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Jack Miller Confirmed With Factory Ducati Team For 2021

The next piece of the 2021 rider puzzle has just fallen into place. After strong rumours over the weekend, as well as tacit confirmation from team boss Davide Tardozzi, Ducati have confirmed that Jack Miller will join the factory Ducati team for the 2021 MotoGP season, with an option to extend the contract into 2022.

The move is a logical one on the part of Ducati. Ducati have long used Pramac as a team for nurturing talent and preparing them to go into the factory squad, as they have indeed done with Danilo Petrucci. Miller had shown significant progress since arriving at Pramac in 2018, finishing the 2019 season with five podiums.

Ducati made its confidence in Miller clear throughout 2018 and 2019, entrusting the Australian to test new parts before moving them up to the factory squad. It was Miller who first tested Ducati's holeshot device, at Motegi in 2018, and also Ducati's "shapeshifter", which squats the suspension on the straight, at Buriram in 2019.

Who Miller will replace is not settled yet, though the odds heavily favor this being a sign that Ducati is moving on from Danilo Petrucci. Despite Petrucci's victory at Mugello last year, the Italian suffered a slump in the second half of 2019, with Ducati losing confidence in him by the end of the year. Petrucci came very close to being moved back to the Avintia squad after the final race of 2019 in Valencia, as Ducati sought to accommodate Johann Zarco in the Pramac squad, which would have meant promoting Miller to the factory team and moving Petrucci back to Avintia. Only strong protest from Pramac team boss Paolo Campinoti kept Miller in Pramac for 2020.

Andrea Dovizioso looks likely to stay put in Ducati, although wrangling over the Italian's contract for 2021 is still ongoing. There have been rumors of a move to Aprilia, and of approaches by KTM, but so far, these have looked more like bargaining tactics than serious proposals.

Where Petrucci goes, if he leaves, is far from clear. In a recent interview with Italian website GPOne.com, Petrucci's manager Alberto Vergani said he believes that Petrucci is out of the factory Ducati squad, and that his options are to switch to Aprilia or to move to WorldSBK with Ducati. Much will depend on what happens with Andrea Iannone, and whether the Italian is able to ride in 2021 and retained by Aprilia.

Miller's signing is the sixth to be made before any racing has taken place in 2020. Four of those signings were logical progressions, riders staying put for the foreseeable future. Fabio Quartararo's promotion to the factory Yamaha squad was also widely expected, and a logical next step, the Frenchman having had a stunning debut season with the Petronas Yamaha team. Miller's promotion to the factory team is in the same vein as Quartararo's, a progress through the ranks to the factory team.

Ducati do not seem as certain of Miller as Yamaha were of Quartararo, however. The Frenchman was given a two-year deal in the factory team, while Miller has been given a one-year deal for 2021, with an option to extend for 2022. Ironically, the same offer given to Danilo Petrucci.

Rider line up for 2021:

Rider Bike Contract until
Monster Energy Yamaha
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2022
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2022
     
     
Repsol Honda
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2024
     
     
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)
     
     
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati 2021

Press release announcing the deal from Ducati:


Jack Miller to become official rider of the Ducati Team for the 2021 MotoGP season

Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that Jack Miller will be one of the two official Ducati Team riders in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship. The company from Borgo Panigale and the 25-year-old Australian rider have reached an agreement for next season with an option to extend the contract also for 2022.

Miller, who made his MotoGP debut in 2015 at just 20 years old, joined Ducati in 2018 with the Pramac Racing Team, the factory-supported team of the Bologna manufacturer, and finished last season eighth overall in the standings, taking five podiums during the year.

Jack Miller: "First of all I want to thank warmly Paolo Campinoti, Francesco Guidotti and all the Pramac Racing Team for the great support I have received from them in the two and a half years spent together. It is an honour for me to be able to continue my MotoGP career with the Borgo Panigale manufacturer and I would like to thank all the Ducati management, Claudio, Gigi, Paolo and Davide, for having trusted me and given me this incredible opportunity. I look forward to starting riding again this year, and I am ready to fully commit to the responsibility of being an official Ducati rider in 2021."

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding: "Since he arrived in the Pramac Racing Team, Jack has grown steadily, proving himself one of the fastest and most talented riders in the championship. So we are happy that he has agreed to ride the official Desmosedici GP bike of the Ducati Team next year. We are convinced that Jack has all the right skills to fight continuously for the positions that matter, in every race, starting already this season with the Desmosedici GP20 of the Pramac Racing Team, and taking a further step forward next year thanks to the support of the Ducati Team."

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MotoGP Machines To Return To The Track: KTM Plan Two-Day Test At Red Bull Ring On Wednesday And Thursday

After thirteen and a half weeks of silence, MotoGP bikes are to roar into life once again in their natural habitat. The KTM RC16 machines are to spend two days testing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, on May 27th and 28th. The last time MotoGP bikes were on track was at Qatar, on February 24th.

Factory rider Pol Espargaro will be joined at the Red Bull Ring by test rider Dani Pedrosa, where they will continue work on the RC16. Although development work on the bike stopped for over a month between mid-March and the middle of April, due to restrictions put in place in Austria to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, KTM are keen to continue testing the 2020 engine and the new chassis which made its debut in November last year at the Valencia and Jerez tests.

KTM had wanted to keep the test secret, according to German-language website Speedweek. The track had been booked by KTM ostensiby for a test of its X-Bow ultralight sports car, but this was subterfuge. It only emerged that the test was for KTM's MotoGP team when the Austrian factory was forced to report the test to race director Mike Webb.

Brad Binder is absent for the test. The South African is unable to leave his home country, as the South African government has currently banned all flights into and out of the country. Attempts to arrange travel out of South Africa for Binder have been unsuccessful. South Africa's pandemic policy has introduced multiple levels of restrictions, and although restrictions were recently eased back from level five to level four, flights will only resume once the government sees the curve of new cases flatten sufficiently for it to feel safe enough to move to level three.

KTM is the first factory to resume testing, but it is not yet clear when other factories will be able to follow suit. As a factory with concessions, KTM (and Aprilia) are able to test at any track. The other four MotoGP factories can only test at designated circuits.

Although getting two days on a Grand Prix circuit will help, Pol Espargaro will not be the only rider going into the first race at Jerez with a test under his belt. The entire field is due to have two sessions on track at Jerez on Wednesday July 15th, two days before the first of two races at the circuit. That relies on Dorna's plans to hold the race being approved by the Spanish government, but with La Liga, the Spanish soccer league, due to resume in two weeks' time, the prospects are looking very good.

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Racing Creeps Closer: Spain To Drop Quarantine Restrictions, Japan Ends State Of Emergency

The good news was that Dorna had submitted a plan to hold two races in Jerez on the 19th and 26th July, and that the authorities in Andalusia and the city of Jerez had supported the plan. But many obstacles remained in the path to turning the plan into reality. Now, nearly three weeks later, those obstacles are starting to disappear.

The biggest obstacle was removed on Monday, when the Spanish government announced that the enforced quarantine on anyone entering the country would be lifted from July 1st. The quarantine on entry was one of the major complications for the race in Jerez, as it would mean anyone entering from outside Spain - including engineers from Japan, Italy, and Austria, mechanics from many places around the world, and of course, riders - would have had to self isolate for 14 days on arriving in Spain, before traveling on to Jerez.

Dorna and IRTA had already planned to have everyone travel fourteen days earlier, but that could have made the situation more complicated. Different countries around the world are at different stages in their restrictions, with Brad and Darryn Binder, for example, still in South Africa, where international flights have been stopped altogether.

The chances of quarantine ending are looking very good. Spain has already announced an easing of restrictions, with various regions moving into a different phase in the lockdown exit strategy on Monday, although gatherings of more than 10 people remain banned. On Saturday, the Spanish prime minister announced that the two top divisions of Spanish soccer league La Liga could resume matches behind closed doors from June 8th, with the first match scheduled to be played on June 11th.

Significant obstacles remain, however. Despite the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announcing the state of emergency would be lifted in the last five provinces where it was still in force, travel restrictions remain in place. Japanese nationals have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Japan, though no restrictions apply on leaving. However, it would make returning to Japan between races almost impossible.

In practice, that would mean that Japanese engineers would be away from home and their families for perhaps six months at a time. This seems like too much to ask of their employees, and the Japanese factories are believed to be looking for a solution to this problem.

For the moment, however, progress is being made on a resumption of racing. IRTA president and Tech3 team boss Hervé Poncharal told the MotoGP Round Table podcast that there will be a test on Wednesday 15th July before racing resumes at Jerez, with all three Grand Prix classes getting two sessions to get back up to speed before the first of two rounds at Jerez, on the 19th and 26th.

No firm plans have been made for the rest of the season, though a new calendar is expected in a week or so. The MotoGP season will be somewhere between 12 and 16 races, depending on whether any of the races outside Europe can happen. Those races will depend on whether fans can attend, although the possibility of another race at Qatar remains. Buriram and Sepang look the most likely candidates, while Motegi will probably be dropped, and Phillip Island looks like it will be impossible to organize, given the current restrictions in Australia. Races will be back-to-back at a limited number of circuits, with fans and media likely to be excluded.

But the viability of these plans still remains out of Dorna and IRTA's hands. They still have to be given the approval of national governments, which is not a given. The F1 championship was planning to start its season at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, but so far, its plans have yet to be given approval, raising concerns over whether those races will be able to happen.

In summary, there seems to be more room for optimism over a return to racing. But that optimism still needs to be laced with a dose of pessimism.

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MotoGP Silly Season Stirs Into Life: Pramac Expect Jack Miller To Take Factory Ducati Seat

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, the gears of the motorcycle world are starting to grind again. Riders are training once again, and their thoughts are turning to the future.

It is also clear that riders, teams, and factories are starting to think about 2021. This summer had promised to unleash a Silly Season of unrivaled scale, with all riders bar Tito Rabat out of contract at the end of 2020. January and February threw a wet blanket over the wilder speculation, as Maverick Viñales extend his contract with the factory Yamaha squad, Fabio Quartararo was promoted to the factory Yamaha team, and Valentino Rossi was promised a factory-supported Yamaha should he decide to continue for 2021.

After the Sepang test, HRC damped down the fire even further, signing Marc Marquez to an unprecedented four-year contract, which will see him race for Repsol Honda team until the end of 2024. Then in April and May, Suzuki did their part to remove any room for speculation by signing Alex Rins and Joan Mir to two-year contracts. And with racing out of the question during the lockdown, Silly Season went quiet.

But with racing now on the horizon again, albeit distantly and with some uncertainty, Silly Season is inching back into the limelight. In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Pramac Ducati boss Francesco Guidotti said that the Ducati are close to a deal with Jack Miller to ride for the factory team in 2021.

Pramac has always played a role as a junior team for Ducati, and a conduit for talent - the fact that Danilo Petrucci is currently in the factory squad after stepping up from Pramac is proof of that, as is the fact that Ducati signed a contract with Pecco Bagnaia for 2019 at the start of the 2018 season, when the Italian was still in Moto2. But that relationship and role has been made more explicit recently, Guidotti explained.

They used to be free to sign whoever they felt best suited the team, the Pramac team manager explained, but under the terms of a new deal, Ducati took over the reins where finding young talent was concerned. "Now the first approach is done by Ducati because they wanted to make a plan in the medium to long term with young riders and they asked us if it was possible," Guidotti said. As part of that process, Ducati were talking to Miller about stepping up to the factory team. "As far as I know, it’s not done yet. But, of course, from both parties there is the intention to do the deal. I think it’s close," Guidotti told MotoGP.com.

If a deal with Miller is close, whose place will he be taking in the factory squad? The chances are that it is Danilo Petrucci who will have to make way for the Australian. That swap almost happened at Valencia last year, when Ducati tried to find a spot for Johann Zarco in the Pramac team, which would have seen Miller bumped up to the factory team and Petrucci demoted to Avintia. In the end, it was Zarco who went to Avintia, after promises of strong factory support from Ducati boss Gigi Dall'Igna.

Petrucci is a stronger candidate for replacement than Andrea Dovizioso. Despite a trouble relationship with Gigi Dall'Igna, Dovizioso has been instrumental to the development of the Ducati Desmosedici since arriving at the factory in 2013. In recent weeks, Dovizioso's manager Simone Battistella has been carefully neutral in his comments about Dovizioso's future. He has held open the option of moving elsewhere, although the options appear to be limited. The best choice for both Dovizioso and Ducati could be to stick together for at least another season.

The question of who takes Miller's place at Pramac is open to question. Jorge Martin is the hot favorite at the moment, the Red Bull KTM Moto2 rider keen to make the jump to MotoGP, but with few options with KTM. KTM bosses have made clear they are happy with their current rider line up, and the only slot available would be at the Tech3 team, if either Miguel Oliveira or Iker Lecuona were to choose to leave at the end of 2020.

Martin is just one of a host of young riders who are also keen to make the jump from Moto2. Lorenzo Baldassarri, Remy Gardner, Jorge Navarro, Xavi Vierge, Luca Marini; perhaps even Enea Bastianini, Joe Roberts, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Tetsuta Nagashima. But with no racing since the Qatar season opener for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, team bosses will have little data on which to base a choice.

Beyond Ducati, the situation surrounding Valentino Rossi and the Petronas Yamaha team remains delicate. Rossi and Petronas team boss Razlan Razali are engaged in a careful courtship dance in what seems like an inevitable relationship for 2021. As Razali told Tammy Gorali in an interview for MotoMatters.com, the goal of Petronas is to invest in young talent for the longer term. In response, Rossi told the MotoGP.com website that if he joined them, it would not be for a farewell tour, but to race to win a title.

At the moment, talks are happening through the intermediary of Yamaha. Both Rossi and Petronas are discussing options with Yamaha, and as Yamaha will have a major role to play in putting together any team for Rossi, they are the first port of call for clearing away obstacles.

The link up feels inevitable, however. Rossi looks determined to continue for 2021, and Yamaha have promised him a bike, and in the cash-strapped post-COVID-19 era, having Yamaha bear some of the financial burden should be attractive, even to a well-funded team like Petronas. Speaking to MotoGP.com, Rossi admitted his options were either race with Petronas next year or retire. Right now, Rossi does not look anywhere near ready to retire.

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Grand Prix Commission Confirms No Wildcards, Extends Engine Development For KTM, Aprilia

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated motorcycle racing in many different ways, some quite unexpected. To address some of those complications, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rulemaking body, agreed a number of exceptions to the rules for the 2020 season, concerning wildcards, concerning concession points, and concerning engine development.

Engine development had already been frozen in response to the coronavirus crisis. In part as a cost-cutting measure, and in part because the European manufacturers had had their factories closed, all six MSMA members agreed to halt engine development and use the engines they were due to homologate for the 2020 season for the start of the 2021 season.

That was a good move for most factories, but it put Aprilia, who had just designed and built a brand new 90°V engine, in a difficult situation. After such a major redesign, Aprilia were left with a lot of unknowns with the RS-GP engine, not least reliability. At the Sepang and Qatar tests, there were signs that the still young engine was still suffering a number of teething problems.

Consequently, the MSMA and the GPC agreed to allow the factories with concessions - factories which have not scored sufficient podiums in the past two seasons - continue developing their engines until June 29th of this year. That will allow KTM and Aprilia to continue to work on their engines for another two months.

This is particularly important for Aprilia, who wanted to run reliability tests on the dyno, to address the issues which arose during the MotoGP tests in February and March this year.

The system of concessions is an added headache during the pandemic. The system, which allows less successful factories to change and develop their engines during the season, and to do unlimited testing, is based on results achieved in the past two seasons. If a factory with concessions scores six concession points (accrued by scoring podiums), then they lose those concessions, and lose the right to testing and engine development.

However, the rules also say that if a manufacturer scores no concession points (i.e. is not on the podium) for an entire season, then they are given the right to concessions. In a normal, 19- or 20-race season, that is a good measure of where a manufacturer stands. But in 2020, with a shortened season and currently an unknown number of races on the calendar, it could be possible for an otherwise successful factory to be granted concessions with a couple of poor performances.

If, for example, there is another spike in COVID-19 cases after the two races to be held at Jerez, and racing becomes possible once again, then those results could determine who gets concessions. If no Ducati were to end up on the podium in either race, then Ducati would get concessions, despite the fact that Andrea Dovizioso has finished second in the championship for the past three seasons. Even more absurdly, if Yamaha were to take a clean sweep of the podium in both Jerez races, then the other five factories would all be granted concessions, while Yamaha would be stuck with limited testing and an engine freeze in 2021.

To address this potential anomaly, no manufacturers will be granted concessions at the end of the 2020 season. It will be possible to accumulate concession points which will carry over for the next two seasons by scoring podiums in 2020, but if a factory does not get on the podium in 2020, they will not be given concessions.

The final announcement made concerned wildcards. News of this had been circulating for a few days, but with any racing this year almost certain to be done completely behind closed doors, with no fans, media, guests, or VIPs present, then allowing in extra engineers and mechanics, along with riders as wildcards, was deemed to pose an unnecessary risk and an unnecessary complication. It could also complicate negotiations with local and national health authorities over the safety of holding events.

The dropping of wildcards means that Jorge Lorenzo will not race for Yamaha at Barcelona, as he had originally planned. It also means that test riders such as Sylvain Guintoli, Stefan Bradl, Michele Pirro, and Mika Kallio will not race as wildcards for their respective factories.

Whether Bradley Smith races in 2020 remains to be seen, as the Englishman is still due to step up to take the place of Andrea Iannone, should the Italian still be suspended when racing resumes. If Iannone's appeal to the CAS is successful, and he is allowed to race in 2020, then Smith will not be allowed to race for Aprilia as a wildcard.

The FIM press release from the Grand Prix Commission appears below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in electronic meetings held on 30 April and 7 May 2020, made the following decisions which are all consequent on the impact of the coronavirus epidemic:

CONCESSION POINTS – MotoGP CLASS MANUFACTURERS

One consequence of the reduced number of events in 2020 meant it was possible for a non-concession manufacturer to gain concessions for 2021 based on results in just a few races. To address this issue the Commission agreed the following change to the regulations:

During the 2020 season concessions can only be lost, but not gained.

Current regulations apply to the timing of the loss of concessions.

All concession points gained during the 2020 by concession manufacturers will continue to have a 2-year validity.

ENGINE HOMOLOGATION – MotoGP CLASS MANUFACTURERS WITH CONCESSIONS

The GPC has decided that homologation of 2020/21 engine specifications for MotoGP class manufactures who benefit from concessions can be postponed. This means that KTM and Aprilia are now required to supply sample engines to the Technical Director by the deadline of 29th. June 2020.

WILD CARD ENTRIES – ALL CLASSES

The likelihood of any events in 2020 needing to be held behind closed doors means that it is necessary to keep participant numbers to the absolute minimum. It is also important to allow optimum utilisation of pit box space by the contracted teams.

The Commission have therefore decided that wild card entries, in all classes, will be suspended for the 2020 season. This decision was also in line with cost reduction policies for MotoGP Class manufacturers. There is every intention to restore wild card entries in 2021 but this decision will be reviewed prior to the 2021 season.

A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/grand-prix/

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Oschersleben WorldSBK Round Officially Canceled, Jerez Rescheduled

The German round of WorldSBK at Oschersleben has now officially been canceled. With Germany still imposing restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and large-scale events being banned in the country until August 31st, it was clear that the race would have to be postponed at the very least. When postponement proved not to be possible, cancellation was the only option which remained.

In its place, Dorna is planning to hold a round of WorldSBK in Jerez. Today, Dorna, the regional government of Andalusia, and the city council of Jerez submitted a proposal to the Spanish government to stage two MotoGP races and a round of WorldSBK at the Jerez circuit, to bring a return to world championship motorcycle racing. The MotoGP races would be held on the weekends of July 19th and 26th, while the WorldSBK round would take place on the weekend of August 2nd. All races would happen with a much-reduced paddock, and without fans present.

That proposal must now be approved by several Spanish ministries, including the ministry of health and the ministry for transport. Once they give the go ahead, the MotoGP and WorldSBK rounds can go ahead.

At the moment, the WorldSBK calendar is due to resume at Donington Park on the weekend of July 5th. However, it is unclear whether that can go ahead as planned.

Below is the press release from Dorna:


Proposal in place for rescheduled Spanish Round at Jerez, Oschersleben cancelled

The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship set for further changes in order to resume racing

A teleconferencing meeting was held this morning between Juan Antonio Marín, Vice President of the Andalusian Government, Mamen Sánchez Díaz, Mayor of Jerez de la Frontera, and Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports. Following the meeting, the three parties have agreed to propose to the Government of Spain that the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s Spanish Round at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto will take place from the 31st of July to 2nd August. This would follow two consecutive MotoGP™ World Championship events at the circuit.

Once the authorization of the Spanish Government has been received, then the Spanish Round will have a new date. However, the first test would be the Spanish Grand Prix, which will open the season in the MotoGP™ category, and the second will be called the Andalusian Grand Prix.

Regrettably, after many scenarios being examined and evaluated and due to the extension of the German government's ban on large gatherings, the German Round has been cancelled. All parties are working on a suitable solution for the German Round that meets the interests of everyone for 2021. With the health and safety of all concerned at the forefront of the proposal, the proposal process regarding the Spanish Round is underway and updates will be communicated accordingly.

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Another Step Closer: Dorna, Andalusia, Jerez Agree Conditions For MotoGP And WorldSBK Races At Jerez

The return of World Championship racing took a big step towards reality on Thursday morning. At a teleconference, Dorna, the regional government of Andalusia, and the city council of Jerez agreed on conditions to hold two MotoGP races and a WorldSBK round at the Jerez circuit. The conditions would included a vastly reduced paddock, and holding the races behind closed doors, with no fans present. Those conditions have been turned into a proposal and submitted to the Spanish government for consideration.

If approved, the agreement would see MotoGP race at Jerez on consecutive weekends, on the 19th and 26th of July, and WorldSBK race in Jerez a week later, on the weekend of August 2nd. Those rounds would be added to the existing and revised provisional MotoGP and WorldSBK calendars, pending the approval of the FIM. The FIM is expected to nod through those changes.

How firm those calendars are is open to question. At the moment, the two Jerez races - if they happen - would be the first races on the MotoGP calendar, followed by the Brno and Austria rounds, both of which have a chance of going ahead. Czech TV reported yesterday that the organizers are hopeful of being able to hold the race behind closed doors, and the Red Bull Ring is in talks with the Austrian government to allow F1 to kick off its 2020 season at the circuit in July, followed by MotoGP in August.

The WorldSBK season is still scheduled to resume at Donington Park in the UK on the weekend of July 5th. No announcement has been made on that race, but given that the UK is still struggling with the disease where other countries are further along the road to recovery, the chances of it being held look slim.

Though the news of the Jerez MotoGP rounds is positive, it still faces significant obstacles. Dorna have sent the Spanish government a proposal, with no guarantee that the health ministry will approve them. But Dorna has been in extensive talks with the Spanish government on the subject of organizing races for a very long time, and must have indications that the government would look favorably on it.

With tourism a key industry for the Andalusia autonomous region, the regional government is keen to have races there. Despite the fact that no fans will be allowed to attend, the race will once again showcase the area as a destination once tourism returns.

The press release from Dorna appears below:


Agreement to make a proposal to the Spanish government to hold two Grands Prix and a WorldSBK round at Jerez

Thursday, 07 May 2020

The Regional Government of Andalusia, the City Council of Jerez de la Frontera and Dorna Sports have agreed to make a proposal to the Spanish government that, if approved, would see the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto hold two MotoGP™ Grands Prix and one WorldSBK round at the end of July and the start of August.

After an electronic meeting this morning between Juan Antonio Marín, Vice President of the Regional Government of Andalusia; Mamen Sánchez Díaz, Mayor of Jerez de la Frontera; and Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports; the three parties have agreed to make a proposal to the Spanish government to organise two FIM MotoGP™ World Championship Grands Prix at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto on the weekends of the 19th and 26th of July, respectively.

Also proposed is a MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship round at the venue, to be held on the 2nd of August.

Once authorisation from the Spanish government has been given, the three events will be proposed to the FIM for inclusion on their respective calendars. The first MotoGP™ event would be the Grand Prix of Spain, becoming the season opener for the MotoGP™ class, and the second would be the Grand Prix of Andalusia.

Source: 

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A Ray Of Hope? Plans Being Made For Jerez Double Header To Kick Off MotoGP Season On July 19th

There are signs of hope that the start of the 2020 MotoGP season is drawing near. According to reports in the Diario de Jerez, the journal of record for the city of Jerez and surrounding regions, Dorna is set to hold a virtual meeting with the city council of Jerez and the regional government of Andalusia to discuss plans to start the MotoGP season at the Jerez circuit, with two races to be held on consecutive weekends, on July 19th and 26th.

There are still a lot of hurdles to be crossed before the racing can happen, but the hope is that with the COVID-19 outbreak starting to ease off in Spain, with the number of daily new cases at about a third of the level it was at the peak of the pandemic, and daily deaths a quarter of what they once were, the health authorities will start to ease the severe restrictions in Spain. If the current pace of improvement continues, the situation could look much more positive in two months' time.

If the races can be organized, then they will almost certainly be held behind closed doors, and with a highly restricted paddock. As Mat Oxley set out in his blog this week, Dorna are trying to put together a massive testing program to help alleviate concerns of regional and national authorities. Dorna have been working closely with various authorities in Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic, while the Red Bull Ring is handling discussions with the Austrian government, as they are trying to organize races for F1 and for MotoGP.

The chances of being able to hold the Brno round on the scheduled date is also looking better. Today, Brno regional TV reported that plans to hold the race at the Czech circuit behind closed doors are also at an advanced stage.

If racing can resume, and the season kicks off again at Jerez in July, then it is likely that the calendar will be rejigged to schedule racing in Europe first of all. There are plans to hold multiple races at the same circuit to get to the ten or eleven races Dorna feels is necessary to have something resembling a full season.

That would also give the series time to see how the COVID-19 pandemic develops, and how international air travel resumes. Once international - and more particularly, intercontinental - air travel is possible, then Dorna can consider whether the races planned for the Americas and Asia are feasible.

Significant obstacles remain, of course, not least the matter of arranging for marshals to attend the races. But it appears that the plans Dorna has been making and continually updating are starting to look as if they might actually be put into practice.

All around Europe, governments are starting to ease restrictions. The German government announced that the Bundesliga professional soccer league will restart with games to be played behind closed doors, with the date for the first games to be decided on Thursday. Restrictions on groups and restaurants are to be eased in The Netherlands, and Spain and Belgium have also announced an easing of the lockdown.

We may be moving out of the stage described by Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura as "optimistic pessimism" and into the next stage, of "pessimistic optimism". 6 weeks ago, the possibility of there being no racing at all in 2020 looked very real. Now, the question is when and where, barring a new spike in cases in Europe.

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Suzuki Ecstar Extend With Joan Mir Through 2022

Another piece has slotted into place for the 2021 MotoGP season, and like the last announcement - Alex Rins at Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP - it is far from a surprise. Today, Suzuki announced it has extended its deal with Joan Mir for another two years, for the 2021 and the 2022 seasons.

The deal had been long coming. Talks had been ongoing for a while, to such an extent that Joan Mir dropped a very heavy hint that the deal was done in an Instagram Live question and answer session, saying that he "wasn't allowed to say anything" but that he would have news soon.

Mir's signing makes it two factory teams which are full up, Suzuki joining the Monster Energy Yamaha team. Two more riders are signed for the future: Tito Rabat has another year on his deal at Avintia, and will be riding in 2021. And Marc Marquez is locked in at Repsol Honda for four more seasons after this, and will race for them through 2024.

The next moves on the MotoGP rider market are likely to take some more time. Valentino Rossi has been told that there will be a factory bike with factory support from Yamaha if he decides to race in 2021, which is looking increasingly likely as the start of the season is delayed further, giving him fewer races to base a decision on. KTM is likely to stick with their current riders, and Aprilia looks likely to retain Aleix Espargaro, though the second rider is in question.

The Ducati seats seem to be open, with an abundance of candidates. Ducati have made clear they want so see some racing before making a decision, and are in no rush to make their minds up.

Current MotoGP rider line up for the 2021 season:

Rider Bike Contract until
Monster Energy Yamaha
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2022
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2022
     
     
Repsol Honda
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2024
     
     
Suzuki Ecstar
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
     
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati 2021

Press release from Suzuki announcing Joan Mir has extended his contract:


SUZUKI CONFIRMS THE RENEWAL OF JOAN MIR FOR 2021 AND 2022

Team Suzuki Press Office – May 2.

Team Suzuki Ecstar and Suzuki Racing Company are pleased to announce that Joan Mir will remain in blue colours for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The news of the renewal of his contract comes shortly after that of Alex Rins, who will also be with the team until 2022. The pairing provide a solid and competitive unit for Suzuki as they look towards the future and aim high in terms of results.

Joan Mir made his MotoGP debut with Team Suzuki Ecstar in 2019, following a highly successful Moto3 season in 2017 which saw him crowned champion. The 22 year old who hails from Palma de Mallorca came quickly through the ranks early in his career and proved to be a fast learner when making his ‘top class’ debut too. Gelling well with his new team, he secured 8th place in his inaugural race in Suzuki colours, going on to score another nine Top 10 finishes in 2019 despite an injury hit mid-season.

Once fully recovered, Joan was able to pick up an impressive 5th place finish at Phillip Island last season, and in the 2020 pre-season tests he was showing fantastic form and pace with the latest generation GSX-RR.

The current situation surrounding the Covid-19 crisis makes for a strange environment for both the team and the rider at the moment, with so much uncertainty in the air. However, this latest announcement ensures a firm eye is kept on the future and proves the confidence which Team Suzuki Ecstar have in their young rider.

Shinichi Sahara - Project Leader:

“We are proud to have reached an agreement with Mir alongside Rins and maintain the current lineup. This will give us a continuity that will be very helpful for the development from a technical point of view. The consistency of keeping the same riders is very important, because it helps us keep track of the progress made and means we stay on the right path. Beside this, Joan is a talented rider, he has already shown strong skills last year and we believe he could harvest some important successes with our team as soon as his experience grows.”

Davide Brivio:

“We are very happy to have reached an agreement with Joan Mir and have him complete our lineup for the next two years. We consider Joan a very talented rider and it is important to continue together to take full advantage of the experience that we have built so far and trying to improve even more. We are also happy to have a young team with two very strong riders such as Alex and Joan, which has always been our real target. This allows us to look to the future with confidence.

“I would like to thank Joan for trusting us with his future and also the whole Suzuki Motor Corporation who supports us. Being able to extend the agreements with both Alex Rins and Joan Mir during such an extraordinary and strange moment in history is a sign that give us high hopes for the future, and encouragement to all the fans to look ahead with positivity and optimism, with the hope of being able to get back on track as soon as possible.”

Joan Mir:

“I’m extremely happy to sign with Suzuki for another two years - renewing is the best thing that could happen and it’s a dream come true again! It’s really important for me to continue because now I have more time to learn and more time to show my potential. Two years can go by quickly, but I am ready to arrive at a higher level, and we are working every day to make that happen. I am also so pleased on a personal level because I have a really good team and crew around me. I really want to thank everyone at Suzuki for their confidence in me, and let’s see if I can get the results that we’re capable of.”

#SuzukiStaySafe #WeWillReunite #RidersAtHome #StayAtHome

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First COVID-19 Cancellations: Sachsenring, Assen, And Kymiring MotoGP Rounds Scrapped For 2020

So far, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the 2020 MotoGP season has been to delay everything. But today, we had the first cancellations. The races at the Sachsenring in Germany, Assen in the Netherlands, and the Kymiring in Finland have all been canceled for 2020.

Canceling the remaining three races due to be held before the summer break gives Dorna and the FIM some room to see how the outbreak of the coronavirus plays out, as countries start to gently ease restrictions. There was too much uncertainty surrounding the three rounds in late June and early July to know under what conditions they would have been able to go ahead.

As three of the four most northerly races (Silverstone being the fourth), the Sachsenring, Assen, and the Kymiring had the most limited window for rescheduling, with the weather being a factor much earlier on than races in southern Europe. In addition, the Sachsenring and Assen both have a limited number of noise days, during which they can exceed normally much stricter noise limits.

The cancellation comes as a blow for the TT Circuit in Assen. This is only the second time in it's 95-year history the race has been canceled. The last time the Dutch TT at Assen was not held was between 1940 and 1945, after Nazi Germany invaded The Netherlands during the Second World War. It has featured unbroken on the Grand Prix calendar since the World Championship started in 1949.

It is also a grave financial blow. In normal years, the TT Circuit generates half its annual income from the Dutch TT, and the loss of all activity at the circuit is forcing it to dig into its financial reserves. The 2020 race was due to be the 90th edition of the Dutch TT, with a range of special events planned. That will now have to wait until next year.

The cancellation of the remaining races before the summer break point to the strategy to be pursued by Dorna, as I understand it was Dorna who made the decision to pull the plug on the German, Dutch, and Finnish rounds. With the first half of the season lost, resuming the schedule more or less as planned after the summer break is the simplest strategy it seems. Though the rounds at Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, and Barcelona have only been postponed so far, there is some room to fit at least some of them into the season in the second half of the year.

There are obstacles, of course: Brno looks impossible, given the current situation in the Czech Republic, which would mean a start at Austria. There is also the possibility of a test being held beforehand, with Jerez being the rumored location.

But there is still a long way to go before any racing can resume, and we are still in a very fast-moving situation. Less than 9 weeks ago, the 2020 season looks to have been going ahead as normal. Since then, the world has gone from full lockdown to the start of easing restrictions. It is hard to say what the world will look like in another 9 weeks time.

The press release from Dorna and the FIM appears below:


HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, Motul TT Assen and Grand Prix of Finland cancelled

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, the Motul TT Assen and the Grand Prix of Finland. The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has obliged the cancellation of all three events.

The HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland was set to take place at the Sachsenring from the 19th to the 21st of June, the Motul TT Assen at the TT Circuit Assen from the 26th to the 28th of June, and the Grand Prix of Finland was set to see the new KymiRing make its debut on the MotoGP™ calendar from the 10th to the 12th of July.

The cancellation of these events also obliges the cancellation of the corresponding FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, Northern Talent Cup and FIM Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup track activity at the same events.

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: “It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of these three important Grands Prix on the MotoGP calendar. The German GP is raced on a truly unique track with an incredible history, and the KymiRing is an exciting new venue set to welcome Grand Prix motorcycle racing back to Finland for the first time since 1982. And the iconic TT Circuit Assen had the unique honour of being the only venue to have held a round of the motorcycle racing Grand Prix World Championship every year, uninterrupted, since the Championship began in 1949.

“On behalf of Dorna I would like to thank all the fans for their understanding and patience as we wait for the situation to improve. We very much look forward to returning to the Sachsenring and the TT Circuit Assen in 2021, and eagerly await the Grand Prix debut of the new KymiRing next season.”

Any and all updates regarding the affected calendars of the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, the FIM Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and the Northern Talent Cup will be provided as soon as available.

Source: 

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