GP, which includes a new aero package according to the well-informed Italian website GPOne.com.
The start of the 2021 WorldSBK season will have to wait for another two weeks. The Dutch round of WorldSBK, scheduled to take place at the TT Circuit Assen from 23-25th April, has been pushed back to 23-25th of July due to Covid-19 restrictions. The season will now start at Estoril, on the weekend of May 9th.
The postponement of the WorldSBK race to the end of July is a result of local restrictions put in place by the mayors of the largest municipalities in the Dutch province of Drenthe, where the TT Circuit Assen is located. The mayors have agreed to ban large-scale events until June 1st 2021, which rules out holding World Superbikes on the originally scheduled weekend.
After two months of quiet on the MotoGP front, the racing season is starting to burst into action. With the first test at Qatar approaching – and looking ever more likely to actually take place – there is a burst of activity, as the factories all hold their team launches. So frenetic, indeed, that we barely have a moment to ponder one launch before we are onto the next.
That is in part a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In previous years, launches have been live events with an online element. (Manufacturers, both in racing and production, have learned that they can reach fans and buyers directly with online launches, without journalists sitting in the middle and muddying the message. Series organizers are on this path now as well.) While the pandemic still holds the world in its grip, those launches have moved completely online, with different factories taking different approaches.
The Repsol Honda team today issued the following press release on the progress of Marc Marquez' recovery from injury.
In the last weeks of December, Japan's leading MotoGP journalist Akira Nishimura spoke to two of the key players in Honda's MotoGP project: Honda Racing Corporation General Manager Tetsuhiro Kuwata, and 2020 RC213V development leader Takehiro Koyasu. As a native Japanese speaker, Nishimura-san got more out of the HRC bosses than an English-speaking journalist would. The conversation covered Honda's MotoGP riders, an analysis of their thoroughly mediocre 2020 season, and their expectations for 2021.
In 2020, Honda had to endure a tough season, in contrast to previous years. Needless to say, one of the biggest reasons for that was the absence of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). His right humerus fracture at the opening round in Jerez sidelined the eight-time world champion for all the races of the 2020 season, a costly loss for HRC.
Meanwhile, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IEMITSU) made a significant improvement in both riding skills and race results. Also, MotoGP rookie Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) did a fantastic job with two second-place finishes despite it being his debut year in the premier class. On the other hand, the Brit Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) decided to draw his racing career to a close at the end of the year. With these abundant topics for the review of the 2020 season and the preview for the forthcoming 2021 season, we interviewed Honda Racing Corporation General Manager Tetsuhiro Kuwata and 2020 RC213V development leader Takehiro Koyasu.
First of all, we asked them for a comprehensive review and the preview, then moved on to the detailed Q&A with them.
Kuwata: "It is quite simple. We lost entirely throughout the 2020 season. However, we also learned a lot from these defeats, and we believe these hardships will make us even stronger.
2020 was a strange year in MotoGP: without Marc Marquez, the championship was suddenly wide open. This prompted a debate among the Paddock Pass Podcast crew: what will MotoGP and WorldSBK look like without the two riders who have dominated the championship over the past few seasons?
In this episode, Steve English, Adam Wheeler, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett ponder this point. Was 2020 a representative season in MotoGP? What caused so many different winners and podium sitters in MotoGP? Was Marc Marquez' crash inevitable? And will he win another championship? Will another rider emerge to dominate like Marquez has, or will there be more different winners over a season, with consistency being more important.