In an unexpected move, Aprilia have decided to replace Bradley Smith in the Aprilia Gresini MotoGP team with Lorenzo Savadori for the last three races of 2020. Smith has been Aprilia's main test rider for the past two seasons, and had stepped in to take the place of Andrea Iannone after the Italian was suspended for a doping offense. Savadori, who has raced for Aprilia in WorldSBK in the past, and this year was crowned Italian CIV champion on board the RSV4, is Aprilia's second test rider.
And so we enter the final stretch of the 2020 MotoGP season – and the fact that six Yamaha engineers are stuck in Andorra due to one of them contracting Covid-19 is a reminder that the end of the 2020 season might come sooner than expected. MotoGP heads to Le Mans, for the French Grand Prix, not in May, when the series usually heads there. That means cooler temperatures, not just in terms of air temperatures, but in solar intensity as well. Le Mans in early October gets 4 hours less sunshine than in mid May, and with the sun much lower in the sky, it doesn't heat the asphalt as much even when it is hidden by curtains of cloud, or drenched in rain.
But Le Mans has some saving graces. Firstly, the weather in October is pretty much as you might expect, something which proved problematic in Barcelona, where temperatures were about 10°C colder than expected. That means that the selection of compounds Michelin has brought to Le Mans are much more capable of dealing with the conditions likely to prevail. That, in turn, should mean that teams and riders have a wider choice of tires during the weekend, and aren't just stuck with the softest compounds available.
Press releases from Dorna, Yamaha, and Honda after the Portimao test:
The first day of the Portimao test is done and dusted, though calling it a test is a misnomer. The full-time MotoGP riders attended the test to learn the layout and to give feedback on the safety of the circuit. The MotoGP test riders are in Portimao to test tires for Michelin and help the French tire manufacturer put together the allocation for the race, and to figure out gearing and electronics at a circuit which is notoriously tricky for electronics setups.
The MotoGP schedule is already packed, the riders coming off a free weekend after completing one triple-header before embarking on the next, at Le Mans and Aragon twice. But about half the MotoGP grid has an appointment on the Algarve before they start a weekend of racing at Le Mans. On Wednesday and Thursday, thirteen full-time riders and seven test riders will take to the track at Portimao for a combined MotoGP test and track familiarization session.
The test serves several purposes: for the manufacturers to gather information about the track, and find a base setup and gearing to serve as a starting point for when MotoGP returns for the final round of the 2020 season; for Michelin, to get an idea of the kinds of tires needed at the circuit; and for the riders to assess the circuit in terms of safety and to understand the layout. The test riders will be riding MotoGP machines, while the contracted riders will be using production bikes to get to know the track.
MotoGP is set to make its debut at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao in November, as the last race of the 2020 season, and as a brand new track on the calendar, the teams, factories, and riders have no data on the circuit. To help them prepare for the race, Dorna has organized a test at the circuit ahead of the race.
The timing of the test is a little unfortunate. The test is due to take place on October 7th and 8th, directly before the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Though only a limited number of riders are due to take to the track - one from each team and factory, with the exception of KTM and Aprilia, the factories who have concessions for the 2020 season - those riders face a punishing schedule. Two days of testing at Portimao on Wednesday and Thursday, a flight to Le Mans on Thursday night, then practice for the French Grand Prix on Friday morning. That is then the first weekend of three, with a double-header at Aragon following on from Le Mans.
As far as seasons go, the 2020 WorldSBK version will be a short one. Even after three down and five to go in terms of full rounds, there have still been enough changes of fortune and unusual happenings to make for more than enough talking points.
First of all we had the usual wildfowl-dodging opener in Australia. Three different race winners, including two riders who had just signed with new manufacturers (Toprak Razgatlioglu on a Pata Yamaha, Alex Lowes for KRT), plus one old hand showing his mettle and a very human mistake on what was a testing weekend in many ways (KRT fixture Jonathan Rea). Then we – finally - came back to action in the scalding paella pan that was Jerez in very late July.
Scott Redding and Ducati built two winning extension and one runner-up mezzanine at Jerez atop their three podium foundations from Oz. Rea won the short race again though, and in some style considering how he could not get close to Redding in the long races. And then there was also a mystery rear-grip drop off for the five-time champion in race two, an unwelcome trek back down one of WorldSBK’s dimly-lit and seemingly sealed-off back alleys.
Dorna today confirmed what we had known for some time, that the last race of the 2020 season is to be held at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao on the 22nd of November.
The addition of Portimao will bring the schedule up to a grand total of 15 rounds, with 14 for the MotoGP class, after the premier class was forced to miss out on the season opener at Qatar.
You can find the full 2020 MotoGP calendar here, and the press release from Dorna announcing the last round at Portimao below:
Portimão to host 2020 MotoGP™ season finale
The final race weekend of the season will take place at the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve
Monday, 10 August 2020
World Superbike standings after the second race in Portimao:
WorldSSP300 standings after the second race at Portimao: