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News Round Up: Portimao MotoGP Test, A Frigid French Grand Prix, And Diggia's Future

The MotoGP schedule is already packed, the riders coming off a free weekend after completing one triple-header before embarking on the next, at Le Mans and Aragon twice. But about half the MotoGP grid has an appointment on the Algarve before they start a weekend of racing at Le Mans. On Wednesday and Thursday, thirteen full-time riders and seven test riders will take to the track at Portimao for a combined MotoGP test and track familiarization session.

The test serves several purposes: for the manufacturers to gather information about the track, and find a base setup and gearing to serve as a starting point for when MotoGP returns for the final round of the 2020 season; for Michelin, to get an idea of the kinds of tires needed at the circuit; and for the riders to assess the circuit in terms of safety and to understand the layout. The test riders will be riding MotoGP machines, while the contracted riders will be using production bikes to get to know the track.

The contracted riders will be riding at Portimao on Wednesday, to allow them to get to Le Mans on time ahead of the start of the Grand Prix weekend. The test riders will be riding on both days, and have the track to themselves on Thursday. Their main objective is to assess the tires to be used by Michelin for the race in November. The test riders will be using Michelin's race slicks, while the full-time riders will be using Michelin's commercially available Power Slick Evo sold for track day use.

Contracted riders at Portimao on Wednesday:

Brad Binder, Pecco Bagnaia, Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez, Jack Miller, Joan Mir, Takaaki Nakagami, Miguel Oliveira, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Johann Zarco, Aleix Espargaro

Test riders at Portimao on Wednesday and Thursday:

Michele Pirro (Ducati), Stefan Bradl (Honda), Dani Pedrosa (KTM), Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki), Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). Bradley Smith will be riding for Aprilia on Wednesday, before handing over test duties to Lorenzo Savadori on Thursday, so that Smith can get to Le Mans on time.

Ahead of the test, the six test riders spoke at a press conference held, as usual, by Zoom. The main objective, they explained, was to find a base setup and gearing which will work. "Tomorrow and Thursday I’m curious to try and help the official riders have a good base for the race with the gearbox, tires and new asphalt," Michele Pirro said. Jorge Lorenzo agreed this would be the main focus. "We’ll use this test especially to get the best gear box for the official riders and to test the tires, to understand in these conditions with this tarmac, which are the best for time attack and race distance."

Michele Pirro and Suzuki's Sylvain Guintoli have some experience at the track, with Guintoli having raced at Portimao several times when he was in WorldSBK. The Frenchman was full of praise for the circuit. "It’s a great track here, I’ve been here quite a few times with WorldSBK and it’s one of the best tracks, really, really nice," Guintoli said.

The biggest previous problem had been the bumps, which have been addressed by resurfacing the circuit. Guintoli was interested to see how much of an improvement that was. "I’m looking forward to experiencing the new track surface because that was the only problem before, it was quite bumpy. Now hopefully this is better, so it’s a great track and I think it will be a good track for us with the flowing line. I think the riders will have a lot of fun here, it’s like a roller coaster. It’s really nice to ride, lots of blind spots, fast, very interesting track; very technical."

Last year's bike

One curiosity is that Jorge Lorenzo will be riding a 2019 Yamaha M1, rather than a 2020 bike. "If I understand well, we’ll be on the same bike as Sepang, we weren’t able to bring the new bike," Lorenzo said. That had come as a surprise, as team boss Maio Meregalli had told Lorenzo he would be riding a 2020 machine. "I spoke with Maio some weeks ago and he told me that probably they would have the 2020 bike here. But now, two hours ago, I entered the box and they just had the 2019 bike."

Lorenzo was cagey about the reasons he wouldn't be riding the new machine. "They told me that they didn't have time to prepare the 2020 bike," he said. "It's a pity not to have the same bike as the official bikes, but I guess they tried the maximum to get the new bike here and they couldn’t. So we will test with what we have."

To some extent it is understandable in terms of cost to use older machines. After all, the Portimao test is more of a test of the circuit than of the bike. None of the manufacturers have any data with their MotoGP machines to use as a baseline for a testing comparison, and testing new parts is very much about only changing as few variables as possible.

But Jorge Lorenzo has also been the most underutilized of the test riders, mostly as a result of Yamaha's decision to focus their 2020 testing in Japan due to the inability of Japanese engineers to travel to Europe during the pandemic. "I want to believe and I really believe that they tried their best to do the maximum tests possible, but just the circumstances of Covid for some reasons stopped this from happening," Lorenzo told the media. "I believe without Covid we would have the 15 or 16 days that we had planned to do. But I don’t believe they are wasting their test rider, especially on purpose, because I think economically speaking they can be the factory that spent more money on it. So it's not logical to think like that."

The test starts on Wednesday morning at 9am Portuguese time. Live timing will be available on a separate website, which you can find here.

Cold front

At Le Mans, the MotoGP riders face almost unprecedented conditions. Normally, MotoGP heads to the French circuit in May, but the pandemic reshuffle means the series travels to Le Mans in mid-October. That makes weather conditions even more of a lottery than normal. The forecast is for rain, but also for exceptionally cold temperatures when it is dry.

That could pose a challenge for Michelin. The French tire manufacturer has brought some of its softest tires to Le Mans, knowing that temperatures were likely to be challenging. But if it is dry, they could face the coldest temperatures they have ever had to deal with since taking over as official tire supplier in 2016. The previous record came during FP1 at Valencia last year, where ground temperatures were just 9°C, though that was taken in the shade. "The 9°C this morning were a little bit fake because the track temperature sensor was in the shadow in pit lane. So it was a little bit higher," Marc Márquez explained at the time.

Though there isn't an official figure given by Michelin, the MotoGP tires really require a track temperature of at least 11°C to start operating fully. The current prediction for Le Mans is that air temperatures in the morning will be around 8°C, which could cause problems. In addition, the weak October sun – if it decides to show itself – will take some time to raise the track temperature up to a more workable level.

This doesn't mean that conditions will be impossible. Despite the cold temperatures at Valencia last year, the riders were able to ride without requiring any more attention than is usual at Turn 4, the first right hander after a series of lefts. Le Mans should be easier, as there is a better mix of left and right handers. But if it is dry and cold for the morning sessions, riders will have to approach it with care.

The rain may make all this speculation moot, of course. Michelin's rain tires are capable of handling the cold temperatures in wet conditions exceptionally well. Rain could also shake up the 2020 championship even further.

Diggia's upgrade

While the 2021 MotoGP line up is nearing completion, the focus is switching to the Moto2 class. According to the usually well-informed TV channel Sky Sports Italia, Fabio Di Giannantonio could be about to leave the Speed Up team and join Gresini for 2021. Di Giannantonio rode for the Italian squad in 2018, where he finished runner up to Jorge Martin in the Moto3 championship.

Signing for Gresini opens an extra door for Di Giannantonio. The Gresini squad are expecting to split with Aprilia in MotoGP at the end of 2021, when the current five-year contracts between Dorna and the teams comes to an end. From 2022, Aprilia are expected to enter on their own as a fully-fledged factory squad, leaving Gresini to become a satellite team. Being on a Moto2 machine for Gresini would put Di Giannantonio at the front of the queue to fill the newly-created MotoGP seats.

Inside the paddock, Gresini are widely expected to continue with Aprilia as a satellite squad. Aprilia are not the only option, however. Suzuki are also looking at the possibility of supplying a satellite team, and Gresini could well be one of the candidates to take on that role. Currently, paddock gossip suggests that the VR46 team is leading the race for the Suzuki satellite bikes. But Gresini's long experience in MotoGP could give them an advantage.

Whether Suzuki will actually supply satellite bikes is still to be resolved however. That is a decision which is likely to be taken over the winter break, when Suzuki start to make plans beyond the end of 2021.

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The 2021 MotoGP Rider Line Up Nearly Complete: Four Question Marks Remain

With the announcement of their line up for the Factory and Pramac teams, Ducati has brought the 2021 MotoGP silly season a big step nearer to its close. The two pairings of Jack Miller/Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco/Jorge Martin means that only four seats remain open, and of those, only two are truly uncertain.

The known unknowns, to steal a phrase, concern the LCR Honda seat and the Avintia Ducati seat vacated by Johann Zarco. Takaaki Nakagami is still in talks with HRC over his seat at LCR Honda, the only open question whether he will get an update to the 2021 Honda RC213V, or have to contend with the 2019 bike he is still racing (the engine and aerodynamics freeze mean that the 2021 spec bike will be the same as the 2020 machine currently being ridden by Cal Crutchlow, Alex Marquez, and Stefan Bradl as Marc Marquez' temporary replacement).

Enea Bastianini has already announced that he will be riding for Ducati in 2021, with the seat left empty at Avintia Ducati by Johann Zarco the place where the young Italian will land. Tito Rabat currently has a contract to race with Avintia in 2021, but he has a decision to make on whether he wants to continue. If not, then Luca Marini is expected to move up from Moto2.

That leaves the seat in the Aprilia Gresini team. The seat is technically being held open for Andrea Iannone, should the Italian win his appeal against his doping ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But the seat is mostly likely to go to either Andrea Dovizioso or Cal Crutchlow, with Dovizioso believed to be the favorite. Dovizioso's decision to take the Aprilia ride will hinge on whether he believes the bike can be competitive or not.

The officially announced 2021 MotoGP rider lin up so far:

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

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Ducati Confirm Factory And Pramac Line Ups: Bagnaia Joins Miller, Martin Moves Up With Zarco

As Pecco Bagnaia let slip at Barcelona on Sunday night, Ducati today announced their rider line up for the 2021 season, in both the factory team and the Pramac squad. As expected, there were no surprises: Pecco Bagnaia gets a promotion to the factory team alongside Jack Miller, while Johann Zarco is promoted to the Pramac team, where he will be partnered with current Moto2 rider Jorge Martin.

Bagnaia had been expected to get the nod over Zarco after a string of strong performances since his return from injury. It had been clear that the Italian had made a big step forward during testing and at the first two races at Jerez, his march stymied only by a crash at Brno in which he broke his leg. Though Zarco had been strong at Brno, grabbing pole and a podium, since then, his star has waned a little.

The announcement of Jorge Martin had been widely trailed, going as far back as the Jerez tests. Martin had been expected to move up to MotoGP with KTM, as Martin has raced with KTM in both Moto3 and Moto2, but Ducati's policy of aggressively chasing young talent secured Martin's services early on. That he had signed for Ducati was an open secret, merely awaiting official confirmation.

All four riders will race the latest spec of Ducati Desmosedici, the GP21. However, the cost-cutting measures agreed to address the Covid-19 pandemic means that engines and aerodynamic packages will remain frozen for the start of the 2021 season, meaning that the only differences between a GP20 and a GP21 will be in the chassis.

As for contract length, Ducati is running on two different tracks. The more experienced talent - Jack Miller and Johann Zarco - are on 'prove it' 1+1 contracts, with a contract for 2021 and an option for 2022. The two youngsters, Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin, have two-year contracts through 2022.

The Ducati press release makes no mention of Avintia. At Misano, Enea Bastianini told that he had signed for Ducati, and he is expected to take the seat vacated by Johann Zarco. The second seat belongs to Tito Rabat contractually, but Rabat has struggled since his crash at Silverstone in 2018, and has pondered making a switch to a role as a rider coach. If he decides to step away from racing, then his place could be taken by Luca Marini, the Sky VR46 rider currently leading the Moto2 championship.

The press releases from Ducati Corse, the Ducati Factory team, and the Pramac Ducati team appear below:

Ducati Corse announces the official Ducati Team and Pramac Racing Team riders' line-up for the 2021 MotoGP season

Ducati Corse is pleased to announce the name of the four Ducati's official riders for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship. Francesco Bagnaia will join forces with the official team alongside the already confirmed Jack Miller. At the same time, Johann Zarco and Jorge Martín will defend the colours of the Pramac Racing Team for next season.

Francesco "Pecco" Bagnaia, Moto2 World Champion in 2018, made his MotoGP debut last year with the Ducati Desmosedici GP bike of the Pramac Racing Team and has shown this year ever-increasing competitiveness, fighting for the podium in several GPs. In 2021, the 23-year-old rider hailing from Piedmont will join his current teammate Jack Miller in the Ducati Team, who is in his seventh season in the premier class.

Jack Miller, 25 years old, Australian rider from Townsville, made his debut in the World Championship in 2011 in the 125-cc class. After fighting for the Moto3 World Title in 2014, he stepped up straight to MotoGP in 2015 competing in 93 races in the category and for the last three seasons with the Pramac Racing Team.

The two new riders of the Pramac Racing Team have three World Titles overall together. Johann Zarco, a 30-year-old French rider, won the Moto2 World Title in 2015 and 2016 and this year he is competing in MotoGP with the Ducati bike of Team Esponsorama, with whom he took pole position and a third place in the race in Brno. With him, in the Borgo Panigale factory-supported team there will be a rookie in the category, Spaniard Jorge Martín, 22 years old, 2018 Moto3 World Champion in his current second season in Moto2.

All four official riders will ride the latest version of the Desmosedici GP bikes with same technical specifications.

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding: "Racing is an evolving advanced technology incubator that is a fundamental part of our company. It is essential to continue to invest in research and development and not to be afraid to innovate and renew to be successful. That's why I am thrilled with the inclusion of young and talented riders who make us look to the future with optimism and a constant desire to improve. Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia have shown this year that they can take advantage of the potential of our Desmosedici GP bike and have earned this opportunity. Their transition to the official team from the Pramac Racing Team, where they both grew up, is proof of the efficient collaboration that binds us to the team of Paolo Campinoti, which I would like to thank. I am sure that next year his team will be able to make the most of the talent of the two new riders Johann Zarco and Jorge Martín. Now, however, we are focused on the current season, because we want to get the best possible results with our two riders: Andrea, who in these eight years with us has been runner up in the World Championship for three consecutive years, won 14 GPs, thus becoming the most successful Ducati rider after Stoner, and is still in the fight for the world title this year and Danilo. Danilo, who is working hard to get back to fighting for the podium. Together with them, we will do everything to conclude our beautiful adventure together in the best possible way".

Francesco Bagnaia joins Jack Miller in the Ducati Team for the 2021 season

Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that it will be Francesco Bagnaia to defend the colours of the Ducati Team in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, alongside the already confirmed Jack Miller. The rider from Piedmont, 23 years old, will move to the official team for next season, after his first two years in MotoGP with Pramac Racing, the factory-supported team of the Borgo Panigale manufacturer.

Born in Turin in 1997, Francesco "Pecco" Bagnaia made his debut in the Moto3 World Championship in 2013 and then stepped up to Moto2 in 2017, winning the World Title in this category in 2018. In 2019, he moved up to MotoGP with the Pramac Racing Team, and this year Pecco has stood out on many occasions with his Desmosedici GP bike, taking his first podium in the Lenovo Grand Prix of San Marino and the Rimini Riviera, that he closed in second place.

Francesco Bagnaia: "I'd chosen to be a Ducati rider even before becoming a Moto2 World Champion in 2018, and they had chosen me even before I had known that one day I would become one. It was our bet because until that moment I had always been a fast rider, but I had nothing concrete under my belt: Ducati decided to believe in it even before everyone else. We didn't know how it was going to go, but to this day, if I had to go back, I'd do it all over again. My MotoGP debut was not easy, but at Ducati, they never questioned me: they gave me all the support and confidence that a rookie needs and they let me do experience in 2019. I listened to them, I trusted them, together we learned to know each other and understand each other, and now we form a great team. They taught me a method of work that allowed us to take away some nice satisfactions and I think that's just the beginning. Today I am the happiest person in the world, for me, it is a dream come true: being an official Ducati rider has always been my ambition, and I succeeded together with all of those who had always believed in me even when things did not go well. A special thank goes to Claudio Domenicali, Gigi Dall'Igna, Paolo Ciabatti and Davide Tardozzi for the trust, to the Pramac Racing Team that welcomed me as a family and to the VR46 Riders Academy that has always supported me all these years".

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding: "Racing is an evolving advanced technology incubator that is a fundamental part of our company. It is essential to continue to invest in research and development and not to be afraid to innovate and renew to be successful. That's why I am thrilled with the inclusion of young and talented riders who make us look to the future with optimism and a constant desire to improve. Pecco and Jack have shown this year that hey can take advantage of the potential of our Desmosedici GP and have earned this opportunity. Their transition to the official team from the Pramac Racing Team, where they both grew up, is proof of the efficient collaboration that binds us to the team of Paolo Campinoti, which I would like to thank. Now, however, we are focused on the current season, because we want to get the best possible results with our two riders: Andrea, who in these eight years with us has been runner up in the World Championship for three consecutive years, won 14 GPs, thus becoming the most successful Ducati rider after Stoner, and is still in the fight for the world title this year and Danilo. Danilo, who is working hard to get back to fighting for the podium. Together with them, we will do everything to conclude our beautiful adventure together."

Pramac Racing Team together with Johann Zarco and Jorge Martín for the 2021 season

Johann Zarco and Jorge Martín will be the two Pramac Racing Team riders in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship.

A delighted Paolo Campinoti, Team Principal of Pramac Racing, stated:

"We are happy to have reached an agreement with Johann and Jorge. We want to continue an important project that is giving us great satisfaction. The sporting qualities and the winning mentality of the two riders are extremely well known: expectations are therefore high. We know Johann well, and we have a very positive feeling with him: the same will be with Jorge".

Johann Zarco (Cannes, 16 July 1990) is a French rider, two-time Moto2 World Champion in 2015 and 2016.

Jorge Martín Almoguera (Madrid, 29 January 1998) is a Spanish rider, winner of the Moto3 World Championship in 2018. 2021 will be his first MotoGP Championship season in the premier class.


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The 2021 MotoGP Rider Line Up So Far: Waiting For Ducati

With Valentino Rossi finally confirmed at the Petronas Yamaha SRT team, the rider line up for 2021 is getting close to completion. The factory seats at Honda, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha are filled, as are the satellite seats at KTM and Yamaha.

The nominally vacant seat at LCR Honda is destined to be taken by Takaaki Nakagami once again, the Japanese rider still in talks with HRC management over whether he will get a 2021 spec RC213V or a 2020 bike. Nakagami's performance so far on the 2019 bike has shown him worthy of getting the latest spec, but those details will take a while to thrash out.

The next question to be answered will come some time next week, when Ducati announce their plans for 2021 and beyond. They are expected to move Pecco Bagnaia into the factory team and Johann Zarco up to the Pramac squad. Jorge Martin is likely to join Zarco in Pramac, while Enea Bastianini should head to Avintia.

Whether Bastianini joins Tito Rabat in Avintia or not is still open to question. Though Rabat has a contract with Avintia for 2021, there is some talk that Rabat might move to a different role, and Luca Marini move up to MotoGP to take his place.

The biggest question is what happens with Aprilia. That will only be resolved once Andrea Iannone's appeal against is doping ban has been heard at the CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in October. Then, Aprilia must decide whether to keep Iannone or sig another rider, with Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso in play. Dovizioso will likely control that decision, depending on whether he decides to race in 2021, or take on a role as test rider for a season and contemplate a return in 2022.

Below is the rider contract status so far 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
Pol Espargaro Honda RC213V 2022
Suzuki Ecstar
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Ducati Factory
Jack Miller Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2021 (option for 2022)
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2022
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Brad Binder KTM RC16 2021
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2021
Red Bull KTM Tech3
Danilo Petrucci KTM RC16 2021
Iker Lecuona KTM RC16 2021
Petronas Yamaha SRT
Franco Morbidelli Yamaha M1 2022
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2021
LCR Honda
Alex Márquez Honda RC213V 2022
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat* Ducati 2021

* Rabat has a contract for 2021, but may be replaced


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Official At Last: Valentino Rossi Confirmed At Petronas Yamaha SRT For 2021 MotoGP Season

Valentino Rossi at Misano in 2020 - Photo Cormac Ryan Meenan

The deal is done at last. Today, the Petronas Yamaha SRT team has announced that Valentino Rossi will partner Franco Morbidelli in 2021. Rossi has signed a one-year extension of his contract with Yamaha, to race in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team.

This has been a long and difficult negotiation since the beginning of the year. Back then, Yamaha had faced the problem of trying to fit three riders into their factory Monster Energy team.

Ducati had been chasing both Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo, and Yamaha did not want to lose their two young riders. Rossi had told Yamaha that he wanted to wait for the first five or six races before making a decision on whether he would retire, or stay on for another year. Yamaha moved to fend off Ducati's attempted poaching of Viñales and Quartararo by signing them to the factory team, and offering Rossi a factory-supported Yamaha M1 if he decided to continue.

That meant Rossi and Petronas were condemned to one another, if you can use such a phrase for the most successful premier class rider in history and the best satellite team in MotoGP. And each side had their own list of demands: Rossi wanted to bring his entire crew with him, along with various others, Petronas were willing to take only his crew chief David Muñoz and data engineer Matteo Flamigni. Then there was sorting out the mass of sponsors on both sides.

At Jerez, it became clear that Rossi would only be allowed to bring Muñoz, Flamigni, and rider coach Idalio Gavira to Petronas. That sparked a long negotiation over the rest of the conditions, the final details of which were only settled in the week between the two races in Misano, when Petronas Yamaha boss Razlan Razali visited the VR46 headquarters along with Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis. That resulted in the deal signed in Barcelona.

Rossi's move leaves the remainder of his crew in a difficult position. Mechanics Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens have been told there is no place for them in Yamaha, mostly a question of travel costs. Briggs lives in Australia, and Stephens in New Zealand, and both were used to flying home in between races. American Mark Elder will stay with Yamaha, as will Belgian Bernard Ansiau, it is believed.

The fact that this is a one-year deal is another reason Petronas were not keen on taking Rossi's crew. Briggs, Stephens, and Ansiau have all been with Rossi for a very long time, most since he arrived in the premier class with Honda. If they had decided to retire along with Rossi, Petronas would have been forced to look for replacements. That was not a task they relished after investing so much time in putting together their team at the beginning of the 2019 season.

Will 2021 be the end of Valentino Rossi's MotoGP career? It is too early to say. He already has a podium this season, and believes he is capable of more. If he fares worse in 2021 than he does this year, then he may decide to hang up his helmet, especially given that there are talks of the VR46 team making a move up to MotoGP.

But that is all still a long way off. For the moment, Valentino Rossi stays on for another year.

Below are the press releases from Petronas and from Yamaha announcing the deal:

Valentino Rossi to join PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2021

9-times World Champion confirmed to continue in MotoGP with the Malaysian squad together with Franco Morbidelli

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team is proud to announce that Valentino Rossi will join the squad for the 2021 MotoGP season. Valentino Rossi needs no introduction, considered by many as the Greatest Of All Time through a record-breaking career in the premier class of the sport since 2000.

Rossi – Urbino, 16th February 1979 – has competed in the premier class since 2000 and is the only rider in history to win 125, 250, 500 and MotoGP World Championships. In the premier class alone, Valentino boasts seven world titles, 89 race wins, 199 podiums, 55 pole positions and 76 fastest laps. As part of PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2021, the Italian will compete aboard a Yamaha YZR-M1 for the ninth season in a row.

The move will see Rossi join the satellite team in what will be only their third season in the MotoGP category, after the Malaysian squad made their debut at the Qatar GP in 2019. That first season in the premier class saw PETRONAS Yamaha SRT rack up six pole positions and seven podiums, and win the Independent Teams’ Championship. This year has already seen two pole positions, four podiums and three race wins, and the lead of the outright Teams’ Championship, for the outfit.

The announcement of Rossi alongside fellow countryman and friend Franco Morbidelli completes the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT line-up for 2021 – a line-up eager to write another chapter of MotoGP history next year.

Razlan Razali - Team Principal

On behalf of PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and all its partners, it is an absolute honour to welcome Valentino Rossi – an iconic rider and legend into the team next year. His experience will be a great asset to the team as we move into our third season in MotoGP and we are sure we will be able to learn a lot from Valentino. At the same time, we will do our absolute best to assist him to be competitive to reward him for the trust he has in us as a team. We are humbled by this opportunity and ready to take on the challenge. We believe that the combination of Valentino and Franco will provide a truly formidable force on track to help us in our goal of being as competitive as possible together next year. We can’t wait!

Johan Stigefelt - Team Director

To be able to sign a rider like Valentino Rossi, for what will be only our third year in the MotoGP championship, is amazing. We have evolved from a Moto3 team to a Moto2 team to a MotoGP team in a short time frame and now to be leading the MotoGP teams’ championship and signing one of the greatest riders the sport has ever known is incredible. It has been a long time since Valentino was in a satellite team and we will try our best to help him feel like new again. We want to make sure that he feels comfortable in our team, which we trust in and believe in so much. Our target is to get even better as a team, help Rossi deliver the best results possible and make 2021 a memorable year.


Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi have officially signed a one-year contract renewal for 2021. The Grand Prix racing icon will take part in next year‘s MotoGP World Championship as a Factory Yamaha rider for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, with full support from Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

Montmelò (Spain), 26th September 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce that it has signed a one-year renewal agreement with Grand Prix racing legend Valentino Rossi. Fans all over the world will be delighted to know that the nine-time World Champion will be participating in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship as a fully supported Factory Yamaha rider for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team.

Due to the global Covid-19 outbreak, Rossi was obliged to state his future intention to continue as a MotoGP rider before competing in a single 2020 MotoGP race. However, having completed seven GP weekends since then, the 41-year-old is certain that he made the right decision. He reunited with his beloved YZR-M1 showing competitive pace and has a lot of fight left in him.

The Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team wants to thank Rossi for his continuous contribution and effort. Currently competing in their 15th MotoGP season together, to date they have secured 4 world titles, 142 podiums, 56 victories, and competed in 250 races.

Rossi can be assured of the team‘s full support for the remainder of the 2020 championship. Everyone is fully focused on completing this season on a high note, as the team continues to push for the three World Championship titles.


We are delighted that Valentino will be staying in MotoGP for another year, and we are sure the fans of the sport feel the same way. A substantial part of the MotoGP fanbase will have grown up with Valentino and followed him throughout his career.

"This current and final season with the Factory Yamaha Team is his 25th in the motorcycle Grand Prix racing World Championship and his 15th year with Yamaha.

"Early on we assured Valentino that, should he stay in MotoGP for 2021, Yamaha would continue to give him full support and a Factory YZR-M1. In the end, this is exactly what he decided to do.

"I previously stated that this Covid-19 influenced MotoGP season would not be the appropriate year for such a legendary rider to close his career. Valentino has always been so popular with the fans all around the world, so it‘s great that he has decided to continue for at least another season. Hopefully the fans will be allowed back into the tracks next year to savour watching the GOAT in action again.

"I would like to thank the management of the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for their enthusiasm and full collaboration to welcome Valentino into their team. They are still quite a ’young‘ team, but they are very professional and serious contenders for race wins and feature in the top of the championship standings, so we are sure that Valentino will feel comfortable and be able to perform at his best level.


I am very happy to continue riding in 2021 and to do it with the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team. I thought a lot before taking this decision, because the challenge is getting hotter and hotter. To be at the top in MotoGP you have to work a lot and hard, to train every day and lead an ’athlete's life‘, but I still like it and I still want to ride.

"In the first half of the year I made my choice and I talked with Yamaha, who agreed with me. They told me even if there was no place for me in the Factory Team, the factory bike and the factory support were guaranteed.

"I am very happy to move to PETRONAS Yamaha SRT. They are young, but they‘ve shown to be a top team. They are very serious and very well organised. For this year I also changed my crew chief. I‘m very happy with David, and I think we haven‘t reached our best yet. This was one of the reasons why I chose to continue, because the atmosphere in the team is something I like a lot.

"It‘ll be nice to have Franco as my team-mate, as he‘s an Academy rider, it‘s going to be cool. I think we can work together to make good things happen.


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MotoGP Riders To Test At Portimao Before Le Mans MotoGP Round

MotoGP is set to make its debut at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao in November, as the last race of the 2020 season, and as a brand new track on the calendar, the teams, factories, and riders have no data on the circuit. To help them prepare for the race, Dorna has organized a test at the circuit ahead of the race.

The timing of the test is a little unfortunate. The test is due to take place on October 7th and 8th, directly before the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Though only a limited number of riders are due to take to the track - one from each team and factory, with the exception of KTM and Aprilia, the factories who have concessions for the 2020 season - those riders face a punishing schedule. Two days of testing at Portimao on Wednesday and Thursday, a flight to Le Mans on Thursday night, then practice for the French Grand Prix on Friday morning. That is then the first weekend of three, with a double-header at Aragon following on from Le Mans.

Test riders will also be present, including Jorge Lorenzo, making his return at last for Yamaha. Team boss Maio Meregalli told pitlane reporter Simon Crafar that Lorenzo would be returning at the Portimao test, logistics issues having prevented him from testing earlier. Throughout the pandemic period, Yamaha was unable to fly their Japanese engineers to Europe to work at the test, and so switched their testing strategy to test at Japanese tracks with their Japanese test riders.

The press release from Dorna announcing the test appears below:

Portimão test to take place in October

Newly-announced venue set to host two-day test for manufacturer test teams and some MotoGP™ class riders

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Following the announcement that the 2020 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship season finale will take place at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão, a two-day test at the venue can now be confirmed. This will take place on Wednesday the 7th and Thursday the 8th of October, just before the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France.

The test is primarily for MotoGP™ manufacturer test teams and will provide valuable data to premier class teams, as well as technical suppliers, ahead of Portimão’s debut on the calendar.

Test riders present will include Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), Michele Pirro (Ducati), Dani Pedrosa (KTM) and Stefan Bradl (Honda).

Some MotoGP™ class riders will also be present on Wednesday the 7th of October. They will be strictly limited to riding street machinery in order to familiarise themselves with the track.

The provisional entry list of MotoGP™ class riders is as follows:

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team)
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing)
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu)
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing)
Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing)
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)
Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol)

The final entry list of MotoGP™ class riders will published once confirmed.

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Jorge Martin Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Could Miss Misano

Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 rider Jorge Martin has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the resumption of racing this weekend at Misano. The Spaniard, currently third in the Moto2 standings, tested positive for the virus during the standard testing procedure put in place as part of Dorna's COVID-19 protocol, and as a result, was not allowed to travel to Misano for the race. Martin has been in quarantine since receiving the test results.

Martin is now awaiting the results of a second test, to confirm the first test. If that test returns a negative result, he will be allowed to travel to Misano, but if it comes back positive gain, then Martin will have to follow the recommendations laid out by the government of the country he lives in, which for Martin is Spain. That means self isolating for 10 days, which would mean he would miss the first race at Misano, but might be able to race in the second round.

That would complicate Martin's Moto2 title challenge. He is currently third in the standings, 8 points behind leader Luca Marini and tied on points with Enea Bastianini. But with a maximum of 8 races left, there are still opportunities for him to recover points.

Martin is the third person to test positive for COVID-19. Previously, a camera operator working with French TV and a rider in the Red Bull Rookies Cup also tested positive. He may not be the only rider to miss Misano, however, as rumors continue to circulate about at least one more case in the support classes.


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Marc Marquez To Delay Return To MotoGP Until Fully Fit, Out For '2 to 3 Months'

Marc Marquez will not be returning to race at MotoGP at any point in the near future, and may not return at all in 2020. Today, the Repsol Honda team issued a press release lacking in much detail beyond the fact that they will delay Marc Marquez' return until he is fully recovered from the injury to his right humerus which he suffered at the first race in Jerez.

The press release stated that the expected recovery period is "two to three months before Marc can return to the RC213V". Two months from today, August 22nd, would be October 22nd, a few days after the first race at Aragon. Three months would be mid-November, just in time for the last race of the 2020 MotoGP season at Portimao. Whenever he returns, it is unthinkable that he would be in with a chance of defending his MotoGP title.

The press release glosses over the details of his injury, but it appears that the right arm is in a far worse state than expected. Marquez was able to attempt to ride a motorcycle just a few days after surgery, but once he felt something change in his arm, he stopped. Opening a heavy set of glass doors rebroke his arm, requiring more surgery. Whether that created more damage than Repsol Honda are letting on is an unanswered question.

Below is the press release from the Repsol Honda team announcing Marquez' extended absence:

Marc Marquez and HRC focus on recovery

Marc Marquez will continue recovering in the coming weeks. The MotoGP World Champion together with HRC, have consulted with and compared the opinions of a number of specialists in regard to the injury to the humerus of the right arm that Marc suffered on July 19 at the Spanish Grand Prix. As a result, all parties have decided to modify the planned recovery process. The objective of both Marquez and the Repsol Honda Team is to return to the World Championship when Marc’s arm has fully recovered from the serious injury that occurred in Jerez. It is estimated it will take between two to three months before Marc can return to the RC213V. HRC has not set a Grand Prix for the return of the reigning World Champion and will continue to report on the evolution of his recovery.

Alberto Puig - Team Manager

"There has been a lot of talk about Marc's recovery and the various deadlines, but from the first day after the second operation we have said that the only objective that exists is for him to be one hundred percent. We do not want to rush. Once Marc is in a position to return and compete at the level he knows, then we will think about the next objective."


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Johann Zarco Handed Penalty For Crash With Franco Morbidelli

Johann Zarco has been penalized for the crash with Franco Morbidelli, which happened during last Sunday's MotoGP race at the Red Bull Ring. The two riders faced the FIM Stewards on Thursday, the Stewards hearing their stories separately. After reviewing the evidence and listening to the riders, the Stewards decided to punish Zarco for irresponsible riding.

The Frenchman will have to start the next race from pit lane. But the penalty does not apply solely to the Styrian Grand Prix, to be held this Sunday. Rather, Zarco is to serve the penalty at the next race where he takes the start. If he is ruled unfit to ride at Spielberg this weekend, then the penalty will be held over until Misano.

Below is the official FIM press release:

FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Notification of Sanction: Johann Zarco

After the incident during the Austrian GP MotoGP™ race involving Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) that brought out the Red Flag, the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Panel held hearings on Thursday the 20th of August with both riders involved.

After evaluation it was determined that there was evidence of irresponsible riding from Johann Zarco, which has resulted in a penalty. The Frenchman will start his next MotoGP™ race from pitlane.


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Yamaha Withdraws Request To Unseal Engines

Yamaha has withdrawn its request to unseal the engines to replace internal components which they believe caused issues for Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Franco Morbidelli at Jerez. Yamaha had made a formal request to the MSMA, the MotoGP manufacturers' association, to open the engines and swap out defective parts.

Initially, the suspicion fell on sensors inside the exhaust port, but it is now believed that the problem was caused by the valves. Yamaha had set out its reasons to make the change in its submission to the MSMA. Under the technical regulations, the manufacturers are allowed to unseal the engines to replace parts only if they can get unanimous permission from the other MSMA members, and that such a change does not confer a performance advantage and is necessary on safety grounds.

That is where Yamaha's case appears to have fallen down. The other manufacturers were not convinced by Yamaha's explanation, and asked for more information to be able to make a decision on approval.

This put Yamaha in a very delicate situation. They would have liked to change out the parts, but to get permission to do so, they would have had to reveal a level of technical detail which could have given away too much information to their rivals. Instead, Yamaha have decided they can manage the rest of the season on the engines they have.

The fact that the Red Bull Ring was the toughest track for engines left on the calendar may have influenced their decision. After Spielberg, the factories face the front straight at Barcelona once, and a double header at Aragon, though Aragon's fast back straight is downhill.

Yamaha's predicament is in part a result of the dysfunction inside the MSMA. The manufacturers' association has long been unable to agree on anything, with the disagreement between Ducati and the other manufacturers at Qatar 2019 over their use of the rear swingarm spoiler being the final breach. With no goodwill between manufacturers, they are not inclined to give each other any leeway in situations such as this.

Naturally, this is likely to come back and bite the other manufacturers in the future. If another manufacturer suffers a similar issue to Yamaha in the next few years, and it is a factory which denied Yamaha's request, Yamaha are likely to treat them in exactly the same way, and deny a request to unseal engines.

Yamaha must now juggle their remaining engines for the rest of the season. Three engines have been withdrawn for allocation: 1 each for Rossi, Viñales, and Morbidelli, all three having suffered issues at Jerez. The engine in bike which was involved in the crash between Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco has not been withdrawn: the engines are designed to withstand crashes, but the extreme temperatures at Jerez may have put the bikes outside their operating limits. That leaves Rossi, Viñales, and Morbidelli with four engines for the remaining ten races, and Fabio Quartararo with five.

The engine lists to be published by Dorna on Sunday morning may reveal a little more. However, the engine lists only track whether engines ARE used, not whether the CAN be used. Only in the next few weeks will we learn whether Yamaha will use them for the races, for practice, when there is least to lose, or leave them crated as a back up option in case one of their other engines fails.


In an interview with the website, Lin Jarvis explained Yamaha's decision.  "We made a request a week ago to replace some valves in the engines that we had stopped using since the two failures we had in the Grand Prix 1," Jarvis said. "We were then requested to provide more specific evidence, both from the manufacture of the valves and also the specific properties of the valves."

In the week since that request had been submitted, Yamaha had understood much more about the cause of the failures experienced at the first race in Jerez. "During the one week since, we investigated deeply inside the factory and also we are in contact with our vendor and finally we were unable to provide the documents that were required and requested. And also at the same time we discovered much more about the valve issues that we had. So finally we withdrew. It was a very short meeting yesterday in that sense because we formally withdrew our request."

Jarvis said they had worked out a way of managing the situation with the engines unchanged. "We will manage the situation. We are completely confident that we can manage without any safety issues on the track. We will do that by a combination of changing engine settings and also managing the rotation of engines throughout the seasons." 

What is to be understood by "changing engine settings" is uncertain, but there are continuing reports that Yamaha has been forced to reduce the revs on its engines.

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