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Alvaro Bautista: Honda WorldSBK With HRC Rather Than KTM MotoGP

Alvaro Bautista will be staying in the World Superbike paddock and racing a Honda in 2020, it seems. The plans for a new HRC-run WorldSBK team to be based in Barcelona, racing a brand new Honda CBR1000RR, put an end to any speculation that Bautista might be heading back to MotoGP to take the place of Johann Zarco at KTM for next year.

Rumors and reports from Portimao are solidifying the story that Bautista will be staying in WorldSBK. A thorough piece on German-language publication Speedweek set out Honda's World Superbike plans for 2020, including the plans for a new bike.

The plan revolves around a thorough shakeup of Honda's approach to WorldSBK. The race team will be run directly by HRC out of Barcelona, alongside the Repsol Honda MotoGP operation. Alvaro Bautista is set to be announced as one rider, with Takumi Takahashi the second rider. The announcement is likely to come after the Aragon round of MotoGP, as any earlier announcement would get lost in the avalanche of news emerging from back-to-back MotoGP weekends.

Bautista and Takahashi will be riding a brand new Honda CBR1000RR. Unlike in previous years, upgrades to this bike will be very significant, the bike receiving a major horsepower boost, to make it the most powerful inline four cylinder on the grid, according to Speedweek. This lines up with rumors which have been circulating since the beginning of the year that Honda was planning a major upgrade to the Fireblade, with part of the racing department set aside for the development of the new bike. The new bike is set to be launched at the Tokyo Motor Show, to be held at the end of October.

The fact that HRC is to take over the running of the team more directly is a sign of how seriously Honda are taking it. Honda ended their 20-year collaboration with Dutch team Ten Kate at the end of 2018, handing the running of the team to Moriwaki and Althea. That move has not met with any success, results going backwards, a situation not helped by injury to Leon Camier. Moriwaki and Althea are now being cut loose again, though they may continue as private teams next year, either together or separately.

Bautista's decision to stay in WorldSBK with Honda is possibly motivated by money. According to Speedweek, HRC have offered him double the money he was being paid by Ducati, €800,000 instead of €400,000. In the Aruba.it Ducati team, Bautista was earning less than teammate Chaz Davies, and that may have rankled the Spaniard.

It also means that Bautista will not be going to MotoGP. Ever since Johann Zarco made the shock announcement in Austria that he would be leaving the factory Red Bull KTM MotoGP team at the end of 2019, halfway through his contract, the hunt has been on for a replacement. As a rider with extensive MotoGP experience on four different brands of bikes (Suzuki, Honda, Aprilia, Ducati), Bautista appeared to fit the bill for what KTM might be looking for.

So with the Spaniard set to stay in WorldSBK, KTM will be forced to look elsewhere for a replacement rider. KTM have so far played their cards close to their chest, going no further than telling German publication Motorsport Total that 'a number of top riders have approached us' following the announcement. Despite Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal insisting he has a commitment from KTM not to poach his riders, the Austrian factory may decide to move the Portuguese rider up to the factory team a year early.

An alternative is that there are riders in top MotoGP teams looking to escape their current contracts in the belief that KTM offers them a better chance of success. Jack Miller has already turned down an offer to replace Zarco, and there are likely to be other riders who have also been made an offer.

With the MotoGP paddock about to reassemble in Misano, negotiations are likely to start ramping up this weekend. KTM will surely want to have their 2020 line up settled before the paddock heads off for the Asian flyaway races. That would mean agreeing terms either at Misano or Aragon, with an announcement before the race in Buriram, Thailand. But with their options limited, that might not be possible for KTM.


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Aragon MotoGP Race Start Time Moved An Hour Earlier To Avoid F1 Clash

The starting time of the MotoGP race at the Motorland Aragon circuit has been moved an hour earlier to avoid a clash with the start of the F1 race at Singapore. The race is now scheduled to start at 1pm CET, before the Moto2 race. The Moto2 race has been moved back to 2:30pm, and will take place after MotoGP.

The move has been made to avoid a clash with the F1 race in Singapore. That race, around a street circuit in the city state, is held at night, to fit in with European TV schedules. The F1 race is due to start at 8:10pm Singapore time, which corresponds with 2:10pm in Europe, and would have meant the MotoGP race in Aragon clashing with the F1 race.

It is unusual for such clashes to be resolved this late in the season. Normally, starting times are checked and accommodated well before the season starts. The move by F1 to a later starting time - 3:10pm instead of 2pm European time - has resolved most of the clashes, broadcasters able to show both races now. 

The press release from Dorna announcing the time switch appears below.


Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon: time schedule change

MotoGP™ race to start at 13:00 local time

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon will feature changes to Sunday's schedule.

The final race in Europe before MotoGP™ packs up and heads for Asia will see the premier class race begin an hour earlier than usual, with lights out at 13:00 (GMT +2) local time.

Warm Ups will still begin at 8:40 and the Moto3™ race will remain unchanged at 11:00. The Moto2™ race will be moved to 14:30.

The race schedule for Sunday is therefore as follows:
11:00 - Moto3™
13:00 - MotoGP™
14:30 - Moto2™

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Scott Redding Replaces Alvaro Bautista In Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK Team For 2020

It had been known unofficially for weeks, but today, the Aruba.it Ducati team announced that they have signed Scott Redding to ride for them in WorldSBK for the 2020 season. Redding has had a very strong season in BSB since losing his ride in MotoGP with Aprilia, and is currently second in the standings behind Be Wiser Ducati teammate Josh Brookes.

It comes as no surprise that Redding is off to WorldSBK. The Englishman had expressed an interest in returning to world championship racing, having first been linked with the Shaun Muir Racing BMW effort. That option faltered over contractual difficulties getting Redding out of the second year of his BSB deal, but a switch to a Ducati team was easier to negotiate.

Redding's signing was made possible by the fact that Alvaro Bautista and Ducati had failed to come to an agreement over money. Talks had initially gone in Bautista's favor at the start of the season, when he won the first 8 races and 3 Superpole races in a row. But his spectacular decline since Imola, winning only one race since then and turning a 61-point lead into an 81-point deficit, severely weakened his hand.

Where Bautista ends up now is still uncertain. Reliable reports have the Spaniard under contract to HRC to race for the factory Honda team in WorldSBK. But there are doubts that this will happen: HRC is believed to be considering pulling out of WorldSBK and letting the Moriwaki Althea team run the show. 

That leaves Bautista with an intriguing option. If the Spaniard does not get a job in WorldSBK, KTM may consider him as a replacement for Johann Zarco in the factory Red Bull KTM team in MotoGP. Given Bautista's experience with multiple manufacturers - he has ridden a Suzuki, a Honda, a Ducati, and an Aprilia in MotoGP - his input could be invaluable in helping to develop the bike.

Below is the official press release from Ducati on the signing of Redding:


Confirmed line-up for the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team for 2020: Scott Redding to join up with Chaz Davies on the factory Panigale V4 R in the Superbike World Championship

Scott Redding is all set to partner Chaz Davies in the 2020 Superbike World Championship on the factory Ducati Panigale V4 R of the Italian team.

The 26-year-old British rider from Quedgeley (Gloucestershire), who this year is taking part in the BSB (British Superbike Championship), where so far this season he has taken six wins and five pole positions and is in second place in the overall standings with the Be Wiser Racing Ducati Panigale V4 R, will be making his debut in the production-based championship in 2020 after a five-year presence in MotoGP and one year in BSB.

Scott Redding will join up with the already confirmed Chaz Davies, who next year will be embarking on his seventh successive season on a Ducati, thus forming a very strong all-British rider formation.

Scott Redding: “I’m so happy to join the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team, which is something that I’ve wanted for a long time, because to be able to work with a team that can fight for a world title is really a great opportunity for me. Obviously now I have to remain fully focussed on the British Superbike Championship, because I want to try and win that title with the Be Wiser Ducati before stepping back up to a world championship again. A big thanks to all those people who have helped to make this dream happen, and now I can’t wait to get on the factory Panigale V4 R bike in the World Superbike Championship.”

Stefano Cecconi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Team Principal): “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Scott into our team. Despite being a rookie in BSB, on his first experience with the Panigale V4 R and with numerous tracks he has never seen before, Scott has proved to be fast right out of the box and to be able to aim straight for the title. For this reason, we have been following him with interest and we were impressed with his form even before having to look for a team-mate for Chaz in the coming seasons. With his determination and experience, I’m convinced he will be quick right from the start, even on a WSBK-spec bike. I wish to fondly bid goodbye to Álvaro and thank him for the incredible emotions that he has given us this year, he will surely be a difficult adversary to beat! Now however we must focus on the current season: we no longer have an advantage, but the world title battle is still open and we will give our maximum commitment to conclude our collaboration in the best possible way.”

Álvaro Bautista’s adventure with the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team thus comes to an end on the 26th October at the Losail circuit in Qatar. With four rounds still to be held (Portugal, France, Argentina and Qatar), the 34-year-old Spanish rider, who made his Superbike debut this year with the all-new Panigale V4 R, currently lies second in the championship with 352 points and has so far won 14 races, taking the Bologna bike to victory in its and his debut race at Phillip Island and then adding the next ten races to his victory tally.

The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will, as always, make the greatest effort to score the best possible results together with Álvaro right until the end of the season, and thanks him for his great commitment, all the while wishing him all the best for his racing future.

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2020 Provisional Calendar - 20 Races, Finland Added, More Back To Back Races

The FIM have issued a provisional calendar for the 2020 MotoGP season, which sees the series expand to 20 races, and lays the basis for expansion to 22 races. The biggest changes are the addition of the Kymiring in Finland in July, and the moving of the Thailand round of MotoGP in Buriram from October to 22nd March.

The racing season kicks off as ever in Qatar, the MotoGP race being moved to the first week of March. From Qatar, the series heads east to Thailand, the MotoGP race taking the slot of the WorldSBK race at Buriram. Attendance for the WorldSBK round had fallen since MotoGP went to Thailand, and so the WorldSBK round is being dropped, with another overseas round to be held in its place.

From Thailand, the paddock heads east once again to cross the International Date Line and head to Austin, the US round moving up to become the third race of the year, ahead of Argentina. The Argentina Grand Prix takes place two weeks after Austin. 

After the overseas rounds, the MotoGP circus heads to Europe, for the traditional start of the season in Jerez, followed by Le Mans and Mugello. The first seven races of the year are all nicely spaced two weeks apart, but after Mugello, a series of back-to-back races ensue.

The Barcelona round takes place the week after Mugello, and then two weeks later, the series heads north to the Sachsenring, which takes place the week before Assen, instead of after it. The move has enabled the Finnish GP at the Kymiring to be slotted in as the last race before the summer break.

The riders will be pleased to hear that there will be a proper summer break, with three free weekends between Finland and Brno, the Czech Grand Prix taking place on 9th August. But it is a hard return, Brno and Austria being back-to-back in August. The British Grand Prix returns at the end of August, and will be held on the August Bank Holiday, as usual, the Misano round taking place two weeks after that.

There is then a longer break between Misano and Aragon, the Aragon race being pushed back a week to take place in early October. The series then heads overseas for the Australasian triple header, with Motegi, Phillip Island, and then Sepang being held on consecutive weekends, as usual. There had been talk of splitting the flyaways up into two blocks of two races, but the decision to move Thailand to March prevented that plan.

The series ends as always in Valencia, in the middle of November. 

Testing will commence in Sepang, and there will be a Qatar test as well. The teams and Dorna had tried to get the Qatar test dropped, but the factories had objected, feeling that they needed two tests to prepare the new season. This is a battle which will be repeated after 2021, when Dorna want to expand the calendar to 22 races, for which there is a list of candidates wanting to join. Indonesia, Vietnam, and possibly a new track in Brazil could be added to the calendar.

The expansion to 20 races is unpopular inside the paddock. The racers are split on whether it is a good thing, with especially the older riders feeling there are too many races. Team and factory staff - engineers, mechanics, etc - are almost universally unhappy, as more races mean more time away from home and family.

Below is the provisional calendar for 2020, including the pre-season tests:

Date Event/Grand Prix Circuit
7-9th February Sepang MotoGP Test Sepang International Circuit
19-21st February Jerez Moto2/Moto3 test Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
22-24th February Qatar MotoGP Test Losail International Circuit
28/29 Feb/1st March Qatar Moto2/3 Test Losail International Circuit
8th March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
22nd March Thailand Chang International Circuit
5th April Americas Circuit of the Americas
19th April Republica Argentina Termas de Rio Hondo
3rd May Spain Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
17th May France Le Mans
31st May Italy Autodromo del Mugello
7th June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
21st June Germany Sachsenring
28th June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
12th July Finland** KymiRing
9th August Czech Republic*** Automotodrom Brno
16th August Austria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
30th August Great Britain Silverstone
13th September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
4th October Aragón MotorLand Aragón
18th October Japan Twin Ring Motegi
25th October Australia Philip Island
1st November Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
15th November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo

* Evening
** Subject to FIM Homologation
*** Subject to the Contract
 

 

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MotoGP Testing At Kymiring In Finland Gets Underway

Testing has come to an end after the first ever day of MotoGP action at the Kymring in Finland, six of the test riders for the six official MotoGP manufacturers turning some laps at the newly built circuit. Present were Stefan Bradl for Honda, Jonas Folger for Yamaha, Sylvain Guintoli for Suzuki, Mika Kallio for KTM, Michele Pirro for Ducati and Bradley Smith for Aprilia. Kallio was chosen over KTM's other test rider, Dani Pedrosa, to give the Finnish rider a chance to ride on his home track.

The test was convened mainly to give Michelin a chance to understand the stress the track will put on the tires. Although they have software which can simulate tire loads and wear based on the layout of the track and the abrasiveness of the surface, measured using special molds, that is always an approximation. Only actually riding on the track gives a complete picture of how much stress is placed on the tires, riders sometimes finding ways to go faster than models predict.

Conditions were far from ideal for tire testing, however. The day started with rain, and though skies cleared occasionally, the track never really dried out. Wets were used all day, and the rain and fresh construction meant the track was also quite dirty. 

Stefan Bradl crashed halfway through the day, falling at Turn 17, the last corner but one. Bradl was unhurt, but the crash briefly brought out a red flag. 

Lap times under the conditions were in the range between 2'10 and 2'12, but given the track was both wet and dirty, it is hard to draw any conclusions from that. Wet lap times are usually around 10% slower than dry lap times, so a normal dry lap should be somewhere between 1'55 and 1'58, in all likelihood. 

There were several people present at the track. Israeli journalist and TV expert Tammy Gorali posted photos and a few impressions from the track, which you can find on her Twitter feed here. Finnish local and volunteer marshal Juha Mönkkönen also posted a series of impressions of the track on his Twitter feed. Juha will be at the track on Tuesday, and so will hopefully post more tomorrow.

The MotoGP.com website also has news of the track. There is an onboard lap with Mika Kallio riding a KTM Super Duke, and a selection of photos from the first day of the test. You can also find their official report on the first day of the test there

The test continues on Tuesday, with riders on track between 11:00 and 18:00 local time.

 

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KTM Pull Out Of Moto2 For 2020, Expand In Moto3, Bring Back Husqvarna

Their home Grand Prix is traditionally the place where KTM announce the racing plans, and this weekend's Austrian MotoGP round is no different. There is to be a shakeup in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, while the Austrian manufacturer has extended its commitment to MotoGP for five more years beyond 2021. KTM will stop as a chassis manufacturer in Moto2, but bring back Husqvarna as a separate team and bike in Moto3.

The least surprising news was KTM signing on for another five years in MotoGP. The Austrian manufacturer signed a contract with Dorna for the next MSMA contract period, which runs from 2022 through 2026. Though the MotoGP project is not quite on schedule for the podiums they were aiming for in their third and fourth years, the progress has been good and investment in MotoGP has been strong.

The bigger news is that KTM are pulling out of Moto2 as a chassis manufacturer from 2020. The Austrian factory have struggled so far in Moto2, while spending a vast amount of resources trying to fix their chassis, which has suffered problems with chatter since the switch from Honda to Triumph engines. KTM have chosen to switch that investment to expand their presence in Moto3.

The immediate impact for Moto2 is that the Ajo team will no longer have KTM chassis in Moto2 from 2020. However, Ajo will continue to race in Moto2, fielding Jorge Martin and Iker Lecuona, though which chassis they will use is yet to be determined. Ajo will also continue to have strong links to the KTM factory, functioning as a de facto conduit for talent into KTM's program in MotoGP.

The bigger question mark will be what happens to Tech3. There is no news as yet of the French team's plans, though one option is for them to possibly switch to Moto3.

KTM's program in Moto3 is to be expanded. They will continue as chassis supplier, and expand the Ajo team from one rider to two again.

But the bigger news is that KTM are to bring back the Husqvarna marque in Moto3. There is to be a two-rider team, with Husqvarna building an entirely separate bike, though it is likely to take the KTM Moto3 bike as its starting point. Husqvarna have had some success in the past, especially in the years they ran Danny Kent in the Moto3 class.

The press release from KTM with full details of their plans appears below:


KTM apply extra strategic planning to MotoGP structure from 2020 with renewed five year commitment and strong Husqvarna return

MotoGP announcement

KTM AG announces a further five-year commitment to MotoGP racing, up until 2026, and will revise their priorities in the support classes from 2020 with refocused goals on Moto3 and reduced presence in Moto2. The Husqvarna brand will make a comeback with a dedicated Moto3 race team and new model.

KTM AG CEO Stefan Pierer and Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta inked a fresh contract for KTM to remain as part of the MotoGP grid for another five years at the Red Bull Ring for the myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich this weekend. The existing agreement will now extend to a total of seven years from the current campaign: KTM’s third as part of the high profile MotoGP series.

With the pledge to the pinnacle of Grand Prix racing confirmed, KTM have realigned their output in the support categories by placing principle emphasis on MotoGP and Moto3. Europe’s leading manufacturer will maintain their carefully constructed ‘road to MotoGP’ ladder from the new Northern Talent Cup (for 2020) and through the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and the subsequent divisions up until MotoGP but will reshape their perspective in the following two areas:

-Withdrawal as a chassis manufacturer in Moto2 but keeping the close relationship with Aki Ajo’s team as the crucial stepping-stone for Red Bull KTM in MotoGP.

-Further focus on Moto3 as the building block for Grand Prix talent to showcase and develop their potential. This includes a renewed effort with the return of Husqvarna to road racing. Adopting the KTM technical platform the brand was part of Moto3 in 2014 and 2015 and scored two podium results in the first season thanks to Danny Kent. The intention for 2020 is to develop a new Husqvarna race bike specifically for Moto3.

KTM continues to make promising gains in the MotoGP class where the quest for single-digit race results in the fiercely competitive contest remains on-track. The brand is a firm believer in the educational role of Moto3. The company’s young heritage started in the best possible way with the first two titles in 2012 (Sandro Cortese) and 2013 (Maverick Viñales) and another in 2016 with Brad Binder and KTM wishes to enforce this initial rung into Grand Prix racing.

Stefan Pierer, CEO KTM AG: “We made a proactive decision here at our home grand prix to renew our stay in MotoGP and commit to another five years of competition. This is part of a wider strategic view and we now have seven years to rise towards the top of the MotoGP class; the same period of time we needed to conquer the Dakar Rally. We know we are firmly on the way and have made good steps in less than three years already. As part of this outlook we want to boost Moto3: it is the foundation and the base of road racing for us. It is where we began and where we are one of the leading brands. We see a very good opportunity here by bringing back Husqvarna with force; there will be a new bike and a special direction with this project. All of this movement means we will pool our resources and energy and as a consequence we will step out of Moto2.”

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “First of all it is fantastic for us to continue to stay in ‘sixth gear’ as a company in MotoGP and to be able to keep pushing hard to achieve our goals. With our knowledge of more than three-hundred FIM world championships in so many classes we know the ingredients to have success in racing and we are determined not to move from our objective. For this I want to thank Mr Pierer and the KTM AG board for the extra vote of confidence and for all the hard work and belief that every single person who touches this project has made so far. Secondly we have looked at the entire programme and know that our effort has to be well placed, and we believe that MotoGP and Moto3 are the main platforms for us moving forwards. Thanks to the great work and experience with Aki we can maintain a link to Moto2 and the perhaps what is the final preparation needed for the jump to MotoGP. We feel strongly that we can have this asset even though we will vastly reduce our presence as a chassis contributor. We can feel the passion for MotoGP at places like Red Bull Ring this weekend and it allows us to feed off that energy. We believe that exciting times are coming for us as a racing division and as a company.”

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Tito Rabat Signs For Two More Years With Avintia - 2020 MotoGP Line Up Almost Complete

The rider line up for the 2020 MotoGP season is nearly complete. Today, the Avintia Ducati team announced they would be signing Tito Rabat to a new two-year deal, for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with a promise of obtaining factory-spec equipment.

The announcement is a result of the Pons Moto2 squad announcing that they would be signing Lorenzo Baldassarri and Augusto Fernandez for the 2020 season in Moto2. Baldassarri had been strongly linked to the Avintia ride, while Rabat was said to be in talks to head to the WorldSBK championship, to ride a Kawasaki alongside Jonathan Rea. When Baldassarri decided to stay in Moto2, Rabat became Avintia's best option.

The deal has two interesting details. The first is that Avintia are trying to obtain factory-spec machinery and commensurate support for 2020. That would imply that Ducati would field five GP20s (or six, if Karel Abraham were also get one) for next year. For Ducati to support that many factory bikes is a question of money, which would mean Avintia stepping up their investment, and raising more money from sponsorship. 

The second is that Rabat has chosen to sign for two years instead of one. That puts him out of step with the whole of the rest of the grid. Everyone else with a contract will be free for the 2021 season, and in a position to negotiate for a new deal with every other team on the grid, potentially at least. Rabat has no such freedom.

On the other hand, Rabat being signed for 2021 also means he won't have to fear losing his ride to one of the influx of youngsters from Moto2 expected at the end of next season.

With Rabat signed, only one signature is missing to complete the field. Jack Miller is still in talks with Pramac Ducati about 2020, though they are currently only talking numbers. The rest of the details - including having a Ducati GP20 - have been settled. A deal should be announced soon.

Here is the nearly complete rider line up for the 2020 MotoGP season:

Rider Bike Contract until
Monster Energy Yamaha
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2020
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2020
     
Repsol Honda
Jorge Lorenzo Honda RC213V 2020
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2020
     
Ecstar Suzuki
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2020
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2020
     
Gresini Aprilia
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2020
Andrea Iannone Aprilia RS-GP 2020
     
KTM Factory
Johann Zarco KTM RC16 2020
Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 2020
     
Factory Ducati
Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP20 2020
Danilo Petrucci Ducati GP20 2020
     
Satellite Teams
Pramac Ducati
Pecco Bagnaia Ducati GP20 2020
Jack Miller Ducati GP20 2019
     
LCR Honda
Cal Crutchlow Honda RC213V 2020
Taka Nakagami Honda RC213V 2019
     
Tech3 KTM
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2020
Brad Binder KTM RC16 2020
     
Petronas SIC Team
Franco Morbidelli Yamaha M1 2020
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2020
     
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati GP19? 2021
Karel Abraham Ducati GP19? 2020

The Avintia press release announcing the new deal appears below:


Tito Rabat and Reale Avintia Racing together for two more seasons

Reale Avintia Racing team is pleased to announce a new agreement reached with Tito Rabat for the 2020 and 2021 MotoGP seasons. The former Moto2 World Champion will continue for two more years with the team owned by Raúl Romero, who now aims at getting state-of-the-art bikes with the latest factory specifications, as well as a factory technical crew. Furthermore, and thanks to the excellent relationship between Esponsorama and Rabat family, the team is in negotiations with a major sponsor to complete an ambitious project which will allow Reale Avintia Racing to fight for strong results in the upcoming seasons.

Following his serious accident during the British Grand Prix last season, Tito Rabat struggled in a difficult first part of the championship, but in the last two races, the Spanish rider began to recover the feeling with his bike, he was ninth in Catalunya and he was close to the ‘top 10’ last time out in Germany.

Today’s announcement puts an end to the latest rumours that had Rabat looking for a ride in WSBK. It also confirms that Raúl Romero’s team will continue in the MotoGP World Championship stronger than ever.

Tito Rabat

“I’m very happy that I signed for two more years with my team. The best news is that we are going to have factory bikes from 2020, which is crucial to our goal of fighting for top positions in every race. The MotoGP class is more competitive than ever and you need to have the best machinery to get good results. I want to thank Raúl for his confidence in me. We had a difficult start into this year, but we got stronger in the last few races. Knowing that I will continue for two more seasons is a boost to my confidence and I’m sure I‘ll be back stronger in the second half of the championship.”

Raúl Romero (CEO Esponsorama)

“It is a pleasure to announce that Tito will continue with us for the next two seasons. There has been a lot of talk about Tito’s future and the future of the team, but with this announcement we made it clear that we are moving forward together and that we will be stronger than ever before. The team grew steadily since we arrived in MotoGP and the next step is to get factory machines, the same way as all the other independent teams in the championship. We are working on this right now and we are also in negotiations with a big sponsor that perfectly matches the size of the project we are planning for the upcoming seasons.”

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Jorge Lorenzo To Miss Brno And Austria, Return At Silverstone

Jorge Lorenzo's recovery is proceeding slower than hoped for, and will be forced to miss the next two MotoGP rounds. The Repsol Honda rider fractured two vertebrae in a crash at Assen, an injury which came on top of the battering his back took in a crash at the end of the Barcelona test two weeks before that.

After Assen, Lorenzo went back to his home in Switzerland to recover, and spent a week in a back corset to help the fractured vertebrae heal. But that process is not going as fast as hoped, and so Lorenzo has agreed with the Repsol Honda team that he will not take part in either the Czech round of MotoGP in Brno, nor the Austrian round at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. 

Stefan Bradl is to take Lorenzo's place in Brno and the Red Bull Ring. The German was already scheduled to appear as a wildcard at Brno, ahead of the crucial test on Monday at the Czech circuit. Bradl is currently in Japan, preparing to take part in this weekend's Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race. 

Lorenzo is scheduled to make his return to the Repsol Honda team at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone at the end of August. 

The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below:


Jorge Lorenzo to return at Silverstone

After suffering fractures to his T6 and T8 vertebrae during the Dutch GP, Jorge Lorenzo has elected to continue focusing on his recovery and will return for the British GP on August 25.

Jorge Lorenzo and the Repsol Honda Team have agreed it is best for Lorenzo to miss both the Czech and Austrian rounds to continue his recovery and avoid any further risk of injury. Having spent the summer break working on his recovery, Lorenzo’s condition has improved but he is still in some pain and his movement on a bike remains restricted. Silverstone has been set as his new objective for returning to riding for the Repsol Honda Team.

In his place, Stefan Bradl will again ride the RC213V in Repsol Honda Team colours. The German had been scheduled to wildcard at the Czech GP, but will now fill in for Lorenzo as he did at the Sachsenring.

 

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Danilo Petrucci Confirmed With Ducati For 2020 Season

The possible permutations in MotoGP rider line up for 2020 are limited, with almost everyone already under contract for next season. At the Sachsenring, Danilo Petrucci was added to the ranks of confirmed riders, with Ducati extending his contract in the factory team for 2020.

A contract extension for Petrucci had been on the cards for some while, the Italian's victory at Mugello making it an inevitability. Ducati are very pleased with Petrucci's performance, and the way that he and Andrea Dovizioso have worked together.

Petrucci is also something of a bargain. Word around the paddock is that Petrucci is being paid somewhere in the region of €700,000, though he had been hoping for over €1 million after winning at Mugello. After two seasons of Jorge Lorenzo commanding in the region of €12.5 million a year, Ducati's budget is getting a breather.

The confirmation of Danilo Petrucci means that news of a contract renewal for Jack Miller at Pramac will surely follow soon. The Australian has done well for Pramac, and Ducati will be supplying the latest spec Desmosedici GP20s to both Miller and Pecco Bagnaia for 2020.

The press release from Ducati appears below:


The Ducati Team and Danilo Petrucci together on track also in 2020

The Ducati Team is pleased to announce to have finalized an agreement with Danilo Petrucci for the 2020 MotoGP World Championship. The Italian rider will once again pair with Andrea Dovizioso onboard the factory Desmosedici GP.

Petrucci, 28, made his debut this year with the factory team after four seasons onboard the Ducati fielded by the Pramac Racing Team and has immediately shown great chemistry with the squad, progressively improving his competitiveness to conquer three podiums – including a fantastic win at Mugello in front of the home crowd – in the eight rounds held thus far. The Italian currently sits in third position in the World Championship, eight points behind his teammate Dovizioso. The two Ducati Team riders have been the most competitive pair on track this season so far and lead the Team rankings with 224 points scored in total.

"I'm very happy to continue with Ducati for another year – said Petrucci – It was my goal ever since the beginning of this new chapter, because we immediately found great chemistry with the team. In this first half of the season we were able to progressively increase our competitiveness, taking two podiums and an unforgettable win. To renew our collaboration before the summer break makes me even more serene and confident about the future. Now I simply want to stay focused and continue to improve as a rider to achieve even better results on track. We're third in the Championship, and we want to finish the season within the top three."

Luigi Dall'Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager:

"We're very happy to have reached an agreement with Petrucci and to continue to work together on track also next year. Danilo has shown his professionalism and talent ever since the first outings with the factory Desmosedici GP, and I believe his qualities are now clear to everyone, as evidenced by the strong results he already achieved this season, which culminated in a fantastic maiden win at Mugello. With Danilo on track alongside Andrea, our goal is to fight for the title, both in the Riders and the Manufacturers championships."

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Post Le Mans News Round Up: 22 Rounds From 2022, Team Shake Ups, And Ducati's Future Line Up

With the three overseas* races out of the way and MotoGP back in Europe, the thoughts of the teams, riders, and series organizers are starting to turn to the future. At Le Mans, there was much discussion in team trucks and among the organizers. And as a consequence, there was a stream of paddock rumor, interviews, and news articles on what's coming up for the future. Here's a round up of recent news.

Calendar expanding to 22 races

In 2016, Dorna signed a five-year contract with the teams and factories concerning regulations, the number of races, and team support. In it, the maximum number of races on the calendar was fixed at 20, and the MotoGP grid set at a maximum of 24.

Negotiations are set to start for the next contract period, from 2022 through 2026, some time next year, and German language publication Speedweek is reporting that there are changes on the horizon, changes confirmed by reports I also heard at Le Mans. The biggest change is the expansion of the maximum number of races, from 20 to 22.

It should not be difficult to find 22 circuits willing to host a race. Finland is set to join the series next year, once the Kymiring is completed. Indonesia could also have a circuit ready for 2021, with work continuing on the Mandalika circuit on the island of Lombok. Mexico City is still keen to host a round of MotoGP, while there are also persistent rumors of Brazil hosting a race at a circuit close to Rio de Janeiro.

The expansion of the racing calendar will come at the expense of testing. The current plan is to restrict the preseason testing calendar to just one test, at Sepang, instead of the current two (Sepang and Qatar). The teams would be happy to have the Sepang test canceled altogether – teams get paid by Dorna to go racing, but have to fund tests themselves - but the factories are opposed to this. There is also the question of whether they will continue with two tests in November, with many teams wanting to drop the Valencia test. Riders and teams are tired physically and emotionally after a long season, and engineers say that the feedback they get from riders at the Valencia test is not as good as at Jerez, 10 days or so later, after the riders have had some time off.

Finland in for Brno?

The Brno race looks to be a casualty, with solid reports that the 2019 race will be the last one at the scenic and challenging Czech circuit. There have been persistent problems with funding for the race, and rumors that the track has paid the sanctioning fee for the race either late or not in full.

If the Kymiring in Finland is ready for the 2020 season, the Finnish GP could keep the calendar at its current 19 races. When the race would be held is another question, given the challenges posed by the climate. The summer – July or August – would be the best time to hold the race, but as the Sachsenring attracts a lot of Scandinavian and especially Finnish fans, scheduling it too close to the German GP may cause some resistance.

Avintia out, Gresini satellite team in?

There could also be a reshuffling of some of the teams. In the past couple of years, the poorer satellite squads have been squeezed out of MotoGP, the places being taken by better-funded operations. The Avintia Ducati squad is the last holdout of shoestring-budget teams, and there are rumors that they will be moved out of MotoGP from 2022.

Their place – and possibly their grid slots – could be taken by Aprilia, so that the factory can operate its own factory squad, rather than partnering with Gresini. Gresini would then be free to become a satellite team, with rumors pointing to Suzuki as a possible partner.

The people involved inside the team at Suzuki have always been enthusiastic about a satellite team, but there have been problems with the budget in Japan. Suzuki's recent decision to change the organization of its racing department – setting up a separate Suzuki Racing Corporation department, which is capable of making its own decisions based on the budget set by Suzuki management – could create the financial and engineering space to make a satellite bike possible. The competitiveness of the Suzuki GSX-RR would make it relatively easy to find a team willing to run the bikes.

Ducati's second seat

Andrea Dovizioso is currently the only rider with a contract in the factory Ducati squad for the 2020 season, leading naturally to speculation over who will take the second seat next year. The prime candidates are current occupant Danilo Petrucci, and Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller. Both riders made a strong case for themselves at Le Mans, though Petrucci's case was stronger as he finished ahead of Miller and on the podium. More importantly, he showed that he is a team player, as he was capable of trying to pass Dovizioso, but unwilling to risk taking them both out on the last lap.

Petrucci and Miller have at least two more races to make their case, Paolo Ciabatti told Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont. After Mugello and Barcelona – two strong circuits for Ducati – management will sit down and start to consider their options.

Out of the frame

Two riders who won't be under consideration for the ride are Pecco Bagnaia, the second Pramac Ducati rider, and – surprisingly, to some – Aruba.it Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista, who is currently dominating the WorldSBK series. Bagnaia is still a rookie, and has not showed the kind of progress needed to leapfrog more experienced riders and take the second factory seat.

Alvaro Bautista, meanwhile, looks set to continue in WorldSBK. Sources close to Bautista told MotoMatters.com that the prospect of winning a title in WorldSBK, and competing for more championships in the next few seasons is a more attractive prospect than returning to MotoGP on a satellite squad, and racing for fifth place at best. At 34 years of age, he is unlikely to be considered for the factory Ducati team.

Alex Márquez in MotoGP?

Emilio Alzamora, manager of the Márquez brothers, is continuing in his quest to get Alex, the younger of the two, into MotoGP. At Le Mans, Alzamora told GPOne.com that he had started a conversation with Ducati about getting Alex Márquez into the Pramac Ducati squad.

Any such move is far from a foregone conclusion, however. Alzamora emphasized that these were just preliminary conversations, rather than contract negotiations, with everything still up in the air. Márquez made a strong case for himself at Le Mans, winning his first race since Motegi, in October 2017. But the younger Márquez brother will have to keep up this performance throughout the year, and keep up a sustained challenge for the title. If he can fight for the 2019 championship, he should earn his passage to MotoGP.

* The fact that we still refer to the races in Qatar, Argentina, the US, Thailand, Japan, Australia and Malaysia as 'overseas' races is a symptom of the Eurocentric attitude in MotoGP. This will slowly change, as more tracks outside Europe join the calendar, but with Dorna, IRTA, most of the teams, most of the riders, and half of the factories active in the Grand Prix paddock based in Europe, it will persist for some time yet.


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