MotoGP

Europe MotoGP Friday Round Up: Yamaha's Very Bad, Terrible, Horrible Weekend

It has been such a bad day for Yamaha that I feel bound to start this report off with the highlight for the Japanese factory: Franco Morbidelli finished in the top three for both sessions of free practice on Friday at Valencia. He and Petronas teammate Fabio Quartararo are directly through to Q2, at least provisionally, dependent on the weather on Saturday morning. Garrett Gerloff, replacing Valentino Rossi in the Monster Energy Yamaha team on Friday, was very impressive, getting up to speed quickly in very difficult conditions, despite not having any experience of either MotoGP bikes, Michelin MotoGP tires, or the Ricardo Tormo Circuit at Valencia. And Valentino Rossi's second PCR test came back negative, meaning he can take over from Gerloff again from Saturday morning.

That was the good news. The bad news was pretty terrible, however, bad enough that it made even a cynical old hack like me feel sorry for Yamaha's PR staff. After yesterday's penalty for violating the engine homologation procedure, the reliability issues resulting from trying to race an entire season using just 40% of the original engine allocation, two engines out of five, finally caught up with Maverick Viñales. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider, currently 19 points down on championship leader Joan Mir, has been forced to use a sixth engine during practice, incurring penalty for infringing the engine durability rules. On Sunday, Viñales will have to start the Grand Prix of Europe at Valencia from pit lane.

As if that were not bad enough, later this afternoon we learned that a key member of Viñales' crew had tested positive for Covid-19, and was forced to self isolate. Four other members of the Monster Energy Yamaha team, including team manager Maio Meregalli, were determined to have been at risk after contact with the infected team member, and although they tested negative, have also gone into quarantine for ten days until Monday, November 16th, the day after the second round at Valencia.

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2020 Europe MotoGP FP2 Result: More Miller Time

While the Valencian sky was still grey and overcast, the asphalt was dry enough for slick tyres straight out the gate, although the dry line was narrow to begin with. Regardless of the improved conditions, Jack Miller remained the fastest man on track, although the lead changed hands all throughout FP2 and it all came down to the final flying laps. Aleix Espargaro put together a fine final lap to come within a tenth of a second of the lead and nearly two tenths faster than Franco Morbidelli, who enjoyed a late off road adventure.

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Provisional 2021 MotoGP Calendar Announced - 20 Races, Normal Schedule, 3 Reserve Circuits

MotoGP will continue into 2021, and scheduling difficulties continue to accompany it. Unlike 2020, however, Dorna and the FIM are prepared for it, however, and so today, we saw a provisional 2021 MotoGP calendar announced. It is a very conventional-looking schedule, with a giant caveat attached underneath: "All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities."

After two tests, at Sepang in mid February and Qatar in mid March, the 2021 season is scheduled to kick off at Qatar on March 28th. After Qatar, the series heads to the Americas, where MotoGP races in Argentina at Termas de Rio Hondo and at Austin. They then head back to Europe, for the usual round of spring races: Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, Sachsenring, and Assen. They round it off with a trip to Finland, subject to the Kymiring being homologated on time.

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2020 Europe MotoGP FP1 Result: Miller Excels On Damp Track

An overcast and damp Ricardo Tormo Circuit welcomed the premier class for their first of quite a few outings in the Valencian autumn. Riders avoided too many off track excursions but the tricky conditions saw some oddities on the timesheets. Jack Miller being in charge of proceedings in wet conditions wasn’t one of them though, the Australian nearly half a tenth faster than Franco Morbidelli. The Italian fronted the Yamaha walk of shame following their surprise penalty on Thursday, while Repsol Honda rider Stefan Bradl thrived in the drizzle and joined the top three.

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Europe MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Life Inside The Bubble In The Final Stretch

We are entering the final stretch of The Year That Went On Forever. It turns out that compressing an intense, 14-race season into the space of 19 weekends feels more like five years than five months. Speak to people inside the paddock, or even speak casually to a rider, and they will tell you how mentally draining it is. Stuck in the Covid-19 bubble, wary of venturing out for fear of becoming infected.

That was what happened to Jorge Martin and Valentino Rossi, and they paid a heavy price. Both missed two races, and it looked like Rossi would miss a third, when he tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. Fortunately for him, a test on Thursday came back negative, so he is on his way to Valencia. If he has another test come back negative on Friday, he will be able to race this weekend.

You don't even have to have the virus yourself to be forced to miss races. Tony Arbolino missed Aragon after he sat too close to a person with Covid-19 on a plane back from Le Mans. And now Iker Lecuona will miss Valencia because his brother, who is also his assistant, tested positive in Andorra.

Fear and loathing

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The Irony Behind Yamaha's Punishment For Using An Illegal Engine Spec At Jerez

Yamaha have been punished for an infringement of the MotoGP technical rules at the opening race of the 2020 MotoGP season at Jerez, and at the same time, their riders have dodged a bullet. After the infringement was finally uncovered, the FIM Stewards decided to deduct points from Yamaha in the manufacturers championship, and the Monster Energy Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT teams have had points taken away in the teams championship. But crucially for the 2020 MotoGP riders championship, no penalty was given to Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, or Franco Morbidelli. That means that the standings in what everyone regards as the most important championship, the riders championship, are unchanged.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP title fight: who will run out of engines first?

Several top MotoGP title contenders are already way past the usual lifespan with their engines, so how will they cope at the last three races?

Three of 14 races remain in the 2020 MotoGP World Championship, Covid permitting. The second wave of the pandemic is racing through Europe as riders prepare for the triple-header finale on the Iberian Peninsula, starting with Sunday’s European GP at Valencia and ending with the Portuguese GP at Portimao on November 22.

Literally no one knows if the championship will go full distance, but the back-to-back races at Valencia – the European and then the Valencia GP – are currently set to go ahead despite a night-time curfew in the region.

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Garrett Gerloff On Standby As Valentino Rossi Awaits Negative Covid-19 Test

Valentino Rossi may yet be forced to miss his third race of the 2020 season, after still being unable to provide a negative PCR test for Covid-19. The Italian tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of first round in Aragon, and was forced to miss the two races at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

Despite having fully recovered from his symptoms and feeling fit and ready to race, a PCR test for Covid-19 carried out on Tuesday came back positive. Rossi still has a couple of chances to race in Valencia, if he can provide two negative PCR tests. He is due to have one test on Wednesday, and must have a second negative PCR test 48 hours after the first one, which would mean he would miss practice on Friday, but could arrive at the track on Saturday ready to compete.

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News Round Up: Whither 2020, A Possible 2021 Calendar, And Dovizioso And Lorenzo As Test Riders

The last intense three weeks of this intense MotoGP season is upon us. On Thursday, the diminished paddock reassembles in Valencia for the last of the back-to-back races, with the Grand Prix of Europe this coming weekend, the Valencia Grand Prix a week later. Then, two weeks from today, the paddock will pack up and head down to Portimao, for the last race of the 2020 season. If all goes well, of course.

There is a slightly revised schedule for the two weekends at Valencia, practice starting an hour later in the mornings, 20 minutes later in the afternoons, to avoid the chilly conditions which can prevail at Valencia for FP1 and FP3. And while Sundays are the usual format at Valencia – Moto3 at 11am CET, Moto2 at 12:20, and MotoGP at 2pm – the final weekend at Portimao is a little different. To keep the MotoGP race in its usual 2pm Central European Time slot, the race will be held at 1pm local time in Portugal, which uses GMT. That means MotoGP will be racing before Moto2 in Portugal.

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