MotoGP

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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Marc Marquez: The Lessons Of A Lost Year

Marc Márquez' absence has left a gaping hole in MotoGP for the last seven months. Sure, the racing has been fantastic, and Joan Mir was a worthy winner of the 2020 title. But the fact that the man who won six of the last eight championships was missing from the series was the elephant in the room throughout last season, a presence noted all the more for his not being there.

The significance of Márquez' absence has been made all the greater by the near total radio silence out of the Spaniard's entourage. With the exception of a single interview given to Spanish TV broadcaster DAZN, the only thing that we have heard from Marc Márquez have been leaks from various sources around him.

The last time the general media had a chance to speak to the six-time MotoGP champion was last July, at the second round at Jerez, after his abortive comeback from the injury sustained in the first race. Márquez shattered the humerus in his right upper arm when he crashed out between Turns 3 and 4 at the opening MotoGP race of the season at Jerez. Márquez was doing push ups just hours after surgery, and decided to try to race at the Andalusian Grand Prix at Jerez, just a few days later.

Too early

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Repsol Honda Press Release: Marc Marquez Speaks On Injury Recovery, 2021 Hopes, Pol Espargaro As Teammate

The Repsol Honda team issued transcripts of the interviews from the Repsol Honda online launch. In the video, Marc Marquez talked about his recovery, his injury, and his expectations for 2021. Below is the transcript, the questions were asked by Honda PR:


Q: First of all, Marc, how are you and how is the recovery?

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LCR Honda Castrol Team Launch: Alex Marquez Q&A On Qualifying, What He Wants From Honda, What He Needs To Work On

For 2021, HRC have shifted Alex Márquez over from the factory Repsol Honda team into the satellite LCR Honda squad, albeit with full factory backing. It was a decision taken before the Covid-19 delayed 2020 season even started, and the younger Márquez brother had even had a chance to prove himself.

With two podiums, consecutive second places at a wet Le Mans and a dry Aragon, Alex Márquez proved the doubters wrong, and made many wonder if HRC hadn't jumped the gun on demoting him to LCR in favor of Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard had made enormous progress through the second half of 2020, and left a very different impression at the end of the season compared to the start.

His one weakness was qualifying. Alex Márquez' best grid position was tenth, at Aragon 2, the only track where he managed to qualify on the fourth row. He usually found himself starting from a couple of rows further back.

This is one area which Alex Márquez will have to work on for 2021, and one he has attempted to address during his preparation for the coming season. After the online launch of the LCR Honda Castro Team, the Spaniard's side of the LCR garage, Alex Márquez spoke to a group of journalists to look ahead to 2021. Here's what he had to tell us:

Q: You were a big surprise last year, and people will look at you in a different way. Will this year be easier?

AM: I hope it's more easy. It’s good that people look at you in a different way. The second part of the season was a little bit of a surprise, because the first part was not really good. It was not a disaster but it was a difficult time for me. The second part was really good. I was improving day by day. I think I still have many things to learn and to improve from that category. Last year was a strange year and a bit too short.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The MotoGP brains race: HRC takes data engineer from KTM

But no one knows more about headhunting engineers than KTM, which nabbed the co-inventor of MotoGP’s seamless gearbox from Honda and a top suspension technician from Öhlins

All’s fair in love and war. Motorcycle manufacturers have been stealing talented riders from rival brands since people first raced bikes around in circles more than a century ago. So much so that the MotoGP rider merry-go-round is considered a central part of the racing game.

The MotoGP engineer merry-go-round is less of a thing, but it’s getting bigger and spinning faster, because as the racing gets closer the worth of every technical detail increases.

The most important thing to take from this is that no matter how hi-tech racing becomes it’s the human that makes the difference. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then so too is one factory robbing another of its brightest brains.

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Jerez MotoGP Private Test: Aleix Espargaro Fastest As Test Riders Prepare For Qatar

While most of MotoGP is still in launch mode, the test riders and concession teams have been busy preparing for the 2021 MotoGP season at Jerez. Honda, KTM, and Aprilia have been taking advantage of the warm spring temperatures at the Circuito de Jerez to test their bikes ahead of the first official test of the season at Qatar.

On track are Honda's test rider - and provisional replacement for Marc Marquez, should he not be fit at the start of the season - Stefan Bradl, KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa, and Aprilia's test rider/candidate for a full-time ride, Lorenzo Savadori. As Aprilia are the only factory still with concessions, not yet having scored sufficient podiums to lose their extra testing and development privileges, Aprilia's number one rider Aleix Espargaro is also there, testing the 2021 spec of the Aprilia RS-GP, which includes a new aero package according to the well-informed Italian website GPOne.com.

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What We Learned From The Ducati 2021 MotoGP Launch

 

After two months of quiet on the MotoGP front, the racing season is starting to burst into action. With the first test at Qatar approaching – and looking ever more likely to actually take place – there is a burst of activity, as the factories all hold their team launches. So frenetic, indeed, that we barely have a moment to ponder one launch before we are onto the next.

That is in part a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In previous years, launches have been live events with an online element. (Manufacturers, both in racing and production, have learned that they can reach fans and buyers directly with online launches, without journalists sitting in the middle and muddying the message. Series organizers are on this path now as well.) While the pandemic still holds the world in its grip, those launches have moved completely online, with different factories taking different approaches.

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