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2020 WorldSBK Calendar Update: Assen, Donington, Qatar All Canceled

As the restart of the 2020 WorldSBK draws near, Dorna and the FIM have issued an updated calendar. In the previous version of the calendar, the British, Dutch, and Qatar rounds of the WorldSBK series were listed as to be determined. These three races, at Doningon Park, Assen, and the Losail International Circuit, have now been canceled due to the organizational headaches created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With those three rounds dropped, eight rounds remain on the calendar. The season restarts at Jerez on August 2nd, the week after MotoGP's second race at the track. The WorldSBK paddock then heads west to the Portimao circuit in Portugal, before taking two weeks off and traveling to the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain.

Back to back rounds in Aragon are followed by a single trip to Barcelona, before the WorldSBK circus heads north to Magny-Cours for the French round. They then prepare to fly to Argentina, to the San Juan Villicum circuit, though that round remains to be confirmed, because of the pandemic. The season then finishes up in Misano in Italy.

The calendar and press release announcing it are below

Date Country Circuit WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300
28 Feb – 1 March Australia Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit X X  
31 July - 2 August Spain Circuito de Jerez - Ángel Nieto X X X
7 - 9 August Portugal Autódromo Internacional do Algarve X X X
28 - 30 August Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
4 - 6 September Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
18 - 20 September Spain Circuit de Barcelona - Catalunya X X X
2 - 4 October France Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours X X X
9 – 11 October Argentina* Circuito San Juan Villicum X X  
6 - 8 November Italy Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” X X X

* Event to be confirmed

British, Dutch and Qatari WorldSBK rounds cancelled

Despite the very best efforts of all involved, three rounds have been cancelled as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

After extensive discussions and the assessment of a multitude of possibilities and scenarios, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and Dorna WSBK Organization (DWO) regret to announce the cancellation of three events that were previously to be determined (TBD) and to be confirmed (TBC). The safety of all parties within the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock is of top priority and whilst the season is carrying on, a solution was not possible to incorporate every venue, given the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK Round at Donington Park (previously postponed and TBD), the Dutch Round at the TT Circuit Assen (previously rescheduled, then postponed and TBD) and the Qatar Round at the Losail International Circuit (previously postponed and TBD) have been cancelled. It will be the first time in WorldSBK history that there won’t be a round in the United Kingdom, whilst the TT Circuit Assen has been a permanent fixture on the calendar since 1992, ending a streak of the longest continually serving venue in WorldSBK.

Gregorio Lavilla, Executive Director of the Sporting and Organisation Departments commented: “I am personally very sad to announce the subsequent cancellations of the three rounds. As a fan of our sport, I am extremely saddened not to go to WorldSBK’s birthplace at Donington Park and the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ at Assen, a track which has featured on our calendar uninterrupted since 1992. I am equally as sad not to not have the spectacle of a night race in Qatar, always something we look forward to. We explored all avenues in order to find a solution but unfortunately, one could not be found. However, this mustn’t cast a cloud over the Championship. The majority of our events in 2020 will happen and plans for a full, complete 2021 are well underway. We would like to thank everyone involved for their tireless work and cooperation, and also the fans for waiting patiently before our season resumes.”

The 2020 Championship will now follow the latest planned schedule and any further updates will be communicated accordingly in due course.

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Marquez, Crutchlow, Rins All Passed Fit To Race - UPDATED

The Jerez medical center has been a busy place for the past hour, with riders coming and going for their medical assessments. Cal Crutchlow, Marc Marquez, and Alex Rins all had to pass a fitness test before being given the all clear to test. All three have been declared fit, and will attempt to ride tomorrow, to assess their fitness on the bike.

Cal Crutchlow fractured his left scaphoid in a crash during Sunday warm up at Jerez last week, and had the scaphoid pinned in place. Although the pinned scaphoid will be painful, he should not have too many problems riding, especially as the injury is to his left hand, rather than his right. Jerez is a clockwise circuit with a lot of right hand corners, and all the hard braking at the circuit is done on the right.

Alex Rins had dislocated his right shoulder and cracked his humerus in a heavy fall at Turn 11 during qualifying. Rins did not need surgery, and has been undergoing intensive therapy to be ready for Jerez. The Suzuki Ecstar rider did sustain some ligament damage, and that will determine how capable his of riding.

Marc Marquez suffered a dislocated fracture of the humerus in his right upper arm, when he crashed during the race and had the front wheel of his Repsol Honda RC213V hit his arm as he and his bike entered the gravel on the exit of Turn 3. At first, doctors feared he had suffered nerve damage, but that proved not to be the case. Marquez had surgery to put the bone back into place and to insert a titanium plate to fix the bone on Tuesday, and decided on Wednesday night to try to ride.

Though the doctors passed him medically fit to race - a judgment that he has enough strength in the arm to control the bike sufficiently that he is not a danger to his fellow competitors - actually riding at the track will be tough. Jerez asks a lot of the right side of a rider's body, and will place a lot of stress on Marquez' injured right arm.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as Rins, Crutchlow, and Marquez all get on their bikes on Friday morning for FP1.


Marc Marquez will sit out all of Friday, and will only ride on Saturday to assess his fitness. Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig gave a statement to the media, saying the following:

"Nobody expected to see him here. I mean when the accident happened we were very worried and of course he had to go to Barcelona for surgery. Surgery went, frankly speaking, spectacularly well. We didn't expect - I mean, we know the doctor is good but it was a fantastic job. And after surgery the rider started to feel very well. He started to contact us, saying 'I'm not so bad. I feel well. I'm not having so much pain. I can move the arm'. The nerve situation, as the doctor informed, was okay."

"So originally clearly the Honda position was to cancel this race and to try in Brno. But after what we saw of Marc's wish, after what the doctors said today, declaring him fit, I mean we came to a let's say understanding position that he will try on Saturday and depending on how he's feeling he will try to race or not. But we asked him to check on Saturday first and really understand if he is really capable of doing the distance or not. In case it's too risky, Marc already understood that our idea will be to cancel the race. But from last Sunday to today, things have been going so fast and so quickly that frankly speaking we are very surprised."

Explain the decision to way until Saturday?

"Yes, if it was a new track it would be more difficult. But we have been here for five days so the setup of the bike we know, he knows exactly how to ride the bike on this track. So it's no meaning to try Friday and to give more stress to the injury. So he will try Saturday and after that we will see. But it was very important for Honda and for the Repsol Honda team to also respect the rider's wish. So we get this compromise and then we will see the result on Saturday."

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Marc Marquez To Attempt To Ride At Second Jerez Round

Marc Marquez is heading back to Jerez and will attempt to ride at this weekend's Grand Prix of Andalusia at Jerez. Despite breaking his arm during last Sunday's race at the circuit, and having surgery to plate the arm on Tuesday, Marquez is determined to attempt to ride.

Marquez faces a number of hurdles before he is allowed to ride. He is already flying back to Jerez, but on arrival, he faces examination by the circuit doctors. He will have to prove he is capable of riding safely and controlling the motorcycle. That means having the strength in his upper arm to manage braking and turning, which can place huge loads on the arms, especially, as the braking forces produced by the Brembo carbon brakes meaning the riders have to support more than their own bodyweight with their arms.

But a return to racing is also made more complicated by the COVID-19 protocols put in place by Dorna, and essential to operating the race at Jerez safely. Marquez' crew had already left the circuit, but anyone flying home and wanting to return to the paddock has to be tested for the disease once again. As the test results take time to process, they are likely to only get into the paddock and start work on Thursday afternoon, putting them behind their normal schedule.

Marquez has clearly decided that in such a compressed and short season, he cannot afford to lose any more points, after his DNF after crashing out of the race on Sunday. In a tight and complicated championship, every point may well turn out to count at the end of 2020.

Below is the announcement on Twitter from the Repsol Honda team:


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Surgery Successful For Marquez, Crutchlow - Marquez Aiming For Brno

It was a busy day at the Dexeus clinic in Barcelona, as both Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow went under the knife to fix injuries picked up at the opening round of the season at Jerez. Marquez broke his right humerus in a fast crash at Turn 3 during the race, while Crutchlow fractured his left scaphoid in a crash during warm up. Surgery was successful for both riders, with no complications reported.

Marc Marquez had the more invasive surgery. The doctors opened his right upper arm to put the broken humerus back together and fix it in place with a titanium plate. The best news from the operation is that there was no nerve damage, which had been a concern in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

With the humerus now plated, Marquez is aiming to return at Brno, to be held on August 9th. If that is too soon, then the Repsol Honda rider will try to race at the first round in Austria a week later.

Cal Crutchlow had the fractured scaphoid in his left hand pinned. The LCR Honda rider will test his wrist on Friday, to see if it will withstand the forces of riding a MotoGP machine.

Below are the press releases from Repsol Honda and LCR Honda:

Successful surgery for Marc Marquez, Alex Marquez prepares for second run in Jerez

Alex Marquez prepares for back-to-back races as reigning World Champion Marc Marquez undergoes surgery on his broken right humerus in Barcelona.

After falling heavily on Sunday, Marc Marquez was diagnosed with a broken right humerus and travelled to Barcelona on Monday to the Hospital Universitari Dexeus. Dr Xavier Mir and his team in collaboration with Dr Barrera performed an open reduction and internal fixation of a titanium plate to the right humerus. The radial nerve was untouched and did not need intervention.

Marc is now recovering from successful surgery and will remain in hospital for up to 48 hours. His aim is to return to the 2020 World Championship as soon as possible with an expected date becoming clearer soon.

Alex Marquez will again mount his Repsol Honda Team RC213V at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto after a solid rookie debut. The Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucía presents a unique chance to run at the same circuit as the previous race, Alex and his side of the Repsol Honda Team garage able to apply all that they found during the previous weekend. Conditions ahead of the weekend look to again be demanding as temperatures are expected push above 30°C for most of the event. The reigning Moto2 World Champion will be aiming to collect points and finish as the top rookie once more.

Free Practice 1 begins at 09:55 Local Time on Friday, July 24. Lights for the 25-lap Andalucía GP will go out at 14:00 Local Time on Sunday, July 26.

Alex Marquez

“First, I’d like to again wish Marc, Cal and Alex Rins a speedy recovery. From my side as a rider, the situation does not change too much as I have my job, my objectives and I will always push to the maximum to achieve them. Going racing at the same circuit will be interesting, times will be very fast as most people have a good base setting but I am confident for the weekend, I learned a lot in my first GP and now I can apply it directly on the track again.”

Alberto Puig
Team Manager

“Everyone who races in the World Championship has the unfortunate possibility of getting injured and having to go to the operating room. Unfortunately, it was our turn and it was Marc who has had to undergo surgery. Marc will take some time to recover but we are happy with how everything has gone. Doctor Mir and his team have taken care of the entire situation since the fall and performed a successful operation. This gives the Repsol Honda Team a lot of motivation, knowing it went well, but now we have to be patient to see how Marc recovers and to understand when he can return.”

“Cal Crutchlow also had an operation that went well and in principle, his intention is to test the wrist on Friday. We are optimistic about his participation in the Grand Prix."

“This weekend we will be focused on Alex, helping him to take another step forward. When you are young and new in a category, every week you improve and grow. We hope he can close the gap to the front of the race.”


21 July 2020 | Barcelona

LCR Honda CASTROL rider Cal Crutchlow has undergone successful surgery on his injured left wrist. The Briton reported a fracture to his left scaphoid after crashing during the warm-up session at the Spanish GP last Sunday.

This morning, Dr. Xavier Mir performed surgery on Crutchlow's wrist at the Hospital Universitari Quirón DEXEUS in Barcelona. The surgeon was pleased with how the procedure went.

Lucio Cecchinello

“I would like to thank Dr. Mir and his medical team for performing surgery on Cal’s left wrist this morning. A small screw has been inserted into his scaphoid to fix the fracture. The surgery went well as Dr. Mir personally informed me, and Cal will be discharged from the hospital later this afternoon. If everything goes well, we expect him back at the Angel Nieto Circuit in Jerez on Thursday morning, where he will be visited by Dorna’s Medical Director, Dr. Ángel Charte who will assess his fitness to race. Our technical staff is working to have everything ready to allow Cal to ride in Friday’s morning practice.”

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Marc Marquez Breaks Arm At Jerez, Surgery Scheduled For Tuesday

Marc Marquez has fractured his upper right arm in a highside during the Jerez race. The Repsol Honda rider was flicked off his bike during an epic comeback charge through the field after an earlier mistake in the race. He fell badly, and examinations in hospital at Jerez found a fractured humerus.

The Spaniard is to have an operation to fix the bone in Barcelona on Tuesday. However, it seems unlikely that he will be fit for the next race on Sunday 26th July, with the potential of losing 50 points in the championship. How soon he will return after that is also uncertain. A defense of his 2019 MotoGP title now seems almost impossible.

The official press release from Repsol Honda appears below:

Marc Marquez suffers broken right humerus in Jerez

A fall at Turn 3 while fighting for the podium has resulted in a broken right humerus for the reigning World Champion, who will travel to Barcelona for surgery.

After mounting an incredible comeback in the Spanish GP, Marc Marquez suffered a high side at Turn 3 and came down heavily on his right arm. As a result, the eight-time World Champion has suffered a transverse diaphyseal fracture to his right humerus. MotoGP medical staff have confirmed there is no other serious head or thoracic trauma but will remain under observation for 12 hours.

Marquez will travel to the Hospital Universitari Dexeus in Barcelona on Monday, July 20 and is aiming to be operated on by Dr Xavier Mir and his team on Tuesday, July 21st.

Recovery time is as yet unknown, the Repsol Honda Team will provide an update after the operation.


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Alex Rins Declared Unfit For Opening MotoGP Round At Jerez

Alex Rins will not take part in the first race of 2020 MotoGP season. The Suzuki Ecstar rider was declared unfit by medical staff on Sunday morning, the right shoulder injury suffered being too severe for him to take part.

Rins faces a difficult few weeks. Though the Spaniard is keen to race next week, when the series returns at Jerez, the injuries to his shoulder may prevent that. Rins suffered a fractured humerus (bone in the upper arm) as well as muscle and tendon damage in the right shoulder. In the press release, MotoGP surgeon Dr Mir speaks of a long recovery process, with surgery not an option.

With four more races in the next five weeks, Rins will have little time to recover his fitness, even if he does manage to race.

Below is the press release from Suzuki:


Team Suzuki Press Office - July 19.

Alex Rins has been declared unfit for today’s Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit of Jerez Angel Nieto, following the heavy crash he suffered in the closing moments of Saturday’s Q2 session.

Yesterday afternoon Rins was diagnosed at the Hospital Jerez Puerta del Sur with a fracture and dislocation in his right shoulder, he also sustained muscle damage to the surrounding area.

MotoGP Medical Director Ángel Charte carried out a round of examinations this morning and declared Alex unfit for the race.

Further assessments will be carried out ahead of next weekend’s Andalucia Grand Prix.

Davide Brivio - Team Manager:

“We are very disappointed that Alex can’t race, especially because we felt we had the chance for a good result. Alex was really fast with good pace, so it’s a pity. For this to happen with such a short season makes it even harder. He can’t race today, but during next week we will all try our best to get him back on track next weekend.”

Alex Rins:

“It’s impossible to race today here in Jerez. It’s really disappointing that I suffered this injury because my feeling with the bike had been really good during the whole weekend. But right now, I need to think about getting well as soon as possible, the doctors will help me with rehab during next week and they have given me some stronger painkillers. I’ll try my maximum to ride next week.”

Xavier Mir - MotoGP Traumatologist:

“After the crash Alex underwent an MRI scan at the Hospital Jerez Puerta del Sur and this confirmed some injuries such as the muscle and ligament damage, and fracture to the shoulder. Furthermore, he presents an injury in one of the rotary tendons of the shoulder. This means it is a multiple injury with a potentially long recovery time. We decided he should not need surgery, and instead he will begin magnetotherapy to reduce the edema. He will also have assisted rehab with electro stimulation in order to try and race next week. We agreed that it will be impossible to race today, and Dr. Charte administered some more powerful analgesics.”


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Alex Rins Taken To Hospital With Suspected Fractured Shoulder

Alex Rins has been taken to hospital in Jerez with a suspected fractured shoulder, and a dislocated shoulder. The Suzuki Ecstar rider crashed heavily in Turn 11 during Saturday's Q2 qualifying session, tumbling through the gravel at Turn 11. The Spaniard was holding his shoulder as he walked out of the gravel, and was taken to the medical center at the circuit.

After preliminary examination at the medical center, Rins was sent to hospital for further scans. At the moment, no decision has been taken on his possible participation in Sunday's opening race of the 2020 MotoGP season, but the seriousness of the injury does not bode well for the Spaniard.

Exactly why Rins crashed is uncertain. But riders have been reporting issues at Turn 11 with the wind, and track conditions, with temperatures approaching 60°C, it was easy to lose the front as the brakes are released.

Further updates once Suzuki issue a press release.


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Fabio Quartararo And Sergio Garcia Penalized For Unauthorized Practice - UPDATE

Fabio Quartararo and Sergio Garcia have both been handed penalties for using unauthorized machines to practice on track. The pair have been punished by being forced to miss the first 20 minutes of FP1 when action resumes on Friday.

The two were punished for separate incidents, Garcia for riding at Aragon in June, Quartararo for riding at Paul Ricard in the same month. Both riders admitted that they had broken the rules, but claimed the infraction was unintentional. The relative lenience of the sentence would appear to back that up, the penalty being in line with previous incidents.

Quartararo has appealed against his penalty, however. The hearing for that is yet to be heard.

~~~ UPDATE ~~~

The FIM Appeal Stewards rejected Fabio Quartararo's appeal. The Frenchman will sit out the first 20 minutes of FP1 on Friday morning

The press release from the FIM appears below:

FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Notifications of Sanction: Fabio Quartararo and Sergio Garcia

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Please find attached sanctions for MotoGP™ rider Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Moto3™ rider Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) following hearings to investigate possible breaches of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations covering practice and testing, specifically Article 1.15.1. c) Rider Training and Track Familiarisation, regarding the type of machines permitted for rider training.

Both have been suspended from the first 20 minutes of the FP1 session of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España.

Fabio Quartararo has appealed the decision and more information will be provided as soon as available.

FIM MotoGP™ Appeal Stewards Notification of Decision: Fabio Quartararo

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Following an appeal from Petronas Yamaha SRT and MotoGP™ rider Fabio Quartararo, the FIM MotoGP™ Appeal Stewards held a hearing yesterday at 18:30 (GMT +2) and made a decision today.

The sanction given by the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards is confirmed. The FIM MotoGP™ Appeal Stewards' decision is final.

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The 2021 MotoGP Rider Line Up: Who Goes Where, And Who Fills The Still Vacant Slots?

It was a busy day for MotoGP rider announcements. Three riders were confirmed in teams, with a fourth confirmed as leaving. The announcements were hardly a shock, but there was room for the odd raised eyebrow or two.

At Honda, there was the expected reshuffling to make room for Pol Espargaro in the Repsol Honda squad, the Spaniard offered a two-year deal alongside Marc Marquez. This bumped Alex Márquez down to the LCR Honda team, with a two-year contract as compensation. Alex Márquez may have lost his ride in the factory team before a wheel has turned in the 2020 MotoGP season, but at least he is now assured of three seasons in the premier class to prove himself.

If there was a surprise in the announcements, it was that Cal Crutchlow was being released to make room for Alex Márquez. The Englishman has been a valuable asset in the development of the Honda RC213V, his feedback highly rated, and he is a firm favorite in the LCR squad, bringing a lot of media exposure to the satellite team.

The LCR shuffle

It had been thought that Takaaki Nakagami would lose his place, to free up a seat at LCR Honda for Alex Márquez. But Honda remains keen to keep a Japanese rider in MotoGP, and though there is a new cohort of fresh young Japanese talent rising through Moto3 and Moto2, they are still a couple of years away from breaking into the premier class. With HRC needing both a seat and a factory-spec Honda RC213V, losing Crutchlow was their best option.

The decision had not come as a shock to Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman told the website that he had known for three months there would be no room for him with HRC next year. But he also said he did not believe he would be retiring. He acknowledged there was interest from Aprilia, but he also said there was still a chance for him to stay at LCR.

Lucio Cecchinello is keen to keep him, Crutchlow told the problem is that for Cecchinello, keeping Crutchlow would be expensive. The LCR team would have to pick up Crutchlow's salary, and find the funds to run that side of the garage. At the moment, HRC pays Takaaki Nakagami's salary, and picks up the tab for the Japanese rider's side of the garage, with help from Idemitsu, the Japanese oil firm which backs Nakagami.

Making a splash

The fourth rider signing concerned Franco Morbidelli, who has been signed to a further two years in the Petronas Yamaha SRT squad. Petronas boss Razlan Razali played the media on Sunday night, posting a picture of himself aboard a flight destined for Spain with the comment that "The announcement that the fans have been waiting for will be tomorrow." That led to speculation that Valentino Rossi's arrival at the Sepang squad would be announced, but instead, it was Franco Morbidelli.

In a way, this was a smart play by Razali. It paid the rider which he signed – as opposed to having a rider thrust upon the team – a compliment, and generated more media interest for Morbidelli's signing than might otherwise have been expected. Morbidelli's renewal was almost a formality, given that Petronas bosses were already expressing their hopes of retaining their 2019 rider line up beyond 2020 last year. Losing Fabio Quartararo was inevitable, given the Frenchman's meteoric ascension in the MotoGP firmament. That made keeping Morbidelli all the more important.

That Rossi's deal was not announced is mainly because it has not yet been signed. Though it is all but inevitable that the Italian will end up in Petronas, the precise details of who goes with him – mechanics, trainers, coaches, photographers, etc – are proving very tricky to hammer out. Rossi expects to be able to choose more or less whoever he wants. That might have been the case if Petronas had chosen to sign Rossi, but they are having Rossi foisted upon them by Yamaha, on the basis of promises made by Yamaha to the Italian. There are far, far worse riders to have stuck in your team, but the expectations of the two parties are still a long way apart.

Vacancies down

The official announcements made to day bring the total of officially signed riders for 2021 to 15. The factory Yamaha, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki teams are full, while Aleix Espargaro and Jack Miller have been confirmed at Aprilia and Ducati respectively. Among the satellite teams, the Red Bull Tech3 KTM squad has a full compliment of riders in Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona, while Morbidelli and Alex Márquez mean that half of the Petronas and LCR seats are filled. Tito Rabat still has one year on his contract with Avintia, meaning his seat is safe for 2021.

Despite there still being seven officially open seats left in MotoGP, all but two are already provisionally taken. Nakagami looks almost certain to keep his seat at LCR, and Johann Zarco can be sure of an offer from Ducati, though he may not be delighted that it is at Avintia. Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin look set to fill the Pramac Ducati squad, though a shuffle is not unthinkable if Zarco outperforms Bagnaia.

Which leaves only two seats open, and both are at factory teams. Cal Crutchlow looks to be the firm favorite for the Aprilia seat at the moment, though he insists that there are still other options. That is not necessarily true for Aprilia, however: it is looking less and less likely that Andrea Iannone will escape a long ban for testing positive for drostanolone, a banned steroid. The Italian is supposed to have a hearing in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or CAS, in August. But the CAS website still lists no hearings for the case. Furthermore, Iannone finds the might of WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency ranged against him, who are appealing against the leniency of the FIM's 18-month ban.

Dovi vs Duc

The most interesting seat at the moment is the slot in the Factory Ducati team. Andrea Dovizioso has still not signed a contract with Ducati for 2021, despite his long association with the Italian factory. Unsurprising, perhaps, given that he has been asked to take a pay cut, not just for 2021, but also for 2020, the current season, and a season which is covered in his current contract.

Dovizioso's manager, Simone Battistella, has even suggested that the Italian might prefer to take a year out of MotoGP, in the hope of securing a better contract on his return. This seems vanishingly unlikely. Riders who leave MotoGP rarely, if ever, return. And when they do, it is never to a better opportunity than the one they left behind.

The most recent examples that spring to mind are Max Biaggi, who was forced out of MotoGP after losing his ride at Honda. After a year off, Biaggi moved – with a great deal of success – to the World Superbike paddock, but he never got another chance in MotoGP.

Sete Gibernau left MotoGP at the end of the 2006 season, after losing his Ducati ride. He came back after two seasons away, riding for the Grupo Francisco Hernando team, a squad set up with the backing of a controversial building magnate in an attempt to persuade Teodoro Obiang, the president of Equatorial Guinea and the man widely regarded as the worst dictator in the world to sponsor the team and grant a building contract in the country. Gibernau scored 12 points from six races in an already thin field, and the team withdrew halfway through the season.

No alternative

If a sabbatical is not a great option for Dovizioso, losing the Italian would not be great for Ducati either. Their options are severely limited, with nobody of Dovizioso's experience or talent readily available. Rumors continue to bubble up around Jorge Lorenzo, but the Spaniard is looking far too happy in retirement. And he has made plain that the Ducati was not the ideal bike for him.

If Lorenzo had been offered a shot on the factory Yamaha, he might have jumped at it. The M1 fits him like a glove, and he would have had a realistic shot at a title. Winning a championship on the Ducati would be very, very hard work, and much more of a long shot, the Desmosedici being some way away from Lorenzo's natural riding style. The only thing that could tempt him back would be a large pile of money, and the lack of that is precisely what is preventing Ducati from extending Dovizioso's contract.

In the end, Dovizioso and Ducati seemed doomed to spend at least one more season together. Until Ducati are certain that Jack Miller is the future for the brand, and they are ready to sign a young rider – or they finally get a shot at Marc Márquez, Maverick Viñales, or Fabio Quartararo – Dovizioso is their best bet. For Dovizioso, in turn, Ducati is his best chance of winning a title. It seems merely a matter of time before the two sides come to an agreement. But it won't be any time soon.

Implicit message

Pol Espargaro's move to Repsol Honda makes sense for both parties, given that Espargaro has a very similar approach to riding to Marc Márquez. "It's a bike which needs a rider who is ambitious, who gives absolutely everything, who leaves nothing on the table, and who knows how to suffer. This is what I have learned at last," Espargaro told the Spanish publication

But it is also an implicit admission of a lack of faith in Alex Márquez. Repsol Honda team boss Alberto Puig told that the LCR Honda team was a place where he could develop with less pressure than in the Repsol Honda team. But that didn't stop them from putting a rookie and 250cc champion directly into the Repsol Honda team in 2006, in the shape of Dani Pedrosa, or putting a Moto2 champion and rookie directly into Repsol Honda in 2013, in the shape of Marc Márquez.

In Repsol Honda, you are expected to succeed, as Marc Márquez himself pointed out at the 2019 team launch in Madrid. "Being in this team means fighting for victories, podiums and the championship. If not, it's actually failure." By first moving Alex Márquez into the Repsol Honda team, then deciding to move him out again before he has even had a chance to race and prove himself suggests that HRC don't believe that Alex Márquez will be capable of fighting for podiums. At the same time, they are making it clear that this is exactly what they expect Pol Espargaro to do.

In the short term, this might look like a sensible move by Honda, putting Alex Márquez in a lower-pressure environment where he has a chance to thrive. He showed good progression during preseason testing, and looks to be on course for solid results once racing gets underway. After the disruption of the 2020 season, he may well prove to be a formidable rider on a factory Honda RC213V inside the LCR squad next year.

But in the medium term, as I wrote previously, this looks like the first step towards the end of the Honda/Márquez relationship. Though Marc may deny it, it must be hard to see how HRC has handled the situation with brother Alex. That will grate for the next year or two, by which time, he might feel the need to move on to another manufacturer, one which hasn't shown his family a certain lack of respect.

That announcement, that press release will do more than raise an eyebrow or two, if it ever comes.

The current confirmed and expected/rumored rider line up for 2021. Riders' names in italics are expected, names in italics ending in a question mark? are still just rumors.

Rider Bike Contract until
Factory Teams
Monster Energy Yamaha
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2022
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2022
Repsol Honda
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2024
Pol Espargaro Honda RC213V 2022
Suzuki Ecstar
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Ducati Factory
Jack Miller Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2021 (option for 2022)
Andrea Dovizioso? Ducati Desmosedici GP21  
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2022
Cal Crutchlow? Aprilia RS-GP  
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Brad Binder KTM RC16 2021
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2021
Satellite Teams
Red Bull KTM Tech3
Danilo Petrucci KTM RC16 2021
Iker Lecuona KTM RC16 2021
Petronas Yamaha SRT
Franco Morbidelli Yamaha M1 2022
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1  
LCR Honda
Alex Márquez Honda RC213V 2022
Takaaki Nakagami Honda RC213V  
Pramac Ducati
Pecco Bagnaia? Ducati Desmosedici GP21  
Jorge Martin? Ducati Desmosedici GP20?  
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati GP20? 2021
Johann Zarco? Ducati GP20?  

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Announcement Monday: Petronas Extend Morbidelli For 2 Years, Repsol Honda Sign Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez To LCR, Crutchlow Out

A bumper crop of announcements this morning, and though the contents had long been expected, there was still room for a surprise. The announcement that Pol Espargaro would be joining Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda team had been long trailed, but today we got confirmation that the Spaniard had signed a two-year deal with HRC to race in the factory team, forcing Alex Marquez out. You can read about the possible consequences of that move, and what effect it will have on Marc Marquez, here.

Alex Marquez has some consolation for the demotion, in the form of a two-year deal to race inside the LCR Honda team, for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. But this means that Cal Crutchlow has been forced out of LCR, with Honda choosing to retain Takaaki Nakagami instead. Rumors persist that Crutchlow could go to the Aprilia MotoGP squad for next year, and Dorna would like to keep the popular British rider in the series, as contracts with UK broadcaster BT Sport are up for renewal soon.

The final announcement came at Petronas Yamaha. Franco Morbidelli has been kept on for two years, something which Petronas Yamaha team managers told me they were very keen to do. There had been some expectation that Petronas could announce the signing of Valentino Rossi today, but that may have to wait.

The press releases from Honda and from Petronas Yamaha appear below:

HRC sign Pol Espargaro

Honda Racing Corporation are pleased to announce the signing of Pol Espargaro. The former Moto2 World Champion will join the Repsol Honda Team on a two-year contract. He will join eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez aboard the Honda RC213V. Espargaro is one of the most experienced riders on the grid, having raced in the World Championship since 2006 and with 104 premier class Grands Prix contested.

HRC extend agreement with Alex Marquez

Honda Racing Corporation are proud to announce the renewal of Alex Marquez, extending his current agreement until the end of 2022.

During 2020, the former Moto3 and Moto2 World Champion will race in the premier class aboard his Honda RC213V in the Repsol Honda Team.

After winning the title in the middleweight class, Marquez has a whole season ahead to gain experience and make progress in HRC’s long term project, which sees the 24-year old Spanish rider join the LCR Honda Team at the end of 2020.

HRC would like to extend their thanks to Cal Crutchlow for his diligent and tireless work since joining HRC in 2015. With three wins and 12 podiums, the British rider has been a valuable asset on and off track – a constant source of excellent feedback for the engineers and a key part of developing the Honda RC213V in recent years. HRC wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Alex Marquez 73
Rider – MotoGP

“I am very proud to announce my renewal with Honda Racing Corporation. HRC gave me the opportunity to arrive in MotoGP and I am glad to join the LCR Honda Team at the end of 2020 and compete in a big team with great experience in MotoGP. I want to thank HRC and the LCR Honda Team for their trust in me to be able to continue in the Honda family and I will work hard to prove their confidence with results. Now, I am eager to start the season in Jerez and I am completely focused to give my best this year.”

Yoshishige Nomura
HRC President

"HRC are happy to continue working with Alex Marquez through the learning process in the MotoGP category for the next two seasons. After deep consideration and a thorough analysis of the current situation, we believe Alex has a great opportunity to grow in the premier class with full factory support inside the LCR Honda Team. We believe that by following this path over the next three seasons, we will achieve the results both HRC and Alex look for.”

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team retains Franco Morbidelli

PETRONAS Yamaha SRT will retain Franco Morbidelli for two years

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team is pleased to announce that Franco Morbidelli will be retained for the 2021 and 2022 MotoGP seasons.

The Italian rider, who was MotoGP Rookie of the Year in 2018, joined PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2019 for the team’s debut MotoGP season.

The year saw Morbidelli make four front row starts and claim seven top-six finishes aboard his Yamaha YZR-M1. In addition to this, Franco was also vital in helping to secure the 2019 Top Independent Team honours for PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, finishing 10th in the riders’ championship with 115 points to his name.

The Malaysian-based team now looks forward to being able to see Franco back in action at the first MotoGP round of 2020 in Jerez (17-19 July).

Razlan Razali
Team Principal

We are delighted to confirm that Franky will continue with us next year. He is an extremely talented rider and a great asset to the team as we look to build on our rookie season. Franky was always in our plans for the future so it is beneficial for us and him to be able to confirm that he will ride for us in 2021 and 2022 now.

Franky has the potential to reach the top step of the podium and this is what we’ll all be working hard to achieve. We have absolute faith in Franky even before this season has started. We are confident that Franky has what it takes to be competitive from Jerez and know that he will develop and mature in all areas through the years ahead. Franky will provide the team with stability and competitiveness and we can’t wait to be back on track!

Franco Morbidelli

I’m very pleased to be renewing with PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team as we had such a great season together last year, working with a great drive to achieve success. I think it’s important for me to continue with the same team, bike and environment going forward as it feels great to work with them. We all work well together and it’s great fun to work with all the PETRONAS SRT crew. I want to thank them for this opportunity that they are giving me as it’s such an honour to ride for them. I will be working hard to give them even more and even better results than we achieved in our first year together. I’m now looking forward to getting racing again to show our potential and I’m just so happy to have the chance to keep on doing what I love to do with a team I love.


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