Losail, Qatar

Qatar 1 MotoGP Test Saturday 6pm Times: Aleix Espargaro Leads On New Aprilia RS-GP

The track has been busy on the first day of testing for MotoGP. At 6pm, around the time the sun goes down, it was Aleix Espargaro fastest, three tenths off the race lap record, but 1.7 seconds slower than the outright lap record. Honda test rider Stefan Bradl was second quickest, ahead of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha. Miguel Oliveira was first KTM in fourth, ahead of Valentino Rossi in fifth.

Times at 6pm:

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Qatar 1 MotoGP Shakedown Test Round Up: Tricky Conditions, Ducati's Funky Aero, And What Surprises A MotoGP Rookie

The layout of the Losail International Circuit is fantastic. It has flowing corners, a fast straight, hard braking and fast changes of direction. It suits many different types of bike, which is why so many manufacturers have been competitive their over the years, sharing wins and podiums. And why the racing has been fantastic there, as a rule.

Its location, however, is less ideal. Leaving aside the political objections to its attitude toward labor relations, the track sits at the edge of a desert peninsula. When the wind blows, it dumps huge quantities of sand on the track. And as Qatar is relatively flat, when the wind blows, it blows pretty hard.

That was the case on Friday, and by the look of things, it is going to be the case for the rest of the weekend. Gusts of up to 40 km/h made riding hard, and with just a few riders out on track on the first day of testing, the shakedown test for test riders and rookies, conditions were very, very far from ideal.

Luxury test rider

Despite that, Stefan Bradl managed a best time of 1'55.614, just seven tenths off Jorge Lorenzo's race lap record, and a sign that the Honda test rider is already up to speed. That is unsurprising: Bradl has already been turning laps at Jerez on the RC213V. But it also demonstrates that the German has been picking up speed generally, his year racing paying off in terms of outright speed.

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Qatar 1 MotoGP Shakedown Test 6pm Times: Riders Struggle In Windy And Dusty Conditions

Testing is underway in Qatar, and the conditions are against the riders. Strong winds are blowing dust across the track, making riding very difficult indeed. That is reflected in the times: Stefan Bradl is fastest at 6pm local time, but his best lap of 1'58.427 is 3.5 seconds slower than Jorge Lorenzo's race lap record of 1'54.927 from 2016, and over 5 seconds slower than Marc Marquez' outright lap record of 1'53.380 from 2019.

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Qatar 1 MotoGP Test Preview: What Each Factory Has To Do At Qatar

It has been a long winter. Longer than normal. Under normal circumstances, MotoGP bikes would have been on track in Sepang a month ago. But as we have learned the very hard way, these are anything but normal circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic has demanded the very utmost of human endurance and organizational ingenuity to try to have even the slightest semblance of normality.

But on Friday it starts, at last. The first official MotoGP test of the year kicks off with the shakedown test for the test riders, and an extra day of riding for the three true MotoGP rookies, Luca Marini, Enea Bastianini, and Jorge Martin. The entire MotoGP grid will join for two days of action on Saturday and Sunday, and the prelude to the 2021 MotoGP season will be well and truly underway.

Entire MotoGP grid? Not quite. Marc Márquez will not be present at the test, the Repsol Honda rider still in the midst of the rehabilitation process from the broken right arm he suffered 8 months ago at Jerez. He will not participate in either of the MotoGP tests. And it seems extremely unlikely he will participate in the first two races in Qatar either. But he will race this year, and his return will probably be sooner rather than later.

Plus ça change

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2021 MotoGP Calendar Update: Why Brno Won't Host MotoGP, And Where The Season Starts

The 2021 MotoGP season continues to be a fluid affair. With the Argentina and Austin rounds already canceled (technically postponed, but with no real chance of them actually taking place), it is now clear that Brno will not host a MotoGP round in 2021. And there are more signs of a shake up coming.

The biggest, and saddest news is that the Automotodrom Brno circuit today announced that they would not be hosting any world championship motorcycle racing for the foreseeable future. The cancellation had been expected, but still comes as a blow to MotoGP.

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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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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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Sepang MotoGP Test Canceled - Early Part Of 2021 Calendar Still Subject To Coronavirus

The MotoGP Test At Sepang, due to be held from 19th - 21st of February, has been canceled, Dorna announced today. The King of Malaysia, at the request of the Malaysian government, has declared a state of emergency in Malaysia which is due to last until August 1st. The state of emergency has been declared in an attempt to stem the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to spread around the world.

The cancellation comes despite the best efforts of Dorna, IRTA, and the circuit to make the Sepang test as self-contained as possible. Dorna and IRTA had put forward a proposal to house everyone involved in the test at the Sama Sama hotel, located next to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, to the exclusion of other guests. Everyone - riders, teams, officials - would travel between the hotel and the circuit only, with no time outside of the MotoGP bubble. As the Sama Sama hotel is where most teams and riders involved stay during the test anyway, very little would change.

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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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