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The Irony Behind Yamaha's Punishment For Using An Illegal Engine Spec At Jerez

Yamaha have been punished for an infringement of the MotoGP technical rules at the opening race of the 2020 MotoGP season at Jerez, and at the same time, their riders have dodged a bullet. After the infringement was finally uncovered, the FIM Stewards decided to deduct points from Yamaha in the manufacturers championship, and the Monster Energy Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT teams have had points taken away in the teams championship. But crucially for the 2020 MotoGP riders championship, no penalty was given to Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, or Franco Morbidelli. That means that the standings in what everyone regards as the most important championship, the riders championship, are unchanged.

Details in the press release from the FIM and Dorna are thin, but enough can be gleaned from the press release, from sources in the paddock, and from some of the stories which have been circulating in the paddock, such as these at The Race, at Motorsport.com, or at the Gazzetta Dello Sport. The punishment has been imposed because Yamaha illegally changed the valves used in their engines after they were homologated ahead of the Qatar MotoGP round, and before the first race at Jerez. The MotoGP race at Qatar ended up being canceled after it became impossible for the MotoGP teams and riders to return due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The sequence of events appears to have been as follows. Yamaha submitted their engine blueprint to MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge for homologation ahead of the scheduled Qatar race, as required by the MotoGP regulations. Engine homologation is typically done on the basis of design specs, while a sample engine is submitted to Danny Aldridge as a reference ahead of practice. It would be impractical for Aldridge and his staff to strip and document each engine that weekend, however, and so design blueprints are accepted as homologation documents.

Time to think

But in the nearly four month layoff between the Qatar test and the first race at Jerez, Yamaha changed the valves used in their engines, using a different spec to the ones documented in the homologation papers submitted to Danny Aldridge. This is a clear breach of the technical regulations, caused by what the FIM press release describes as "an internal oversight," which resulted in "Yamaha Motor Company fail[ing] to respect the protocol which requires them to obtain unanimous approval from MSMA for technical changes."

This meant that all four Yamaha riders lined up on the grid at Jerez 1 with illegal engines. But the different valves used proved not to be able to withstand the heat and load of the scorching temperatures and pace of the first round in Jerez. Maverick Viñales suffered an engine failure in FP3 of Jerez 1, and Valentino Rossi had an identical failure during the race.

That created huge problems for Yamaha. They were forced to fly in new engines from Japan for all four riders for the Andalusia round, or Jerez 2, while the engines used at Jerez 1 were all shelved. Whether that solved the problem for Yamaha is still unresolved, as Franco Morbidelli lost an engine during Jerez 2.

The infringement was only discovered much later. Yamaha had submitted a request to MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge to change the design of the valves, to allow the Jerez engines to be unsealed and have the valves replaced. Such a request has to be approved unanimously by the remaining MSMA members, however, and when the MSMA requested more details of the change, Yamaha withdrew their application.

True crimes

This appears to have triggered an investigation, or at least sparked some interest. But it was not until Valencia that the FIM Stewards had a strong enough case to impose a penalty. Rumors were circulating in the paddock on Wednesday, and the punishment was announced on Thursday.

The engine usage charts give a hint of Yamaha's strategy. The Jerez 1 engines have been shelved since that first race, though they were bought out at the Styria MotoGP round at the Red Bull Ring, or Austria 2. They only made a brief appearance there, with Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Viñales using Jerez engines. That round didn't end well for Yamaha either, Morbidelli finishing fifteenth, and Viñales crashing out of the race when his brakes overheated and failed heading into Turn 1.

That these are the engines being punished is clear from the points being deducted from the teams: Maverick Viñales did not finish at Austria 2, and so scored no points. Neither Fabio Quartararo nor Valentino Rossi used their Jerez 1 engines in Austria, and so had no points deducted there. But Franco Morbidelli scored a solitary point for fifteenth, which was added to the 11 points for fifth in Jerez 1, and Fabio Quartararo's 25 points for the win to add up to 37 points, which were deducted from the team standings.

Hoist by their own petard

It is remarkable how Yamaha's decision to "fail to respect the protocol" to inform the other MSMA members about changing engine spec has backfired. They changed the valves for the first race at Jerez, which promptly failed, costing them engines. It was immediately obvious that measures were needed, and so they appear to have reverted to the original design, as homologated before Qatar. This was at least reliable.

However, it left the Yamaha riders with just 3 engines left to complete the season, or the remaining 13 races, where their rivals had 5 engines to last for those 13 races. In the case of Maverick Viñales, who was forced to use a second Jerez 1 spec engine after losing an engine during practice, it left him with just 2 engines for the rest of the 2020 season. To improve durability and ensure they make it to the end of the season without having to start from pit lane, Yamaha has reduced the maximum revs by 500 RPM.

So Morbidelli, Quartararo, Rossi, and Viñales have been racing with one hand tied behind their backs – or at least a few fingers taped inconveniently together – for the 2020 season. They have had to be sparing with track time, and juggle engines judiciously to manage. And with three races still to go this year, there is no guarantee they will be able to make it to the end without needing to use an extra engine and start a race from pit lane. With Quartararo, Viñales, and Morbidelli still in the hunt for the championship, that is not a risk they can afford to take.

Getting off scot-free

This may be the reason why the riders were spared having points deducted for infringing the technical rules. Yamaha have managed to inflict serious punishment on themselves and their riders, without the aid of the FIM Stewards. Had they stuck with their original design, it is entirely possible that they would not have had to decrease maximum revs, and give up top end at tracks like Brno and Austria, a commodity which was already in short supply for the Yamahas.

Had points been deducted from Quartararo, Viñales, and Morbidelli, it would have had a serious impact on the championship. The three Yamaha riders would have dropped from second, third, and fourth respectively to fifth, sixth, and fourth. Quartararo would have gone from trailing championship leader Joan Mir by 14 points to having a deficit of 39 points. Viñales would have gone from 19 to 39 points behind, and Morbidelli from a deficit of 25 to 37 points.

That would have benefited Andrea Dovizioso and Alex Rins. The Factory Ducati rider would have gone from fifth to second, his deficit reduced from 28 to 19 points, and Suzuki's Rins would have gone from sixth to third, though his gap of 32 points would not have changed, as he missed the Jerez race through injury. Dovizioso, however, would have been declared winner.

Will Suzuki or Ducati appeal and demand points be deducted from the Yamaha riders? For Suzuki, it seems unlikely – Japanese manufacturers tend to operate on a code of honor, and may feel that it would not be right to appeal. Ducati, on the other hand, have shown a determination to follow the letter rather than the spirit of the law in search of an advantage. That remains pending.

Precedent

However, it does set a rather dangerous precedent. In the modern MotoGP era, riders have neither knowledge nor, in most cases, understanding of the technical details of the bikes they are riding, and therefore cannot be held responsible for the spec of the bike underneath them. But it allows factories to get away with giving their riders an unfair advantage, while suffering in the teams and manufacturers championship only. Though those championships matter to manufacturers, the big marketing value lies in the rider championship. Should a Yamaha rider catch and beat Joan Mir in the 2020 championship, that title will be surrounded by question marks.

How was Yamaha's infringement not discovered earlier? When MotoGP bikes are scrutineered, they are generally only given an external check: weights are checked, seals are checked to see if they have been broken, and the bike is evaluated as to whether it complies with the rules. Engine internals are taken on trust, any changes visible if the seals are not intact.

The breach of the rules here took place between homologation and the race, and was only made possible by the long lay off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Normally, there isn't sufficient time to change parts between homologation and the first race. This time there was. And Yamaha have paid the price for violating the trust on which much of the cooperation between the MSMA members, and between manufacturers and MotoGP's technical scrutineering staff, is based. You would expect that they will face much greater scrutiny in the seasons to come.

The press release from the FIM Stewards appears below:


FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Notifications of Sanction: Yamaha Motor Company, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Petronas Yamaha SRT

Thursday, 05 November 2020

Please find attached sanctions for Yamaha Motor Company, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP and Petronas Yamaha SRT.

Due to an internal oversight, Yamaha Motor Company failed to respect the protocol which requires them to obtain unanimous approval from MSMA for technical changes.

For this reason, Yamaha Motor Company have had 50 World Championship Constructor points withdrawn. This is double the points earned whilst not respecting the protocol required for technical changes.

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP have had 20 World Championship Team points withdrawn. This is the points earned whilst not respecting the protocol.

Petronas Yamaha SRT have had 37 World Championship Team points withdrawn. This is also the points earned whilst not respecting the protocol.


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Garrett Gerloff On Standby As Valentino Rossi Awaits Negative Covid-19 Test

Valentino Rossi may yet be forced to miss his third race of the 2020 season, after still being unable to provide a negative PCR test for Covid-19. The Italian tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of first round in Aragon, and was forced to miss the two races at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

Despite having fully recovered from his symptoms and feeling fit and ready to race, a PCR test for Covid-19 carried out on Tuesday came back positive. Rossi still has a couple of chances to race in Valencia, if he can provide two negative PCR tests. He is due to have one test on Wednesday, and must have a second negative PCR test 48 hours after the first one, which would mean he would miss practice on Friday, but could arrive at the track on Saturday ready to compete.

Yamaha have chosen American rider Garrett Gerloff to replace the Italian. Gerloff made his debut in the WorldSBK series this season, racing for the GRT Yamaha team, scoring three podiums during the year. Gerloff was chosen over Toprak Razgatlioglu, who races in the factory Pata Yamaha squad, as Razgatlioglu is a Red Bull rider, and the sponsorship would have clashed. That was thought to be an impediment to Razgatlioglu racing for Pata Yamaha, which has strong links with Monster Energy, but Razgatlioglu called Yamaha's bluff and was allowed to retain his sponsorship.

It is notable that Jorge Lorenzo was not called up to replace Valentino Rossi. This would seem to confirm recent reports that Yamaha are looking at dropping the Spaniard as a test rider, which were prompted by Lorenzo's very poor times at the recent Portimao test, where he was slower on the Yamaha M1 MotoGP machine than the permanent riders were on production bikes. Afterward, Valentino Rossi offered some criticism of the Spaniard, telling reporters that Lorenzo would need to spend more time riding motorcycles outside of testing work if he wanted to be a test rider.

We will not know whether Rossi will be able to ride at Valencia until Friday evening at the earliest. But if Rossi's test today comes back positive, then he will be certain to miss this weekend. He then has another week to provide two negative tests before he is allowed to travel to Valencia to race.

The two press releases from Yamaha appear below:


GARRETT GERLOFF DESIGNATED AS STANDBY REPLACEMENT RIDER FOR VALENTINO ROSSI AT THE EUROPEAN GP

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 4th November 2020

The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team have designated GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team‘s Garrett Gerloff as the standby replacement rider to fill in for Valentino Rossi should the Italian not be able to meet the requirement of the two negative PCR tests needed to be allowed to take part in this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Europa.

Following the two Grand Prix weekends in Aragon in October, where Maverick Viñales performed as the sole Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider, the team is pleased to announce it has added GRT Yamaha WorldSBK rider Garrett Gerloff to its potential rider line-up for the Gran Premio de Europa.

Should Rossi be unable to meet the requirement of two negative PCR test results needed to be allowed to take part in this weekend‘s GP event, the American will substitute for Rossi.

Rossi‘s last PCR test, done on Tuesday 3rd November, came back with a positive result for Covid-19.

Nevertheless, today (Wednesday 4th November) the Italian will undergo a new test. Should he test negative, he will still have enough time to complete the required second PCR test and fly to Valencia.

Should Rossi be deemed 'unfit' to ride in Valencia, Gerloff will be backed by the number-46 rider's usual crew for his very first riding experience aboard a YZR-M1.

Garrett Gerloff

Gerloff started his motorcycle career steadily climbing the USA motorcycling ladder. Gerloff landed on the MotoAmerica Supersport class scene in 2015 and finished third on his first attempt. He would go two better in 2016 and again in 2017, becoming a two-time Champion by the age of 22.

The move up to the MotoAmerica Superbike class in 2018 was a natural progression. Joining the factory Yamaha squad, Gerloff dealt with the steep learning curve admirably and went on to secure five podiums and take fifth in the standings in his rookie year. In 2019 he really showed what he‘s made of. Scoring four wins and a further 11 podiums across 20 races, he claimed the bronze medal in the overall MotoAmerica Superbike championship standings.

The top-3 success was the American‘s cue to move onto the world stage, being welcomed by the factory-supported GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team. Again, Gerloff showed how quickly he can adapt and rise to the challenge. Although his preparations were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and he was racing at circuits he hadn‘t been to before, Gerloff still impressed. He scored his first third place podium in Barcelona Race 2, at only the sixth WorldSBK race weekend. He followed it up with another third-place and a second-place rostrum visit in the eighth and final round in Estoril, underlining the progress he made throughout the 2020 season and earning himself a solid 11th position in the 2020 FIM Superbike World Championship standings.


MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP ENTER EUROPEAN GP WITH POTENTIALLY ALTERED RIDER LINE-UP

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 4th November 2020

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales is known to like the Valencia track a lot and he is ready to go all out again at the upcoming two GPs at the Ricardo Tormo track. Valentino Rossi is hopeful to make his eagerly awaited return to MotoGP this weekend. However, should he be unable to meet the requirement of two negative PCR test results needed for him to be allowed to take part in the European GP, the Italian will be replaced by Garrett Gerloff.

This week, Maverick Viñales is one of the home heroes in Valencia determined to shine on home soil. The Ricardo Tormo track is a circuit that he adores, and the Spaniard is ready to work hard to hit the ground running this Friday.

Valentino Rossi is hoping to join him inside the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP pit box again this week after sitting out the two GPs in Aragon. However, as a precaution, the team designated GRT Yamaha WorldSBK rider Garrett Gerloff as a standby replacement rider in Valencia for this weekend.

The American will fill in for Rossi should the Italian not be able to meet the requirement of the two consecutive negative PCR test results he needs to be allowed to take part in the upcoming Gran Premio de Europa.

Viñales is keen on ending the season on a high note. He plans on doing so by scoring top results in the final triple-header, starting with this weekend‘s European GP. Though the Spaniard admits Ricardo Tormo is not one of the strongest tracks for him in MotoGP, he is feeling positive that he can be on the pace.

Top Gun stood on the podium twice before in Valencia. He secured a victory in his first Valencian 125cc race in 2011, and he graced the top step once more in 2013 when he claimed the Moto3 World Championship Title. His best MotoGP finish was a fifth place in 2016. Currently he is 19 points removed from the top of the overall standings and just 5 points from second, with still a maximum of 75 points to play for in the final three rounds.

Rossi‘s ability to take part in this weekend‘s GP is still uncertain. In order to be allowed to compete in this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Europa round, he needs negative test results from two PCR tests conducted 48 hours apart, as per FIM rules.

Rossi has taken a PCR test on Tuesday 3rd November, which came back positive. Nevertheless, today (Wednesday 4th November) he will undergo a new test. Should the Italian test negative, he will still have enough time to complete the required second PCR test and fly to Valencia.

The 4.0 km Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo was built in 1999 and was immediately added to the MotoGP calendar. The circuit is often described as quite challenging. Its lay-out includes nine left corners, five right ones, an 876m longest straight, and is ran anti-clockwise. Despite its tricky nature, the Valencian GP is known as a solid fan favourite, especially when it became the traditional closing round of the MotoGP championship. This year, for the first time since 2001, Valencia isn‘t the final race venue. But with the chase for the title still ongoing, the upcoming two races in Valencia are must-watch events.

Pictures for editorial use only. Copyright © 2020 Yamaha Motor Racing Srl

MASSIMO MEREGALLI
TEAM DIRECTOR

Unfortunately, despite our hopes, we are entering the final triple header with some uncertainty about our rider line-up. Whilst Valentino has been feeling better, we can‘t be sure that he will be able to ride in Valencia this weekend until he has passed the two PCR test with negative results for Covid-19. These are strange circumstances: we don‘t know for certain who will be riding the bike this weekend, apart from Maverick. But this is a situation that‘s beyond our control, so all we can do is make sure we are prepared for every eventuality. In any case, we are thankful to Garrett Gerloff that he is willing to take on the challenge of riding the YZR-M1. It‘s never an easy task to step in for Vale, these are big shoes to fill, and it‘s especially challenging for Gerloff, having had so little preparation and without any prior MotoGP experience. But that will make the learning experience all the more valuable for him. Of course, the team will do anything they can to support him, should he have to replace Valentino this weekend. But naturally we are all still hoping that Valentino will be able to ride, so we can finish his final season with the Factory Yamaha team in the best way possible.

MAVERICK VIÑALES

It‘s true that the last race wasn‘t the most positive, but it‘s important that we don‘t let that affect us in these final three rounds. We need to work hard, focus, and keep a positive mindset and get the best results possible in every single session. Valencia is usually a bit tricky for us, but I personally really like this track. For sure, it‘s not going to be an easy weekend but, as always, we will give our maximum.

VALENTINO ROSSI

This virus is very complicated and serious. I felt bad for two days, then in a few days I came back to being fully fit, at my 100%. I self-isolated at home all the time and I followed the medical advice closely. It‘s a very sad and difficult situation, but that‘s the way it is. Unfortunately, yesterday (Tuesday 3rd November), I had another test and it came back positive again, like all previous ones. Luckily I still have two more chances to be back on track on Friday or Saturday. I am very sad because I am feeling well, and I can‘t wait to be back aboard my M1 and be reunited with my team. I really hope the next PCR test result will be negative, because missing two races was already two too many.

GARRETT GERLOFF
MEYM, STANDBY REPLACEMENT RIDER

I‘m so honoured that Yamaha has considered me for this opportunity. This year has already been quite the adventure, and this would be the cherry on top. It‘s been a dream of mine to ride the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike since I started racing so many years ago, and to potentially have it happen is really exciting. But I am just sorry to get this opportunity under these unfortunate circumstances for Valentino. I feel really bad for him and I hope that he recovers soon, we all miss the number 46 on track! All the best to him. If I do end up riding this weekend, it will be an uphill battle not knowing the bike, tyres, brakes, etc. Also, I have never been to the Valencia track before. But I‘m confident in myself and ready for the challenge! Thanks to all at Yamaha. Bring it on!

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Lorenzo Savadori To Replace Bradley Smith In Aprilia MotoGP Team For Last 3 Races Of 2020

In an unexpected move, Aprilia have decided to replace Bradley Smith in the Aprilia Gresini MotoGP team with Lorenzo Savadori for the last three races of 2020. Smith has been Aprilia's main test rider for the past two seasons, and had stepped in to take the place of Andrea Iannone after the Italian was suspended for a doping offense. Savadori, who has raced for Aprilia in WorldSBK in the past, and this year was crowned Italian CIV champion on board the RSV4, is Aprilia's second test rider.

The move was a surprise, as Smith had been slower than his teammate but put in some solid performances throughout the year, while also serving as a test mule for parts and setup to pass over to Aleix Espargaro. But there have been signs of friction in the relationship between Smith and Aprilia as the long-running saga over Andrea Iannone's future with the Italian factory has dragged on. Aprilia have been courting Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, and Smith has always been treated as a backup option.

What's more, Aprilia have sometimes underplayed Smith's input to development of the RS-GP. At Barcelona, Aprilia Racing Track Manager Paolo Bonora had said that one of the development problems Aprilia had was that they only had Aleix Espargaro able to push the bike. When Smith was told of this on the Friday at Barcelona, he was clearly slighted, saying, "It's good to know, because I need to make a decision for my future."

The move is obviously a reward for Savadori winning the Italian championship. But it further complicates Aprilia's rider choice for both racing and testing for 2021 and beyond.

Below is the press release from Aprilia:


LORENZO SAVADORI TO DÉBUT IN MOTOGP WITH APRILIA

THE ITALIAN SBK CHAMP WILL BE ASTRIDE THE APRILIA RS-GP THROUGH THE END OF THE 2020 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

Noale, 27 October 2020 - Lorenzo Savadori will début in MotoGP astride the Aprilia RS-GP in the Grand Prix of Europe, scheduled to be held in Valencia from 6 through 8 November.

Lorenzo will also sub for Bradley Smith as Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider in the following rounds which will close out the 2020 MotoGP season, namely the Comunitat Valenciana GP on 15 November, also on the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, and the GP of Portugal in Portimão on 22 November.

Lorenzo Savadori is the newly crowned Italian SBK Champion after dominating the 2020 CIV premier category with six wins and two second-place finishes in the eight races held astride his Aprilia RSV4 managed by Nuova M2 Racing team. This extraordinary performance, achieved in a highly competitive championship against rivals with multiple titles, combined with his efforts as MotoGP tester pursued from the beginning of the year, led to his début in the premier class of worldwide motorcycle racing.

Massimo Rivola - Aprilia Racing CEO

“First and foremost, I wish to thank Bradley for his efforts this season. He took one the unexpected role of factory rider with great dignity and outstanding performance, and his contribution was extremely valuable. Now we are excitedly awaiting Lorenzo’s début. This promotion is certainly a reward for his great season as a CIV rider, dominating the Superbike category. But it is also a step of growth for a rider who will be a tester for our RS-GP in 2021 as well. Riding our fledgling project in the race as well will certainly be a step forward for Lorenzo and, therefore, for all of Aprilia Racing.”

Lorenzo Savadori

“To say I'm happy would be an understatement and I wish to thank Aprilia Racing straight away for this great opportunity. I will be arriving prepared for the event, thanks both to the work done during the tests on the RS-GP and to the CIV season that just ended. It was a challenging Championship that demanded top form and maximum concentration from me. Now I need to reorganise my thoughts, glean from the kilometres I’ve ridden astride the RS-GP and make sure I'm ready and focused for the first practice session.”

Rider profile

Born in Cesena in 1993, Lorenzo Savadori was Italian and European 125 GP Champion with Aprilia in 2008. In the same season, he made his début in the 125 World Championship with three wild cards. In 2007 he was runner up in the Red Bull Rookies Cup development program. In 2009 he raced in the 125 World Championship.

In 2011 he made his début in the Superstock 1000 championship where he was runner-up champion in 2014.

In 2015 rode the new Aprilia RSV4 RF in its Superstock début and it was a triumph: he took 4 wins, 7 podiums and 3 pole positions which resulted in him winning the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup championship, giving Aprilia the Manufacturers Title. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Lorenzo had already competed in the in the WorldSBK Championship, also on the Aprilia RSV4. In 2019, he finished as runner-up Superbike champion in Campionato Italiano Velocità. In 2020 he became an Aprilia test rider and dominated the CIV Superbike season with six wins out of eight races, earning the Italian Championship title astride the new Aprilia RSV4 Factory.

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Andrea Iannone Judgment Expected Mid-November

Andrea Iannone's doping saga appears to be coming to an end. In a press release issued today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the court would issue its decision in mid November on the two appeals lodged against Iannone's 18-month ban for testing positive for drostanolone, handed down by the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI). Those appeals were heard on Thursday, October 15th.

There are two appeals, because it is not just Andrea Iannone appealing for his ban to be lifted. After the FIM CDI reduced Iannone's ban from two years to 18 months, WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, appealed against that sentence, demanding the FIM impose the mandatory 4-year ban which comes with a doping violation under the WADA code, to which the FIM is a signatory.

An announcement in mid November would mean that Iannone will be able to race at Portimao, and possibly one of the Valencia rounds if the CAS rules in his favor. But it will also mean that Aprilia will be able to move forward with a decision on who they want to partner Aleix Espargaro in 2021, with Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith waiting to hear if they will be selected. Aprilia's first pick, Andrea Dovizioso, appears to have chosen to pursue a role as a test rider, with a view to returning to racing in MotoGP in 2022, rather than racing what is still a relatively uncompetitive Aprilia RS-GP.

The press release from the CAS appears below:


UPDATE ON THE CAS PROCEEDINGS IN THE ARBITRATIONS ANDREA IANNONE V/FIM AND WADA V/ ANDREA IANNONE & FIM

Lausanne, 16 October 2020 - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in the appeal arbitration procedures filed by the Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took place on 15 October 2020.

The panel of arbitrators will now deliberate and finalise the Arbitral Award containing their decision. It is expected to be notified by mid-November 2020. The final award will be announced on the CAS website.

The proceedings concern the decision taken by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) International Disciplinary Court decision dated 31 March 2020 (the Challenged Decision) in which Andrea Iannone was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation and an 18-month period of ineligibility was imposed on him.

Andrea Iannone seeks to have the Challenged Decision annulled, whereas WADA requests that the Challenged Decision be replaced by a new decision imposing a four-year period of ineligibility on the rider.

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Cold Conditions Force Radical Overhaul Of Schedule At Aragon MotoGP Weekend - UPDATED

The cold conditions at the Motorland Aragon circuit have forced Dorna to radically overhaul the schedule for the remainder of the weekend. After suffering extremely low track temperatures, despite a delay of 30 minutes on Friday morning, and after discussing th events of practice in the Safety Commission and with the teams, the decision was made to move the entire schedule roughly an hour later than originally planned.

On Saturday, the sessions all kick off an hour later, with Moto3 FP3 at 10am, MotoGP FP3 at 10:55am, and Moto2 at 11:55am. The break between Moto2 FP3 and qualifying for Moto3 is 20 minutes shorter, Q1 for Moto3 starting at 13:15, 40 minutes later than originally planned. FP4 for MotoGP follows at 14:10, with Q1 at 14:50 and and Q2 at 15:15. Qualifying for Moto2 starts at 15:50.

Warmup on Sunday is pushed back by an hour and twenty minutes, while all of the races start an hour later than originally planned. Moto3 warm up starts at 10:00, Moto2 and 10:30, MotoGP at 11:00. The Moto3 race starts at 12:00 noon, Moto2 at 13:20, and MotoGP at 15:00. All these times are local, and the quickest way to convert those times is to go to the Aragon schedule page on the MotoGP.com website, and click on the "Your Time" radio button, if it is not already selected.

This is the second update to the schedule so far this weekend, and it may not be the last. Next weekend's schedule, where the MotoGP race is due to start at 13:00 local time to avoid a clash with F1 at Portimao, could also seen changes. It would be smart to set DVRs manually, and hold off for as long as possible.

The new schedule is below:

Saturday October 17th
10:00 10:40 Moto3 Free Practice 3
10:55 11:40 MotoGP Free Practice 3
11:55 12:35 Moto2 Free Practice 3
13:15 13:30 Moto3 Qualifying 1
13:40 13:55 Moto3 Qualifying 2
14:10 14:40 MotoGP Free Practice 4
14:50 15:05 MotoGP Qualifying 1
15:15 15:30 MotoGP Qualifying 2
15:50 16:05 Moto2 Qualifying 1
16:15 16:30 Moto2 Qualifying 2
17:10   Red Bull Rookies Cup Race 1 (15 laps)
       
Sunday October 18th
10:00 10:20 Moto3 Warm Up
10:30 10:50 Moto2 Warm Up
11:00 11:20 MotoGP Warm Up
12:00   Moto3 Race (19 laps)
13:20   Moto2 Race (21 laps)
15:00   MotoGP Race (23 laps)
16:30   Red Bull Rookies Cup Race 2 (15 laps)

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Valentino Rossi Tests Positive For Coronavirus, To Miss Aragon Round

Valentino Rossi has tested positive for Covid-19. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider came down with mild symptoms while at home on Thursday morning, was tested for the coronavirus, and the test came back positive. As a result of his positive test, Rossi will be forced to miss the first round at Aragon, and in all likelihood, the second race at the Motorland Aragon circuit as well.

Rossi's absence will put an end to any lingering hopes of a MotoGP title in 2020 he may still have had. That prospect was growing increasingly remote, however. The Italian was already 57 points behind the championship leader, Fabio Quartararo, after crashing out of three consecutive races. With just one podium so far in 2020, getting a shot at the title was already going to be difficult.

When Rossi returns is uncertain. When Jorge Martin tested positive for Covid-19 just before the first round at Misano, he was unable to return in time for the second race a week later, and Martin tested positive on the Tuesday before the Misano round. That makes it extremely likely that Rossi will be forced to miss both Aragon rounds.

The lateness of Rossi's positive Covid-19 test does make Yamaha's life a little easier. Under the rules, the factory team has to make their best efforts to find a replacement within 10 days. 10 days takes us up to next Sunday, the day of the second, Teruel round at Aragon.

The most obvious candidate to replace Valentino Rossi would be Jorge Lorenzo, but Lorenzo was 3 seconds a lap slower than Aleix Espargaro at the Portimao test, and clearly not up to speed, after being off the bike for so long. At Le Mans, Rossi was critical of his former teammate for not having trained on motorcycle in between the Sepang test and the resumption of the MotoGP season. "Jorge in Malaysia in February was not so bad. Because he did a good job and he was strong with the M1. He was close to us, to the normal riders," Rossi said.

But Lorenzo needed to ride other forms of motorcycles more often to be a capable test rider, Rossi insisted. "But after, he said that he never rode the bike until Portimao. So I think that Jorge is a great opportunity for Yamaha because he has a big potential, but if you want to make the test rider he needs to train, to use motorcycles. Because if you stay eight months without touch a motorcycle, after it's impossible to bring a MotoGP bike to the limit. So I think if Jorge wants to continue, he needs to test and to ride some other type of motorcycle during the season."

In all likelihood, Yamaha will forego the chance to put a replacement rider on the bike. The complication of finding a replacement rider and having them pass a coronavirus test makes it an easy choice to sit out these two races. An added benefit is that it would limit the mileage on Valentino Rossi's engines, the Italian having already lost an engine at the first race in Jerez. Since then, he hasnt used the second engine from Jerez either. By skipping both Aragon rounds, that would leave him with two relatively well-used engines and one engine which was only introduced in Barcelona, to last the final three rounds.

The press release from Yamaha appears below:


VALENTINO ROSSI TO MISS THE GRAND PRIX OF ARAGON

Alcañiz (Spain), 15th October 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing Srl regret to announce that Valentino Rossi will be unable to attend this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Aragón.

STATEMENT – 15th October 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing Srl regret to announce that Valentino Rossi will be unable to attend this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Aragón.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

  • On Sunday 11th October, Rossi left the Le Mans circuit and travelled back to his home in Tavullia, Italy.
  • On Tuesday 13th October, Rossi underwent the usual PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, which is compulsory for those who visit their homes in between races. The result was available the next day and it was negative.
  • On Wednesday 14th October, Rossi was feeling fully fit and he trained at home without any symptoms or inconveniences.
  • On Thursday 15th October, he woke up in the morning and felt a bit sore. He had a slight fever and immediately called a doctor. The doctor conducted two tests:
    1. A ’quick PCR test‘, that again came back with a negative test result.
    2. A standard PCR test, of which the result arrived on Thursday 15th October, at 16:00 local time. Unfortunately this result was positive.
  • During Rossi‘s stay at his home from Sunday night (11th October) to today (15th October), he has NOT been in contact with any person that is currently present at the Gran Premio de Aragón, including VR46 Academy riders, VR46 staff, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team members etc.
  • Rossi's condition will be closely monitored by the medical staff in Tavullia.
  • The situation will be reviewed every day with a view to Rossi's participation at the upcoming MotoGP race events.

VALENTINO ROSSI

Unfortunately, this morning I woke up and I was not feeling good. My bones were sore and I had a slight fever, so I immediately called the doctor who tested me twice. The ’quick PCR test‘ result was negative, just like the test I underwent on Tuesday. But the second one, of which the result was sent to me at 16:00 this afternoon, was unfortunately positive. I am so disappointed that I will have to miss the race at Aragon. I'd like to be optimistic and confident, but I expect the second round in Aragon to be a ’no go‘ for me as well... I am sad and angry because I did my best to respect the protocol and although the test I had on Tuesday was negative, I self-isolated since my arrival from Le Mans. Anyway, this is the way it is, and I can't do anything to change the situation. I will now follow the medical advice, and I just hope I will be feeling well soon.

LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

This is very bad news for Valentino and very bad news for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team and for all MotoGP fans around the world. First and foremost we hope Valentino will not suffer too much in the coming days and will recover fully in the shortest time possible.

It comes as a second blow for our MotoGP operations having faced the absence of Project Leader Sumi-san and five YMC engineers at the Le Mans race after one member tested positive – despite being fortunately totally asymptomatic.

These two incidents remind us that no matter how careful you are, the risk is always present - as we see with the rising numbers of infections in Europe at this time.

We have checked with the Italian health authorities and we have been advised that any member of our team that was in contact with Valentino up until Monday is excluded from direct risk.

Nevertheless, we will be even more attentive from now on to minimise the chance for any future issues.

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WorldSBK Rider Announcements: Rinaldi Replaces Davies, Locatelli Joins Razgatlioglu, Nozane Joins Gerloff

The 2021 WorldSBK rider line up is starting to solidify, as announcements start to trickle out of the World Superbike paddock. In the last few days, Yamaha and Ducati have announced their rider line ups for next season.

Today, Ducati finally presented Michael Ruben Rinaldi as partner to Scott Redding in the factor Aruba.it Racing team. Rinaldi has impressed in the Go Eleven squad this year, not least by winning Race 1 and ending on the podium in the Superpole race and Race 2 of the Teruel round earlier this year. Ducati have been cultivating Rinaldi for a few years with a view to moving up to the factory team for some years now.

Rinaldi's promotion means there is no room for current rider Chaz Davies. Davies has been with Ducati since 2014, and has struggled to match the form he showed on the V-twin on the Panigale V4R. At the moment, Davies is without a seat, and no clear ride for him to take. There is a chance he could end up beside Alvaro Bautista on the Honda CBR1000RR-R, but that is far from certain.

A few days earlier, Yamaha announced they would be moving newly-crowned WorldSSP champion Andrea Locatelli up to the Pata Yamaha factory WorldSBK squad, to replace the departing Michael van der Mark. Locatelli's promotion is logical, given the way the Italian has utterly dominated the World Supersport category, winning 11 of the 13 race so far. Locatelli will join Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Locatelli's move to the Pata Yamaha squad means that Garrett Gerloff will remain with the GRT Yamaha Junior team for another season. Gerloff will be joined by Kohta Nozane, Yamaha's leading rider in the Japanese All-Superbike championship. Nozane has raced in the FIM EWC endurance championship with the YART team, and is one of two MotoGP test riders for Yamaha, alongside Katsuyuki Nakasuga. The GRT team will get 2021-spec Yamaha R1s, given them identical machinery to the factory Pata Yamaha squad. Loris Baz will continue in the Ten Kate Yamaha  squad.

Below are the press releases from Yamaha and Ducati:


Michael Ruben Rinaldi will ride the official Ducati Panigale V4 R of the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team in the 2021 WorldSBK season

The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team is pleased to announce that the Italian rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi - alongside teammate Scott Redding - will defend the colours of the Italian squad in the 2021 WorldSBK season with the official Ducati Panigale V4 R.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi was born in Rimini on 21st December 1995 and started racing with the minimoto when he was 7 years old, winning the Italian championship in 2006. After winning the Italian Sport Production Championship in 2011, in 2014 he faced his first international experience in the European Superstock 600 championship, which closed as runner-up in 2015. In 2016 Rinaldi rode the Ducati Panigale R of the Aruba.it Racing - Junior team in the SuperStock 1000 FIM championship, finishing sixth and then conquering the European Champion title at the end of the following season. With the Aruba.it Racing - Junior team, Michael Ruben Rinaldi also made his WorldSBK debut in the 2018 season, racing only in European rounds and then competing in all events of the 2019 Championship with the Barni Racing Team. In the current season, Rinaldi obtained his first success in WorldSBK with the Panigale V4 R of the Go Eleven team in Race-1 at Aragon, round that saw him finish on the podium also in the Superpole Race (P3) and Race-2 (P2).

Stefano Cecconi (Team Principal Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)

"It's with great enthusiasm that we welcome Michael to our team. It is a source of great satisfaction for us as well as a confirmation of the goodness of the project we undertook five years ago with the Junior team. Rinaldi himself was one of the great protagonists, achieving important results: the same results we expect him to achieve from next season on. A big thank to Chaz Davies for all the years we have spent together since we decided – together with Aruba.it - to embark on this fascinating adventure and during which a bond of deep respect and trust was created. The affection for the man and the rider will always remain intact, and for this reason, we want to wish Chaz the best for the future, both inside and outside the track".

Luigi Dall' Igna (General Manager of Ducati Corse)

"We are pleased to welcome Michael Ruben Rinaldi to the official team. This year Michael has shown great competitiveness, crowned by the Aragon victory, and has always been fighting for top positions. We believe that the time has come for him to join the official team and we are convinced that he has a bright future ahead of him. I want to thank Chaz, who has been an excellent ambassador for our brand over the past seven years and has achieved some very important results with us: 27 victories plus another 59 podiums finish and three consecutive second places in the world championships. We will try to close in the best way our adventure together in the next race weekend in Estoril".

Michael Ruben Rinaldi

"After an exciting journey in Ducati, joining the official team is an honour for me, as well as confirmation of the quality of the work done over the years. My first target will be to repay, through the results, the trust that has been given to me. For an Italian rider, racing with Ducati is an extraordinary feeling, and I am sure that the passion of the Ducati people will give me an extra boost. I would like to thank Stefano Cecconi and the Aruba family who have always believed in me, and Daniele Casolari, Serafino Foti and the whole Feel Racing for supporting me over the years. A special thought to Claudio Domenicali, Gigi Dall' Igna and Paolo Ciabatti for having involved me in this new project. Finally, I would like to involve the Ramello family, Denis Sacchetti and all the guys in the Go Eleven team in an ideal embrace. Thanks to them, I was able to make an important quality leap that allowed me to reach this great goal. And of course, I would like to thank my family for having supported me from the beginning together with Germano Bertuzzi whose support has been fundamental. I feel I can promise them all my utmost commitment to achieving great results together".


Yamaha Confirms Exciting Young Rider Line-Up for 2021 WorldSBK Campaign

Yamaha Motor Europe is delighted to confirm that the reigning FIM Supersport World Champion Andrea Locatelli will join Toprak Razgatlıoğlu at the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team for the 2021 FIM Superbike World Championship campaign. With Garrett Gerloff remaining at the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for 2021, where he will be joined by Japanese ace Kohta Nozane, it means that Yamaha will field one of the youngest rider line-ups in the championship.

Locatelli has enjoyed a stellar maiden WorldSSP season with the Evan Bros Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team, scoring a record-breaking 11 victories that saw him seal the title with two rounds to spare in Barcelona. Prior to this year’s success, the 23-year-old Italian arrives with six years of Grand Prix experience, in which he took a pair of podium finishes in the 2016 Moto3 championship.

On his WorldSSP debut, Locatelli scored a dominant victory in Phillip Island and continued to make waves after the season resumed, winning the next eight races in a row and taking his pole position tally to six, while last time out in Magny-Cours he broke another record, this time for most points scored in a single season. For 2021 the Italian will step up to the Pata Yamaha squad to partner Phillip Island race-winner Razgatlıoğlu, who remains in contention for third in the standings ahead of the Estoril finale.

Gerloff joined the WorldSBK championship from an impressive stint in the United States, in which he was crowned the MotoAmerica Supersport champion in both 2016 and 2017 and scored four victories on his way to third place in the 2019 MotoAmerica Superbike standings. The American has impressed with his quick adaptation to the WorldSBK championship and has been fully integrated into the GRT Yamaha squad, which for 2021 will be running the latest-spec Yamaha R1 machinery, identical to the Pata Yamaha bikes.

Throughout 2020, the 25-year-old continued to improve and claimed a breakthrough podium with a scintillating performance in Barcelona WorldSBK Race 2, while he also showed race-winning potential in the opening race at a wet Magny-Cours on his first visit to the circuit. After a debut season disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, remaining with GRT Yamaha for 2021 will provide Gerloff with the stability and familiarity that will be all-important as he gains experience at circuits he's yet to race at.

The American will be joined at the GRT Yamaha team by 2020 MFJ All-Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship leader Nozane, who will make his debut in the WorldSBK championship next year. The Japanese rider was the 2013 J-GP2 Class champion with Yamaha and is a multiple race-winner in the competitive JSB1000 series. This year, Nozane leads the championship having won every race so far, with just two double-header rounds remaining.

Alongside his national experience, the 25-year-old has also contested the FIM Endurance World Championship with the Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team and boasts a MotoGP outing with Yamaha in the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

Andrea Locatelli - Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team

I’m very proud and thankful to start this new adventure with Yamaha, it’s an important step for me after a great first year in the WorldSBK paddock. Thanks to Eric de Seynes, President of Yamaha Europe, Road Racing Manager Andrea Dosoli and Pata Yamaha Team Principal Paul Denning for trusting in me. I’m very excited to start working with the new team and my new crew chief Andrew Pitt, he’s a two-time world champion and has done a great job with Pata Yamaha. I’m also really looking forward to getting testing started, it’ll be the first time riding the Yamaha R1 for me and I can’t wait to get my preparations for the 2021 season underway.

Garrett Gerloff - GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team

I’m just super excited to be staying with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for the 2021 season. This year has been incredible; the people I work with on the team are exceptional, really positive and awesome people, so to be able to continue with them is fantastic. It’s going to be nice to hopefully have more of a normal year and to have some consistency in the team will be great for me. I’m really excited to be getting the new Yamaha R1 as well. Hopefully it will give us even more performance to take the fight to the current frontrunners in the championship. Thank you so much to Yamaha for continuing with me and giving me another opportunity to improve and show what I can do. I owe them and my team manager Filippo Conti everything. I think that we can do some great things next year and I’m more focused and determined than ever.

Kohta Nozane - GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team

I’ve felt WorldSBK would be the best place for me to keep growing as a rider, so I’m really happy to get a chance to race on the world stage again and I can’t thank Yamaha enough for the opportunity. I’ll be up against the best riders in the world on tyres different to what I use now, and almost all the circuits will be totally new to me, so I know it’s going to be a massive challenge. But, I take pride in being one of Japan’s top riders, so to live up to the expectations of Japanese fans as well as gain the respect of race fans around the world, I want to make my mark right from the start, so I’ll be doing all I can to be ready to race. I’ll be joining the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team and Garrett Gerloff has finished on the podium with them in his rookie season, so I know they’re strong and I can’t wait to work and grow with them next year. We’re in the middle of this year’s All Japan Road Race Championship and I’m leading in the points, so the goal is to come into WorldSBK as the All Japan JSB1000 Champion. My focus from here is on doing my best in the last two rounds of the season to take the title.

Andrea Dosoli - Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager

Yamaha Motor Europe is very excited to introduce this young and exciting rider line-up for the 2021 WorldSBK season. Obviously, this year we bid farewell to Michael van der Mark, who has made a significant contribution to Yamaha's WorldSBK program since joining us in 2017 and whom we wish all the best for the future. Replacing him we have a promising young talent in Andrea Locatelli, who was already a part of the Yamaha family. What he’s achieved in WorldSSP this year is incredible and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can achieve alongside Toprak Razgatlıoğlu in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team next year. For Garrett Gerloff it was important to offer some stability after a debut WorldSBK season disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, which is why he will remain with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for 2021. He has shown this year that he's capable of fighting at the front, even at tracks he's not familiar with, so we're excited to see what he can do next season on the 2021 specification Yamaha R1 and with a strong team behind him. We’re also delighted to welcome Kohta Nozane, who’s been the standout rider in the All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship this year, to the WorldSBK paddock. It’s important for both the series and for Yamaha to have a fast Japanese rider racing on the world stage and it means we’ll have the exciting prospect of having four riders representing three different continents on the 2021 WorldSBK grid.

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Six Yamaha Engineers To Miss Le Mans Due To Coronavirus

One unnamed Yamaha engineer has tested positive for Covid-19 in the period between Barcelona and Le Mans, and as a result of MotoGP's bubble structure, the group of six engineers, including M1 project leader Takahiro Sumi, have been quarantined in Andorra and are to miss the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Yamaha is flying in additional engineers to assist with their roles while the six are absent.

The group was staying in Andorra between races, traveling as a group. Because they were in a group, all six have been forced to miss Le Mans while further tests are being carried out, and while Yamaha decide what to do for Aragon. The infected engineer is not currently showing symptoms, fortunately, and is able to continue working, as are the other members of the group. But they are being forced to work remotely, as opposed to being actually at the track.

The absence of six engineers, including the M1 project leader Sumi, is an inconvenience for Yamaha, but should not have a major impact on the Yamaha squad. The engineers are not working directly in one of the teams, but are involved in the overall project. The replacement engineers being flown in should be able to cover most of the work of the absent Yamaha staff.

The press release from Yamaha appears below:


SIX YAMAHA MOTOGP GROUP MEMBERS TO MISS THE GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE

Le Mans (France), 8th October 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing Srl regret to announce that six Yamaha MotoGP Group engineers, including YZR-M1 Project Leader Takahiro Sumi, will be unable to attend this weekend‘s Grand Prix de France.

STATEMENT – 8th October 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing Srl regret to announce that six Yamaha MotoGP Group engineers, including YZR-M1 Project Leader Takahiro Sumi, will be unable to attend this weekend‘s Grand Prix de France.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

  • Due to restrictions in travel, several of Yamaha‘s MotoGP staff are frequently staying in Andorra in the breaks between the back-to-back rounds. On this occasion, after taking the usual PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test on Monday before the planned departure from Andorra, one member of Yamaha‘s engineering staff received a positive test result for Covid-19 on the Tuesday. The other five members of the YMC engineers group received negative test results.
  • 24 hours later a further test was done to double-check the first test results. The test results were identical, confirming the initial positive Covid-19 test result for one member and negative results for the other five members.
  • As a consequence, all six YMC engineers in this travel group are now self-isolating in Andorra and will not be attending the upcoming race weekend in Le Mans, France.
  • Yamaha Motor Racing Srl is currently arranging for alternative staff to come to Le Mans during the coming days to support the riders at the French GP.
  • YZR-M1 Project Leader Takahiro Sumi and the five GP support engineers will stay in touch with the team staff at the Le Mans track using the new communications tools that the team has used since the restart of this Covid-19 affected 2020 MotoGP racing season. This new communications system allows them to stay remotely connected with the team crew and the riders in the pit box before, during, and after each session on track. Thanks to this technical solution, the self-isolating engineers will still be able to share their expertise and offer their best support to the staff present in Le Mans.
  • The infected engineer does not currently show signs of illness but will continue to be monitored by his colleagues and medical staff in Andorra.
  • The situation will be reviewed in the middle of next week with a view to the group‘s participation at the coming MotoGP events in Aragon, Spain.
Source: 

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

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

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

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

Contracted riders at Portimao on Wednesday:

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

Test riders at Portimao on Wednesday and Thursday:

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

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

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

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

Last year's bike

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

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

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

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

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

Cold front

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

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

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

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

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

Diggia's upgrade

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The officially announced 2021 MotoGP rider lin up so far:

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

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