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Jerez WorldSBK Action Canceled On Saturday After Dean Berta Viñales Dies In WorldSSP300 Crash

The Saturday afternoon races in the WorldSBK championship have been canceled after a fatal accident in the WorldSSP300 class. Dean Berta Viñales, riding for the Viñales Racing Team, fell at Turn 2 on lap 10, in the middle of a group of riders, and was struck by another bike. The Spaniard suffered severe chest and head injuries, and died as a result of the injuries sustained.

The WorldSSP300 race was immediately red-flagged, and Viñales was treated at trackside, before being taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital, but his injuries were too severe to be survivable. Dean Berta Viñales is the cousin of Aprilia MotoGP rider Maverick, and rode in the team run by Maverick Viñales' father Angel. Dean Berta Viñales was 15 years and 4 months old.

All action was stopped for the remainder of the day. The World Superbike and World Supersport races were both canceled. Jeffrey Buis was declared the winner of the WorldSSP300 race, ahead of Iñigo Iglesias and Bahattin Sofuoglu.

Viñales is the second fatality on a World Championship race weekend this year, after Jason Dupasquier was killed during qualifying in the Moto3 class at Mugello. This year has also seen the death of Hugo Millán, who died during a European Talent Cup race at the FIM CEV championship round in Aragon in July. Millán was 14, Viñales 15, Dupasquier 19. All three teenagers died as a result of being struck by other bikes.

Below is the press release from the World Superbike organizers:


Dean Berta Viñales passes away

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Following a serious incident during Race 1 of the Motul Spanish Round of the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto, it is with great sadness that we report the passing of rider Dean Berta Viñales (Viñales Racing Team).

Berta Viñales was involved in a multi-rider incident at Turn 1, with the race immediately Red Flagged.

The rider suffered severe head and thoracic injuries. Medical vehicles arrived at the site immediately and the rider was attended to on track, in the ambulance and at the circuit Medical Centre.

Despite the best efforts of the circuit medical staff, the Medical Centre has announced that Berta Viñales has sadly succumbed to his injuries.

The FIM, Dorna and the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto pass on our deepest condolences to Berta Viñales’ family, friends, team and loved ones.

Following the incident, the remainder of Saturday’s action has been cancelled.

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The Great Yamaha Reshuffle: Morbidelli Confirmed In Factory Team Through 2023, Dovizioso At SRT From Misano Through 2022

It has been an open secret for some time, but now finally Yamaha have confirmed it officially. In a flurry of press releases, Yamaha have announced their reshuffle of the factory Yamaha team, and laid the first stone in their satellite operation. Starting immediately, Franco Morbidelli will be joining the factory team, and has signed a contract for the next two seasons, 2022 and 2023. Taking his place in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team effective immediately will be Andrea Dovizioso, and the Italian veteran will race in Yamaha's satellite team for 2022.

Though most of the news was already out in public, there were still a few details in the announcements which hadn't been confirmed. Firstly, although Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis confirmed to me in Austria that Franco Morbidelli would be moving up to the factory team for next year, the deal announced is for two seasons, for 2022 and 2023. Crucially, that puts him out of step with almost the entirety of the rest of the MotoGP field. Everyone bar Marc Marquez and Brad Binder, who have contracts through 2024, have deals which end in 2022 - with the caveat that most rookies, like Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner in the Tech3 KTM team, will have options to continue beyond 2022.

Franco Morbidelli will start his term in the factory Yamaha team this weekend. The Italian is coming off a long absence for surgery on his ACL, however. Normally, the recovery time for such a knee operation is six months. Morbidelli, however, had surgery at the end of June, less than three months ago. The move will allow Morbidelli to settle into the factory team, and adapt to the 2022 Yamaha M1, rather than the 2019 bike he has been riding for the past year and a half.

The second detail to be announced is that Andrea Dovizioso will be signing a contract with Yamaha directly. That puts him on a 2022 Yamaha M1 in the satellite team due to be announced this weekend by the remnants of the Petronas SRT team, now that Petronas and the Sepang International Circuit have withdrawn from the squad. Team bosses Razlan Razali and Johan Stigefelt are expected to reveal their plans, and the name of their new project at some point over the weekend.

That announcement has apparently run into a glitch. Multiple sources have reported that the intended sponsor WithU, an Italian utilities company currently backing the team's MotoE effort, have withdrawn their sponsorship, and have chosen to back the VR46 team instead, alongside Sky Italia.

Though unrelated to the Yamaha news, the backing of WithU and Sky suggests that the mysterious deal with Tanal Entertainment, a Saudi-backed development concern, is off. The deal was always dubious, though the story was so hard to track that it was hard to unravel the truth behind it. So far, however, no concrete details have been announced for the sponsorship of the VR46 squad.

The press releases from Yamaha and Petronas appear below:


FRANCO MORBIDELLI JOINS YAMAHA FACTORY RACING MOTOGP TEAM FOR 2021-2023

It is with great pleasure that Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. confirm Franco Morbidelli as a Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team rider for the remaining races in 2021 and for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The Italian will make his highly anticipated return from injury debuting with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team this weekend at the Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.

Misano Adriatico (Italy), 16th September 2021

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. are delighted to announce that Franco Morbidelli has signed with the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team for the remaining races in 2021 and for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The Italian will make his long-awaited return after injury this weekend, debuting with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team at the Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini. He will be part of the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team‘s rider line-up for the upcoming five 2021 GP events and a full-time Factory rider in 2022 and 2023.

Morbidelli has shown great riding and motivation so far in his three seasons of racing with Yamaha in the MotoGP World Championship. The successful partnership led to a second place overall for the Italian in 2020, having secured five podiums including three victories that season.

The PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team rider‘s 2021 season was hampered by injury. He decided to have surgery on the meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on 25 June, causing him to miss the Dutch, Styrian, Austrian, British, and Aragon GP. After following a rehabilitation programme, Morbidelli is now ready to return to action.

This weekend, the 26-year-old will be reunited with former PETRONAS Yamaha SRT teammate Fabio Quartararo, this time as part of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. He aims to use the remainder of the 2021 season to adapt to the new team surroundings and the 2021 Factory-spec YZR-M1, and gradually work up to 100% fitness level.

With two further years as a Factory rider on the horizon after the 2021 season, Morbidelli can count on Yamaha‘s full support and the opportunity to fight at the front for big milestones on many occasions.

LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

“First of all, we want to thank PETRONAS Yamaha SRT for allowing Franky to make his dream come true and letting him step up to the Factory team ahead of schedule. Originally, we had planned for Franky to move up from 2022 on, but following a sudden rider line-up change mid-season, we had the chance to let him upgrade early.

“Secondly, I want to give a warm welcome to Franky. He is an exceptional talent. This was even further highlighted last year when he secured second place in the championship and achieved five podiums and three wins on the satellite Yamaha. It shows the type of rider that he is: committed to extracting the best from the YZR-M1 under all circumstances.

“Naturally, we‘re thrilled that Franky will be back in the paddock and that he is well enough to start racing again. He will have to find his form gradually, in line with his physical improvements, as he is still recovering. We will be using the remainder of 2021 to get him settled in the team and comfortable on the bike.

“We have already locked down our plans for 2022 and 2023, with Franky receiving full Factory backing from Yamaha Motor Company. We feel certain that a skilled, calm, and experienced rider like Franky will strengthen the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team and will enjoy great success in the future.”

FRANCO MORBIDELLI

“I'm very pleased and happy about facing this weekend and this highly anticipated new chapter with the Factory Yamaha team. I've been trying to recover as much as possible for the final stage of this championship. I wanted to make my comeback at a track I know well and have great memories of, like Misano.

”I'm looking forward to jumping on the bike and starting my journey with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. Of course, I need and I want to thank all the people who made this happen, starting with Ito-san, Lin, Maio, Sumi-san, the VR46 Riders Academy, and all other people who made this collaboration possible.”


ANDREA DOVIZIOSO SIGNS WITH YAMAHA MOTOR COMPANY FOR 2021-2022

With Franco Morbidelli debuting in the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team for this week‘s Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is delighted to announce that MotoGP star Andrea Dovizioso will be joining PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team. The Italian will race for Yamaha‘s satellite team for the remainder of 2021 as well as the entire 2022 MotoGP season.

Misano Adriatico (Italy), 16th September 2021

Following Franco Morbidelli‘s transfer to Yamaha‘s factory team, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce the signing of MotoGP star Andrea Dovizioso. He will be joining Yamaha‘s satellite team rider line-up for the remainder of 2021 and the entire 2022 MotoGP season.

The vastly experienced Italian is a three-time MotoGP Vice Champion and has many premier-class and lower-class achievements and victories to his name. He is known as a late-braker and one of the cleanest competitors in battle. Dovizioso is also no stranger to the YZR-M1, making him a perfect addition to the Yamaha rider line-up. He completed a successful season with a Yamaha satellite team in 2012, resulting in six third places and a fourth place in the final standings.

Yamaha as well as MotoGP fans the world over eagerly anticipate Dovizioso‘s return to action aboard a Yamaha YZR-M1 this weekend. The 35-year-old will start the second leg of his racing career with Yamaha on Morbidelli‘s former bikes. During the 2022 season he will be riding a factory-spec YZR-M1 and receive full support from Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

“We are delighted that a MotoGP star and talent like Andrea is joining the Yamaha line-up. We warmly welcome him to the Yamaha MotoGP group as a very important member of our MotoGP programme.

“We have found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances this year that resulted in totally unexpected rider issues for both Yamaha teams. We experienced some unforeseen and unfortunate events, but we have been able to transform the problems into new opportunities.

“Andrea has been away from MotoGP for a short sabbatical, but we are certain that a rider of his calibre will soon find his speed again. We are really looking forward to working with him as a member of Yamaha‘s satellite team, and we will be supporting him in every way we can.”

ANDREA DOVIZIOSO - PETRONAS YAMAHA SRT RIDER

“Racing with Yamaha has always been my dream, and that's why when the opportunity arrived I did not think twice, although I know it's going to be a tough challenge for me.

"I've got many things ahead of me to learn: a new bike, a new team, a new working system. It‘s a big challenge that starts at Misano, my home GP. This makes it even more exciting. I can't wait to be aboard my M1!”


Dovizioso to make MotoGP return with PETRONAS Yamaha SRT

Andrea Dovizioso to see out 2021 season as Franco Morbidelli moves to factory team

Italian rider Andrea Dovizioso will join PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for the remainder of the 2021 season, replacing fellow countryman Franco Morbidelli – who is moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP.

‘Dovi’ made his MotoGP debut in 2008 having taken the 125cc World Championship title in 2004. In his first season in the premier class he finished as top Independent rider, and claimed his first victory one year later. Since his first premier class race, the Italian has racked up a total of 62 podiums, 15 wins and 7 pole positions. In addition to this, Andrea was also in the championship fight in 2017, 2018 and 2019 – ending all three years as vice champion.

Marking his much-anticipated return to the championship, Dovizioso will join the Malaysian squad as Valentino Rossi’s team-mate for the rest of the 2021 season, starting with the San Marino GP this weekend.

Re-joining his former team-mate Fabio Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli graduates to the factory Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team from this weekend’s Grand Prix. The 2020 Championship runner-up took his first MotoGP podiums and wins with PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2020, and everyone would like to sincerely thank Franco for his time with the team and wish him all the very best in his graduation.

Razlan Razali

We are absolutely thrilled with the collective decision between Yamaha and PETRONAS Yamaha SRT to welcome Andrea Dovizioso from this race onwards until the end of the year. Clearly he is an extremely talented and highly-regarded rider, and we’re excited to see him back in the MotoGP paddock after his sabbatical and wearing our colours. We’re delighted with the line-up of Dovi alongside Valentino, and that we have two home-race heroes at Misano this weekend.

Of course, this is possible because Franky is moving to the factory team alongside his old team-mate Fabio, and we are absolutely delighted and excited for him. He has performed remarkably for us, especially last year as vice-Champion, and this progression is exactly the objective for an independent team – to develop riders for the factory team and to help them perform to the best of their ability. For the first time the line-up of the Yamaha factory team consists of two riders who have graduated from our team, and we are exceptionally proud of that. For me this is a clear sign of the stronger, deeper collaboration between us and Yamaha. We are always ready to support the factory, and I think that with this solution and flexibility we all see a clear benefit, so we’re very pleased, and of course thank Franky sincerely for all his hard work and wish him all the very best.

Andrea Dovizioso

Although I didn’t expect to be back in MotoGP like this, I never closed the door on it and it’s good to be here with Yamaha and PETRONAS Yamaha SRT. I wanted to try to enjoy a new situation and I’m really happy to be back. It will be interesting to be on a completely different bike to that I rode before and I’m looking forward to the experience. I visited the team in Aragon and it felt almost like it was 2012 again and sitting on the Yamaha bike felt just as good. It was great to have a first sit on the bike and do the initial adjustments, so that we’re already one step ahead of FP1 here at Misano. I will need to get on track to understand the details and it would have been better to have had a test before jumping into a race, but I start with no pressure and it will be great to get going in Misano for the final five races of the season.

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Michelin Extend Contract To Be MotoGP Official Tire Supplier Through 2026

Michelin is to remain official tire supplier to MotoGP until the end of the 2026 season. Today, Michelin and Dorna announced they had extend the contract, due to end in December 2023, through the following three seasons.

The announcement nicely lines up the spec tire contract with the end of the next period of technical rules. Dorna has a contract with the manufacturers to keep the technical regulations as stable as possible for a five year period, starting in 2022 and ending in 2026.

Whether there will be any change of tire supplier at the end of 2026 remains to be seen. At the moment, the manufacturers are broadly happy with the job Michelin is doing, despite occasional questions surrounding consistency and quality control. For its part, Dorna is delighted with the close racing the Michelin tires have helped produce, alongside the changes to reduce the influence of electronics on the sport. Although by the end of the contract, Michelin will have been spec tire supplier to MotoGP for 11 years.

Below is the press release announcing the contract extension:


Michelin® confirmed as MotoGP™ tyre supplier until 2026
The legendary French marque will remain the official, sole tyre supplier of the premier class from 2024-2026

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Dorna Sports is pleased to confirm a new three-year contract extension with Michelin that will see the legendary French firm continue as the sole, official tyre supplier to MotoGP™ until at least 2026. The new three-year agreement will see the partnership between Michelin and MotoGP™ reach the milestone of a decade racing together.

Michelin, based in Clermont-Ferrand in France, became the sole tyre supplier to MotoGP™ in 2016. The premier class of motorcycle Grand Prix racing has since enjoyed some of the closest competition in history, creating a true golden era. Records are routinely broken, with the ten closest top 15 finishes of all-time all set since 2018, four of which are from 2021.

As part of the agreement, the Michelin brand will also continue to be featured trackside at each event and will be the title sponsor of a Grand Prix each season.

Florent Ménégaux, CEO of Michelin: "We are very happy with the results we've obtained since Michelin's return to MotoGP, and today we have, logically, extended our partnership with Dorna Sports. We are particularly proud of the technological progress made with our products, as well as the many records broken together with our partners. This Championship offers fans a captivating spectacle, and it's accessible via digital platforms unparalleled in motorsport. Being a partner of MotoGP therefore represents a valuable opportunity for Michelin to engage the public and players across the discipline in its vision, brand, tyres and innovation. For Michelin, motorsport is a laboratory that encourages the transfer of its expertise and sustainable solutions for the benefit of everyone. "

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: "We’re very proud to continue our partnership with Michelin until at least 2026. Michelin has been a vital partner for MotoGP since it became the tyre supplier to the premier class in 2016, helping us to create one of the greatest eras of competition in motorcycle Grand Prix racing history. I’m delighted that we will reach a decade of collaboration and I hope we can continue building on this incredible foundation together. This agreement is fantastic news for all of us in the Championship."

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2021 MotoGP Calendar Finalized: Argentina Canceled, 18 Races In 2021

The 2021 MotoGP calendar has been finalized. The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the fire which ravaged the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit has caused the cancellation of the Argentina Grand Prix, meaning that the 2021 MotoGP season will consist of 18 races, leaving 6 races - including Sunday's Aragon round - to contest this year.

The finalization of the calendar also means that the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, will go ahead, despite the current situation with hospital capacity in Texas due to the Covid-19 outbreak. With the Austin City Limits music festival due to be held on the same weekend, it is hard for the Circuit to justify canceling the race.

At the same time, the official date of the Jerez MotoGP test was also announced. The traditional Valencia test has been abandoned, as it was always unpopular with teams and riders. Instead, the teams will head to Jerez for a two-day test on the Thursday and Friday after Valencia, November 18th and 19th. That will be the final test of 2021, before the paddock assembles again in Sepang in early February. Pandemic willing, of course.

The finalized 2021 MotoGP calendar appears below:

Date Grand prix Circuit
28 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
4 April Qatar* Losail International Circuit
18 April Portugal Algarve International Circuit
02 May Spain Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
16 May France Le Mans
30 May Italy Autodromo del Mugello
06 June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
20 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
27 June Germany Sachsenring
8 August Styria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
15 August Austria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
29 August Great Britain Silverstone
12 September Aragón MotorLand Aragón
19 September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
03 October Americas Circuit of the Americas
24 October Emilia Romagna e Made in Italy Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
7 November Algarve Algarve International Circuit
14 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo
tbc tbc tbc

* Evening Race
** Subject to Homologation

All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities.


2021 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship final calendar confirmed

The final calendar for the 2021 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship can now be confirmed. The 2021 season will comprise a total of 18 Grands Prix, with no more events to be added.

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports therefore regret to confirm the cancellation of the Gran Premio de la República Argentina due to force majeure. The event was previously postponed, but the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, logistical restrictions and prior infrastructure damage have obliged the cancellation.

MotoGP™ looks forward to returning to Termas de Rio Hondo in April 2022 to greet the incredible fans who flock to the venue from across South America, with all parties working towards extending the collaboration for further years.

The name of the second Grand Prix at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, set to take place from the 22nd to the 24th of October 2021, can also be announced. The event will be the Emilia Romagna and Made in Italy Grand Prix, with helmet manufacturer and long-term partner of MotoGP™, Nolan, taking top billing. The official name of the event is therefore the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia Romagna.

In addition, the dates of the first pre-season test for 2022 are now confirmed. The Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto will host a two-day Official Test for the MotoGP™ class on the 18th and 19th of November 2021.

Official track action will then resume with the Sepang Shakedown Test from the 31st of January 2022, as previously announced.

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Maverick Viñales 'Happiest Ever' After Misano Test

Maverick Viñales has completed the first two days of his Aprilia career, riding the RS-GP for the first time at the Misano circuit. The Spaniard was very happy afterwards, in no small part because he was also fast. He ended the day with a fastest lap of 1'32.4, he told Catalan journalist Damià Aguilar. Earlier, Lucio Lopez of MotoRaceNation, present at the track, reported that Viñales had set a lap of 1'32.8 on a soft tire with 8 laps on.

How fast is that? To put Viñales' times into perspective, the race lap record is 1'32.319, set by Pecco Bagnaia in last year's Misano 2 race, while Viñales himself holds the pole record, with a time of 1'31.077 set at the same event.

The fact that Viñales holds the pole record at Misano is evidence that he is fast at the track, but to be close to the race lap record after just two days on the bike is a sign that he has adapted very quickly. Aprilia did not change the bike much for Viñales, using the chassis and electronics settings taken from Aleix Espargaro's bike.

Blissed out

Viñales himself was extremely happy when he spoke to the media after the test. The happiest he had been, "probably in my life!" he told us. "The time that I am the most happy, because after five years there [at Yamaha] doing ups and downs and we didn't understand many things, at the end you say 'what is going on?' But as soon as I jumped to Aprilia I know my potential, I know what I'm able to do even more."

He had tried to enter Aprilia as a blank slate. "I honestly went without expectation, because you never know how the bike is going to react," Viñales told us. "But I have to say that I was a bit nervous because I never tried a different engine. I was used to riding bikes that have an inline four and I didn't know how it would react, but I was quite surprised that how I adapted to the engine was quite easy and this is nice." The engine character helped make the switch easy. "Basically, the bike has a really [good] handling engine, which is very important also for a long race."

With Viñales set to make is race debut on the Aprilia in 10 days time at Aragon, replacing the injured Lorenzo Savadori, he feels this gives him a big head start on his first full season aboard the RS-GP in 2022. "It was nice to jump quick because I have the opportunity to do six races and this is much better than to do just five days of testing. I will try to prepare well, and also with Aleix, the 2022, which is very important for me."

Sooner than expected

Actually being able to race at Aragon had been unexpected. "I didn't expect it," Viñales said. "I expected to be at home waiting for November to test the bike, but this opportunity is made first of all because I left [Yamaha] and then because Aprilia give me the opportunity. So basically what makes me really happy is that all the guys are working very hard, the atmosphere is really strong and also coming from a podium is the best time, you know, to join the team and try to give them the feedback." Viñales praised the work of the current team as well. "For sure Aleix and Savadori made an amazing job because they ride very fast and the bike is working well. I was quite surprised because the adaptation to the bike has been quite fast."

That fast adaptation had persuaded him to try to start racing as quickly as possible. "I wanted to race as soon as I did three [runs] with the bike," Viñales told us. "I think it's the best way way to prepare for next year. Even if maybe I'm not ready because it's difficult on the riding style still to be at one with the bike because I was used to ride a completely different bike. But I think in Aragon I will understand a little bit more, also riding with Aleix, he is fast so I can learn quickly how the bike works. But I feel strong. I feel very strong and this is the positive point."

Adapting to a different bike also requires a change of riding style, Viñales explained. "What I need to change is the way of braking, it's a bit different. This is a big learning process because the way that you can brake with the Aprilia is totally different and for this I will need laps." His new teammate can help in that regard "Also Aleix is very hard braking and I will need to learn a little bit from him how he does that strong brake. But I think this will come with confidence. This is the important point."

Goals still to achieve

The split with Yamaha had not caused him to hang his head and give up hope, Viñales told us. His ambition did not stop burning. "You know after everything happened, the only thing I had in mind was to ride, keep riding, I will not give up! Until i get my objectives accomplished. So I keep going. I keep going very strong. I will push at my maximum already from the first lap in Aragon. I know my place in Aprilia for what it is so I need to push so much, I need to improve myself and I need to keep going."

Viñales was not surprised that Yamaha let him race the Aprilia this year. "No, it's fair. Everyone has to have the opportunity and to leave the things in the past," Viñales said. Yamaha also had something to gain, of course: in exchange for releasing Maverick Viñales, Aprilia could also release Andrea Dovizioso from his testing contract. That allows Yamaha to put the Italian on the Petronas Yamaha from the Misano race, and gives him five races to get up to speed for next year.

When the honeymoon is over.

That Maverick Viñales should be happy after two days on the bike is a positive sign, but it is also a natural consequence of having changed. The Spaniard was deeply unhappy in the Yamaha team, and had been for some time. A change of scenery brings a breath of fresh air, and the eagerness with which he was welcomed will have made him feel wanted, an important motivation for Viñales.

That he should be fast is also hardly a surprise. Viñales is the undisputed champion of winter testing, frequently topping each preseason and post-race test. He is fast when he can ride alone, and choose his own lines.

The real test will come when things get difficult. When Viñales has a bad weekend, or finds that he can't overtake during a race, or has a technical problem. Right now, the Spaniard is in the honeymoon period with Aprilia. But honeymoons come to an end, and then the real work of the relationship starts.


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Maverick Viñales To Replace Lorenzo Savadori At Aprilia From Aragon

Maverick Viñales testing the Aprilia RS-GP machine at Misano, August 31st 2021, photo copyright Aprilia

Maverick Viñales will race for Aprilia for the remainder of the 2021 MotoGP season. On Wednesday, Aprilia announced that the Spaniard would be racing the bike in the Gresini Aprilia team alongside Aleix Espargaro starting from the next race at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

The decision was taken after Viñales rode the bike at a two-day private test at Misano. The fact that the decision was taken after just the first day is a very positive sign for the Spaniard, that he is adapting quickly to the bike. It was of course made possible by the fact that Yamaha released Viñales from his contract after the fiasco at the Styria Grand Prix. The Grand Prix Commission also had to approve the substitution.

The decision also means that Lorenzo Savadori will revert to his role as test rider. The fact that Savadori was still in considerable pain after surgery to fix the ankle he broke in a crash with Dani Pedrosa in the opening laps of the Styria Grand Prix made it an easier choice. Savadori will compete in a number of wildcards later this season, once his ankle has healed.

The press release from Aprilia appears below:


MAVERICK VIÑALES ON THE TRACK WITH APRILIA FROM THE ARAGÓN GP
LORENZO SAVADORI WILD CARD IN THIS SEASON AND 2022 TEST RIDER

All the pieces have now fallen in place for the Aprilia Racing rider line-up after Maverick Viñales’ début astride the RS-GP during the two days of testing on the Misano Adriatico circuit.

The Spanish rider, extremely impressed by the first contact with the Italian team, will be on the track officially from the Aragón GP, scheduled to be held on the weekend of 12 September. He will take a spot on the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini alongside Aleix Espargaró, who just brought the Noale-based manufacturer their first podium in MotoGP at Silverstone.

Lorenzo Savadori will therefore be confirmed as test rider for the 2022 season, completing an extremely high level trio with the goal of continuing to improve the young RS-GP project. For the rest of the 2021 season, his presence on the track will not be lacking, taking advantage of the wild cards Aprilia has available. Lorenzo’s work schedule will be formalised as soon as he has recovered fully from the injury suffered during the Styria GP, a fractured right malleolus that required surgery.

MASSIMO RIVOLA - APRILIA RACING CEO

"We are extremely proud to be able to announce our plans for the current season and for 2022 with the goal of optimising the contributions of our three riders to the utmost. Alongside our confirmed rider, Aleix, it is our pleasure to welcome a talented athlete like Maverick to the Aprilia Racing team, who demonstrated a great feeling with the team and the bike straight away and who I am confident will be able to give his best as early as the Aragón GP. At the same time, we are also confirming Lorenzo’s role as 2022 test rider. This is a fundamental position that rewards the great efforts he has demonstrated in developing the new RS-GP, whereas he will finish out the 2021 season taking advantage of the wild cards that we’ll decide on together as soon as he is back to 100% fitness."

ROMANO ALBESIANO - APRILIA RACING TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

"The decision to have Maverick on the track from Aragón is a direct result of the tests done in Misano. It was not a given that, after a career spent up to now on a bike with an in-line engine, Maverick would have a good feeling with our V4 straight away. This is why the test on this track, historically not an easy one for our bike, was an important moment of assessment. Therefore, we are satisfied with Maverick’s immediately positive reactions, which demonstrated a good feeling both with the RS-GP and with the team and our work method. His and Aleix’s talent, combined with the experience Lorenzo has gained this season, make us optimistic about the future of our MotoGP project."

Source: 

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Maverick Viñales Debuts For Aprilia, Morbidelli Rides R1 At Misano Test

It has been a busy day at the Misano circuit. At a private test organized by Ducati, Maverick Viñales got his first taste of the Aprilia RS-GP, Franco Morbidelli rode a superbike again for the first time, and factory test riders carried on with the work of testing developments on the MotoGP machines.

There was a surprisingly long list of riders on track at the test. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro was present, along with Johann Zarco, Pecco Bagnaia, and Luca Marini on Ducati Panigale V4 streetbikes. Stefan Bradl was testing the Honda RC213V MotoGP machine, Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio were present for KTM, Franco Morbidelli was riding a Yamaha R1, and Matteo Baiocco was alongside Maverick Viñales in the Aprilia garage.

All eyes were on the Aprilia garage, of course, where Maverick Viñales was riding the Aprilia RS-GP for the first time. The Spaniard completed a total of 65 laps, and posted that his best time was a 1'33.0 on his Instagram page. With no official times published, and no live timing, there is no way to verify that time. But to put it in perspective, the race lap record is 1'32.319, set by Pecco Bagnaia during the Misano 2 race last year. The pole record is 1'31.077, set by Maverick Viñales during qualifying for the same event, a race he went on to win.

Though no official statements were released, Italian broadcaster Sky was present, as were staff from Dorna. Speaking to the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Technical Director Romano Albesiano described the test as "very positive".  "He didn't find any major issues or problems or discomfort," Albesiano said. "We're just working on some fine-tuning, suspension, tires. Normal work as if he had been riding this bike for a long time. So it's been really positive."

The MotoGP.com website also have a short video of Viñales riding the bike for the first time. Very few conclusions can be drawn from it, especially given this is the first time on the Aprilia for Viñales.

Franco Morbidelli's return to riding a large-capacity motorcycle was also important. The Italian has not ridden since he withdrew after the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Since then, he has been recovering from surgery to fix a torn ACL and damaged meniscus. Morbidelli is expected to return to MotoGP at the Misano round on September 19th.

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2022 Preseason Test Dates Announced - Sepang And Indonesia Kick Off Season

Testing for the 2022 MotoGP season will kick off as normal at Sepang next year, but the preseason will look a little different. After a three-day shakedown test at the Sepang International Circuit, from January 31st to February 2nd, where test riders will put the 2022 bikes through their paces, and rookies will get an extended taste of the MotoGP machines.

The official IRTA test follows on February 5th and 6th, a two-day test instead of the usual three days. A week later, the paddock travels to Indonesia, for the first taste of the Mandalika International Street Circuit. The MotoGP riders get three days on that circuit, from 11th-13th of February.

The Moto2 and Moto3 riders will have one official preseason test. Moto2 and Moto3 will take to the track at Jerez from February 22nd to 24th.

The MotoGP season is then set to start in Qatar on March 6th. The Losail International Circuit announced the date on Social Media a couple of days ago. How the rest of the calendar plays out is still unknown, and will doubtless still be subject to some restrictions and change depending on how the pandemic plays out. But as vaccination rates increase, its influence should wane.

Sepang will not be the first time the riders get their hands on the 2022 bikes. A post-season test is planned at Jerez for November 16th and 17th, after the final MotoGP round at Valencia.

The preseason test calendar is shown below:

Circuit Dates Test
Sepang 31 Jan - 2 Feb Shakedown test MotoGP
Sepang 5-6 Feb Official MotoGP test
Mandalika 11-13 February Mandalika circuit first test MotoGP
Jerez 22-24 February Moto2 & Moto3 test
Source: 

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Petronas SRT Confirm End Of Old Structure, Start Of New, But What Next?

It is not really news, after Petronas made the announcement in their press release stating they would be ending their sponsorship of the Sepang Racing Team, but today, the team officially announced the end of the current structure. At the end of the season, the Sepang International Circuit will close the Sepang Racing Team, and with it, the MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 teams.

The MotoGP team will continue, however, though under new management. Team Principal Razlan Razali and Team Director Johan Stigefelt are to setup a new structure, the plans for which are to be announced at the Misano round of MotoGP, set to be held on September 16th. The Moto2 and Moto3 entries are to be abandoned, and only the MotoGP entry will be maintained.

Although the press release speaks of the title sponsor and team entity being announced at Misano, there is already a lot we know. The team is to have Italian utilities company WithU as its title sponsor, the company already a prominent backer of SRT.

As for riders, there are both media reports and paddock sources which believe the deal is already done for Andrea Dovizioso to take one of the two seats at the team for 2022. According to Italian media, the final details are being hammered out, mostly in an attempt to get the Italian an A-spec, 2022 Yamaha M1, something which sponsor WithU would be willing to back. The timing for that is a little late, as normally those decisions have to be taken by the end of June, but given that the news of Petronas' withdrawal only came at Austria in July, it is conceivable that Yamaha were already planning to provide a second A-spec bike to the team had Petronas remained as sponsor.

Dovizioso's move back to Yamaha came after attempts to conclude a deal with Aprilia failed at the last moment. The deal came very close indeed, so close that a press release had already been drawn up and accidentally published on one official Aprilia website. The link to the page has now been taken down, but the URL tells the story of the deal: https://www.aprilia.com/at_DE/aprilia-world/racing/andrea-dovizioso-to-r...

For Dovizioso, a deal with the WithU Yamaha team would be a return to the Japanese manufacturer after a long absence. Dovizioso raced for Yamaha in the Tech3 team for the 2012 season, after losing his seat at the Repsol Honda squad with the arrival of Casey Stoner. He left after just one season, to take the place of the departing Valentino Rossi at Ducati, who was in turn heading back to Yamaha. It was a successful year, with Dovizioso racking up 6 podiums for the Tech3 Yamaha squad.

Darryn Binder is likely to line up alongside the Italian in the WithU Yamaha team. The South African has been linked to the seat ever since Valentino Rossi announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. Binder is the best of the current Moto2 and Moto3 Petronas riders, and the rider with the most potential. It would be a major step for the South African, however, to jump directly from Moto3 to MotoGP. But with a young inexperienced rider and a competitive veteran, that could be the ideal situation for the new satellite team.

The new team is also a reorientation of the Petronas squad. When Petronas first took over the Yamaha satellite seats from Tech3, well-connected paddock sources insisted that the Petronas SRT team would eventually take over as the Yamaha factory effort. That looked plausible in 2019 and 2020, but those rumors faded away from the beginning of the year. A lack of results, unhappiness with having Valentino Rossi foisted on them, a decision not of their own making, and dissatisfaction with the negotiation with Yamaha over machinery for 2022 and beyond fractured the relationship between Yamaha and SRT.

Even as late as the middle of the season, Razlan Razali was saying that SRT's role was as a junior team to the factory squad. That would push them in the direction of choosing younger riders to prepare them for a move to the factory team. With Petronas gone, the Sepang Racing Team shuttered, and a new entity created under Razali and Stigefelt, it seems the team is destined to return to a role as a more traditional satellite squad after all.

The press release announcing the folding of the team appears below:


PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team to conclude

PSRT to bid adieu at the end of 2021; a new beginning in store for 2022

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team will cease to be at the end of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.

The team, which is represented in Moto3 and Moto2 by PETRONAS Sprinta Racing and in MotoGP by PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team can confirm it will conclude all activities both racing and non-racing at the end of the 2021 World Championship season.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team Principal Razlan Razali and Team Director Johan Stigefelt will continue in the MotoGP category from 2022 onwards with a new entity. This new entity and title partner will be announced at the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini in Misano on September 16.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team in its current format was formed in 2018 to race in all categories of the MotoGP World Championship, from the 2019 season onwards. The team was supported in this by title sponsor across all three categories, PETRONAS, and the team’s owner, Sepang International Circuit.

In only its fourth race, the MotoGP squad was on the front row of the grid. Its first podium came after seven races. In 2020, the team took the first win for a satellite Yamaha MotoGP team in over 20 years and finished second in the overall Team Standings with rider Franco Morbidelli finishing second in the overall rider rankings and as Top Independent Rider. For 2021, the team was joined by the Greatest Of All Time rider, Valentino Rossi. Over the three years of its existence, PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team has achieved poles and podiums in all three MotoGP categories and wins in both Moto3 and MotoGP.

The team’s origin dates back to 2015 with M7 DRIVE SIC Racing Team in Moto3, which secured two podiums in its first season. Title partners PETRONAS came aboard in 2017, birthing the new PETRONAS Sprinta Racing banner with the squad growing to encompass Moto2 in 2018.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team would like to thank all its fans, crew, partners and riders for being part of the incredible journey. The team is dedicated to finishing the 2021 season in the best way possible.

Razlan Razali

We have experienced a remarkable voyage over the past years. From a small start in 2015 there was a great step for us in 2018 when we secured an entry to the premier class of MotoGP and built a MotoGP squad from scratch. In 2019 we were on the grid and just four races into our rookie season we were on the front row. By the seventh race we were on the podium. In 2020 we secured the first race win for a satellite Yamaha MotoGP team in over 20 years and finished second in the overall team and rider championships. In 2021 we raced with the Greatest Of All Time rider, Valentino Rossi. This is an incredible story.

The team will race its final race in Valencia and we thank all our crew, riders, fans and partners for their support. In particular, we thank PETRONAS, with whom none of this would have been possible. Together we pushed the PETRONAS brand and Malaysian expertise to the forefront of the grid and captured unprecedented brand exposure and coverage, exponentially surpassing all expectations.

We also thank Sepang International Circuit for their vision and support of upcoming Malaysian talent over a long period. Our collective dream was to have a Malaysian rider competing for podiums in the MotoGP World Championship. Sadly, we were not able to achieve this in the short life of our squad, but we can reflect upon tremendous success by every other measure.

Our final season has not reached its conclusion yet and we continue to strive for the very best results possible across all three classes. Thank you all.

Johan Stigefelt

Thank you to PETRONAS for the opportunity given over the past three years and everything we have achieved together. I am sad we were not able to continue this project as we established a great team across all three categories of MotoGP in such a short time and our vision was for this to be a long term project. We have worked with incredible personnel, fantastic riders and enjoyed the support of great partners and wonderful fans and we offer our heartfelt gratitude to them all.

Thank you also to Sepang International Circuit with whom the relationship goes back to 2015. Together we grew from a small two-rider Moto3 squad to one of the biggest teams to have ever existed in the MotoGP paddock. I am proud to have been part of this journey together and without Sepang International Circuit this would not have been possible.

As a squad, we achieved our first win, in Moto3, at Le Mans with John McPhee in 2019 and we had already taken our first pole position in MotoGP at the Spanish GP with Fabio Quartararo in Jerez that same year. We enjoyed six MotoGP race wins between Fabio and Franco Morbidelli in 2020. We have fabulous memories of the last three years, but now we look to the rest of this season to end the year in the best way possible.

In particular, I really want to thank everyone in the Moto2 and Moto3 squads who are not only colleagues but have become true friends over the past years. It is very hard for me to say goodbye to all these people especially as they have all been crucial contributors to our success and the structure we’ve built together over these years. I want to thank them all in particular.

For the future we have a new and exciting project. We remain in the paddock in MotoGP with new shirts to wear. But more of that later; for now we have the remaining races of the 2021 season to race as hard as possible. Thank you all.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team Stats *up to British GP 2021

MOTOGP category
12 poles
16 podiums
6 wins

Moto2
1 pole position
1 podium

Moto3
6 poles
12 podiums
2 wins

Sepang Racing Team Highlights

Sepang Racing Team is a unique entity in motorsport, encompassing MotoGP with PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and both Moto2 and Moto3 with PETRONAS Sprinta Racing. The team’s beginnings in the World Championship go back to its first Moto3 entry in 2015, with expansion to Moto2 in 2017, and finally a MotoGP entry in 2019.

The teams are part of the operation of the world-renowned Sepang International Circuit, home to 19 Formula 1 Grands Prix and host of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix since 1999.

2019 was a remarkable debut MotoGP season for PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team with a tally of seven podium finishes plus six pole positions that secured the Independent Teams’ Championship title with riders Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo. Fabio proved to be the sensation of the year, earning the Rookie of the Year and Top Independent Rider titles.

In 2020, PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team successfully defended its Top Independent Team title by leading the overall team and rider standings for much of the year. Both Fabio and Franco took three wins over the course of the year, with Franco and the team taking the vice title by finishing second in the rider and team championships. The team’s first MotoGP win was the first for a satellite Yamaha MotoGP squad in over 20 years.

For 2021, Greatest Of All Time rider Valentino Rossi joined the squad alongside Franco.

In Moto3 with PETRONAS Sprinta Racing, John McPhee took Sepang Racing Team’s first World Championship Grand Prix victory after leading from pole in the French Grand Prix in 2019 and proved to be a championship contender in 2020. For 2021, John was joined by fellow Moto3 race winner, Darryn Binder.

For 2020, PETRONAS Sprinta Racing in Moto2 expanded to a two-bike line-up with Xavi Vierge and Jake Dixon both showing race-leading pace over the course of the year. Both riders remained in 2021.

Sepang Racing Team is infused with Malaysian talent to showcase this on a world stage, supported in this objective by title partner, PETRONAS, who bring their expertise, passion and prowess to the track.

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Maverick Viñales To Test Aprilia At Misano, But What Happens After That?

The fallout from Maverick Viñales' precipitate departure from the Monster Energy Yamaha team continues to reshape 2022, and perhaps even 2021. First, Aprilia announced on the Monday after Austria that Viñales would be racing for them alongside Aleix Espargaro in 2022. Then, at the end of that week, Yamaha announced they would be terminating their contract with Viñales with immediate effect.

That has freed Viñales up to start working with Aprilia immediately. After persistent rumors, today, Aprilia announced that Maverick Viñales will be testing the Aprilia RS-GP at Misano on August 31st and September 1st. The Spaniard is to get an introduction to the bike in a private and calm setting, where he and the team can work through a program of testing and adaptation.

The test will be a chance to get to know the Aprilia engineers he will be working with going forward. The press release describes the test as marking "the start of Maverick's integration into the new structure that will accompany him throughout the 2022 season". It will be a chance for Aprilia to start assemble a crew Viñales could work with in 2022. Aprilia will be racing as a separate factory team, with Gresini becoming independent, so this is a chance to get a head start on that as well. Aleix Espargaro's team is expected to remain unchanged for 2022.

The test opens the door to Viñales making an early return to racing. Their only option, however, is if Aprilia decides to swap out Lorenzo Savadori and have Viñales complete the remainder of the 2021 season, while Savadori returns to testing duties. Aprilia also have six wildcard entries available to them, but wildcard entries must be submitted 90 days before the event. The final grand prix of 2021 is scheduled to be held at Valencia on November 14th, 80 days from now.

A wildcard entry at Misano would be impossible anyway. A special exemption has already been made to allow three instead of the usual two wildcards at the Misano round scheduled for September 19th. For KTM, Dani Pedrosa will be joining Honda's Stefan Bradl and Ducati's Michele Pirro at the Italian track.

The press release from Aprilia appears below:


MAVERICK VINALES WILL MAKE HIS DEBUT ON THE APRILIA RS-GP AT MISANO

TWO-DAY TEST FOR THE SPANISH RIDER ON 31 AUGUST - 1 SEPTEMBER

Maverick Vinales' debut on the Aprilia RS-GP will take place on the Italian track at Misano Adriatico. The first contact between the Spanish rider and the Italian team is scheduled for two days of testing on 31 August - 1 September.

This marks the start of Maverick's integration into the new structure that will accompany him throughout the 2022 season, a gradual approach to the improved harmony that is essential in such an extraordinary championship as modern MotoGP.

ROMANO ALBESIANO - APRILIA RACING TECHNICAL MANAGER

"From a technical point of view, it is always fascinating to listen to the impressions of a rider who is testing your bike for the first time. Especially with a champion like Maverick, who we are pleased to welcome into the Aprilia Racing family. After the great work carried out on the track by the racing department over the last two years, we are adding yet another piece to the path of growth that we are undertaking with encouraging results. Clearly the first approach involves a very practical adaptation phase, in terms of ergonomics and setup, which we know vary for each rider. But I'm sure that Maverick's talent and speed will come to the fore right away and I can't wait to start working together".

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