Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Test, Track And Race

Feels like a long time since we had any real racing, I am sure you will agree? We would have been well past the first round of any recent WorldSBK season by now but I am sure you don’t need me to remind you we do not live in normal times.

Being first out of the global gate compared to MotoGP, or almost any other major two wheel (or even four-wheel) hydrocarbon-based competition, was one of the attractions of modern day WorldSBK.

In most other years the majority of the Superbike paddock would have already recovered from post-Phillip Island jet lag back in Europe by now, just as MotoGP and F1 were getting ready to set their sights on round one. But, here we are in mid-March and still mired in the 2021 phoney war no-man’s land.

Particularly frustrating for all given that we have had enough pre-season rider reshuffles and new bikes on the blue horizon for us to feel the need to row out hard and fast to meet the latest WorldSBK dawn at full ramming speed. As it stands, WorldSBK will kick off in the high plateau of the Aragon region in Spain, between 21-23 May. I mean, we have to wait until very nearly the end of May to even get started…

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Marc Marquez Rides Again - Private Track Day At Barcelona

Marc Marquez took a major step closer to a return on Tuesday. The Spaniard rode a full-sized production bike - a Honda RC213V-S street bike - at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo. It was the first time he had ridden a big bike since pulling out of the Andalusian round at Jerez during his precipitate return after his first crash.

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MotoGP Paddock Packs Catalunya Circuit For World's Fastest Track Day

Nearly 41% of the MotoGP grid hit the track at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo near Barcelona on Wednesday, as the riders gathered together for what would essentially become the world's fastest track day. Nine MotoGP riders were joined by a handful of stars from Moto2, Moto3, and the WorldSBK paddock to get some track time, all on production machines.

The MotoGP stars on track included the Espargaro brothers, Pol and Aleix, both LCR Honda riders Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami, Ecstar Suzuki riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins, factory Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo, and the Ducatis of Jack Miller and Johann Zarco. Bikes used included the Ducati Panigale V4S, Yamaha YZF-R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Aprilia RSV4, the Honda RC213V-S, and a Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade ridden by Repsol Honda rider Pol Espargaro. On track in other classes were Ana Carrasco, Remy Gardner, Raul Fernandez, Tito Rabat, Albert Arenas, and Jaume Masia.

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News Round Up: Launch Season Coming, 2022 Contracts, Rossi Interview, Honda Updates

Around this time in a normal year, we would be back from the launch of a couple of the MotoGP manufacturers, and looking forward to a couple more as we prepared to travel to Sepang for the first test of the year. But this is not a normal year, of course. Nor was last year, for that matter.

So instead of packing my bags in preparation of the test at Sepang – originally scheduled for the 19th-21st of February – I, like the rest of the media, are checking our microphones and internet connections to get ready to do the MotoGP launch season from home. And not just the launch season: in all probability, the media won't be allowed to physically attend a MotoGP race for the first half of the 2021 season at the very least. But at least we will have a 2021 MotoGP season.

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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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2021 WorldSBK Provisional Calendar - European Start To Season, Overseas Finish, Indonesia Provisionally Added

The FIM today published the preliminary and provisional calendar for the WorldSBK championship for the 2021 season. Like all aspects of international events, it is very much a provisional affair, subject to local and regional restrictions on movement and events in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The biggest change to the season is the rescheduling of the Philip Island round of WorldSBK. Instead of being the opening race of the season, it is now due to take place in the second half of November, with a date still to confirmed. Travel to Australia is still nigh on impossible, but the hope is that restrictions will look very different by the end of 2021, as vaccines start to be rolled out.

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Provisional 2021 MotoGP Calendar Announced - 20 Races, Normal Schedule, 3 Reserve Circuits

MotoGP will continue into 2021, and scheduling difficulties continue to accompany it. Unlike 2020, however, Dorna and the FIM are prepared for it, however, and so today, we saw a provisional 2021 MotoGP calendar announced. It is a very conventional-looking schedule, with a giant caveat attached underneath: "All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities."

After two tests, at Sepang in mid February and Qatar in mid March, the 2021 season is scheduled to kick off at Qatar on March 28th. After Qatar, the series heads to the Americas, where MotoGP races in Argentina at Termas de Rio Hondo and at Austin. They then head back to Europe, for the usual round of spring races: Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, Sachsenring, and Assen. They round it off with a trip to Finland, subject to the Kymiring being homologated on time.

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Barcelona Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Marini's Revenge, Speed Up Speeds Up, Baldassari's Blues, And Binder's Blinder

Anger Drives Luca On

Nothing fires a rider's motivation quite like feeling slighted. As mentioned in this column a week ago, Moto2 championship leader Luca Marini fully expected to be up front and fighting at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Losing out in fights with Enea Bastianini and Sam Lowes clearly stung as he suffered the indignity of finishing fourth.

He arrived in Barcelona intent on proving a point. Fast through free practice, fastest in qualifying, the 23-year old Italian could have easily settled for second once Sam Lowes – the only rider capable of matching him over race distance – edged ahead on lap 16. But he later revealed that it wouldn't have sat right internally had he not responded.

“When I saw on the board ‘8 laps (to go)', the rear dropped a lot,” Marini explained, displaying all of the in-race intelligence that he shows off the bike. “Sam overtook me. He was really fast but pushing the rear tyre. I was hoping he would have a drop also, bigger than me. I tried to stay behind him, put pressure and in last 3 laps he started doing some mistakes.”

“Starting on Friday the feeling was great. We made the correct changes on the bike for here. The race was nice. With this low temperature it was easy to push every lap. We worked a lot on the engine brake to try and save the tyre, because I knew it was important.

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