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Aleix Espargaro Stays To Lead Aprilia MotoGP Project For Two More Years

It was a day of good news and bad news for Aprilia. On the day that the Court of Arbitration of Sport announced that WADA had appealed against the penalty imposed on Andrea Iannone, demanding his suspension be extended to the full four years set out in the doping code, the Italian factory was also able to announce a two-year contract extension with Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard will remain with Aprilia for the 2021 and 2022 seasons in MotoGP.

The move was widely expected. Espargaro has been the mainstay of Aprilia's MotoGP project since arriving at the Noale factory in 2017. In the first three years of his contract with Aprilia, he has had three different teammates, starting with Sam Lowes, then Scott Redding, and finally, last year, Andrea Iannone. Thanks to Iannone's suspension, it looks like Espargaro will have a fourth teammate in 2020, almost certainly Bradley Smith. And that could change again in 2021, if Iannone does not have his doping ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There were periods last year where Espargaro did not look like extending his contract. The Spaniard grew increasingly frustrated, both with a lack of performance with the Aprilia RS-GP, reliability issues with the bike, and with a lack of updates. But his patience was rewarded over the winter, when Romano Albesiano and his team produced a brand-new bike with a completely new 90° V4 engine. The bike did everything better than its predecessor, and had vastly more potential for improvement.

Espargaro has been plain that the arrival of Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola made the difference. By taking on the running of the racing department, Rivola has freed up Romano Albesiano to concentrate on the engineering side, which was always his speciality. Administration did not come naturally to Albesiano, and that proved costly in terms of development to the RS-GP. Aprilia has made major steps forward since Rivola took over at the beginning of 2019.

Espargaro's signing brings the total number of signed riders to eight. That total is likely to increase soon, as a number of new contracts appear to be nearing completion. Pol Espargaro is set to sign for the Repsol Honda squad, which would necessitate finding a slot for Alex Marquez, currently racing alongside his brother in the factory Repsol team. Andrea Dovizioso is close to extending his deal with the factory Ducati team. And Danilo Petrucci, newly liberated from Ducati, could close a deal with either KTM or Aprilia to remain in MotoGP, replacing either Pol Espargaro or Andrea Iannone for 2021. That is, if Ducati can't persuade Petrucci to switch to WorldSBK for next season.

The officially signed rider line up for the 2021 season so far is as follows:

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)
     
     
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2022
     
     
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati 2021

The Aprilia press release announcing the deal with Espargaro appears below:


ALEIX ESPARGARÓ CONFIRMED AT APRILIA WITH A TWO-YEAR CONTRACT FOR THE 2021 AND 2022 MOTOGP SEASONS

ALEIX ESPARGARÓ: “WE HAVE GROWN A LOT. I BELIEVE IN THIS PROJECT AND I AM HAPPY TO STAY TO BE ABLE TO TAKE APRILIA WHERE WE DESERVE TO BE”

Aleix Espargaró will be an Aprilia Racing rider for the 2021 and 2022 seasons as well. With great satisfaction on both sides, this confirms one of the longest current MotoGP associations.

Astride the RS-GP since the 2017 season, Aleix has weathered various phases of the Aprilia MotoGP project, from the great and promising growth in the first season to the difficulties of 2018, all the way to the technical revolution of 2019 which led to the birth of the new 2020 RS-GP

The latest prototype showed significant and promising signs of competitiveness in the winter tests, before the 2020 season was disrupted, so much that they contributed to Aleix’s decision.

Passionate, always committed on the track and a motivator in the garage, this will bring Aleix to his sixth season in a row astride the Italian bike. This is a sign of continuity and trust that comes at this turning point in Aprilia’s technical project.

ALEIX ESPARGARÓ

“I am happy about this confirmation. The human aspect is extremely important for me, and in four seasons, Aprilia has become my second family, so with this contract, which is certainly the most important of my career, they demonstrated that I am at the centre of this project. On a technical level, the growth in recent months convinced me, with the arrival of many reinforcements and the début of the 2020 RS-GP, which did so well in the tests. I feel like we need to finish the job we started over the winter. I can’t wait to get back together with my entire team and race with the new bike, to take this project where it deserves to be.”

MASSIMO RIVOLA - CEO APRILIA RACING

“We wanted Aleix’s confirmation by all means and we are very happy that it arrived. At a rather tumultuous time for the rider market, providing continuity for our project with a rider the calibre of Aleix is essential. With him, who we have established as our captain, we have begun an entirely new project, involving new resources and taking a bike that seems to have come out very well onto the track. Now we hope that he will soon take an Aprilia to the top, where it has never been in MotoGP history.”

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WADA Appeals Iannone Doping Ban, Demands CAS Reinstate Four-Year Ban

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has finally announced that they will be hearing the appeal of Andrea Iannone against his doping ban of 18 months, imposed by the FIM International Disciplinary Court at the end of March. However, in a surprise move, the CAS also announced they will be hearing an appeal against the leniency of the ban from WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, who want the full four-year ban reinstated.

At the heart of the case is the doping test Andrea Iannone failed after the race in Sepang, in November 2019. Traces of drostanolone, a banned anabolic-androgenic steroid, used mainly for weight loss, was found in that urine sample. As a non-specified substance, drostanolone use carries an automatic four-year ban under the WADA code, which the FIM signs up to and incorporates.

At an appeal to the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI), that court reduced Iannone's ban to 18 months, after Iannone presented evidence that he had ingested the banned substance accidentally, without his knowledge, and without him being able to suspect he might have ingested it.

This is the reason Iannone believes that the ban should be lifted altogether. Not only was ingestion accidental, but Iannone claims he had taken precautions to avoid eating contaminated meat. The levels found in Iannone's sample were so low that accidental contamination is the only possible explanation, he claims.

However, this explanation is precisely why WADA is appealing against the reduction of the ban. Under WADA rules, athletes are personally responsible for everything they eat and drink, and everything entering their body. The WADA rules do not allow for accidental ingestion, and although there is a defense of "No Fault or Negligence", the standards are exceptionally high and hard to meet. WADA want the full penalty, a ban of four years, to be applied to Iannone.

The WADA has standing in this case as it wrote the rules which the FIM adopted to combat doping. In the run up to the 2016 Olympic games, WADA increased the maximum ban for doping from 2 years to 4 years. It is possible that WADA are clamping down on anything which could be seen as setting a precedent or opening a loophole in the run up to the next Olympics, to be held in Tokyo in 2021 - delayed a year, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

No date has been set for the hearing, and the current list of hearings in front of the CAS extends into November. The chances of Iannone's ban being heard ahead of the start of the 2020 MotoGP season on July 19th seem very slim indeed, and there is a chance the hearing won't be heard until much later in the year.

While Iannone is still suspended pending the CAS appeal, Bradley Smith will take his place. The Englishman and Aprilia test rider is due to take part in a test at Misano on Wednesday June 10th, together with Lorenzo Savadori.

The press release from the Court of Arbitration for Sport appears below:


MEDIA RELEASE
MOTO GP

THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT (CAS) REGISTERS THE APPEALS FILED BY ANDREA IANNONE AND THE W ORLD ANTI-DOPING AGENCY (WADA) AGAINST THE FIM INTERNATIONAL DISCIPLINARY COURT DECISION OF 31 MARCH 2020

Lausanne, 9 June 2020 - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has registered the appeals filed by Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the decision taken by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) International Disciplinary Court decision dated 31 March 2020 (the Challenged Decision) in which Andrea Iannone was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation and an 18-month period of ineligibility was imposed on him.

Andrea Iannone seeks to have the Challenged Decision annulled, whereas WADA requests that the Challenged Decision be replaced by a new decision imposing a four-year period of ineligibility on the rider.

The procedures have been consolidated and will be referred to the same Panel of arbitrators. A procedural timetable is being established for the filing of the written submissions. No hearing date has been fixed yet.

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Motegi Round Canceled As MotoGP Prepares For A European Season

After last week's announcements that the Silverstone and Phillip Island MotoGP rounds were canceled, today, the Japanese round of MotoGP joined the list of cancellations. The race at Motegi has been called off, and will not take place this year, despite the importance of the race to the Japanese manufacturers.

Today's announcement was the last step in a general clearing out of the schedule to allow for a calendar of races which could feasibly be held for 2020. The plan, as Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta pointed out in the press release, is to do as many races in Europe as possible, and only heading overseas after that, if international travel is still possible. "For this reason, the FIM and Dorna, in consultation with IRTA and MSMA, have decided that, until mid-November, MotoGP will remain in Europe to do as many European MotoGP events as we are able to. Therefore, overseas events, if at all possible, should be scheduled after mid-November – which would be too late in the year for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan to be held," Ezpeleta is quoted as saying.

As I explained on Friday, the plan is to run calendar as pairs of races on back-to-back weekends at the same circuits. The series is due to kick off at Jerez, on July 19th, with another race at the Spanish circuit the following weekend, July 26th. One race will be named the Spanish Grand Prix, the next the Grand Prix of Andalusia. Then one race at Brno, two races in Austria, and races in Barcelona, Misano, Aragon, and Valencia. There is a chance that Le Mans could feature on the calendar, with French Grand Prix promoter Claude Michy working towards a race in the first half of October.

By September/October, it should be clear whether it will be possible to travel overseas for races in late November/early December. The date limits the options to the tropics or the southern hemisphere. Although the race in Austin has still not officially been canceled, it seems unlikely the race can be held in 2020. That would leave Buriram, Sepang, and Argentina, though Carmelo Ezpeleta has already made it clear that these races will only go ahead if fans can attend. A decision on that is still some way off.

There are still obstacles in the way of any calendar. The latest issue is that the Spanish Minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism has said that visitors from the UK will not be excluded from quarantine rules on tourists which Spain is due to lift on July 1st, unless the UK improves its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. A sizable number of paddock staff, including mechanics, engineers, and riders, are resident in Britain and could be forced to leave early, and self-isolate for 14 days ahead of the races in Spain. Other countries may also suffer a similar fate.

We will have more clarity on a potential calender later in the week, when an initial calendar is due to be released. That calendar, like most things at the moment, will be provisional until the last race has finished.

Below is the press release from Dorna announcing the cancellation of Motegi:


Motul Grand Prix of Japan cancelled

Monday, 01 June 2020

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has obliged the cancellation of the event, which was set to take place from the 16th to the 18th of October at the Twin Ring Motegi.

The home of MotoGP™ manufacturers Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, Japan is vital to the global presence and success of MotoGP™.

The iconic Twin Ring Motegi has been on the calendar since 1999 and the FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports very much look forward to returning to race at the venue in 2021, in front of some of the most dedicated and loyal fans in the world.

Kaoru Tanaka, President, Mobilityland Corporation: “Mobilityland has been preparing for this year’s MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix, however the situations in Japan and Europe are unpredictable and the extension of the international travel ban is expected. As a result of our discussions with Dorna, the managerial body of the series, we agreed that we have no choice but to cancel the Japanese GP in order to complete the season.

“We understand that this is a great disappointment for fans and all related parties. We thank you for your understanding.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: “It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at the very unique Motegi circuit, meaning we will not have a Japanese Grand Prix on the calendar for the first time since 1986.

“The MotoGP family is working very hard to be able to re-start the racing season and hold as many events as possible, and in the safest way possible. For this reason, the FIM and Dorna, in consultation with IRTA and MSMA, have decided that, until mid-November, MotoGP will remain in Europe to do as many European MotoGP events as we are able to. Therefore, overseas events, if at all possible, should be scheduled after mid-November – which would be too late in the year for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan to be held.

“For this reason it has been decided, in consultation with Mobilityland, that the Motul Grand Prix of Japan cannot be held in 2020. I very much thank Mobilityland for the support given to MotoGP.

“On behalf of Dorna, I would also 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 Motegi next year.”

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At Least Three Events Scheduled For 2020 WorldSBK Calendar, More To Follow

After the announcement that MotoGP was canceling some events with a view to moving ahead on others, today, Dorna announced a plan for the next three races on the WorldSBK calendar. Racing will resume at Jerez on the weekend after MotoGP leaves, and will then move to Portimao and Aragon.

The schedule does mean rearranging the existing plans. The Donington Park round of WorldSBK, planned for the weekend of July 5th, and the already rescheduled Assen round of WorldSBK on the weekend of August 23rd, have been postponed again. No new date has been set for the races, but the announcement says they will be reviewed as the pandemic situation develops.

Below is the press release from Dorna announcing the plans:


UPDATE: 2020 WorldSBK season situation features positive prospects

Progress is being made in order to have the World Superbike Championship restart under safe conditions this season

The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is working hard on resuming racing action for the remainder of the season, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Championship started in fine style at Phillip Island and now, Dorna WSBK Organization would like to issue an update on the plans to get racing back underway, with the initial racing plan taking place in the month of August once permission is approved.

The Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto should welcome the restart of the season on the 31st July – 2nd August, before going to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal a week later on the 7th – 9th August. The season should then follow our current provisional schedule, at the MotorLand Aragon venue on 28th – 30th. The health of everybody is at the forefront of decision making and these rounds within the Iberian Peninsula are planned to be held behind closed doors, in-line with social distancing measures and medical guidelines set by the Spanish and Portuguese governments. Nevertheless, the situation is evolving, and we will adapt our protocols to the situation of the time.

Furthermore, updates have been made to the following events: the British and Dutch Rounds held at Donington Park and TT Circuit Assen respectively, have been postponed. The Dutch round itself has already been rescheduled once, from the 17th – 19th of April to the 21st – 23rd of August. However, new plans are underway with the best interests in mind, given the current restrictions in place that affect major sporting events within both the UK and the Netherlands. Further updates for the end season calendar will be communicated soon in order to further clarify the calendar situation.

The FIM and Dorna WSBK Organization is evaluating the different scenarios and adapting to each situation in each of the countries we should visit on a day-by-day basis. Our gratitude once again goes to all parties involved within the WorldSBK fraternity for their continued support. However, whichever decision is reached will have the health and safety at the forefront and that is something simply uncompromisable during these challenging times.

Gregorio Lavilla, WorldSBK Executive Director, Sporting and Organization Departments, said: “We are very positive about the future, as all the signs are pointing in a good direction to start in Jerez. We are looking at all possible scenarios for all three classes to race, although we continue to work hard on finding the optimum scenario for all parties. A lot will depend on the measures that various governments will implement. As for Donington Park and Assen, we are working with the circuits and governments to establish the best possible outcome for all, with the intention to hold those rounds towards the end of the 2020 season.”

Any further updates will be communicated accordingly.

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Silverstone And Phillip Island MotoGP Rounds Canceled, The Outlines Of a New 2020 Calendar Emerge

The outlines of a 2020 MotoGP calendar are starting to take shape. Today, Dorna announced that the races at Phillip Island and Silverstone have been canceled. MotoGP will not visit either the UK or Australia in 2020.

The news does not come as a surprise. The strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic chosen by the Australian government foresees opening the country to international travel only in December of 2020, making planning a race there almost impossible. Australia, thanks in part to its remote location, has been extremely successful in containing the pandemic, with only 103 recorded deaths. The fact that a member of the McLaren team tested positive for the coronavirus during the Australian F1 Grand Prix in March made it less likely for restrictions to be eased for international sport.

Delaying the Phillip Island race would have been a possibility, but at the start of the year, before the pandemic upended the calendar, Dorna were looking at a major reshuffle of the calendar, with 2021 due to kick off at Phillip Island in late February or early March. Whether that idea played a role in canceling the race is unknown, but if MotoGP was planning to race at Phillip Island in early March, it made little sense trying to force a race through in November or December.

A MotoGP race in Silverstone would have had to take place behind closed doors, and without fans. Silverstone invested very heavily in 2019, having the track resurfaced for the second year in a row after the 2018 resurfacing had caused massive problems with drainage, and caused the race to be canceled due to weather conditions. The circuit is currently focused on hosting two F1 races at the end of July and early August, races which are also likely to be held behind closed doors, and with finances tight, a third race without fans would be tough to bear.

Dropping Silverstone also makes logistics easier. Silverstone was the last of the races in Northern Europe left, after Assen and the Sachsenring were scrapped, and the trip from Spain or Italy up to the UK would have been time-consuming. Border controls and checks put in place for cross-Channnel freight traffic to combat COVID-19 would have complicated logistics even further.

These will not be the last Grand Prix cancellations for 2020. The Japanese Grand Prix is unlikely to happen in 2020, and overseas races are far from certain. The plan as MotoMatters.com understands it is that overseas races will only happen if fans can be present. The Sepang and Buriram rounds are likely to go ahead under these conditions, and a race in the Americas could also happen. If it is not possible to race in front of fans, then these will also be canceled.

With Silverstone and Phillip Island dropped, MotoGP is heading to the point where it will be possible to draw up a new calendar. The prospects of the races planned for Jerez on July 19th and 26th going ahead were boosted recently when the Spanish Council for Sports, part of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, announced they were working to assist a return of motorcycle racing in Spain. Once Dorna gets approval from the Spanish Ministry of Health for its plans, the races can go ahead.

What will a 2020 calendar look like? It will be somewhere between 11 and 16 races, either all held in Europe, or, as explained above, with some races held overseas if fans can attend. Races will be held at the same circuit on back-to-back weekends, with little time off. The four circuits in Spain, Brno, Austria, and Misano will host races, while other circuits, such as Mugello and Portimao, are being held in reserve.

Whatever the final shape of a published calendar, it will remain provisional. Although the WHO are optimistic about a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak being more easily contained than the first wave, any major return of the disease will see all sports and mass events canceled once again. There will almost certainly be MotoGP races in 2020. But we won't know how many will be held until the season is over.

Below are the press release from Dorna, and a message from Silverstone CEO Stuart Pringle to ticket holders:


British and Australian Grands Prix cancelled

Friday, 29 May 2020

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the British and Australian Grands Prix. The ongoing coronavirus outbreak and resulting calendar changes have obliged the cancellation of both events.

The British Grand Prix was set to take place from the 28th to the 30th of August at the classic Silverstone Circuit. Silverstone hosted the first Grands Prix held on the British mainland from 1977, and MotoGP™ returned to the illustrious track ten years ago. 2020 will now sadly mark the first year MotoGP™ sees no track action in the British Isles for the first time in the Championship’s more than 70-year history.

The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix was set to take place at the legendary Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit from the 23rd to the 25th of October. Phillip Island hosted the very first Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in 1989 and since 1997 has been the only home of MotoGP™ Down Under - with its unique layout providing some of the greatest battles ever witnessed on two wheels.

The cancellation of the British Grand Prix also obliges the cancellation of the corresponding British Talent Cup track activity at the same event.

Stuart Pringle, Silverstone Managing Director: “We are extremely disappointed about the cancellation of the British MotoGP event, not least as the cancelled race in 2018 is still such a recent memory, but we support the decision that has had to be taken at this exceptional time.

“I want to thank the stoic British fans for their patience and support. We must now look forward to 2021 when Silverstone will once again host the fastest and most historic MotoGP race on the calendar and work hard to make it a truly exceptional event for all to enjoy.”

Paul Little AO, Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman: “We’re very disappointed that MotoGP fans throughout Victoria, Australia and internationally won’t get the chance to make the pilgrimage to see the world’s best riders compete on one of the best circuits anywhere in the world, but the right decision has been made.

“The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix puts Phillip Island on the global stage and it’ll be back better than ever in 2021.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: “We’re saddened to have to announce the cancellation of these iconic events after finding no way through the logistical and operational issues resulting from the pandemic and rearranged calendar. Silverstone and Phillip Island are always two of the most thrilling race weekends of the season, with both tracks never failing in their promise to deliver some of the closest racing in our Championship.

“On behalf of Dorna, I would like to once again extend my thanks to the fans for their understanding and patience as we wait for the situation to improve. We look forward to returning to Silverstone and Phillip Island next year for more incredible battles."


A message to British MotoGP™ 2020 ticket holders from Silverstone MD Stuart Pringle

May 29, 2020

As promised, I am writing to let you know the latest regarding the 2020 British Grand Prix MotoGP™ at Silverstone.

It is with the deepest of regret we are letting you know the 2020 round of the MotoGP™ world championship, due to be held at Silverstone on August 28 - 30, will not be going ahead.

Despite months of work behind-the-scenes to try and make this key event happen, logistical restrictions under the current situation, combined with a shortened and rearranged MotoGP™ calendar, has caused the cancellation of the event.

Our obligations to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing and delivering the event, our volunteer marshals and Race Makers, and of course, the amazing fans, means this is the best, safest and only decision to be made.

The global Coronavirus pandemic has been an enormous challenge for the UK and Silverstone and I wish to thank all of you for your patience during this time.

Nothing matters more to Silverstone and our owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, than taking care of our motorsport fans. I would like to reassure customers who have purchased a ticket that they will be given the option of either transferring their booking directly to 2021, or taking a full refund. All customers will be contacted in the next few weeks with full details, so we do ask them to please be patient with us as we work through all our bookings.

A thank you for key workers

I can also confirm that next year, we intend to give away thousands of tickets for the 2021 event to NHS and other key workers who have literally been putting their lives on the line for us all, during these challenging times. No one can be in any doubt of the huge debt of gratitude we owe to them.

Thank you for your patience, loyalty and support.

Stuart Pringle

Managing Director, Silverstone

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Grand Prix Commission Gives Hint Of Size Of Calendar With Engine Allocations

Today, the FIM announced that the Grand Prix Commission had decided on revised engine allocations for both the MotoGP and Moto3 classes. And in doing so, they gave a hint at how many races a 2020 MotoGP calendar might contain.

The GPC announced that in the MotoGP class, concession manufacturers (Aprilia and KTM) would be allowed 6 engines per rider for the season if the season consists of 11 races or less, and 7 engines if the season consists of up to 14 races. Non-concession manufacturers (Honda, Ducati, Suzuk, Yamaha) would have 4 or 5 engines in the respective cases.

The Moto3 engine allocation is a little more complex. Normally, Moto3 riders have 6 engines to last a season. If there are between 12 and 14 races held in 2020 - including the first race of the season, which was held back in March - then the riders will have 4 engines, and if there are between 14 and 18 races, then they will have 5 engines. If it isn't possible to hold a total of 12 engines, then this year's engine allocation will be combined with 2021, giving a grand total of 9 engines to last for both seasons.

The MotoGP engine allocations seem to point to a realistic calendar, with two possible scenarios: if MotoGP can only race in Europe, and no races can be held overseas, then a calendar of around 11 races seems likely. If it is possible to travel overseas - Thailand and Sepang seem the most likely candidates to host a race in 2020 - then there could be up 14 or so races.

The Grand Prix Commission also stepped in to ban private testing by the Moto2 and Moto3 teams. The decision was made on the grounds of fairness, and of finances. Budgets in the smaller classes are already under very heavy pressure due to the COVID-19 crisis, amplifying the advantage of the richer teams over the poorer teams. Add in the fact that travel restrictions vary hugely from country to country, and it is obvious that some riders and teams will be able to test, while it will be impossible for riders who can't travel. Add in the limited availability of tracks, and it made sense to ban private testing altogether.

A test is due to be held on the Wednesday before the Jerez round on July 19th, with all three classes getting sessions on track.

The FIM press release containing the new engine limits appears below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decisions of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in electronic meetings held on 22 and 27 May 2020, made the following decisions which are consequent on the impact of the coronavirus epidemic:

MOTOGP CLASS ENGINE ALLOCATION

Even though the FIM, IRTA, MSMA and Dorna are optimistic about restarting the Championship, it’s still uncertain how many events it will be possible to hold in 2020. For this reason it has been unanimously approved that the MotoGP Class engine allocation would be decided before agreed before publication of the revised calendar and would be per-event as follows:

Remaining Events on the 2020 Calendar (Qatar Grand Prix excluded) ENGINE ALLOCATION PER RIDER
Non-Concession Manufacturers Manufacturers Qualifying for Concessions
up to 11 events 4 6
up to 14 events 5 7

MOTO3 CLASS ENGINE ALLOCATION

Similarly, for the Moto3 class, the engine allocation has also been agreed unanimously:

  1. If the total number of events in 2020 is lower than 12 (including Qatar), both 2020 and 2021 will be considered as only one season and the combined maximum engine allocation for both seasons will be of 9 engines.
  2. If the number of races in 2020 is 12 or more, then the allocation for the 2020 season will be separate and as follows:
Total Events on the 2020 Calendar (Qatar Grand Prix included) ENGINE ALLOCATION PER RIDER
12-14 4
14-18 5

MOTO3 AND MOTO2 CLASS PRIVATE TESTING

With immediate effect, riders in these classes will not be permitted to make further private testing in 2020 until further notice.

The following considerations prompted this decision:

With team income being significantly reduced, a ban on testing for all riders will level the playing field between those teams that might have better funding and those that might just be surviving on the monthly subsidy payments.

Availability of circuits is going to be even more limited than normal and may be subject to government restrictions. Furthermore, travel restrictions in Europe and around the World, still vary between countries meaning that only some teams might be permitted to move with vehicles and staff to a test. Most of the travel restrictions seem to be applicable until, at least, the end of June.

FIM, IRTA and Dorna are hoping to have a significant number of events, hopefully starting in July. These events will be condensed into a short period of time meaning that, in any case, there are limited days available for testing once racing is resumed.

It is the intention of Dorna to hold additional test sessions, for all classes, during the week of the first event.

Dunlop activities are currently limited with many key staff being furloughed. They have already indicated that they will not be able to provide a service at private tests.

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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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."

Source: 

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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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