Gordon Ritchie has covered World Superbikes for over a quarter of a century, and is widely regarded as the world's leading journalist on the series. MotoMatters.com is delighted to be hosting a monthly blog by Ritchie. The full blog will be available each month for MotoMatters.com subscribers. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.
With the racing world in turmoil due to the coronavirus outbreak (just like the rest of the world) we decided to publish this blog in full for all readers, rather than just for subscribers.
Poor old WorldSBK, it just cannot seem to catch a break, can it? After one of the most remarkable opening rounds in its 30-plus years of history, laden with close racing, human drama and an entirely positive outlook from both within and without the paddock, the post-Phillip Island WorldSBK posse was looking forward to another triple-header of high velocity brawls two weekends later, at Losail in Qatar. The MotoGP guys would even sweep the dustbowl track clear for us one week before, so everybody would be primed, ready and able to show the same kind of close formation action at another fast circuit so very soon after the classic opener in Australia.
The Qatar GP has been MotoGP’s strangest weekend since 2004 – last weekend it got even weirder
The Qatar Grand Prix has always felt a bit unreal. The first time MotoGP visited in October 2004 the newly built track was a 20-minute drive out of Doha into the desert – the Arabian Gulf shimmering in the east, a few caravans of camels ambling along in the distance, but nothing else.
Nothing else at all. There we were, marooned in a sea of sand, watched over by at least a dozen spectators, wondering what the hell was going on.
The ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has forced yet another change to the MotoGP calendar for 2020. Due to the restrictions on movement imposed in Italy, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the US round of MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has been postponed until November.
The MotoGP paddock will gather in Austin on November 15th, instead of April 5th. November 15th was originally the date planned for the final round of MotoGP in Valencia, but to make way for Austin, Valencia has been pushed back a week, and will now be held on the weekend of November 22nd.
That means that as of today, March 10th, the MotoGP class will kick off their season at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina on April 19th, with the paddock returning to Europe two weeks later for Jerez.
The 2020 Grand Prix Motorcycle Road Racing Season is officially underway. On Sunday, we had two races to kickstart an uncertain and disrupted season. The star attraction may have been missing, with MotoGP sidelined due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, and Italians banned from entering Qatar, but Moto2 and Moto3 delivered, as they so often do.
So here is what we learned from the opening round of MotoGP (the series, not the class) at Qatar:
- Moto3 – why having a plan matters
- Moto3 – harsher punishments are starting to bite
- How the changed schedule threw Moto2 a curve ball
- Echoes of Moto2's debut season to kick off the second decade of the class
- Why the opening Moto2 race may not mean a lot down the stretch
- What difference a change of management can make
- How Remy Gardner's steel discs can light up the desert night as well as carbon
- What next for MotoGP?
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Moto2 standings after Qatar:
Results and summary of the Moto2 race at Losail:
Moto3 standings after Qatar:
Results and summary of the Moto3 race at Losail: