While Silly Season for MotoGP seems to start earlier and earlier, the announcement of the calendar seems to get pushed back every year. 2011 is no exception, and even though September has started, there is still no provisional MotoGP calendar for next year, something which is normally published around the time of the Brno MotoGP weekend.
The reason for this year's delay is that the calendar faces a number of complications: Firstly, most people in the paddock are unhappy with the date of the opening MotoGP round at Qatar. While MotoGP fans had to wait until the second week of April for the season opener, the World Superbike series had already been underway for six weeks, and was entering its third weekend of racing. Then there is the issue of the Hungarian MotoGP round that went missing, the option of running Laguna Seca and Indianapolis back-to-back to help save money, and a host of other unresolved questions.
The response of the FIM and Dorna has been to postpone a decision for a year, according to the Italian magazine Motosprint. With the series due to undergo a major shakeup in 2012, with the return of 1000cc MotoGP bikes and the replacement of the 125cc class with the 250cc four-stroke Moto3 class, that moment will be seized to reappraise the schedule, and possibly shake up the entire calendar, but for now, the 2011 calendar is likely to stay pretty much as it is.
One change will be to move the Qatar MotoGP round up a few weeks, with the MotoGP opener likely to take place on March 20th, according to Motosprint. To avoid problems with temperature, the weekend schedule could be completely revamped, with extra days added for practice, MotoMatters.com has learned. The problem has always been that running practice and the race close to midnight, the temperature drops off sharply at that time of night, causing moisture to form on the track and making the desert circuit extremely slippery. To avoid that situation, the event will be run over four days instead of three, with more sessions of shorter length, to allow qualifying and the race to take place earlier in the evening. This will suit not only the temperature, but also fit in better with TV schedules in Italy and Spain, with the race being run nearer 9pm rather than 11pm local time, coinciding with 7pm in Western Europe.
The remainder of the calendar will be largely unchanged: Laguna will remain where it is at the end of July, while the Indianapolis round has already been announced for the weekend of August 28th, 2011, with a visit to Brno between the two. The Motorland Aragon circuit will once again take the place of Hungary - the powers-that-be having given up on the Balatonring being functional in time - meaning that Spain once again has four MotoGP rounds. It is unclear as yet whether Japan will stay in the same slot, putting all three Asia-Pacific flyaways together, which cuts costs for the teams significantly.
These details are expected to be cleared up at Aragon in two weeks' time, when the provisional calendar is due to be announced. What is also likely to be announced is an extra two days of testing at Jerez, on November 24th and 25th. The teams - especially the factory teams - have been asking for more testing, as the cuts made during the 2008 season were felt to have been a little too rigorous. And with both Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi switching manufacturers, more testing will be more than welcome. The added date in November, however, favors Honda and Yamaha more than it does Ducati. Yamaha have still not released Valentino Rossi for testing after the final MotoGP round at Valencia this year - Rossi's contract runs through December 31st, as do all MotoGP contracts - and adding a date in 2010 could mean that Rossi would miss two tests, rather than just the one after Valencia.
After 2011, though, the calendar is likely to undergo a major shakeup. Spanish magazine Motociclismo is reporting that both Singapore and Abu Dhabi could get races from 2012 onwards, while the brand new circuit being built in the Sak'skyi region on the Crimean peninsula - currently sponsoring the Gresini Moto2 team - is also a candidate for a Grand Prix. The two US rounds of MotoGP are likely to be made back-to-back, with possibly a layoff week in between to allow the material to be transported from west to east by road rather than air freight. But another possibility is that Indianapolis could be replaced on the calendar by the brand new circuit being built in Austin, Texas for Formula 1. Former 500 GP World Champion Kevin Schwantz has been advising on that circuit, and the circuit owners have made no secret of their interest in hosting international motorcycle racing events at the track. The Austin circuit could even be added as a third US round of MotoGP, especially if Ben Spies lives up to the expectations being placed on him, and challenges the top four MotoGP "Aliens" once he moves to the factory Yamaha team.
The contrast will be striking: The 2011 MotoGP calendar is likely to be virtually identical to the one used for 2010; the 2012 calendar could be virtually unrecognizable.