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Marc Marquez: Recovery From Shoulder Surgery More Complicated Than Expected

For the second winter in succession, Marc Márquez is recovering from shoulder surgery to fix a problem with dislocation. It didn't slow him down much in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider finishing the season opener at Qatar in second place, losing out to Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.023 seconds. He went on to win the next race in Argentina by nearly ten seconds, and crashed out of the lead in Austin. It was to be the only time Márquez finished outside of the top two.

So when Márquez decided to have surgery on his right shoulder last November (in 2018, it was his left shoulder which was operated on), he was confident of a quick recovery. The right shoulder was far less damaged than the left had been, and the surgery was much more simple. He spent far less time in surgery in November than he had done a year ago.

Shoulder surgery is a difficult business, however. On Wednesday, at an event organized by Repsol, Marc Márquez spoke to the media about the progress of his recovery. It was taking much longer than he had hoped, he said: two weeks ago, he still didn't have the strength to lift even a glass of water. The loss of muscle was clearly visible in a short video he posted on Twitter.

Simpler operation, tougher recovery

"The operation was more simple but the recovery has been more complex and more difficult," Márquez told the media. "Last year I arrived to the first tests pretty much ready and this time I think I will be more or less in a similar position. In the last two weeks I’ve made a pretty big step and at the start of the month I wasn’t that optimistic."

"The recovery was not more intense than last year, it was also less painful but it has been more difficult," he said. "They told me that when they open the shoulder that there are nerves and muscles that can be affected." That had forced Márquez and his physiotherapist Carlos Garcia to adjust their expectations. Márquez was spending four hours a day on rehabilitation, and all day working to prepare his body and his fitness for the coming season.

"It has taken longer than we thought," Márquez said. "I’ve disappeared a bit from social media because I’ve been 100% concentrated on what I needed to do. There is still a difference [to his other shoulder], but I really want to ride again and try at least one type of bike before going to Malaysia. We haven’t done it yet because I haven’t been ready but I hope for next week as we’ll be going to Malaysia the week after." Márquez has already been driving a kart, to prepare him mentally, but he will want to ride a dirt track bike or a minibike before he flies out to Sepang.


All that hard work was starting to pay off. "The evolution in the last weeks has been pretty good, but it’s possible that in preseason I won’t be able to do all the laps that are necessary and should be made. We will work hard with the physio and the team to monitor this recuperation and to try the things we need to do to have a bike ready to fight for the title again."

At the Sepang test in 2019, Márquez had run limited laps, forced by his team to reduce the time spent on track. That will be the plan for 2020 as well, Márquez explained, though it was complicated by the fact that with a rookie teammate in his brother Alex, he will have to do the bulk of the development work. The upside was that Cal Crutchlow will be fully fit at the Sepang test this year, rather than coming off ankle reconstruction surgery as he was in 2019.

"Last year Jorge Lorenzo was injured and so it fell to me to evolve the bike," Márquez explained. "Now the dynamic is the same because my teammate is Alex and he’s a rookie and cannot ask much when it comes to concepts of the bike because – like Jorge Lorenzo – he has to understand the bike and know how a Honda is. There is also Cal Crutchlow who is very capable to also have a second opinion of the development. I think the test in Malaysia will be like last year; I won’t be able to do all the laps I want but it will help to work on the shoulder as well."

No hindrance

Will this slow Márquez down? History suggests it will have little effect. By the time the first race at Qatar came around in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider was ready to challenge for victory, just losing out to Andrea Dovizioso. There is little reason to expect 2020 to be much different.

The only possible obstacle is a more demanding calendar: in 2019, Márquez had three weeks to recover after the first race of Qatar, while this year, there are only two weeks between Qatar and the second race. That race is in Thailand, rather than Argentina, and the intense heat and humidity in Buriram will also be far more punishing than it was in Termas de Rio Hondo.

There was also a gap of three weeks between the Austin race and Jerez, whereas in 2020, there are four races rather than three before the series heads back to Europe for the Jerez race. But Márquez continues to prepare as well he can for Sepang, and the start of the 2020 season.

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2020 Week 3 News Round Up: Bike Launches, Iannone Update, Aprilia's New Bike, Marquez' Slow Recovery

As the world of motorcycle racing starts to get into the swing of things, activity is starting to ramp up. The first of the MotoGP factory launches is due this week, Ducati to present their 2020 livery and (unchanged) rider line up in a 13th Century palace in the middle of Bologna. That event happens on Thursday evening, the 23rd January, and I will be attending to try to find out more about Ducati's plans for the coming season.

The other factories will have to wait. The three Japanese factories will be launching their bikes just ahead of the Sepang test. Repsol Honda go first, holding their launch in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on 4th February. The Monster Energy Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT teams will be holding their launches at the Sepang circuit on the 6th February, as will the Suzuki Ecstar team.

By then, testing will already be underway, with test riders and MotoGP's three rookies – Alex Márquez at Repsol Honda, Brad Binder in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team, and Iker Lecuona in the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 squad – taking part in the shakedown test at the Sepang circuit. The shakedown takes place from 2nd to 4th of February. As concessions teams, the factory KTM and Aprilia teams will also be taking part.

Iannone's future in the balance

Andrea Iannone will not be taking part in the shakedown test, that at least is certain. The Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that Iannone has a date set for his hearing at the CDI, the International Disciplinary Court. That is to be held on 4th February, the last day of the shakedown test, at 1pm at the FIM headquarters in Mies, Switzerland.

As explained at some length in a previous article, Iannone's defense will be based on arguing food contamination. The burden of proof for that is extraordinarily high. Iannone must not only prove that the traces of drostanolone found in his urine got there because he ate some kind of contaminated food, but he must also prove he had no way of knowing that his food could be contaminated, or reason to suspect it might be contaminated. In essence, he has to prove he was certain the food was safe to eat.

The CDI has 45 days to make a decision based on the evidence presented, though it is likely the court will reach a decision more quickly, especially given that the 2020 MotoGP season is set to start on 8th March. A range of outcomes is possible, from acquittal, to a reprimand, all the way up to a four-year ban. Avoiding a four-year ban will be extremely difficult, however.

Aprilia now has a backup plan. Lorenzo Savadori is to take Iannone's place at the test. The Italian rode for Aprilia in WorldSBK, and is currently uncertain of competing in WorldSBK this year due to sponsorship issues. Bradley Smith will continue to test as normal at Sepang, but if Iannone is not cleared to race at Qatar, the Englishman will take his place in the factory Aprilia squad. The brief flirtation between Aprilia and Max Biaggi turned out to be nothing more than an exchange on Twitter, after the Italian legend had tested their new RSV4-R at Sepang.

A glimpse of the future

The Sepang test is going to be a vital one for Aprilia. The Noale factory will have two of their brand new RS-GPs at the test, featuring a 90°V engine. The engine angle was confirmed in an interview on GPOne with chief engineer Romano Albesiano. Italian broadcaster Sky was given access to Aprilia Racing's dyno, where the engine was being tested, and the images clearly showed a 90°V configuration.

The engine has been completely redesigned, Albesiano told GPOne's Paolo Scalera. Cooling system and gearbox have been repositioned to allow both the greater V angle, and an external flywheel, as used by Ducati and, reported, Honda. An external flywheel allows the weight to be changed from track to track, making it better adapted to each circuit.

Much work was done on the ignition firing interval and sequence, Albesiano explained, in an attempt to find the ideal configuration. That has also required changes to the chassis and aerodynamics, to accommodate the different dimensions of the new engine.

More change is on the horizon for Aprilia after 2021. In another interview with GPOne, team boss Fausto Gresini confirmed that Aprilia will have their own full-time entry as a separate factory team from 2022 onward, when the new contract period begins. That will leave Gresini free to become an independent team once again. Staying with Aprilia as a satellite team is definitely an option, but there have long been rumors that Gresini is looking at Suzuki as an option.

Yamaha to improve its starts?

In an interview with leading Indonesian website TMCBlog, Maverick Viñales gave a glimpse into what Yamaha are working on ahead of the Sepang test. The M1 has outstanding handling, but it has two weaknesses: a lack of power, and mediocre starts. Yamaha has already brought a couple of engine updates so far during testing, but Viñales let slip that the starts are something which Yamaha are also working on.

Sepang could see the Japanese factory debut a holeshot device similar to Aprilia and Ducati which would help the M1 get off the line. Whether that locks the front down, like the Aprilia, or the rear, like Ducati, is yet to be seen. You can watch the entire 10 minute interview with Maverick Viñales on the TMCBlog Youtube channel.

WorldSBK testing

While the MotoGP teams have to wait until early February to get back on track, the WorldSBK paddock is only a few days away from starting again. The World Superbike teams will start a two-day private test at Jerez on Wednesday, and a chance to see most of the WorldSBK teams and riders in action. Barni Ducati rider Leon Camier will be forced to miss the test, as he continues his recovery after shoulder surgery.

The Jerez test should be the first chance the WorldSBK teams get to see the new Honda Fireblade. Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam will be lining up at Jerez on the new excessively-lettered CBR1000RR-R. Given the reports of how fast the bike has been at previous private tests, with no other bikes present, Jerez should give a much better idea of how the project is going.

HRC test rider Stefan Bradl is also at the Jerez circuit, and will have the track to himself on Tuesday. The German will be testing the Honda RC213V. As a test rider in a test team, Bradl is not covered by MotoGP's winter test ban, which runs from the start of December 2019 to the end of January 2020.

Slow recovery

The man that Stefan Bradl has been working for is still hard at work trying to get ready for Sepang. But that process is not going as quickly as he had hoped, Marc Márquez said at an awards ceremony where he and brother Alex were names Catalan sportsmen of the year. "The recovery is not going as quickly as hoped," Márquez said.

It is possible that his expectations were set too high. The operation on his right shoulder, which took place on 27th November last year, was much less complicated than the operation on his left shoulder in 2018. But the surgery was still extremely invasive, and requires a lot of work to recover from.

Márquez is still aiming to be ready to test at Sepang, but he will be a long way from 100% fit. The Repsol Honda rider posted a short video of his training on Twitter, and in that video, the difference in muscle mass between left and right shoulders was clearly visible. Recovering full strength in his right shoulder will probably take well into the start of the 2020 season, but Carlos Garcia, the physiotherapist Márquez is working with to prepare for the coming season, was at pains to point out how hard the reigning champion is working. "Nobody knows the hard work this guy is doing on his back, or rather his shoulders. By November, nobody will remember."

Márquez is still some way from being able to ride a motorcycle, but his support team has found a way to get him used to the feeling of speed again. The Repsol Honda rider is spending time driving karts, to get back the sensation of speed. Driving a kart also has the useful side effect of diluting Márquez' desire to get back on a bike. Last time around, his team had to literally take the wheels off his flat track bike. Allowing him to go karting gives him a release valve for his pent up frustration.

Though Márquez' recovery may be going slowly, his rivals should not draw too much comfort from this. The Spaniard was a very long way from being fit at the Sepang test in 2019, but he went on to have one of the most impressive MotoGP seasons in the past couple of decades, and dominate the 2019 championship.

Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to here.


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2020 Week 1 News Round Up: Valentino Rossi's Decision, Jorge Lorenzo's Future, And What Next For Aprilia

The world of MotoGP and WorldSBK has been relatively quiet for the last two weeks, as factories close and teams and riders take time off to celebrate their various holidays. Very little has happened, with people off around the world, and only now returning to prepare for the 2020 season.

Rossi speaks

The winter break did offer an opportunity for Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport to interview Valentino Rossi. Fortunately for English speakers, the interview was translated and posted on the website of esteemed US publication Cycle World, meaning race fans could read the whole thing for themselves, and not have to rely on translations of interpretations of summaries posted on many websites.

The interview with Rossi was wide-ranging, held in the wake of his testing Lewis Hamilton's F1 Mercedes, and so naturally, there was much talk of F1. Rossi revealed that he came close to switching to F1 at the start of the 2006 season, but decided against it in the end. Fortunately for MotoGP, as the Italian went on to win two more world championships, and is still competitive at the age of 40.

Will he still be competitive when he turns 41 in a few weeks' time? Rossi believes he can be. He told Paolo Ianieri that he feels he is still the same rider that beat Casey Stoner in 2008, a criteria set by his former crew chief Jeremy Burgess. The problem is that he is older, and his rivals are stronger, Rossi said. He knows he has to make a decision this year.

Decision time

But it is a decision which is still to be made. Before making the decision, Rossi wants to see if he can be more competitive than he was in 2019, and if not, there is no reason for him to continue. He will talk to his close friends and family, he said, before making up his mind.

The problem is, of course, that time is not on his side. With everyone out of contract at the end of 2020, the pressure for the factories will be to sign riders as early as possible. But Rossi needs time to understand whether he should continue or not, he said. "I would like to have a little more time. Unfortunately, today in MotoGP everything is decided at the beginning of the year. I will need a little bit to understand, like mid-season," Rossi told Ianieri.

After the interview was published, there were some headlines suggesting that Rossi would be willing to accept a demotion to the Petronas Yamaha team for 2021 to keep on racing. But that is not quite what Rossi said. The Italian merely pointed out that Yamaha will be facing a dilemma (or perhaps trilemma is a better way of phrasing it), trying to fit three riders – Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo, and himself – into two seats. He was positive about the Petronas team, but at pains to point out that much was still open, and either Viñales or Quartararo in a position to move on.

But there is no need to rely on my interpretation of the interview. Better to read for yourself what Valentino Rossi said. The entire interview is worth reading. You can find it on the Cycle World website.

Lorenzo's future

In the interview, Rossi also broached the possibility of Jorge Lorenzo taking a role as a test rider with Yamaha. Rumors of Lorenzo returning as a test rider started in mid December last year, but there has been little movement on that so far. Lorenzo has returned from his extended post-retirement vacation in Bali and is back at home in Switzerland. The Spaniard is posting photos on Social Media of himself training, so he looks determined to get back into shape.

Whether that means he will take on a role as test rider remains to be seen. The Spaniard has been basically riding injured since Aragon in 2018, and the crashes at Barcelona and Assen, where he fractured his vertebrae, left him visibly frightened. He was afraid in his last race at Valencia, fearful of a final crash that could leave him with permanent spinal damage.

A role as test rider means being willing to push a bike to its limit, and take risks doing so. Only Jorge Lorenzo knows whether he is willing to take that risk. In an interview with Spanish website, he at least acknowledged that that is one possibility he has on the table. How taking up that option would affect his return to the paddock in a TV role is as yet unclear.

One thing is for certain, however. Lorenzo will not be a test rider for Ducati. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna was keen to have Lorenzo return to the Italian factory, but only if the Spaniard had wanted to keep racing. Ducati's Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti ruled out the idea of Lorenzo becoming a test rider to German language publication Speedweek.

Who replaces Iannone?

The other Italian factory may also be in need of a test rider. On Tuesday, Andrea Iannone's B sample from the drug test he failed at Sepang is due to be tested. If the B sample doesn't clear Iannone, his provisional ban will turn into a permanent one.

Who will replace Iannone? The most logical thing for Aprilia to do would be to promote current test rider Bradley Smith into the factory team, alongside Aleix Espargaro. That would appear to be the most likely course of action, according to Aprilia sources, but if there is one thing we learned from the 2019 MotoGP season, it is that nothing is certain, even when contracts have been signed. Smith will definitely be on the brand-new RS-GP at the Sepang and Qatar tests, and is the most likely candidate to be on the grid at Qatar.

If Smith does receive a promotion, that would leave a vacancy for a test rider. Aprilia already have Matteo Baiocco under contract, who tested for the Noale factory for the last couple of years. But with the objective being to make a big step forward in 2020, they will want a second rider to push the limits of the bike.

New test rider, new bike

Karel Abraham is likely to fill that gap. The Czech rider finds himself without a ride, after being unceremoniously pushed aside to make way for Johann Zarco in the Reale Avintia squad. Abraham has already done some testing work in the past for KTM, and his feedback was judged to be solid.

Having a strong rider will be vital for Aprilia. The Italian factory is due to roll out a brand new bike at the Sepang test, with a completely new engine. That engine will have a new V angle, with some reports suggesting it will be a 90°V, rather than the narrower angle currently being used. The objective is to produce more power and improve both acceleration and deceleration, engine braking playing an enormously important part in MotoGP.

Aprilia have taken on a number of new engineers to help design the new bike, working on the engine, electronics, and aerodynamics. Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola has made major changes inside the organization to make the racing department more effective, and get better results from the engineers. Such a radical shake up in terms of bike design will take time to get right, and will need a lot of work from a competent test rider to help steer the project in the right direction.

Sad news

The start of the year was also marked by tragedy, however. IRTA official and former Suzuki MotoGP mechanic Gary McLaren died in a fireworks accident in Thailand. I knew Gary only a little, but he was a clever and friendly man, passionate about racing, always helpful. He is a loss to the paddock, and will be missed. Thoughts with his friends and family.

Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to here.

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Jorge Lorenzo To Return To MotoGP Paddock In 2020

Jorge Lorenzo's announcement at Valencia that he would be retiring at the end of the 2019 MotoGP season came as a shock to the paddock. In the immediate aftermath, attention focused on who would take his place in the Repsol Honda Team, speculation reaching a crescendo when HRC announced they had signed Alex Marquez to ride alongside brother Marc in the factory squad.

With MotoGP testing out of the way, and Jorge Lorenzo returned home to Switzerland after his hard-earned extended vacation in Bali, Indonesia, talk has now turned to Jorge Lorenzo's future. The Spaniard himself has already told Austrian TV that he expects to be back in the MotoGP paddock in 2020.

Although Lorenzo has not revealed what he expects to be doing when he returns to the paddock, there have been rumors for several weeks that the Spaniard is looking at getting into TV. Lorenzo speaks Italian and English fluently, as well as Spanish, and given his status as a former world champion, will command a sizable salary. That would rule out all but the biggest broadcasters of the MotoGP series.

Today, we also learned that Lorenzo could also be back on a bike in 2020. journalist Oriol Puigdemont reported that Yamaha have offered Lorenzo a role as test rider for the Japanese manufacturer. 

Yamaha have been without a European test rider since dropping Jonas Folger at the end of the 2019 season, though no clear reason was given. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis explained at Valencia that Yamaha had wanted to streamline their testing program, as the European and Japanese test teams were often following different working programs and returning different feedback to the factory, making it hard for the factory to choose a direction and develop.

In the future, he explained, they would push forward with a single Japanese test team, which would test more often at European test tracks. Although that test program would focus mainly on Japanese test riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane, Yamaha had not ruled out using a European test rider.  

Initially, Johann Zarco had been offered the role of Yamaha test rider, but it was made clear to the Frenchman that if he took the role, he would have to turn down the opportunity to replace Takaaki Nakagami on the LCR Honda. Zarco elected to replace Nakagami, and find a seat in MotoGP for 2020, which he eventually landed with the Avintia Ducati squad.

With Zarco out of the frame, approaching Lorenzo makes a huge amount of sense. The Spaniard helped develop the Yamaha M1 throughout his time with the Japanese factory, providing valuable feedback alongside Valentino Rossi, and helping Yamaha to build a bike that won five championships during his stay there, three of which Lorenzo won. 

Will this see Lorenzo make a return to racing full time at the end of 2021? That seems unlikely, given the severity of the spinal injury Lorenzo suffered in his crash at Barcelona and Assen. Lorenzo will be 33 next year, and was relieved to retire from racing in one piece. That injury still hangs over his head, and may yet prevent him from taking the testing role - the story on says only that Lorenzo has been offered the job of test rider, not that Lorenzo has accepted it.

A job in television would not prevent Lorenzo from taking a role as test rider. Stefan Bradl, test rider for HRC, also works as a presenter and pitlane reporter for Servus TV, the broadcaster for Germany and Austria.

Whatever Lorenzo decides to do, the Spaniard looks certain to be present in the paddock in 2020.  


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Andrea Iannone Provisionally Suspended For Steroid Use

Andrea Iannone has been provisionally suspended from all racing activity for violating the FIM's antidoping code. A urine sample taken from Iannone at the Malaysian round of MotoGP at Sepang was found to contain traces of anabolic steroids. Once the findings of the sample, analyzed by a WADA-accredited laboratory, were reported, Iannone was handed a provisional suspension in line with the FIM antidoping code.

Iannone can appeal the result, and request that the B sample (the second sample taken at the same time) is analyzed. He can also appeal to the CDI (International Disciplinary Court) for his suspension to be lifted, but to do that, he would have to be able to provide evidence that the samples he provided had been contaminated in some way, or that he had taken the banned substances accidentally (something which is very difficult for anabolic steroids).

If Iannone does not appeal the result, or analysis of the second sample confirms the findings of the first, then Iannone faces an automatic four-year ban. Anabolic androgenic steroids are so-called non-specified substances, which means that it is almost impossible for them to enter the body accidentally or without knowledge of the person using them.

This is where Iannone's suspected offense is different to previous doping offenders, such as Ant West. West was found to have used so-called specified substances, which can be taken inadvertently, as West claimed, by using a supplement which did not label the ingredients clearly. Anabolic steroids are used to build muscle mass and burn fat, as well as to reduce inflammation in some cases. They are very hard to take by accident.

A four-year ban would automatically end Iannone's career. A number of rider and team managers had identified Iannone as one of the riders likely to leave MotoGP at the end of 2020, but he had also been expected to head to WorldSBK, where he would have been a very welcome addition. A four-year ban would make that impossible. 

Iannone's suspension and possible ban leaves Aprilia in a quandary. The most obvious solution to any ban would be to promote Bradley Smith from his role as test rider. Smith has been pivotal in helping develop the Aprilia RS-GP, and providing input for the new bike to be launched at the Sepang test in February next year.

The press release announcing Iannone's suspension appears below:

FIM Antidoping
FIM Grand Prix World Championship

Rider Andrea Iannone provisionally suspended

The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) has advised Italian Grand Prix rider Andrea Iannone that he is provisionally suspended pursuant to Article 7.9.1 of the 2019 FIM Anti-doping Code (CAD). The decision to provisionally suspend Mr Andrea Iannone was mandatory following the receipt of a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Kreischa b. Dresden (Germany) indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of a non-specified substance under Section 1.1.a) Exogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) of the 2019 Prohibited List, in a urine sample collected from him at an in-competition test carried out by the FIM at the round of the FIM Grand Prix World Championship held in Sepang, Malaysia on 3 November 2019.

Mr Andrea Iannone has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample.

Mr Andrea Iannone is provisionally suspended with effect from 17 December 2019. He is therefore barred from participating in any motorcycling competition or activity until further notice. Under Article CAD, Mr Iannone may request lifting of his provisional suspension.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code and the FIM Anti-Doping Code, the FIM is unable to provide any additional information at this time.


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Avintia Confirm Johann Zarco Signed For 2020 MotoGP Season

Johann Zarco has been confirmed as the final piece of the MotoGP puzzle. The Avintia Racing Team have announced that Zarco will be riding a Ducati Desmosedici GP19 for them in 2020. 

The press release brings to an end weeks of speculation about the future of the Frenchman. Rumors of a move to Ducati had first come at Valencia, then been fueled further by the news that Karel Abraham had been sacked by Avintia. Zarco then told French journalist Michel Turco that he would be racing for Avintia in an interview for the magazine Moto Revue last week. 

There had been some skepticism around the move, after Zarco had told reporters he only wanted to ride for a top team, and had described Avintia as 'not a top team'. But Ducati have offered extra support and guarantees to both Avintia and Zarco to make the agreement possible. 

Zarco has signed a contract directly with Ducati, rather than with the team, guaranteeing him better support. In the press release, Avintia state that they will have more support from Ducati, with two electronics engineers and two track engineers from Ducati joining the team.

That is also beneficial for Ducati, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna told Israeli journalist Tammy Gorali. Avintia's status as perennial backmarkers did not make Ducati look good, so having what Ducati can hope is a very strong rider in the team should help lift the level of the team's achievements. 

The loss of Abraham, who brought money and sponsorship to the team, could pose a problem for Avintia. With Zarco signed for Ducati directly, that should relieve the strain on Avintia, as Ducati will be supporting the Frenchman with equipment. Zarco also has the backing of French GP promoter Claude Michy, and as a consequnce, Dorna, which has a lucrative TV contract with French broadcaster Canal+. That is likely to see extra support for Zarco and the team coming from the organizers as well.

Zarco is currently recovering from the ankle injury he sustained at the final race of 2019 at Valencia. He should be fit in time for the first test of 2020 at Sepang in early February.

The press release from Avintia appears below:

Johann Zarco, new rider of the Reale Avintia Racing Team

The Reale Avintia Racing Team is pleased to announce that Johann Zarco will be the rider to race with Tito Rabat at the next MotoGP World Championship in 2020. The Ducati satellite team will be joined by two track engineers and two Ducati Corse electronics that will follow the activity of the two riders of the Demosedici GP19 throughout the coming season. Zarco, two-time Moto2 World Champion, has signed a one-year agreement directly with Ducati and will be on track for the next season for the first time in the winter tests scheduled at Sepang from 7 to 9 February.

Raúl Romero, owner of the Reale Avintia Racing Team:

“I am really happy and excited with the arrival of a great rider like Johann Zarco to our team from the hand of Ducati. This further strengthens the growth of the team after extending the contract with the Manufacter of Borgo Panigale, making a leap of quality in terms of material by becoming a satellite team. All this package will allow to reflect in the circuits the effort of the structure in the last years. We hope to see Johann and Tito assiduously in the top ten and become a reference team soon. Finally, we would like to thank all our sponsors for their efforts in recent years, without them this would not have been possible.”

Johann Zarco has commented on his new challenge:

“I am very pleased to officially announce my signature with Ducati for 2020 season in MotoGP category racing in the Reale Avintia Racing Team. My left ankle is recovering well, I can enjoy now my winter time having rest with family and training again very soon!”


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The Zarco Saga Nears Completion - An Avintia Seat Beckons

The Johann Zarco Saga appears to be drawing to a close. The long journey, which started when he announced he would be leaving KTM at the end of 2019, looks to have taken him to Ducati. In an interview for the French magazine Moto Revue, the Frenchman told journalist Michel Turco that he will be racing a Ducati Desmosedici GP19 with the Avintia Racing team in 2020.

Zarco's statements bring to a close a long and confusing chapter in MotoGP. Zarco was summarily dismissed from the Red Bull KTM team on full pay after the race in Misano, the Austrian manufacturer wanting rid of a disruptive factor in the factory team. After Thailand, it emerged that Zarco would be temporarily replacing Takaaki Nakagami in the LCR Honda team after Motegi, to allow the Japanese rider to recover from shoulder surgery in time for the 2020 MotoGP season.

That move led to speculation that Zarco could replace Jorge Lorenzo in the Repsol Honda team. But by the time Lorenzo announced his retirement ahead of the final round at Valencia, Emilio Alzamora, who manages the Marquez brothers, had persuaded HRC to sign Alex Marquez to ride alongside his brother Marc in the factory Repsol Honda squad.

With the door at Honda shut, the focus moved to Ducati. Over the Valencia weekend, rumors surfaced that Dorna was trying to get Zarco onto a Ducati  for 2020. Reports initially linked Zarco to Avintia, where he would replace Karel Abraham, but Zarco showed no interest in riding for Avintia, preferring to look at Moto2 rather than staying in MotoGP.  "I want a good team and a good bike and for me Avintia is not a top team," the Frenchman said at Valencia. Rumors then had Zarco moving to the Pramac Ducati team, to take the place of Jack Miller, who would be moving up to the factory squad to replace Danilo Petrucci.

At the Jerez test, it became clear that if Zarco was going to land anywhere, it would be at Avintia. Karel Abraham told top Israeli broadcaster and journalist Tammy Gorali that he had been fired by Avintia, freeing up a place in the Andorran team. 

Yet there was still no obvious way to reconcile the statements Zarco had made with him being offered a seat at Avintia. The interview with Moto Revue cleared some of that up. 

In the interview, Zarco tells Michel Turco that he has a contract directly with Ducati, rather than with Avintia. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna had told Zarco that he could be confident of getting good support from Ducati, and that had given him the confidence to sign to ride for Avintia, Zarco said. The Frenchman had also spoken to his former crew chief Massimo Branchini, and Branchini had told him to have faith in Dall'Igna, and that Ducati would find him a competent crew chief.

Though Zarco's statements leave nothing open to interpretation, a few question marks remain. There is as yet still no official confirmation, neither from Ducati nor from Avintia, that Zarco will be riding for them for 2020. As 2019 has made abundantly clear, even signed contracts can be broken if circumstances demand it.

There is also the question of how Zarco will fit in with the Avintia squad once he arrives. The team will not have forgotten his words, and he is unlikely to receive a particularly warm welcome. Trust is the rock on which the relationship between rider and team is built, and without trust, things can quickly sink into the mire.

Zarco's personality does not help in that respect: the Frenchman speaks his mind, whether that is a good idea or not, as he found to his cost in KTM. Even if Zarco goes well on the Ducati, any public criticism of the team is unlikely to be well received. A close and happy team is the difference between success and failure - see the change in Maverick Viñales' fortunes since switching crew chiefs this year - and that is hard to build where both sides are suspicious of one another. 

Why would Ducati and Avintia want to sign Zarco? There has been a great deal of pressure from Claude Michy, the promoter of the French MotoGP round at Le Mans. Michy is a longtime supporter of Zarco, and wants Zarco on the grid to help sell tickets to French fans, as Zarco is seen as more authentically French than Fabio Quartararo, who left France to go and live in Spain at a very young age. 

Zarco also had the support of Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, who had also been acting as his confidant in the latter part of the season. With the weight of Michy and Ezpeleta behind him, Ducati were inclined to take a chance on Zarco. 

It is in the interests of all parties that the gamble pays off. Zarco's stated objective is to finish consistently in the top ten, then inside the top seven as the season goes on. The aim is to earn a seat in the factory Ducati squad in 2021, when all of the contracts in MotoGP are up for grabs.

That will not be easy. Firstly, finishing inside the top ten will be difficult: Marc Marquez will be set on defending his 2019 MotoGP title, there will be four competitive Yamahas and four Ducati GP20s on the grid, as well as two fast Suzukis in the hands of Alex Rins and the rapidly improving Joan Mir. The GP20 looks to be a big step forward for Ducati, the bike turning much better than its predecessor. Even the KTM RC16 has shown real signs of progress with its new frame. Then there are riders like Cal Crutchlow and Taka Nakagami, who are both capable of top tens on any given day. If Zarco wants to finish in the top ten, he has a lot of bikes he will have to try to beat.

Even if he can score regular top sevens, he also faces stiff competition for a seat in 2021. There is strong interest in the current crop of Moto2 riders for 2021, and there could be as many as five or six youngsters vying for seats in MotoGP. Zarco will be 30 by the time the second half of the 2020 season starts, and youth-obsessed managers may prefer to sign a youngster from Moto2 over an older Frenchman. 

Zarco has damaged his prospects of a 2021 seat with his behavior this year. The way he handled the KTM situation - especially his constant and public criticism of the team - did not sit well with factory bosses. That may even have cost him for 2020, as KTM team boss Mike Leitner will have made his feelings about Zarco's behavior clear to Repsol Honda boss Alberto Puig, the two men being good friends with a long history together. Yamaha had already cut ties with Zarco, after the Frenchman turned down a role as a test rider, and bad blood remains between Zarco and Suzuki after Suzuki took Rins over the Frenchman for the 2017 season.

So while it appears that one chapter of the Zarco Saga appears to be drawing to a close, it is not hard to believe that a new chapter is about to open. And if 2019 is anything to go by, it could well prove to be rather dramatic.

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Grand Prix Commission Tweaks Testing Regulations Further

The Grand Prix Commission is working through the unintended consequences of the decision to restrict testing in all three Grand Prix classes. Those restrictions have been a positive aid in reducing costs, but have made it impossible to use riders not currently under contract unless their contracted riders are absent due to illness or injury.

Adding a further layer of complexity to this is the current state of the MotoGP rider's market: with everyone out of contract at the end of 2020, and a large crop of Moto2 riders looking to step up, the factories want to take a look at riders not currently on the MotoGP grid. In previous years, such rookies would be given a private test - that happened with Johann Zarco, Alex Marquez, and Brad Binder, to name a few. But with private testing now banned, that has become impossible. 

As a result, the GPC has decided to allow non-contracted riders to run alongside contracted riders at MotoGP tests, subject to the proviso that they share riding time: i.e. only one of them can be on the track at the same time. So for example, should Yamaha decide to give current Moto2 rider Luca Marini a test, he could share a garage with Valentino Rossi, but Marini would have to ride in the morning, Rossi in the afternoon.

This measure also allows the four MotoGP manufacturers without concessions to get a shot at younger riders. The testing restrictions do not apply to factories with concessions, so Aprilia and KTM are free to give Moto2 riders or riders from other championships a test on the bike at private tests.

The fact that this has come up as a subject - with the objective of evaluating future riders mentioned explicitly - suggests that this is something factories and teams are currently looking at very seriously. It is another sign that the riders market for 2021 could be very hectic, and shake up the grid significantly.

The first test where we are likely to see young riders given some time on the bike is probably Barcelona. The preseason tests at Sepang and Qatar are too important for the start of the season, and the post-race test at Jerez is the first chance the teams get to bring updates for the season, and try to find solutions to problems uncovered by the first few races. 

The other rectification to the regulations was to align MotoGP wildcards and MotoE. For example, as a concessions manufacturer, Aprilia have the right to enter test rider Bradley Smith as a wildcard rider in six events. However, wildcard riders are currently forbidden from appearing in consecutive events. 

With Smith also racing in MotoE making it impossible to wildcard and race in MotoE on the same weekend, and other test riders also having race programs outside of MotoGP on a fixed schedule, that rule has been dropped.

The press release from the Grand Prix Commission appears below:

FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), Danny Aldridge (Technical Director), Mike Webb (Race Director and Franck Vayssié (CCR Director) in a meeting held in Madrid on 27 November 2019, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations


Currently, teams have only been allowed to test not contracted riders at tests by replacing their contracted rider for injury or another reason.

Furthermore, as there is no longer private testing in the MotoGP Class, (only allowed for manufacturers with concessions) it makes it difficult for the rest of the MotoGP manufacturers and teams to test other riders for the future.

The Grand Prix Commission has approved a change to the regulations as follows:

All Classes:
Teams may substitute their contracted rider for all or part of a test, provided that the maximum number of test days is respected, and that the substitute takes the place of the contracted rider, i.e. both cannot be on track at the same time. Such substitute riders must be approved the Selection Committee.

Moto3 and Moto2 Classes:
Any replacement or substitute rider is deemed to be the original rider for the purposes of counting test days, so test days accumulate for both rider and team (that is, a team cannot have more test days by changing riders and a contracted rider cannot have more test days by changing teams).

The effect of these changes is that teams will have the opportunity to evaluate the competence of non- contracted riders for future use as a substitute or replacement rider. It also gives the opportunity for teams, and the selection Committee, to assess the performance of riders who might be proposed as contracted riders for subsequent seasons.

Wild Cards – MotoGP Class
Currently, MotoGP class Manufacturers are not permitted to nominate wild card entries for consecutive events.

The Commission have agreed that this restriction should be removed for those manufacturers who benefit from concessions. Such manufacturers are permitted a maximum of six wild card entries and scheduling applications for events that are not consecutive has proved difficult, particularly when some riders are also committed to other Championships like MotoE.

To bring this procedure into line with similar regulations that involve a delayed start. The Commission have agreed that the restarted race will be 2/3 of the original race distance.

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


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Superbike Commission Moves To Preemptively Restrict Active Aerodynamics In WorldSBK

The launch of the Honda CBR1000RR-R has caused the Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, to take preemptive action to restrict the use of active aerodynamics. In a press release today, announcing a series of rule changes for the 2020 season, the biggest change is putting limits in place on how dynamic aerodynamics can be used.

The new rules limit the amount of movement available for active, dynamic, or movable aerodynamic parts. Moving parts will be restricted to the range of motion used on the production bike, even if the parts allow greater freedom of movement.

The objective is to prevent manufacturers from building a fairing with movable wings, but fixing the wings in one position on the road bike, or limiting the amount they can move, and then employing the full range of motion on the WorldSBK-spec machine. In theory, it would be possible to sell a bike with very limited moving winglets, but spend a lot of money to optimize the movement of the winglets on the race bike to maximize downforce at lower speeds, then reduce the downforce to reduce drag at much higher speeds.

The restrictions are a response to the patents Honda have filed for active aerodynamics on the Honda CBR1000RR-R. Those patents had raised speculation that the new Fireblade might use moving winglets inside the side ducts on the bike, but the model introduced at the EICMA show had a fixed set of winglets, which did not move. Should Honda decide to introduce an updated version of the CBR1000RR-R SP with active aerodynamics, the racing versions will be limited to the range of motion the road bikes have.

The press release contained a host of other changes, but most of those were only minor tweaks and updates to the rules, the sporting regulations changing to bring them in line with the MotoGP and EWC rules, the technical rules aimed at clarifying the rules in the three WorldSBK classes.

The FIM press release appears below:

FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
Changes to the Regulations for 2020

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Gregorio Lavilla (WorldSBK Sporting & Organization Executive Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative) and Franck Vayssié (FIM CCR

Director) in the presence of Mr Paul Duparc (FIM CCR Coordinator and secretary of this meeting) met in the Dorna Headquarters, in Madrid, on 27 November 2019.

The Superbike Commission made the following changes for the 2020 FIM Superbike & Supersports World Championships Regulations:

Sporting Regulations

Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations – Effective Season 2020

Various clarifications in order to simplify the rules and to adapt them to decisions taken during the season were adopted. The most emblematic decisions were as follows:

Track limits on the last lap of the race
Any excursions of track limits on the last lap of the race that may have affected a race result must indicate that the rider in question was disadvantaged. If the FIM Stewards panel decide that there is no clear disadvantage, the rider will be penalised with a change of position or a time penalty.

Black Flag with Orange Disk
In harmonisation with the EWC and GP Regulations, riders who are required to leave the track by display of this flag must be authorised by an official to re-join the track.

The Commission reminded everyone that the new standards established by the FIM for all circuit racing disciplines managed by the FIM. This means that the single enhanced standard for helmets, (replacing the various national standards used before) will be applied for the Supersport riders in 2020.

Materials Used in “Sliders”
Some riders use knee sliders to which had been added metal studs. The sparks generated could disturb the following riders. It will be therefore prohibited to manufacture or modify knee or other sliders to include any material that, when in contact with the track surface, may cause a visual disturbance to other riders.

Management of the hand carried generator during the start procedure:
The current regulations limit the use to a hand carried generator with a maximum output of 2 kw. Current practice is for generators to be incorporated into a service cart with toolboxes, spare wheels and other equipment. If generator/equipment cart, trolleys and airblowers must be removed from the grid as soon as the board “3 Minutes” is presented, for organisational reasons, it was clarified that these generators, must have been disconnected prior the board “3 Minutes” is shown.

Technical Regulations

Technical Regulations

The Superbike Commission approved a number of clarifications and editorials with regards to the Technical rules:

In Superbike:

  • Wings and Aerodynamic Aids - For active or dynamic aerodynamic parts ONLY the standard homologated mechanism may be used. The range of movement must be the same as that used by the homologated road machine in normal use - not the mechanical maximum.
  • Concession parts – updates
  • Option parts – updates
  • Rev limits – updates
  • Tyre pressure - Riders may be stopped in the pit lane during the exit from the box at any time by the SBK Technical Director or his appointed staff to check the tyre pressure.
  • Concession part - The ‘optional’ cylinder head as used by the reference team must be available from the concession parts supplier.
  • Generator, alternator, etc.- Only the originally homologated or approved concession flywheel may be used.
  • Frame and sub frame - Important clarifications.
  • Wheels - Angled air valves are compulsory.
  • Bottom streamlining section – Important construction requirements

In Supersport 600:

  • Concession parts - Clarification
  • Rev limit – new values (tbc)
  • Minimum weight – new weight values (tbc)
  • Tyres – maximum quantity, logistics (timetable) and clarifications.
  • Tyre pressure – Riders should be ready for possible tyre pressure control at any time in pitlane
  • Camshafts – Clarification, price and availability
  • Transmission – Important clarifications: definition, allowances and limitations
  • Electrics and electronics – Important changes and clarifications
  • Wheels - Angled air valves are compulsory

In Supersport 300:

  • Tyre stickers - Logistics (timetable)
  • Tyre pressure - Riders should be ready for possible tyre pressure control at any time in pitlane
  • Crankcase covers – made from titanium are no longer accepted/permitted.
  • Rev limits – New rev limits for 2020 (tbc)!
  • Control electronics – Clarification: a) only accepted those listed on the approved parts list.
  • Software and firmware used must be from the list of legal software/firmware versions published at
  • Additional sensors/channels permitted to be replaced are - Front speed sensor (From ABS sensor) and Barometric air pressure Where external modules (may be fitted) – additional clarifications
  • Data loggers – additional clarifications
  • Suspension - Clarifications pre-load adjusters.
  • Wheels - Angled air valves are compulsory
  • Fuel tank - No heat reflective material permitted (attached) to the bottom surface of the fuel tank.
  • Fairing: - Air ducts cannot be added if they are not present on the original machine.

The 2020 FIM Superbike & Supersports World Championships Regulations will be available at FIM-LIVE.COM within the next weeks.


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Marc Marquez Undergoes Surgery On Right Shoulder

Marc Marquez has had surgery on his right shoulder, to fix the problems he picked up in crashes earlier this year. The reigning MotoGP champion crashed on his right shoulder a couple of times this season, most notably at Sepang, when he tried following Fabio Quartararo during qualifying, and got caught out on a cold rear tire. A further big crash at the Jerez test on Monday prompted the plans for surgery to be brought forward.

The operation is similar to the one he had in December 2018, on his left shoulder. That shoulder was in a much worse state than the right one, but after developing an issue in the right shoulder as well, Marquez and his team decided to take preventative action to avoid the shoulder getting worse.

Marquez now embarks on a long and intensive period of recovery. In 2018 and 2019, he was spending 5 hours a day doing physiotherapy to get in shape for the test in Sepang. Even then, Honda restricted his time on track to avoid stressing the shoulder. This year, he has an extra two weeks to prepare, meaning he should be in a little better shape by the time the test starts.

The press release on Marquez' surgery appears below:

Marquez undergoes successful surgery on right shoulder

With his most successful premier class season to date finished, eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez elected to undergo surgery at the Hospital Universitari Dexeus-Quiron today, November 27. The operation was performed by Dr. Xavier Mir, Dr. Victor Marlet and Dr. Teresa Marlet, all part of ICATME (the Catalan Institute of Traumatology and Sports Medicine).

After experiencing some discomfort with his right shoulder, and after his Monday crash at the Jerez Test, the Repsol Honda Team rider elected to have the operation as a preventative measure after medical consultation. The operation is similar to the one performed on his left shoulder at the end of 2018 but less aggressive in nature.

Marquez will be discharged within the next 48 hours. He will then begin his recovery and winter training in preparation for the Sepang Test at home in Cervera.


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