CormacGP

Andrea Dovizioso To Test For Aprilia - Why Did He Say Yes Now?

It might be an exaggeration to call today's news that Andrea Dovizioso is to test the Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP bike at Jerez from April 12th to 14th a bombshell, but it certainly raised a few eyebrows. The Italian had previously turned down the offer of a full-time ride with the Noale factory for 2021, despite Aprilia extensively courting his services. So for Aprilia to offer a test ride is no surprise. For Dovizioso to accept is certainly interesting.

The press release announced by Aprilia states very clearly that this is not an audition for a permanent ride. "It will not be a ‘trial matrimony’ but an opportunity to turn some laps together without any binding commitment for the future," Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola is quoted as saying. But the fact that Dovizioso accepted the offer suggest that may change in the future.

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Qatar 1 MotoGP Test Subscriber Notes: Where The Six MotoGP Factories Stand After Two Days Of Testing

Far from being a day of rest, on Sunday, the real work of testing began at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. After a day to wrap their collective heads around the mind-bending speeds which riding a MotoGP bike involves, the riders got down to the work of sifting through the collection of parts the factories have brought in their quest for victory. And in racing, victory only comes through speed.

Questions were raised, and some were answered, though only partially in most cases. That doesn't matter as much as it might at a normal test, of course, because the riders and teams will only be heading back to their hotels for two days, to relax a little, to recover (for the riders), or to dive as deeply as possible into the data to try to learn as many lessons as possible ahead of the next test, which starts on Wednesday.

So what did we learn? A quick run through MotoGP's six manufacturers.

Yamaha

The big question for Yamaha was whether the 2021 chassis was the step forward that the riders had been hoping for. The 2021 chassis is not so much a step forward as half a step back a compromise between last year's frame and the 2019 chassis which Franco Morbidelli used to such good effect in 2020.

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Qatar 1 MotoGP Test Saturday Round Up: Getting Back Up To Speed, A Fast Aprilia, Ducati's Aero, And Rossi's Motherly Advice

This is not a normal era, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the pandemic touches things in unexpected ways. Sure, we knew that MotoGP testing had been restructured because of Covid-19, the Sepang test being dropped and an extra test in Qatar being added in its place.

But like all things in life, it is not quite as simple as it looks at first glance. Because the two Qatar tests are scheduled so closely together, the teams are not treating them as two separate tests. As far as the teams, and especially the factories, are concerned, there is not a two-day test and a three-day test. Instead, there is one five-day test with a two-day break in the middle.

Viewing the next week as a single test means drawing up a totally different testing plan. Instead of cramming a race simulation run into the first two-day test, then another in the second three-day test, the teams are working methodically towards arriving at a race setup ready for next Thursday or Friday, when they can do a proper long run in readiness for the first race of the 2021 MotoGP season on March 28th.

The long test

All that means that the first day of testing was, not exactly relaxed, but a little more focused and methodical. There was no rushing to complete a program; instead the riders had time to get back up to speed after three months off a MotoGP bike, and the teams spent their time working out a base setup to use as a benchmark for measuring progress.

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Valentino Rossi Q&A: On Returning To A Satellite Team, His Racing Future, And Being Competitive At 42

2021 is going to be a decisive season for Valentino Rossi. Then again, we have been saying that for some time, as the 42-year-old Italian MotoGP legend continues his career well beyond what even the most experienced MotoGP hands ever expected. Will he carry on racing? Has he still got what it takes to chase podiums and win races? Is a seventh MotoGP title and tenth Grand Prix title still a realistic possibility?

Those are big questions after Rossi's worst ever season in Grand Prix racing. The Italian scored his lowest points total with 66 points from 12 races, his lowest points average at 5.5 points a race, and his worst finishing position in the championship with a 15th position. He scored a single podium, matching his previous worst season tally in Grand Prix in 2011, when he also ended with just one podium during his disastrous first year at Ducati.

For 2021, Rossi moves to the Petronas Yamaha SRT team. The Italian must put his faith in the benefits of the best-run satellite team in MotoGP, and in Yamaha's engineers having learned the costly lessons of last year, and finding a solution to the M1's turning woes.

The Petronas Yamaha SRT team held a zoom media debrief with Rossi ahead of the first test of 2021, the first opportunity the media have had to talk to the Italian since he joined the Malaysian squad for this season. Rossi talked about moving to a satellite team, his hopes and expectations for 2021, how he will make a decision on his future, and his friendship with new teammate Franco Morbidelli.

Q: You are back in a satellite team after a long time as a factory rider. Are you hoping to thrive in a more relaxed environment?

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Franco Morbidelli, Racing Philosopher: "The Human Side Is More Important Than Games"

Franco Morbidelli was the surprise of the 2020 MotoGP season. The Petronas Yamaha SRT rider shocked the MotoGP world by finishing second in the championship, and comfortably the best Yamaha rider, on a year-old M1 machine. But Morbidelli went into the 2020 with very little pressure on him. After a mediocre 2019, in which he had been overshadowed by his teammate Fabio Quartararo, expectations for him were low.

That was not how Franco Morbidelli saw it himself. Angry and frustrated at his performance in 2019, he massive stepped up his training and focus for 2020. That effort paid off handsomely, with three race wins and a second place in the MotoGP riders championship.

Morbidelli goes into 2021 in a very different position. Universally acknowledged as one of the favorites for the title, a great deal is expected of the Italian, despite once again being the only Yamaha rider on the older, 2019-spec M1. He has a new teammate, Fabio Quartararo having departed for the factory team, while Morbidelli's long-time friend and mentor Valentino Rossi steps down from the Monster Energy Yamaha squad to join him in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team.

After yesterday's launch of the Petronas Yamaha SRT team, today the media got a chance to speak to Franco Morbidelli. It was a fascinating interview, in which Morbidelli revealed himself to be part athlete, part poet, and part philosopher, and showed a remarkable sense of perspective. Morbidelli spoke of his ambitions for 2021, his relationship and rivalry with Valentino Rossi, and the importance – or lack thereof – of racing.

Q: Last year you beat your teammate and finished 2nd. Can you do the same this year?

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Tales From The Petronas Launch: Rossi, Morbidelli, 2019 vs 2020, And Petronas' Future As A Satellite Team

There has been a reversal of roles in the Yamaha camp. The youthful Fabio Quartararo has swapped the confines of the Petronas Yamaha SRT team for the Monster Energy Yamaha factory team. In turn, the 42-year-old hoary veteran Valentino Rossi has been demoted from the factory squad into what is supposed to be the junior team, where young talent is nurtured and prepared to move up to the factory team.

Given the relative performance of the two Yamaha teams in 2020, it seems wrong to class Rossi's move as a demotion, or Quartararo's as a promotion. The Petronas Yamaha team finished second in the 2020 team championship, while the Monster Energy Yamaha team finished sixth. Petronas Yamaha's Franco Morbidelli was the best-placed Yamaha rider, ending the season in second, while factory rider Maverick Viñales finished just 5 points ahead of second Petronas man Quartararo.

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Is 2021 Yamaha's Year? Lessons From 2020

The 2020 MotoGP season was something of a schizophrenic affair for Yamaha. On the one hand, a Yamaha won 7 of the 14 MotoGP races last year, with Franco Morbidelli finishing second in the riders' championship, Yamaha finishing second in the constructors' championship, and the Petronas Yamaha SRT team ending second in the teams' standings.

On the other hand, Yamaha's most successful rider was in a satellite team on a 2019-spec bike. Of the 7 Yamaha victories last year, the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team had just a single one. Morbidelli took 5 podiums on the 2019 M1, while Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Fabio Quartararo scored just 7 podiums combined. The first factory Yamaha in the championship – Maverick Viñales – finished in 6th, behind the Suzukis, a Ducati, a KTM, and Morbidelli on the 2019 M1.

There was the valve saga which saw Yamaha have points deducted in the constructors' championship for using non-homologated parts – switching valves between suppliers, and thereby breaking the homologation rules. And there were the brake issues at the Red Bull Ring, where the Yamaha riders insisted on using the older, smaller Brembo calipers which suffered overheating and even brake failure in the case of Viñales.

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