Latest News

The First Shoe Drops: Avintia Terminates Contract With Karel Abraham, Abraham Ends MotoGP Career

Karel Abraham is to cease racing in the MotoGP class for the foreseeable future. The 29-year-old told a meeting with fans on Saturday night that he would not be returning to the Avintia team for 2020, and that it is likely he will end his active racing career altogether.

Abraham made his decision after being told not to come to Jerez for the two-day MotoGP test due to start on Monday. The email had come as a hard blow, Abraham told the fans, as he had a contract to continue racing with the Reale Avintia team for 2020. But on Friday night, he had received an email terminating the contract, though Abraham disagreed with the reasons given.

The way in which the contract was ended made the Czech rider not want to have anything more to do with the team, he told the fans present at the event. Something like this should be dealt with before leaving for the flyaways, or at least in a face-to-face meeting, Abraham said.

Abraham accused the Avintia team of financial problems, claiming that a number of mechanics did not travel to the Malaysian round of the championship in Sepang. Abraham accused Avintia of not having paid some mechanics. In turn, Abraham stands accused of not having fulfilled his contract with Avintia by paying the agreed sponsorship amount.

Abraham's departure opens the way for Johann Zarco to take the seat there. The Frenchman had originally turned the team down, saying they were 'not a top team'. "I want a good team and a good bike, and for me Avintia is not a top team, so if I have to lose more myself in that place, I will move to Moto2," Zarco had said on Saturday at Valencia. 

But after the weekend, Zarco was spotted holding meetings with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, where he is believed to have been offered assurances about the level of support at the team. Zarco also has the backing of French GP promoter Claude Michy, who has persuaded Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to back the team.

However, top French journalist Thomas Baujard spoke by phone to Johann Zarco about a move to Avintia during the test at Valencia, and at that point, Zarco was still to be convinced. At the moment, the seat left vacant by Alex Marquez in the Marc VDS Moto2 team was still available, but talks between the team and Zarco have been difficult.

As of Saturday night, there is still no sign of Zarco having made a decision about taking the ride on a Ducati with the Reale Avintia team. With that seat now empty, it would be logical for Zarco to fill the seat and try to win a much better ride in 2021. But the Zarco saga is so long and complex that logic has long since been abandoned. We await official confirmation of the next move.

Even if Zarco does take the Avintia seat, he is unlikely to ride at Jerez. The Frenchman is still recovering from the ankle injury picked up in his crash during the race at Valencia, and is far from being fully fit to ride. There will also have to be some papering over the cracks left by the Frenchman's comments about the team.

Back to top

2020 WorldSBK Calendar - 13 Rounds, Qatar Moved, Oschersleben Returns

The FIM has announced the 2020 WorldSBK Calendar today. The series will hold 13 rounds in 10 different countries, starting at the end of February in Phillip Island, and ending on 11th October in Argentina.

The calendar sees a certain amount of reshuffling. The Qatar round of WorldSBK has been moved from the final race of the year to be second, and takes place a week after the opening MotoGP round at the Losail circuit. Qatar takes the place of the disappearing Thai round at Buriram, which has dropped WorldSBK in favor of MotoGP.

Oschersleben returns to the calendar, bringing WorldSBK back to Germany, with that race being held at the end of July. And Barcelona is to host both MotoGP and WorldSBK, the Superbike round to be held from 18th-20th September next year.

The calendar sees just one clash with MotoGP:  the races in Assen are to be held on the same weekend as the Argentina round of MotoGP from 17th-19th of April. Given the snow that fell during the 2019 round of WorldSBK, that is a risky proposition. Mid-April can either be sunny and 20°C, or windy and sub-zero temperatures.

The 2020 calendar:

Date Country Circuit WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300
28 Feb – 1 March Australia Phillip Island  X X  
13 – 15 March Qatar Losail X X  
27 - 29 March Spain Jerez X X X
17 - 19 April The Netherlands Assen X X X
8 - 10 May Italy Imola X X X
22 - 24 May Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
12 - 14 June Italy Misano X X X
3 - 5 July United Kingdom Donington Park X X X
31 July - 2 August Germany Oschersleben X X X
4 - 6 September Portugal Portimao X X X
18 - 20 September Spain Barcelona X X X
25 - 27 September France Magny-Cours X X X
9 – 11 October Argentina San Juan Villicum X X  


  • 24 - 25 February, Australia, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit (WorldSBK and WorldSSP)
  • TBA, Official Mid-season test

Back to top

Alex Marquez Confirmed Alongside Brother Marc In Repsol Honda Team For 2020

Repsol Honda have officially confirmed that Alex Marquez will partner his brother Marc at the Repsol Honda team for next year. It is the first time that a pair of brothers have raced in the same team in MotoGP. There have been other brothers riding in the same class at the same time - Aleix and Pol Espargaro the latest example of that, but never before have brothers raced in the same team in either 500cc or MotoGP. 

Marc Marquez has made no secret over the years of his desire to share a team with his brother Alex, Alex being given a test ride on the Repsol Honda as a reward for winning the Moto3 title in 2014. Alex also filled in for the injured Tom Luthi at the test in Jerez in November 2017. There was a belief that Marc would try to bring Alex into the team in 2021, once Jorge Lorenzo's contract ended. But when news of Jorge Lorenzo's retirement broke, an opportunity opened up earlier.

At first, the younger Marquez brother was just one of a handful of candidates, a list which included Johann Zarco, Cal Crutchlow, Takaaki Nakagami, and even Alvaro Bautista. But as the weekend went on, it became increasingly clear that Alex Marquez would get the call, specifically at the request of brother Marc.

It is a risky move by Repsol Honda. The justification for taking Alex Marquez straight into the factory team is that he is the reigning Moto2 champion, and as such, deserves a slot in MotoGP. Honda can also argue that Jorge Lorenzo's decision to retire so late in the season forced their hand, limiting their options to find a suitable replacement. And the benefit of having Alex in Repsol alongside Marc is that the two are much more likely to work together than create friction inside the team. 

But there are many dangers to having Alex Marquez alongside Marc. The first is that it obviously looks like the fact that Alex is Marc's brother played a major part in the decision. Whatever the merits of Alex Marquez having a seat in MotoGP - and as reigning Moto2 champion, he certainly deserves a chance in the premier class - it is unusual for rookies to go straight to factory teams outside of Suzuki, which has no satellite team. 

There is also a huge risk that Marc Marquez will be distracted. If Alex does not adapt quickly to the Honda, Marc will be inundated with questions about whether it was a mistake to put Alex into such a high-pressure situation. Marc is also likely to feel obliged to try to help Alex, further taking his focus away from the job of winning the championship again in 2020. And if Alex doesn't immediately adapt to the 2020 RC213V, Honda will face a barrage of criticism for giving the ride to the younger Marquez brother, and be seen as weak in not standing up to the six-time MotoGP champion.

There could be a benefit in the longer term, of course. At the moment, Marc Marquez has no interest in making the Honda RC213V easier to ride, as long as it can do the things he needs it to do. The problems of other riders are not his concern at the moment. 

But if Alex struggles, Marc may have an added motivation to try to improve the areas which would help all the Honda riders. It is in Marc Marquez' interest for his brother to be competitive, and if that means making the bike easier to ride, then he will surely be inclined to do that.

We will get to see how Alex Marquez gets on with the Honda from Tuesday. The reigning Moto2 champion will test at Valencia, though he will be testing the LCR Honda bike, the 2019-spec Honda RC213V which Takaaki Nakagami is due to get next year. What he tests at Jerez, and which garage he works out of, is as yet unanswered. Alex will get an extra three days of testing as well, alongside Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona, rookies being given permission to test during the MotoGP shakedown ahead of the Sepang test in February next year.

Alex Marquez leaves a vacant seat in Moto2 - most Moto2 contracts have a specific clause in them allowing the contract to be broken if the rider is offered a place in MotoGP - in the Marc VDS team. Johann Zarco is the most likely candidate to fill that seat, after the Frenchman turned down the chance to stay in MotoGP with Avintia Ducati.

The Repsol Honda press release appears below. 

HRC sign Alex Marquez

Honda Racing Corporation is pleased to announce the signing of double World Champion Alex Marquez. The young Spanish rider will join the Repsol Honda Team on a one-year contract.

He will move from the intermediate class to partner eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez in 2020 for his debut season in the premier class aboard the Honda RC213V.

Back to top

Race Day Schedule For Valencia Changed: Warm Up 30 Minutes Later, MotoE Race After MotoGP

The cold conditions at Valencia have forced Dorna to change the schedule for Sunday. The Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP race times are all untouched, but warm up has been moved half an hour later, to avoid the unusually cold conditions in the morning.

Warm up sessions will start from 8:50am, with MotoGP running from 9:50 to 10:10. That has also forced the MotoE race to be pushed back after the MotoGP race. The MotoE race will now start at 15:30.

New schedule:

Time Class Session
8:50 - 9:10 Moto3 Warm Up
9:20 - 9:40 Moto2 Warm Up
9:50 - 10:20 MotoGP Warm Up
11:00 Moto3 Race (23 laps)
12:20 Moto2 Race (25 laps)
14:00 MotoGP Race (27 laps)
15:30 MotoE Race (7 laps)

Back to top

Hungary To Host MotoGP Race From 2022? Echoes Of The Past

Hungary is a potential candidate to host a MotoGP race from 2022, when the current calendar expands to 22 races. Over the summer, Dorna signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hungarian government to host a race for five years, between 2022 and 2026, at a new circuit to be built in the country.

The memorandum of understanding is just the first step on a long and tricky road to actually organizing a race. The project is part of a wider set of plans laid out by the Hungarian Ministry for Innovation and Technology, to encourage technology industries in the country. There is as yet no circuit, nor a promoter to organize the race.

The press release from Dorna encompasses that conditionality. The race will only happen if a contract with a promoter is signed before the end of February next year. And the race will need a circuit to be built to MotoGP circuits and homologated by the FIM. A lot still needs to happen before a Hungarian round of MotoGP actually takes place.

There is a precedent for this, of course. In 2008, work started on the Balatonring, a circuit to be built near the eponymous Lake Balaton, 160km southwest of the Hungarian capital Budapest. That project collapsed when the Spanish investors behind it were caught up in the global financial crisis of 2008, which proved catastrophic for the Spanish real estate and construction sectors. The Balatonring was never completed, though the outlines of the track are still visible.

The 2009 race was canceled, and any idea of a Hungarian race called off in 2010. Instead, MotoGP went to the Motorland Aragon circuit near Alcañiz in Aragon, Spain, a venue which has been on the calendar ever since.

If the proposed Hungarian round of MotoGP falls through, that will not pose a problem for Dorna's intention of expanding the calendar to 22 races. Mandalika in Indonesia hopes to join the calendar in 2021, and tracks in Brazil and Vietnam are also vying to host a MotoGP race. Dorna is in talks with circuits in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. And with at least one MotoGP race in Spain to be dropped, those circuits would be happy to remain on the calendar if another circuit dropped out.

The press release announcing the proposed Hungarian round of MotoGP appears below:

Hungary could join the MotoGP™ calendar from 2022

A Memorandum of Understanding lays the foundations for a new country to join the calendar

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Dorna Sports is delighted to announce the signing of a preliminary agreement to bring Hungary onto the MotoGP™ calendar from 2022. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the Hungarian government and Dorna Sports that would see five Grands Prix raced in the nation, from 2022 to 2026, subject to the Promoter’s Contract being signed before the end of February 2020.

Hungary has previously hosted World Championship Grand Prix Racing and has a passion for motorsport, as well as a tradition of competition on both two and four wheels, including Hungarian 125cc Grand Prix World Champion Gabor Talmacsi in 2007. The host venue for the Grand Prix event will be a new circuit, likely in the east of the country.

László Palkovics, Minister for Innovation and Technology, recently presented plans to the Hungarian Parliament and a final decision on the location for the new event and venue is expected early in 2020.

László Palkovics, Minister for Innovation and Technology: "I am very happy to announce MotoGP is set to return to Hungary. Soon, a strategy for the development of Hungarian motorsports will be submitted to the government; this strategy will include numerous objectives and measures, and – in addition to success in the sport and its impact on tourism – it is also needed because the industry has a dominant impact on the success of the Hungarian economy. The key areas of intervention are the development of Hungaroring and the domestic sports infrastructure, in which a new circuit and MotoGP event will play a key role.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: "I am very proud to be able to announce negotiations for another addition to the future MotoGP calendar and continue to see our sport grow and develop across the world. A new race – and circuit – in Hungary is an exciting prospect for us all and brings MotoGP back to a country with a great tradition in racing in which we're excited to see MotoGP play a key role going forward."


Back to top

Yamaha's MotoGP Test Program: Jonas Folger Out, But Who Will Take His Place?

With MotoGP testing becoming ever more restricted for full-time MotoGP riders, the so-called contracted riders, the importance of test teams has grown. Where in previous seasons most Japanese manufacturers have used Japanese riders based in Japan to push the development of their MotoGP bikes, in recent years, they have all switched to using teams based in Europe with ex-MotoGP riders as test riders. Suzuki have Sylvain Guintoli, Honda have Stefan Bradl, and Yamaha had Jonas Folger for 2019.

But not for 2020, it seems. In an interview with German-language publication Speedweek, Folger announced that Yamaha have decided not to continue with the German for next season. "This bad news came as a surprise to me," the German told Speedweek. "They gave me a verbal assurance that Yamaha wanted to continue with me. We were already discussing what the test plan and other events might look like. But then they canceled, despite saying I would get the contract." Folger said that he had been told Yamaha would continue with Japanese test riders.

That seems a curious suggestion. When Valentino Rossi announced he would be changing crew chiefs for 2020, bringing in David Muñoz to replace Silvano Galbusera, Yamaha team boss Maio Meregalli told multiple media outlets that Galbusera would be going to lead the test team, so that he would have to travel less.

Thwarting progress

Reversing the policy of having a European test team would also surely meet with resistance from Yamaha's factory riders. Both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales pushed hard for the establishment of a test team based in Europe, using a more competitive rider than their trusty Japanese riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane. The progress made with the bike this year is at least in part due to Folger's work with the test team.

Yamaha has denied any verbal agreement with Folger, but they have also denied that they are looking at scrapping their European test team. "Our MotoGP test program will be continuing in Japan and Europe as planned," Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis told Speedweek. "As far as contracting a test rider from outside of Japan, we are keeping all our options open."

Those options are limited. Most competitive ex-MotoGP riders have already found other options for 2020. Stefan Bradl and Sylvain Guintoli will be staying with Honda and Suzuki respectively, Michele Pirro remains Ducati's main test rider, Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio will continue their work developing the KTM RC16.

Bradley Smith could have been a possibility, having had four years of experience on the M1, as well as two years with KTM. But Smith is close to a renewal with Aprilia, putting him out of the question. Yamaha has also rejected a number of offers from other riders, including from the likes of Dominique Aegerter.

The obvious answer

Who is left? There is one ex-Yamaha MotoGP rider who is currently out of contract for 2020. After asking for his contract with KTM to be terminated at the end of 2019, then finding himself out of a job after KTM decided to push him out of the team before Aragon, Johann Zarco has been left without a job for next year. Zarco has already been in talks with Yamaha over a role as test rider, but Yamaha broke off those talks when Zarco accepted the offer as substitute for LCR Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami, while the Japanese rider recovers from shoulder surgery.

That ride was widely seen as a way for Honda to take a look at what Zarco is capable of, to assess him as a possible replacement for Jorge Lorenzo, after the Spaniard's miserable season in the Repsol Honda team. But talk of Lorenzo being dropped by HRC has gone quiet, after Honda bosses spoke with Lorenzo at Motegi. Publicly, Lorenzo was given assurances that he would remain with the Repsol Honda team for 2020, and Honda bosses stated their aim was to build a bike that Lorenzo could be competitive on.

The public pronouncements of Johann Zarco appear to back that up. At Phillip Island, Zarco said he was looking at all options, including a ride in Moto2. Notably, the Ajo team is yet to officially announce its second Moto2 rider, after losing Iker Lecuona to the Tech3 KTM MotoGP team for 2020. Zarco won his two Moto2 world titles with Ajo, and it is believed he has a place there if he wants it. At Sepang, Zarco had gone silent on his future, nor was he asked about it.

Nothing decided yet

At the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Zarco spoke to Italian website He told them that his future was still open, and that he was still available to take the place of Lorenzo should Honda and Lorenzo decide to go their separate ways.

Zarco would appear to be the ideal fit for Yamaha. The Frenchman was extremely fast on the M1, and on a bike which he understood, his feedback was highly rated. At Honda, his comments have also been praised, though at KTM, he was such a bad fit on the RC16 that he didn't know where to start, and his feedback was little help in improving the bike.

At the moment, Yamaha's Japanese test riders are preparing the 2020 prototypes ready for the Valencia and Jerez tests. It would be useful for Yamaha to have a test rider at those tests to work on the new bikes. But with Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli also showing strong pace on the bikes, the need is less pressing, as the two Petronas Yamaha riders can also provide input.

But Yamaha will need a good test rider for the 2020 season if they are to continue the strong progress they made in 2019. Various sources around the paddock indicate that Johann Zarco could well be where Yamaha end up.

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.


Back to top

Iker Lecuona To Make MotoGP Debut At Valencia Race

Iker Lecuona's MotoGP debut has been moved forward a few days. The Spaniard will replace Miguel Oliveira in the Red Bull KTM Tech3 MotoGP team at Valencia, Lecuona's home Grand Prix.

Lecuona is set to join the Tech3 team for 2020, replacing the departing Hafizh Syahrin, and would have been riding the KTM RC16 at the official test on Tuesday and Wednesday anyway. With Oliveira choosing to have surgery on the shoulder he damaged in the crash with Johann Zarco at Silverstone, it made sense to put Lecuona on the bike a few days earlier.

Lecuona's early promotion opens up a gap in the American Racing Team in Moto2. The team have decided to replace Lecuona at Valencia with Sean Kelly, an American currently racing in the MotoAmerica series. Kelly has experience of Valencia, having raced in the Red Bull Rookies Cup for three seasons.

Kelly will make it an all-American Moto2 team in Valencia, joining American Racing Team regular Joe Roberts aboard the KTM Moto2 machine.

The press releases from the Tech3 team and from Team Hammer appear below:

Lecuona will replace Oliveira in Valencia

Iker Lecuona is set to give his premier class debut during the final round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship in one weeks’ time at the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana, replacing Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese talent is forced to sit out the 19th Grand Prix of the season following a successful surgery on the ligaments of his right shoulder last weekend and is already on his road to recovery in order to be fully fit for the 2020 campaign.

Just a fortnight ago, Red Bull KTM Tech3 together with KTM announced, that Lecuona will line up next to Oliveira in the French squad for 2020, yet thanks to the open-minded Eitan Butbul, team owner of American Racing team in the Moto2 class, the 19-year-old will have the chance to try the KTM RC16 for the first time before the end of the 2019 season on his home track. Following three full years in the Moto2 World Championship, where Lecuona secured two podiums, the talented Spaniard is now eager to graduate to the MotoGP category.


American Sean Dylan Kelly is set to make his Moto2 World Championship debut at the 2019 season finale in Valencia, Spain, on November 15-17.

Team Hammer has granted the 17-year-old rising star -- who is currently in the midst of a two-year (2019-2020) contract to race in MotoAmerica -- permission to compete that weekend with American Racing Team KTM. He'll ride a Triumph-powered KTM Moto2 racebike in place of Spaniard Iker Lecuona, who is racing in MotoGP at Valencia prior to moving up to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 MotoGP squad in 2020.

"First of all, this is the start of a dream for me. The next week and a half is something my family, the circle around me, and I have long hoped for," said Kelly, known as SDK in the MotoAmerica paddock. "I'm super excited. We've come a long way and honestly I'm still letting the moment sink in before getting down to business."

For Kelly, the exciting opportunity marks a temporary return to the MotoGP paddock and a fitting way to celebrate his breakout rookie season in the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing series.

Armed with an M4 ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-R600 in 2019, Kelly finished this year's MotoAmerica Supersport Championship ranked fourth in points. The Hollywood, Florida resident did so on the strength of seven podium finishes, including a thrilling double-victory weekend at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

Prior to the start of the MotoAmerica season, Kelly played a starring role in the 78th Daytona 200 in his Team Hammer debut, where he became the youngest pole winner in the prestigious event's nearly eight-decade history and backed that achievement up with a runner-up result in the arduous race.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole career and I have a good idea of what I am getting into," said Kelly. "Last year about this time, I was able to test a Moto2 bike so I've done quite a bit of 'studying' for my next opportunity and I think I am prepared. Going from a single bike test to a World Championship Moto2 race is a big deal. There's no pressure on me, I am just going to learn and enjoy the competition and do my best. I'm really grateful to Eitan with American Racing Team KTM for believing in me, to give me this chance. Also, thanks to John and Chris Ulrich of Team Hammer for not just having me race on their team, but for also helping me along the path."

Kelly came to Team Hammer fresh off of three seasons as a full-time participant in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, where he showed steady, incremental progress each year. That improvement culminated in a final Rookies Cup campaign in which he ranked inside the championship top-10 after tallying up seven top-10 race results.

Kelly first attracted global attention as a 13-year-old wunderkind due to his remarkable success at the 2015 KTM RC390 Cup World Finals, in which he won Race One and ended the World Finals ranked second overall.

"Team Hammer has a reputation for finding, developing, and winning with talented young American racers, then launching them on the next step in their professional careers," said Chris Ulrich, Team Hammer Vice President of Racing Operations. "We have helped Sean understand how to ride a 600, use data, and set up a motorcycle during the 2019 MotoAmerica Supersport season, his first on a 600 after competing on Moto3 bikes for three years in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. So we are happy that Sean's performance while racing for our team has earned him an opportunity to ride as a fill-in Moto2 World Championship rider at Valencia in a little more than a week. This is just the first step for SDK, and we have agreed to explore potential future opportunities with American Racing Team owner Eitan Butbul. I'm proud to be a part of it and will be in Valencia to cheer SDK on!"

"I think this is great for American racing," said MotoAmerica President and three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Wayne Rainey. "This is a strong opportunity for SDK to ride in the Moto2 class. He is a very aggressive rider, a well-spoken young man, and has a ton of talent. He's been in our series for a year and really performed. We feel our series is starting to work well and one of our goals is to get our riders a chance in World Championships. I'm looking forward to see how well Sean Dylan does."

About Team Hammer

The 2020 season will mark Team Hammer's 40th consecutive year of operating as a professional road racing team. Racebikes built and fielded by Team Hammer have won 83 AMA Pro and MotoAmerica National races, have finished on AMA Pro and MotoAmerica National podiums 234 times and have won seven AMA Pro and MotoAmerica National Championships, as well as two FIM South American Championships (in Superbike and Supersport). The team has also won 137 endurance races overall (including seven 24-hour races) and 13 Overall WERA National Endurance Championships, and holds the U.S. record for mileage covered in a 24-hour race. The team also competed in the televised 1990s Formula USA National Championship, famously running "Methanol Monster" GSX-R1100 Superbikes fueled by methanol, and won four F-USA Championships.

About MotoAmerica

MotoAmerica is the North American road racing series created in 2014 that is home to the AMA Superbike Championship. MotoAmerica is an affiliate of KRAVE Group LLC, a partnership that includes three-time 500cc World Champion, two-time AMA Superbike Champion, and AMA Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey, ex-racer and former manager of Team Roberts Chuck Aksland, motorsports marketing executive Terry Karges, and businessman Richard Varner. For more information on MotoAmerica, visit


Back to top

Barcelona Joins WorldSBK Calendar For 2020 - Prelude To Losing MotoGP In 2021?

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo is to host a round of the World Superbike championship in 2020. The event is to be held from 18-20th September 2020, between the Portimao and Magny-Cours rounds of the series. 

The addition of Barcelona presages a few of the changes coming in both the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars in future years. Next year, WorldSBK loses Buriram in Thailand to MotoGP, and also looks set to lose the race at Laguna Seca in the USA. Instead, WorldSBK will head to Barcelona in September, and the German circuit of Oschersleben in August.

The loss of both Thailand and the US means a stark reduction in the number of rounds outside Europe. The WorldSBK championship now only visits Phillip Island at the start of the season, and Argentina and Qatar at the end, meaning that ten of the thirteen WorldSBK rounds will be held in Europe, with three rounds on the Iberian peninsula (Jerez, Portimao, and Barcelona) and two in Italy (Imola and Misano).

Adding more overseas rounds could prove problematic, from a cost point of view. In the past, Dorna has used WorldSBK as a test case, sending them to new tracks to try out the logistics and costs of getting bikes and riders in and out of countries and venues on time. That may happen again in the future: rumors persist that WorldSBK will be sent to Indonesia or Vietnam before MotoGP going there, to test the viability of the venue.

The addition of Barcelona to the WorldSBK calendar could also be a prelude to the Spanish track's removal from the MotoGP calendar, or at least to it rotating with other Spanish tracks when the MotoGP calendar expands. A story in the Catalan press suggests that Barcelona will lose its MotoGP round in 2021.

That would make sense if Indonesia is to join the MotoGP calendar for 2021. The current contract with MotoGP teams stipulates a maximum of 20 races a season. That contract expires at the end of 2021, at which point Dorna intends to expand the calendar to 22 races.

Dropping Barcelona for 2021 would be one way of fitting Indonesia onto the calendar. It could also serve as a backup if the Indonesian track at Mandalika on Lombok isn't ready in time to host a race. But it may also be a chance to start rotating MotoGP and WorldSBK at Spanish circuits, as a way of reducing the number of rounds held in Spain.  

A 2020 calendar for WorldSBK is expected to be published soon.

The press release from WorldSBK announcing Barcelona on the calendar appears below:

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya welcomed onto 2020 WorldSBK calendar

A new track awaits the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as the historic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya readies for WorldSBK action

For the first time in its history, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will host a round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The agreement between the Circuit, Dorna WorldSBK Organization and the Gemocat event manager will make the Catalunya Round of WorldSBK one of the biggest events to be on the 2020 calendar and is set to be held from the 18th – 20th September.

Joan Fontserè, General Director of the Circuit of Barcelona-Catalunya has expressed his appreciation of the new event, saying: “With the inclusion of WorldSBK at the circuit, in addition to making history, the missing piece fits into our calendar of events, which will in-turn make for an exceptional 2020 season. We are very happy to be able to host the Catalunya Round of WorldSBK and we are sure that the fans will turn to this event and make this first addition a resounding success”.

Ricard Cardús, spokesman for Gemocat, added: “We are very excited about bringing the Superbike World Championship show to Catalonia for the first time. We want the weekend from September 18th to 20th to be a real party for the fan and we will organize events and activities around the event; there will be a limit of 30,000 tickets in order to offer an exclusive experience to the public. We hope that the Catalunya Round of WorldSBK will become a classic on the fans' agenda.”

Gregorio Lavilla, WorldSBK Executive director - Sporting & Organization depts: “The new addition to the 2020 WorldSBK calendar is warmly welcomed and expected in great anticipation. The circuit has seen many memorable races in various motorsport disciplines and WorldSBK cannot wait to join the list. With such a rich heritage in motorcycle racing in Spain and the region, the Catalunya WorldSBK Round promises to be a great success for all parties involved.”

Back to top

Phillip Island MotoGP Qualifying Practice Canceled Due To Wind - Rescheduled For Sunday Morning

Strong winds have forced Dorna to cancel qualifying for the MotoGP class at Phillip Island. Wind with gusts of over 70km/h made conditions impossible during FP4, and after Miguel Oliveira suffered a massive crash at Turn 1, blown off line and onto the grass, an impromptu meeting of the Safety Commission voted to cancel qualifying, deeming it too dangerous to continue.

The heavy wind gusts had brought out the red flags halfway through FP4. Initially, it appeared that this was due to pitboard numbers being blown onto the track along the front straight, but it soon became clear that it was because of the strong winds which had caused Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider Miguel Oliveira to crash.

Oliveira had been blown off to the left of the track coming down Phillip Island's front straight. The winds were strong enough to push him onto the grass, causing him to lose control of his KTM RC16 and crash at high speed at Turn 1. Oliveira was lucky to escape with nothing more than bruising to his hand and arm: he tumbled a long way through the gravel at high speed before coming to a halt.

After FP4 was red flagged, the riders gathered with Race Direction in the Safety Commission to make a decision about whether qualifying practice could be held safely or not. The riders voted 19-3 in favor of canceling qualifying on Saturday, and postponing it until Sunday.

That means there is now a new schedule for Sunday morning. The warm up sessions will be pushed an hour earlier, and then qualifying for MotoGP will be squeezed in after warm up, and before the Moto3 race, Q1 starting at 10:20 local time, Q2 starting at 10:45. You can convert those times to your local time here.

New schedule:

Time Class Session
08:50-09:10 Moto3 Warm Up
09:20-09:40 Moto2 Warm Up
09:50-10:10 MotoGP Warm Up
10:20-10:35 MotoGP Q1
10:45-11:00 MotoGP Q2
12:00 Moto3 Race
13:20 Moto2 Race
15:00 MotoGP Race

Back to top

KTM Complete 2020 MotoGP Line Up: Brad Binder To Factory Team, Iker Lecuona To Tech3

KTM have finally found a solution to their rider line up problem for 2020. Today, the Austrian factory announced that they will be taking Brad Binder directly into the factory Red Bull KTM team, to race alongside Pol Espargaro, while they have signed Iker Lecuona to race in the Red Bull KTM Tech3 satellite squad opposite Miguel Oliveira.

This is something of a shake up to KTM's original plans, caused by the early departure of Johann Zarco. The Frenchman's decision to leave the Austrian factory at the end of 2019 (accelerated to after Misano by KTM's decision to drop him from Aragon onward) left them with a puzzle to solve.

With almost everyone with MotoGP experience tied up for 2020, and most Moto2 riders holding on for 2021, when the entire MotoGP grid is out of contract, finding a replacement for Zarco was almost impossible. They had already signed Brad Binder to the Tech3 satellite team, and had few options to choose from. 

They ended up doing something of an internal reshuffle. Binder has been promoted from the Tech3 team to the factory squad, while Lecuona will be moving up to to the Tech3 MotoGP team, instead of riding in Moto2 with the Ajo squad, as he was signed to do.

These moves are all part of a delicate balancing act. After Zarco announced he would be leaving at the end of 2019, KTM promised Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal that they wouldn't poach Miguel Oliveira from him. Taking Binder instead of Oliveira is a way around that dilemma, and putting the 19-year-old Lecuona in the Tech3 team gives Poncharal another young and exciting rookie. 

There was the minor obstacle of Lecuona already having signed a contract for 2020, but fortune had it that the Spaniard had signed for the Ajo team, currently racing with KTM in Moto2, and still affiliated with KTM despite the Austrian manufacturer's decision to withdraw from Moto2 in 2020. Moving Lecuona up means that Ajo will have to find a replacement for Moto2, but they are recruiting internally. 

There had been a number of names linked to the KTM factory MotoGP ride, with former KTM rider and current Aprilia tester Bradley Smith a prominent candidate. But KTM have decided to gamble on youth over experience, turning down Smith, along with other rumored contacts with veterans such as Alvaro Bautista. 

There are two reasons to go for young riders over experienced riders. The first is that younger riders are less set in their ways, and fewer ingrained habits or expectations to unlearn. In theory, that should allow them to adapt to the rough-and-ready KTM RC16, a bike that needs a very physical style to ride. 

The second is that they are hoping to capture lightning in a bottle in the same way that the Petronas team have with Fabio Quartararo. The MotoGP paddock and team managers are just as susceptible to fads and fashions as everyone else, and with the current feeling that a generation is passing, to be replaced by a younger generation coming into MotoGP, it can sway the decision toward youth over experience.

Binder in the factory team and Oliveira in Tech3 sets up a fascinating battle for the factory seats in 2021. So far, Pol Espargaro has ruled the KTM roost, the RC16 suiting the Spaniard's physical style down to the ground. But Oliveira has shown flashes of real speed on the KTM, and promises to be competitive on the bike once he recovers from the shoulder injury he picked up at Silverstone, where he was taken out in a crash by Johann Zarco. 

Espargaro will be 29 at the beginning of the 2021 season, and if Oliveira improves as much as KTM hope, they may decided to keep the Portuguese rider over the Spaniard. Alternatively, they could throw more factory resources at Oliveira in the Tech3 team, and strenghten his challenge. Oliveira's RC16 is already very close in spec to the factory bikes of Pol Espargaro and (now) Mika Kallio, and as KTM are picking up a large part of Tech3's tab, they could easily increase the support they give the Portuguese rider.

KTM will probably have to do that for 2020 anyway. With Zarco gone, and two rookies among four riders, the development will rest largely on the shoulders of Pol Espargaro and Miguel Oliveira, as the only two riders with MotoGP experience. Dani Pedrosa will continue to bear the bulk of the test work, and define the direction of the bike, but Espargaro and Oliveira will be the final arbiters at the track. As Espargaro has a very specific, physical style, it is easy to see that Oliveira will have a key role to play in making the bike a little less tailored to Espargaro's riding style.

With the signing of Binder and Lecuona, the 2020 grid is now complete, in theory at least. Rumors persist over the position of Jorge Lorenzo at Repsol Honda, but the noises coming out of Japan from HRC top brass were that they will keep the five-time world champion for 2020, and make a decision about the future next year, when Silly Season kicks off in earnest, and when everyone is out of contract and available.

The press release from KTM appears below:

Red Bull KTM MotoGP line-up confirmed for 2020

MotoGP announcement

Red Bull KTM will field former world champion and class rookie Brad Binder alongside Pol Espargaro for 2020 MotoGP. The South African’s saddle, initially planned at Red Bull KTM Tech3, will be taken by Spaniard Iker Lecuona.

KTM have decided to invest and trust in the racing instincts of two MotoGP debutants for 2020 and for the next development phase of the factory RC16.

Brad Binder’s impressive progress through Moto3 and Moto2 divisions meant the 24-year old was well on the road to a premier class saddle for 2020 but with a slot opening in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team Binder has been placed next to Pol Espargaro for his first term.

Iker Lecuona, who has taken Moto2 podium honours in both 2018 and 2019, had been signed for a Moto2 ride in 2020. The 19-year old has now been promoted to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 MotoGP effort alongside Miguel Oliveira.

Four riders, three nationalities and three athletes below the age of 25 means KTM are now set for their fourth year of MotoGP participation.

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “It was clear that our plans for 2020 needed to change following our mid-season announcement. After some thought and talks we decided to move in this direction and let the young, hungry guys with good experience in the other categories of MotoGP show us what they can do. Brad is a rider that has made his way through the KTM structure and we have no doubt whatsoever that he can walk into the Red Bull KTM team and keep showing that same style and never-give-up attitude we have seen for a long time. Iker comes into the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team and we’re super-confident that Hervé and his guys will be able to help and develop another rookie like they have done so well with Miguel this year. We know we are making good and exciting steps with our MotoGP project and with next season now fixed we can really start building up to this new chapter.”

Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “I’m super-happy with the duo we have for 2020. We had a long discussion about it but finally I think it is a good decision that KTM made. In Pol we have a very strong rider who has made good results for us and we’ve seen in the other categories what Brad is capable of with our bikes. He is one of the young kids that has come through the rank. It will be a big challenge for him but I think he will have a great future in MotoGP.”

Hervé Poncharal, Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Principal: “My feeling is that this is the strongest 2020 KTM line-up we could have hoped for. We want to have four riders with talent, passion, will and that they will stick to the project. Personally I am happy to work with a young and talented rookie like Iker. This is the way to go for the future and we have seen that the same approach has brought some success to other teams. Let’s start working on 2020: we have the technical support and we have the right people onboard. I believe we will take a big step next year with both Miguel in his second year and Iker keen to show us what he can do.”


Back to top