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Alvaro Bautista Confirmed With Honda Factory WorldSBK Team For 2020

HRC have confirmed the signing of Alvaro Bautista for the 2020 WorldSBK season. The Spaniard will be leaving Ducati to join the new factory team run out of Barcelona for next year, to ride the brand new Honda CBR1000RR to be presented later this year.

The news had been widely anticipated. Contract negotiations with Ducati had stalled over money, and HRC was offering to double his current salary. Although the step might seem like a risk given the results of the Althea Moriwaki team this season, there were reasons to take the leap.

Firstly, there is the new team to be based in Barcelona alongside the Repsol Honda MotoGP team, and run under the same program. More direct involvement by HRC should translate to faster response and development. 

Secondly, Honda are to debut a new CBR1000RR Fireblade at the Tokyo Show this year, to replace the current model. The new bike is rumored to have a major step in horsepower, making it the most powerful inline four cylinder on the market. How close it will be to the Ducati Panigale V4R's 220 hp remains to be seen.

Below is the press release from HRC announcing Bautista's signing:


HRC Signs Alvaro Bautista for 2020 Official WSBK Team

Honda Racing Corporation announced it has signed on Spanish rider Alvaro Bautista, who will join the company’s official team beginning next season to compete in the FIM World Superbike Championship.

A former 125cc World Champion and a 15-time WorldSBK race winner so far in his debut season, Bautista is a highly skilled, fast rider who will contribute greatly to the development of the HRC project in the Superbike World Championship.

Yoshishige Nomura

HRC President

“We are very happy to welcome Alvaro Bautista to our WSBK racing project for next year. His arrival in the Honda racing family underlines our strong commitment to compete at full force in every motorsport category, fighting to achieve top sporting results and looking for the best technological innovations, in order to offer our fans and customers fun, joy and excellent products. Alvaro is a very fast, experienced rider who has already shown his strong racing attitude and competitiveness in his GP years and in his first season in the WSBK Championship. We are confident that he will make a significant contribution to the growth and development of our project in the exciting and challenging Superbike World Championship.”

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FIM Introduces New Punishments For Exceeding Track Limits On Last Lap

The last lap of last weekend's Moto2 race remains controversial. Augusto Fernandez ran wide at Turn 11 in Misano, and used that space to get a run on Fabio Di Giannantonio into Turn 14, passing the Italian to take victory. The Speed Up team appealed the decision, but eventually it was upheld.

That decision did not sit well inside the paddock, however. At the pre-event press conference for the Aragon round on Thursday, Marc Marquez said the riders intended to raise the issue in the Safety Commission. "In the end the green part is something that is out of the limits of the track. The way that this time Fernandez, but it doesn’t matter which rider, uses the track is not fair. It is not fair because he used a lot on the exit of Turn 6 and you gain a little bit and it is the last two laps when the front guy is pushing. If you keep these ‘jokers’ for the end of the race it is not fair to use them at the end of the race. The overtake at Turn 14 started at the fast corner Turn 11 and this is when you are riding in Misano it is very easy to understand."

The discussions in the Safety Commission on Friday night between the riders and the FIM have already borne fruit. Today, the FIM announced new rules for the last lap of the race, which will see any rider exceeding track limits and appearing to affect the outcome of the race as a result subject to punishment.

What that punishment will be is up to the FIM Stewards. They will be able to hand out a time penalty, a change of position, or a long lap penalty. The long lap penalty is likely to be unused, given that riders will only be punished for infractions on the last lap. 

Importantly, there is no right of appeal against the penalty. Once adjudicated and awarded, the penalty will stand.

Below is the press release announcing the rule change.


FIM MotoGP™ Stewards update track limits protocol
New guidelines come into force for infractions on the last lap

Saturday, 21 September 2019

In previous eras of the Championship, the limits of the track were defined by a wall/barrier, which meant riders had no margin for error. As circuits got safer and run-off areas were created, kerbs were installed to signal the limit of the track. They were also intended to be detrimental for riding on as they were not flat. However, in time, the machines developed and improved, meaning they no longer lost any traction on kerbs.

Therefore, with the aim of improving upon natural grass but without providing good traction, artificial grass was installed on the outside of the kerbs. However, this was found to be dangerous after rain as it wouldn’t dry as fast as the track, causing crashes.

Now, artificial grass has been replaced by a concrete edge, giving the riders a safe margin to be able to push for the limit, make mistakes and fight for positions. However, there are clear advantages to exceeding the limits of the track, and therefore it must be discouraged.

Exceeding track limits means a rider has both tyres outside the track at the same time. If an infraction occurs at any time other than during a race, it results in the cancellation of the sector time and therefore cancellation of the lap. If an infraction occurs during a race, there can be a number of different outcomes.

If the rider loses time and is clearly disadvantaged, no action is taken and it’s not recorded.

Some mistakes are allowed if a loss or gain is indeterminable, but too many incidents are deemed an advantage because the rider is not using the same track as their competitors. If a rider makes three infractions, a warning message is sent to their dash. Once there are five track limit infractions, a Long Lap Penalty is issued via a signal board, with a message sent to the rider’s dashboard as well.

In MotoE™, races are much shorter. Therefore the number of permitted track limit incidents has now been reduced from five to three, with a warning after one.

If the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards deem a rider to have gained a clear advantage in one single track limit infraction, a penalty can be issued. This can vary from a Change of Position, a Time Penalty or a Long Lap Penalty. These instances are recorded but not included in the undetermined count, as a rider will already have been penalised for them.

At the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon and following consultation with the Safety Commission, it has been decided to update the protocol for track limit infractions that occur on the last lap of a race.

From now on, an infraction on the last lap that has affected a race result must indicate that the rider in question was disadvantaged by exceeding track limits. If the Stewards deem there is no clear disadvantage, the rider will be penalised with a change of position or a time penalty. This is to ensure that any rider exceeding track limits on the final lap must be in a worse position than the rider or riders with whom they are directly competing for a finish position.

Decisions regarding track limits are the sole responsibility of the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Panel and are final, with infractions confirmed by video. There is no possibility of protest or appeal.

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Testing To Be Reduced In 2020 For Moto2 And MotoGP - Valencia, Brno Tests Dropped

As the MotoGP championship expands to 20 race in 2020, and the prospect of 22 races from 2022, Dorna and IRTA are making a push to reduce the amount of testing in the series. Next year, testing will be much more limited, not just for MotoGP, but for Moto2 as well.

At Misano, the Grand Prix Commission met to discuss testing for Moto2 going forward. There have long been complaints that the current rules allowed rich teams to spend a lot more time testing than poor teams, the lack of rules on testing between the end of the season and the start of the test ban on December 1st meaning that testing was almost unlimited.

From 2020, Moto2 and Moto3 teams will be restricted to two official tests to be held at Jerez and Qatar ahead before the start of the season on 6th March in Qatar. They will also have the number of private testing days reduced from 7 to 6 days, with all testing taking place after Valencia and before the winter test ban now included in those testing days. There will also be a private two-day test held during the season, which will not count as part of the 6 days of allowed testing.

Though not officially announced by the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP testing is also to be reduced from 2020. According to a source with knowledge of the matter, alongside the preseason tests at Sepang and Qatar, the number of in-season tests will be reduced from 3 to 2 days, with tests to be held after Jerez and Barcelona. The Monday test after Brno has been dropped. This will be a popular decision, as the stress of packing everything up on Monday night at Brno and then starting to build it all back up again the next day at the Red Bull Ring in Austria placed a burden on the teams. There will also be a two-day test after Misano, before the teams head to Aragon.

More significantly, the post-race test at Valencia is to be dropped from 2020. Instead of the two-day test on the Tuesday and Wednesday after Valencia, the teams will head to Jerez for a test a week or so later.

The dropping of the Valencia test will be welcomed by the teams and factories. Jerez is a far better and more productive test track than Valencia, with a wider variety of corners. The weather is generally more amenable than at Valencia, temperatures warmer for a longer part of the day. And perhaps more importantly, the riders are fresher too. The riders are generally deflated after the end of a long season, and giving them a week to recuperate and recharge their batteries should make a difference.

Opinion on a reduction of testing is split between factories and teams. The teams are in favor of less testing, as they have they receive money from Dorna for racing, but have to pay for testing out of their own pocket. The factories, on the other hand, fear that less testing makes it more difficult to develop their bikes and make them competitive. They argue that it is bad for the satellite teams too, as if a factory is unable to produce a competitive bike, the satellite teams suffers along with the factory team. 

The reduction in testing time has increased the importance of the test teams, with all six factories now having test teams with competitive riders based in Europe. The cost savings from restricting technology is going into expanding the test team program.

The Grand Prix Commission introduced two other rules for 2020 at the meeting in Misano. First, carbon fiber swingarms were banned in Moto3, in an effort to control costs. This was more to anticipate future developments, as currently, no factories use carbon fiber swingarms in the smallest class.

There had been moves to ban carbon swingarms in Moto2 as well, but that had met resistance from Speed Up, who have been using a carbon swingarm for many years in the class. Kalex is also set to introduce carbon fiber swingarms from next year in Moto2.

The final regulation introduced was to make the use of a X2 Racelink Pro device, a combined GPS tracker and CAN Bus communication device. This is needed to allow for more accurate GPS tracking of the bikes by Race Direction, and to speed up communication between the bikes and Race Direction, to assist with the virtual pit board signals. 

The use of GPS remains banned for the manufacturers themselves, the spec software not using GPS signals to determine the position of the bike. But Dorna wants to be able to track the position of the bike both to assist Race Direction, and to feed data into its timing and display systems.

Below is the press release issued by the Grand Prix Commission.


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Misano on 13 September 2019, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations

EFFECTIVE SEASON 2020

Test Restrictions Moto3 and Moto2 Classes

In response to a request from the teams, testing days will be limited to:

Two official tests, each of three days, between 01 February and the first event of the season.

One private test of two days during the season of events, at a circuit agreed by the teams.

Six days per rider of private testing at a circuit in Europe or at a circuit in the country of the team.

Any testing after the last event of the previous season and before 30 November will count towards the maximum of six days of private testing per rider. (Previously, testing in this period was unrestricted).

Technical Regulations

EFFECTIVE 01 JANUARY 2020

Moto3 Swingarms

The use of carbon swingarms is not permitted. (Note: None are used on current machines).

MotoGP Class CAN Layout (Annex to the Technical Regulations)

The MotoGP CAN layout will change to allow for the introduction of the X2 Racelink Pro device

The X2 Racelink Pro will be mandatory on all MotoGP Class machines, and it will provide, amongst other things, an improved GPS positioning for Race Direction, and real-time communication for Race Direction messaging and virtual pit board displays.

The X2 Racelink Pro will be powered by the motorcycle electric system and will need a specific and additional GPS antenna to be placed on all machines.

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

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Mika Kallio Replaces Johann Zarco In Factory KTM Team For Rest Of 2019 Season

KTM have decided to replace Johann Zarco effective immediately. From Aragon until the end of 2019, current KTM test rider Mika Kallio will take the place of the Frenchman in the factory Red Bull KTM team.

Though the decision comes as a surprise to the outside world, it makes sense from the perspective of KTM. Zarco has announced his intention to leave at the end of the season, and given his options are limited for 2020, is looking at becoming a test rider, and has been linked to a possible vacancy at Yamaha. With so much work happening on the KTM RC16, and a constant flow of new parts in the garage, KTM have decided it is better to have test rider Mika Kallio on the bike than keeping Johann Zarco.

Zarco hinted at these motives on Sunday night at Misano. He told reporters he did not expect to receive new parts for the rest of 2019, and said he would not be taking part at a two-day test planned for Aragon after the race. "There will be a test at Aragon and I won't do it because it will be with a totally new bike and I am not any more in the confidence of KTM to be able to do this," Zarco said.

It is also a good move for Kallio and KTM. Kallio has made no secret of his desire to return to racing, and focused very hard on preparing the wildcard appearances he made last year. That was the reason KTM decided to scale those wildcards back, as they felt they were losing too much pure testing time to Kallio's desire to get ready for a race. This move allows Kallio to race, while also sharpening his speed to help improve his pace in testing.

Though Zarco will no longer be racing for KTM in 2019, the Austrian factory did say in the press release that they would 'honor his contract', code for paying out his salary for the rest of the year. 

Kallio replacing Zarco in 2019 does not necessarily mean he will replace the Frenchman in 2020 as well. KTM have not made a decision on who will team with Pol Espargaro for next season. At Misano, Pit Beirer told me that he did not expect to make an announcement until much later in the year. In the meantime, the rumor mill will continue to grind.

The press release from KTM appears below:


Mika Kallio replaces Johann Zarco for the rest of 2019 MotoGP

MotoGP announcement

Red Bull KTM will field current test rider Mika Kallio alongside Pol Espargaro for the remainder of the 2019 MotoGP campaign and starting from this weekend’s Gran Premio Michelin de Aragon and post-race test.

Kallio assumes Johann Zarco’s factory spot. Johann and KTM decided to mutually end their association at the end of 2019 but developments and on-going work mean that priorities have been realigned. The Frenchman will be exempt from his MotoGP duties but stays contracted to KTM until the end of the season.

KTM are in a crucial phase of the MotoGP project with an intense focus on the next generation of the RC16. Thanks to Kallio’s long-term testing role and experience the Finn will play a major part in gaining valuable data in racing conditions alongside Espargaro, who has posted seven top ten results in 2019 and qualified second on the grid at the last Grand Prix in San Marino.

Kallio - who rode the KTM on its debut in the MotoGP division in Valencia 2016 and has contributed strongly since the early testing phases of the RC16 - has already participated in seven wild card races from 2016 until 2018. With two top ten classifications on the MotoGP bikes and a career total of 16 GP victories and 49 podiums in the lower championship divisions, Kallio is eager to deliver new drive and momentum to KTM’s efforts in the premier class both for the rest of 2019 and with a view to the 2020 RC16.

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: "We have to make decisions to ensure that we use our resources in the best possible way and we are currently in a positive direction with our MotoGP structure. We firmly believe that Mika can help us in this stage thanks to his knowledge and background. It is paramount that we verify our testing results in real race conditions to start our 2020 season in the best position. Mika has proved his ability on the RC16 and we are happy that he joins the line-up as a racer again. There is no doubt that we will focus on a new configuration with the #82 bike while fighting for points in the last races of the championship. At the same time we want to express gratitude to Johann for his effort since he joined our ambitious project in November last year. We now have to think of the future and are making this step accordingly. KTM will continue supporting him until the expiry of our contract at the end of the 2019 and we truly wish him all the best for his future."

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Alvaro Bautista: Honda WorldSBK With HRC Rather Than KTM MotoGP

Alvaro Bautista will be staying in the World Superbike paddock and racing a Honda in 2020, it seems. The plans for a new HRC-run WorldSBK team to be based in Barcelona, racing a brand new Honda CBR1000RR, put an end to any speculation that Bautista might be heading back to MotoGP to take the place of Johann Zarco at KTM for next year.

Rumors and reports from Portimao are solidifying the story that Bautista will be staying in WorldSBK. A thorough piece on German-language publication Speedweek set out Honda's World Superbike plans for 2020, including the plans for a new bike.

The plan revolves around a thorough shakeup of Honda's approach to WorldSBK. The race team will be run directly by HRC out of Barcelona, alongside the Repsol Honda MotoGP operation. Alvaro Bautista is set to be announced as one rider, with Takumi Takahashi the second rider. The announcement is likely to come after the Aragon round of MotoGP, as any earlier announcement would get lost in the avalanche of news emerging from back-to-back MotoGP weekends.

Bautista and Takahashi will be riding a brand new Honda CBR1000RR. Unlike in previous years, upgrades to this bike will be very significant, the bike receiving a major horsepower boost, to make it the most powerful inline four cylinder on the grid, according to Speedweek. This lines up with rumors which have been circulating since the beginning of the year that Honda was planning a major upgrade to the Fireblade, with part of the racing department set aside for the development of the new bike. The new bike is set to be launched at the Tokyo Motor Show, to be held at the end of October.

The fact that HRC is to take over the running of the team more directly is a sign of how seriously Honda are taking it. Honda ended their 20-year collaboration with Dutch team Ten Kate at the end of 2018, handing the running of the team to Moriwaki and Althea. That move has not met with any success, results going backwards, a situation not helped by injury to Leon Camier. Moriwaki and Althea are now being cut loose again, though they may continue as private teams next year, either together or separately.

Bautista's decision to stay in WorldSBK with Honda is possibly motivated by money. According to Speedweek, HRC have offered him double the money he was being paid by Ducati, €800,000 instead of €400,000. In the Aruba.it Ducati team, Bautista was earning less than teammate Chaz Davies, and that may have rankled the Spaniard.

It also means that Bautista will not be going to MotoGP. Ever since Johann Zarco made the shock announcement in Austria that he would be leaving the factory Red Bull KTM MotoGP team at the end of 2019, halfway through his contract, the hunt has been on for a replacement. As a rider with extensive MotoGP experience on four different brands of bikes (Suzuki, Honda, Aprilia, Ducati), Bautista appeared to fit the bill for what KTM might be looking for.

So with the Spaniard set to stay in WorldSBK, KTM will be forced to look elsewhere for a replacement rider. KTM have so far played their cards close to their chest, going no further than telling German publication Motorsport Total that 'a number of top riders have approached us' following the announcement. Despite Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal insisting he has a commitment from KTM not to poach his riders, the Austrian factory may decide to move the Portuguese rider up to the factory team a year early.

An alternative is that there are riders in top MotoGP teams looking to escape their current contracts in the belief that KTM offers them a better chance of success. Jack Miller has already turned down an offer to replace Zarco, and there are likely to be other riders who have also been made an offer.

With the MotoGP paddock about to reassemble in Misano, negotiations are likely to start ramping up this weekend. KTM will surely want to have their 2020 line up settled before the paddock heads off for the Asian flyaway races. That would mean agreeing terms either at Misano or Aragon, with an announcement before the race in Buriram, Thailand. But with their options limited, that might not be possible for KTM.


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Aragon MotoGP Race Start Time Moved An Hour Earlier To Avoid F1 Clash

The starting time of the MotoGP race at the Motorland Aragon circuit has been moved an hour earlier to avoid a clash with the start of the F1 race at Singapore. The race is now scheduled to start at 1pm CET, before the Moto2 race. The Moto2 race has been moved back to 2:30pm, and will take place after MotoGP.

The move has been made to avoid a clash with the F1 race in Singapore. That race, around a street circuit in the city state, is held at night, to fit in with European TV schedules. The F1 race is due to start at 8:10pm Singapore time, which corresponds with 2:10pm in Europe, and would have meant the MotoGP race in Aragon clashing with the F1 race.

It is unusual for such clashes to be resolved this late in the season. Normally, starting times are checked and accommodated well before the season starts. The move by F1 to a later starting time - 3:10pm instead of 2pm European time - has resolved most of the clashes, broadcasters able to show both races now. 

The press release from Dorna announcing the time switch appears below.


Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon: time schedule change

MotoGP™ race to start at 13:00 local time

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon will feature changes to Sunday's schedule.

The final race in Europe before MotoGP™ packs up and heads for Asia will see the premier class race begin an hour earlier than usual, with lights out at 13:00 (GMT +2) local time.

Warm Ups will still begin at 8:40 and the Moto3™ race will remain unchanged at 11:00. The Moto2™ race will be moved to 14:30.

The race schedule for Sunday is therefore as follows:
11:00 - Moto3™
13:00 - MotoGP™
14:30 - Moto2™

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Scott Redding Replaces Alvaro Bautista In Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK Team For 2020

It had been known unofficially for weeks, but today, the Aruba.it Ducati team announced that they have signed Scott Redding to ride for them in WorldSBK for the 2020 season. Redding has had a very strong season in BSB since losing his ride in MotoGP with Aprilia, and is currently second in the standings behind Be Wiser Ducati teammate Josh Brookes.

It comes as no surprise that Redding is off to WorldSBK. The Englishman had expressed an interest in returning to world championship racing, having first been linked with the Shaun Muir Racing BMW effort. That option faltered over contractual difficulties getting Redding out of the second year of his BSB deal, but a switch to a Ducati team was easier to negotiate.

Redding's signing was made possible by the fact that Alvaro Bautista and Ducati had failed to come to an agreement over money. Talks had initially gone in Bautista's favor at the start of the season, when he won the first 8 races and 3 Superpole races in a row. But his spectacular decline since Imola, winning only one race since then and turning a 61-point lead into an 81-point deficit, severely weakened his hand.

Where Bautista ends up now is still uncertain. Reliable reports have the Spaniard under contract to HRC to race for the factory Honda team in WorldSBK. But there are doubts that this will happen: HRC is believed to be considering pulling out of WorldSBK and letting the Moriwaki Althea team run the show. 

That leaves Bautista with an intriguing option. If the Spaniard does not get a job in WorldSBK, KTM may consider him as a replacement for Johann Zarco in the factory Red Bull KTM team in MotoGP. Given Bautista's experience with multiple manufacturers - he has ridden a Suzuki, a Honda, a Ducati, and an Aprilia in MotoGP - his input could be invaluable in helping to develop the bike.

Below is the official press release from Ducati on the signing of Redding:


Confirmed line-up for the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team for 2020: Scott Redding to join up with Chaz Davies on the factory Panigale V4 R in the Superbike World Championship

Scott Redding is all set to partner Chaz Davies in the 2020 Superbike World Championship on the factory Ducati Panigale V4 R of the Italian team.

The 26-year-old British rider from Quedgeley (Gloucestershire), who this year is taking part in the BSB (British Superbike Championship), where so far this season he has taken six wins and five pole positions and is in second place in the overall standings with the Be Wiser Racing Ducati Panigale V4 R, will be making his debut in the production-based championship in 2020 after a five-year presence in MotoGP and one year in BSB.

Scott Redding will join up with the already confirmed Chaz Davies, who next year will be embarking on his seventh successive season on a Ducati, thus forming a very strong all-British rider formation.

Scott Redding: “I’m so happy to join the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team, which is something that I’ve wanted for a long time, because to be able to work with a team that can fight for a world title is really a great opportunity for me. Obviously now I have to remain fully focussed on the British Superbike Championship, because I want to try and win that title with the Be Wiser Ducati before stepping back up to a world championship again. A big thanks to all those people who have helped to make this dream happen, and now I can’t wait to get on the factory Panigale V4 R bike in the World Superbike Championship.”

Stefano Cecconi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Team Principal): “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Scott into our team. Despite being a rookie in BSB, on his first experience with the Panigale V4 R and with numerous tracks he has never seen before, Scott has proved to be fast right out of the box and to be able to aim straight for the title. For this reason, we have been following him with interest and we were impressed with his form even before having to look for a team-mate for Chaz in the coming seasons. With his determination and experience, I’m convinced he will be quick right from the start, even on a WSBK-spec bike. I wish to fondly bid goodbye to Álvaro and thank him for the incredible emotions that he has given us this year, he will surely be a difficult adversary to beat! Now however we must focus on the current season: we no longer have an advantage, but the world title battle is still open and we will give our maximum commitment to conclude our collaboration in the best possible way.”

Álvaro Bautista’s adventure with the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team thus comes to an end on the 26th October at the Losail circuit in Qatar. With four rounds still to be held (Portugal, France, Argentina and Qatar), the 34-year-old Spanish rider, who made his Superbike debut this year with the all-new Panigale V4 R, currently lies second in the championship with 352 points and has so far won 14 races, taking the Bologna bike to victory in its and his debut race at Phillip Island and then adding the next ten races to his victory tally.

The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will, as always, make the greatest effort to score the best possible results together with Álvaro right until the end of the season, and thanks him for his great commitment, all the while wishing him all the best for his racing future.

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2020 Provisional Calendar - 20 Races, Finland Added, More Back To Back Races

The FIM have issued a provisional calendar for the 2020 MotoGP season, which sees the series expand to 20 races, and lays the basis for expansion to 22 races. The biggest changes are the addition of the Kymiring in Finland in July, and the moving of the Thailand round of MotoGP in Buriram from October to 22nd March.

The racing season kicks off as ever in Qatar, the MotoGP race being moved to the first week of March. From Qatar, the series heads east to Thailand, the MotoGP race taking the slot of the WorldSBK race at Buriram. Attendance for the WorldSBK round had fallen since MotoGP went to Thailand, and so the WorldSBK round is being dropped, with another overseas round to be held in its place.

From Thailand, the paddock heads east once again to cross the International Date Line and head to Austin, the US round moving up to become the third race of the year, ahead of Argentina. The Argentina Grand Prix takes place two weeks after Austin. 

After the overseas rounds, the MotoGP circus heads to Europe, for the traditional start of the season in Jerez, followed by Le Mans and Mugello. The first seven races of the year are all nicely spaced two weeks apart, but after Mugello, a series of back-to-back races ensue.

The Barcelona round takes place the week after Mugello, and then two weeks later, the series heads north to the Sachsenring, which takes place the week before Assen, instead of after it. The move has enabled the Finnish GP at the Kymiring to be slotted in as the last race before the summer break.

The riders will be pleased to hear that there will be a proper summer break, with three free weekends between Finland and Brno, the Czech Grand Prix taking place on 9th August. But it is a hard return, Brno and Austria being back-to-back in August. The British Grand Prix returns at the end of August, and will be held on the August Bank Holiday, as usual, the Misano round taking place two weeks after that.

There is then a longer break between Misano and Aragon, the Aragon race being pushed back a week to take place in early October. The series then heads overseas for the Australasian triple header, with Motegi, Phillip Island, and then Sepang being held on consecutive weekends, as usual. There had been talk of splitting the flyaways up into two blocks of two races, but the decision to move Thailand to March prevented that plan.

The series ends as always in Valencia, in the middle of November. 

Testing will commence in Sepang, and there will be a Qatar test as well. The teams and Dorna had tried to get the Qatar test dropped, but the factories had objected, feeling that they needed two tests to prepare the new season. This is a battle which will be repeated after 2021, when Dorna want to expand the calendar to 22 races, for which there is a list of candidates wanting to join. Indonesia, Vietnam, and possibly a new track in Brazil could be added to the calendar.

The expansion to 20 races is unpopular inside the paddock. The racers are split on whether it is a good thing, with especially the older riders feeling there are too many races. Team and factory staff - engineers, mechanics, etc - are almost universally unhappy, as more races mean more time away from home and family.

Below is the provisional calendar for 2020, including the pre-season tests:

Date Event/Grand Prix Circuit
7-9th February Sepang MotoGP Test Sepang International Circuit
19-21st February Jerez Moto2/Moto3 test Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
22-24th February Qatar MotoGP Test Losail International Circuit
28/29 Feb/1st March Qatar Moto2/3 Test Losail International Circuit
8th March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
22nd March Thailand Chang International Circuit
5th April Americas Circuit of the Americas
19th April Republica Argentina Termas de Rio Hondo
3rd May Spain Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
17th May France Le Mans
31st May Italy Autodromo del Mugello
7th June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
21st June Germany Sachsenring
28th June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
12th July Finland** KymiRing
9th August Czech Republic*** Automotodrom Brno
16th August Austria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
30th August Great Britain Silverstone
13th September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
4th October Aragón MotorLand Aragón
18th October Japan Twin Ring Motegi
25th October Australia Philip Island
1st November Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
15th November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo

* Evening
** Subject to FIM Homologation
*** Subject to the Contract
 

 

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MotoGP Testing At Kymiring In Finland Gets Underway

Testing has come to an end after the first ever day of MotoGP action at the Kymring in Finland, six of the test riders for the six official MotoGP manufacturers turning some laps at the newly built circuit. Present were Stefan Bradl for Honda, Jonas Folger for Yamaha, Sylvain Guintoli for Suzuki, Mika Kallio for KTM, Michele Pirro for Ducati and Bradley Smith for Aprilia. Kallio was chosen over KTM's other test rider, Dani Pedrosa, to give the Finnish rider a chance to ride on his home track.

The test was convened mainly to give Michelin a chance to understand the stress the track will put on the tires. Although they have software which can simulate tire loads and wear based on the layout of the track and the abrasiveness of the surface, measured using special molds, that is always an approximation. Only actually riding on the track gives a complete picture of how much stress is placed on the tires, riders sometimes finding ways to go faster than models predict.

Conditions were far from ideal for tire testing, however. The day started with rain, and though skies cleared occasionally, the track never really dried out. Wets were used all day, and the rain and fresh construction meant the track was also quite dirty. 

Stefan Bradl crashed halfway through the day, falling at Turn 17, the last corner but one. Bradl was unhurt, but the crash briefly brought out a red flag. 

Lap times under the conditions were in the range between 2'10 and 2'12, but given the track was both wet and dirty, it is hard to draw any conclusions from that. Wet lap times are usually around 10% slower than dry lap times, so a normal dry lap should be somewhere between 1'55 and 1'58, in all likelihood. 

There were several people present at the track. Israeli journalist and TV expert Tammy Gorali posted photos and a few impressions from the track, which you can find on her Twitter feed here. Finnish local and volunteer marshal Juha Mönkkönen also posted a series of impressions of the track on his Twitter feed. Juha will be at the track on Tuesday, and so will hopefully post more tomorrow.

The MotoGP.com website also has news of the track. There is an onboard lap with Mika Kallio riding a KTM Super Duke, and a selection of photos from the first day of the test. You can also find their official report on the first day of the test there

The test continues on Tuesday, with riders on track between 11:00 and 18:00 local time.

 

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KTM Pull Out Of Moto2 For 2020, Expand In Moto3, Bring Back Husqvarna

Their home Grand Prix is traditionally the place where KTM announce the racing plans, and this weekend's Austrian MotoGP round is no different. There is to be a shakeup in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, while the Austrian manufacturer has extended its commitment to MotoGP for five more years beyond 2021. KTM will stop as a chassis manufacturer in Moto2, but bring back Husqvarna as a separate team and bike in Moto3.

The least surprising news was KTM signing on for another five years in MotoGP. The Austrian manufacturer signed a contract with Dorna for the next MSMA contract period, which runs from 2022 through 2026. Though the MotoGP project is not quite on schedule for the podiums they were aiming for in their third and fourth years, the progress has been good and investment in MotoGP has been strong.

The bigger news is that KTM are pulling out of Moto2 as a chassis manufacturer from 2020. The Austrian factory have struggled so far in Moto2, while spending a vast amount of resources trying to fix their chassis, which has suffered problems with chatter since the switch from Honda to Triumph engines. KTM have chosen to switch that investment to expand their presence in Moto3.

The immediate impact for Moto2 is that the Ajo team will no longer have KTM chassis in Moto2 from 2020. However, Ajo will continue to race in Moto2, fielding Jorge Martin and Iker Lecuona, though which chassis they will use is yet to be determined. Ajo will also continue to have strong links to the KTM factory, functioning as a de facto conduit for talent into KTM's program in MotoGP.

The bigger question mark will be what happens to Tech3. There is no news as yet of the French team's plans, though one option is for them to possibly switch to Moto3.

KTM's program in Moto3 is to be expanded. They will continue as chassis supplier, and expand the Ajo team from one rider to two again.

But the bigger news is that KTM are to bring back the Husqvarna marque in Moto3. There is to be a two-rider team, with Husqvarna building an entirely separate bike, though it is likely to take the KTM Moto3 bike as its starting point. Husqvarna have had some success in the past, especially in the years they ran Danny Kent in the Moto3 class.

The press release from KTM with full details of their plans appears below:


KTM apply extra strategic planning to MotoGP structure from 2020 with renewed five year commitment and strong Husqvarna return

MotoGP announcement

KTM AG announces a further five-year commitment to MotoGP racing, up until 2026, and will revise their priorities in the support classes from 2020 with refocused goals on Moto3 and reduced presence in Moto2. The Husqvarna brand will make a comeback with a dedicated Moto3 race team and new model.

KTM AG CEO Stefan Pierer and Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta inked a fresh contract for KTM to remain as part of the MotoGP grid for another five years at the Red Bull Ring for the myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich this weekend. The existing agreement will now extend to a total of seven years from the current campaign: KTM’s third as part of the high profile MotoGP series.

With the pledge to the pinnacle of Grand Prix racing confirmed, KTM have realigned their output in the support categories by placing principle emphasis on MotoGP and Moto3. Europe’s leading manufacturer will maintain their carefully constructed ‘road to MotoGP’ ladder from the new Northern Talent Cup (for 2020) and through the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and the subsequent divisions up until MotoGP but will reshape their perspective in the following two areas:

-Withdrawal as a chassis manufacturer in Moto2 but keeping the close relationship with Aki Ajo’s team as the crucial stepping-stone for Red Bull KTM in MotoGP.

-Further focus on Moto3 as the building block for Grand Prix talent to showcase and develop their potential. This includes a renewed effort with the return of Husqvarna to road racing. Adopting the KTM technical platform the brand was part of Moto3 in 2014 and 2015 and scored two podium results in the first season thanks to Danny Kent. The intention for 2020 is to develop a new Husqvarna race bike specifically for Moto3.

KTM continues to make promising gains in the MotoGP class where the quest for single-digit race results in the fiercely competitive contest remains on-track. The brand is a firm believer in the educational role of Moto3. The company’s young heritage started in the best possible way with the first two titles in 2012 (Sandro Cortese) and 2013 (Maverick Viñales) and another in 2016 with Brad Binder and KTM wishes to enforce this initial rung into Grand Prix racing.

Stefan Pierer, CEO KTM AG: “We made a proactive decision here at our home grand prix to renew our stay in MotoGP and commit to another five years of competition. This is part of a wider strategic view and we now have seven years to rise towards the top of the MotoGP class; the same period of time we needed to conquer the Dakar Rally. We know we are firmly on the way and have made good steps in less than three years already. As part of this outlook we want to boost Moto3: it is the foundation and the base of road racing for us. It is where we began and where we are one of the leading brands. We see a very good opportunity here by bringing back Husqvarna with force; there will be a new bike and a special direction with this project. All of this movement means we will pool our resources and energy and as a consequence we will step out of Moto2.”

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “First of all it is fantastic for us to continue to stay in ‘sixth gear’ as a company in MotoGP and to be able to keep pushing hard to achieve our goals. With our knowledge of more than three-hundred FIM world championships in so many classes we know the ingredients to have success in racing and we are determined not to move from our objective. For this I want to thank Mr Pierer and the KTM AG board for the extra vote of confidence and for all the hard work and belief that every single person who touches this project has made so far. Secondly we have looked at the entire programme and know that our effort has to be well placed, and we believe that MotoGP and Moto3 are the main platforms for us moving forwards. Thanks to the great work and experience with Aki we can maintain a link to Moto2 and the perhaps what is the final preparation needed for the jump to MotoGP. We feel strongly that we can have this asset even though we will vastly reduce our presence as a chassis contributor. We can feel the passion for MotoGP at places like Red Bull Ring this weekend and it allows us to feed off that energy. We believe that exciting times are coming for us as a racing division and as a company.”

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