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Johann Zarco To Replace Takaaki Nakagami At LCR Honda For 3 Races - Prelude To 2020 Contract?

Johann Zarco is set to replace Takaaki Nakagami for the final three races of 2019, and race the 2018-spec Honda RC213V for the Idemitsu LCR Honda team. The news was first broken by Oriol Puigdemont of Motorsport.com, and though nobody contacted by MotoMatters.com would comment on the news, it was later confirmed by Zarco to Thomas Baujard of the French publication Moto Journal.

The reason for the switch, according to Motorsport.com, is that Nakagami has been struggling with shoulder problems similar to those suffered by Marc Márquez, whose shoulder kept dislocating. Nakagami is considering the same surgery as Márquez to rectify the problem, and based on the length of time Márquez took to recover from surgery, is looking at having surgery in October, rather than December, in the hope of getting a head start on rehabilitating the shoulder. As a result, Nakagami would ride only his home Grand Prix at Motegi in Japan, before having surgery done.

This would leave Lucio Cecchinello's LCR Honda team in need of a replacement rider. With Johann Zarco currently out of a job, after being released by KTM after Misano, Zarco would be the ideal replacement for the Japanese rider.

Hurdles to be taken

There are a couple of complications still to be cleared: first, KTM would have to formally grant permission for Zarco to ride the LCR Honda. That should not be an issue. At Aragon, KTM Sporting Director Pit Beirer told reporters, "He's under contract with us, we're going to pay him until the end of the season, but if he comes tomorrow and he wants to test any motorcycle or race any motorcycle, he can even race against us this Sunday, because I want the best for him. And if there is the smallest chance, he has to jump on it with my full support, and we will fix all the paperwork needed to get the release."

The bigger problem for Zarco is that he faces a choice. He currently has an offer on the table from Yamaha to work as a test rider for the MotoGP team in 2020. However, if he signs to race for LCR Honda, Yamaha may choose to seek elsewhere for a test rider. That would mean Zarco going all in on finding a race ride for 2020, rather than a testing role.

Unhappy marriage

There may yet be a seat for Zarco in MotoGP in 2020. The marriage between Repsol Honda and Jorge Lorenzo has been deeply unhappy, Lorenzo struggling with injury from the start of the season, then fracturing two vertebrae in a crash at Assen and missing three races as a result.

Since returning from that injury, he has been struggling even to score points, finishing 56 seconds behind the winner at Silverstone, 47 seconds behind at Misano, 46 seconds behind at Aragon, and 54 seconds back in Buriram. In those four races, he has amassed a total of 4 points, compared to the 95 points scored by his teammate Marc Márquez in the same races.

There have been other incidents as well. There was an ill-disguised flirtation with Ducati over the summer break, and a strong belief that Lorenzo has lost any motivation to try to get on with the 2019 Honda. The relationship between Lorenzo and HRC, especially team boss Alberto Puig, has been frosty.

Johann Zarco could be the key that breaks that deadlock. Honda get an unheard of opportunity to give a rider with MotoGP podiums a test ride on their bike before choosing to sign them for the factory squad. Zarco will be working with HRC engineers in the LCR Honda squad, and they will be able to give their feedback on how he works, while Honda will also get a look at his ability to ride the bike.

Frying pan to fire?

There are two question marks over that, of course. Firstly, the Honda is a very physical bike to ride, which needs to be pushed to get the best out of it. The character of the RC213V is very similar to the KTM RC16, which Zarco struggled to master, and developed a deep and abiding dislike of. Team bosses and engineers have compared Zarco's style with Jorge Lorenzo's, which suggests that Zarco might struggle with the bike much as Lorenzo has.

The saving grace for Zarco is that he would be riding the 2018 Honda RC213V. That bike is a more rider-friendly machine, giving the rider the feedback, feel, and confidence from the front end which the 2019 Honda lacks. Zarco relies on the front to carry corner speed and turn the bike, so the 2018 machine could suit his style. The fact that Jorge Lorenzo was competitive when he first tried the 2018 machine – finishing within a few tenths of his teammate in the tests at Valencia and Jerez in November last year – suggests that Zarco should find it easier to ride.

And Zarco might be able to avoid the foibles of the 2019 Honda RC213V altogether, if Repsol Honda decide to replace Jorge Lorenzo with the Frenchman. He will be riding the 2018 bike at Phillip Island, Sepang, and Valencia, and then jump on a 2020 prototype at the Valencia and Jerez tests. HRC Technical Manager Takeo Yokoyama told Crash.net's Peter McLaren and Neil Morrison that Honda's main priority was making the 2020 bike easier to ride. Whether Repsol Honda stick with Jorge Lorenzo or replace him with Johann Zarco, it will be imperative they succeed in that endeavor.

Taka safe

Zarco taking Takaaki Nakagami's place for the remainder of 2019 would not affect the 2020 season. Though Nakagami is yet to sign a contract for next season, he has repeatedly told reporters that he is very close to a deal, with just a few details to iron out.

The second seat in LCR Honda will be held for Nakagami, as it is funded by Japanese oil brand Idemitsu, and subsidized by Honda. Both of those companies want a Japanese rider in the premier class, and while there is some real talent on its way through from Moto3 and the Asia Talent Cup, it will be a few years before they are ready to tackle MotoGP.


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Brazil To Join MotoGP As Part Of Expanded Calendar From 2022

2022 promises to see a major shakeup of the MotoGP calendar. Today, one of the pieces which will make up MotoGP's calendar was announced, with the news that the Rio Motorpark has signed a five-year deal with Dorna to host the Brazilian round of MotoGP from 2022 to 2026.

The new venue will see MotoGP return to Brazil after an absence of 18 years. From 1995 to 2004, Grand Prix racing was held at the Nelson Piquet Circuit in Jacarepagua, to the southwest of Rio de Janeiro, and before that at Goiana in the north of Brazil  between 1987 and 1989, before moving to Interlagos near Sao Paulo for 1992.

Brazil, along with rest of South and Central America, is a key market for the manufacturers. Nearly a million powered two wheelers were sold in Brazil last year, with Honda taking the vast bulk of those, selling 775,000 units.

The Brazilian round of MotoGP is to be held at a new circuit to be built at Deodoro, in the northwest of Rio de Janeiro. That circuit will be part of the Rio Motorpark, to be built on land formerly owned by the Brazilian military

But the Rio Motorpark has a number of question marks hanging over the project. Earlier this year, there were questions raised over the legitimacy of the bidding process which went to awarding the contract to build and run the circuit. The contract had also been awarded without a proper environmental impact study, though this has now been completed. There are also questions over the opaque structure company running Rio Motorpark: its parent company is reportedly headquartered in Delaware, a US state which has a reputation for being a tax haven due to its low tax rates and laws on corporate privacy.

There is a political risk associated with the Grand Prix in Brazil as well. Far right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has thrown his backing behind the project, together with the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella. Some in Brazil believe that this backing is political, aimed at weakening the position of Interlagos in Sao Paulo, a stronghold of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, the bitter rivals of Bolsonaro's Social Liberal Party.

There are more practical concerns as well. Safety is a major issue for F1 in Brazil, with teams and drivers being held up at gunpoint and having equipment stolen from them. Team members have been told not to wear team clothing until they arrive at the circuit, and only pick up rental cars at their hotels rather than the airport. At other car events, teams are provided with cars with armor, and the cars made as non-descript as possible.

Brazil is just one new venue expected to appear on the MotoGP calendar in the coming years. An Indonesian race at Mandalika on Lombok has already been announced, and is expected to be run in 2021 for the first time. Sources have indicated that a race in Vietnam is under serious consideration, at a new track to be built in the country. And talks continue about a race in Mexico, and about moving the Argentinian race from Termas de Rio Hondo to San Juan de Villicum, where the WorldSBK series has their round.

The Termas race faces multiple challenges: despite the universally beloved layout, the circuit is in the middle of the country and traveling there presents severe logistical challenges. Moving to San Juan de Villicum would not solve that, of course, and so a race in Brazil could potentially take the place of the race in Termas.

Dorna CEO has also told reporters that MotoGP wants to return to Portugal. But instead of this meaning that five races would be held on the Iberian peninsula, the total would be cut to three, with a rotation system put in place for Portugal and Spain. The Portuguese round could alternate between Portimao and Estoril, although Portimao needs resurfacing and Estoril would require significant upgrades to track and facilities.

Two Spanish rounds could then alternate between the four current tracks, with Jerez, Valencia, Barcelona, and Aragon taking it in turns to host MotoGP. That faces resistance particularly in Jerez: the race in the Andalusian city is regarded as the opening of the European part of the MotoGP calendar, and has a significant place in MotoGP culture.

The press release announcing the race in Brazil appears below:


MotoGP™ returns to Rio de Janeiro from 2022

The world’s fastest motorcycle racing Championship will soon be back in Brazil, racing at the all-new Rio Motorpark

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Dorna Sports is delighted to announce that MotoGP™️ will be returning to Brazil from 2022, with a five-year contract with Rio Motorsports (RMS) securing the sport’s return to Rio de Janeiro until 2026. The all-new Rio Motorpark, set for construction in Deodoro, will host the Grand Prix, which is back in Rio after 15 years.

Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro, have already staged some incredible chapters in the history of the sport, most recently in 2004 at Jacarepaguá, which had hosted MotoGP™ since 1995. The development of a new venue to replace Jacarepaguá, which was repurposed as an Olympic Park, makes for an exciting prospect for both the sport and the city.

Rio Motorpark is forecast for completion in 2021 and features a 4.5km layout of seven left- and six right-handed corners, with an approximate MotoGP™ laptime of 1 minute 38 seconds.

Marcelo Crivella, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro: “The news that we already have a first competition for Rio's new racetrack, MotoGP, confirmed for 2022, represents a great advance for our city. The construction of the Deodoro racetrack is a spectacular project, with an extraordinary investment that will generate 7,000 jobs and make Rio regain the leading role in major competitions. We will take development to a region of the city with many needs, which is the West Zone, and stimulate tourism. All this without the City putting a penny into the project, since the whole investment will be the responsibility of the concessionaire.”

JR Pereira, CEO of Rio Motorsports: “Dorna was an extremely loyal partner in every conversation we had. Now that we have completed the local environmental impact studies and the commission that will look into the matter is in place, following the regulatory policies of INEA (Rio de Janeiro State Environment Agency), it has been possible to formalize an agreement that has been built for over two years. We are very grateful to Carmelo and his team that we can realize the dream of bringing MotoGP back to Rio.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: “I’m very proud to announce that MotoGP will be returning to race in Rio de Janeiro, one of the world’s truly iconic cities and in such an amazing country. Brazil is an important market for motorcycles, motorcycle racing and motorsport, with a history to be proud of – and a future that I’m excited to see MotoGP play such a vital part as we return in 2022.”

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Valentino Rossi To Change Crew Chiefs Again – David Muñoz To Replace Silvano Galbusera

For the second time in his MotoGP career, Valentino Rossi is to change crew chiefs. At the end of the 2019 season, David Muñoz, currently crew chief for Nicolo Bulega in the Sky Racing Team VR46 Moto2 team, will replace Silvano Galbusera as crew chief for Rossi in the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team.

The news was first broken by Spanish daily AS.com early on Thursday, and confirmed by Rossi later in the pre-event press conference for the Thailand round of MotoGP at Buriram. "Yes, it's true," Rossi said in response to a question from Mela Chercoles, the journalist who broke the story. "Next year I will change my chief mechanic. It was good, because after the Misano race we spoke with Silvano, because we want to try to do something to be stronger."

Rossi explained that there were a number of factors involved. "It was different factors together, because also Silvano wanted to work for Yamaha but he wanted to try something with less stress and also with less days out of Italy. At the same time Yamaha wanted to try to make the test team stronger for next year to improve the work in Europe. I didn’t expect it at the beginning but speaking together we decided to change so Silvano will go to the test team next year."

From Moto2 to MotoGP

Rossi's new crew chief, David Muñoz, is currently in the Sky Racing Team VR46 Moto2 squad, where he is working with Nicolo Bulega. Rossi already knows quite a lot about Muñoz, as the Spaniard helped Pecco Bagnaia win the Moto2 title last year. "It is a new experience and he doesn’t have any experience with the MotoGP bike but he is very young and has good ideas," Rossi said.

What had impressed Rossi most about Muñoz was the way he had remained calm at the end of Bagnaia's title season, managing both his rider and the bike as the Italian came under pressure from title rival Miguel Oliveira. "I like the way he managed it at the end of the season, there was a lot of pressure and Pecco was a little bit nervous to lose the championship with Oliveira, I liked him. He is quiet and the way he managed the situation worked."

Yamaha's gain is of course the Sky VR46 team's loss. "I asked him and unfortunately it is something negative for our team as he is something very important for our team but we decided to try so we will see," Rossi said.

The future in his hands

Underlying Rossi's move to change crew chiefs is the pending decision on his future in racing, on whether he will seek a new contract for 2021 or retire at the end of 2020. He hinted at this in his responses in the press conference. "I have the contract for next year and for the future it depends very much on the results of next year." Rossi has previously said that he wants to see how he fares in the first six or seven races of 2020 before drawing any conclusions about whether he should retire or not.

Rossi expanded on this in his remarks to Italian journalists after the press conference was over. If there is the possibility of 2020 being his last season, then he didn't want to go out without having tried everything to make a success of it, the Italian said. "It would be worse if I didn't try it," Rossi said. "I would rather live without any regrets. Someone else in my position might have said, OK, maybe 2020 is my last season, maybe it's more comfortable leaving everything the same. I was thinking, let's try, dammit. We have to try our best. The worst thing can happen is that it doesn't work, but I will not have any regrets."

The biggest risk in the change is that David Muñoz has no experience working in MotoGP. But Rossi does not see that as a problem. "Maybe this change will need some time, but in MotoGP now, the chief mechanic doesn't work alone. There are at least three or four engineers who help with the electronics, with the balance of the bike. But we will see."

Coordinator in chief

As MotoGP machines have grown more complicated, the role of the crew chief has changed. Areas have become more specialized, with engineers working increasingly in specific niches. As a consequence, crew chiefs have taken on more of a supervisory role, listening to the feedback of their rider, coordinating the various people in the team and orchestrating their work.

This has made having knowledge of every specific part of the bike less important, and placed more of an emphasis on having a fundamental understanding of vehicle dynamics. For that reason, many current crew chiefs are former suspension technicians who have expanded their roles.

Rossi's split with Galbusera has at least been handled better than the previous split with Jeremy Burgess. The news of the switch to Muñoz came out after conversations with Galbusera. That had not been the case for Burgess, who found out after news that Rossi was considering a switch leaked in the Italian media. Burgess told the media he felt he had been 'blindsided' by Rossi's decision, whereas Galbusera had been at least been involved in the discussions previously.

Looking to the future

Will Rossi's decision make a difference to his results? One driving factor behind Rossi's decision is the difference in age. Muñoz is much younger than Galbusera, and Rossi will be hoping that the energy of youth will help his performance.

But in reality, Rossi's future lies more in the hands of the engineers in Japan, rather than the personnel at the track. There has already been more movement and development from Japan than in previous years, with Rossi and teammate Maverick Viñales able to test early prototypes of the 2020 Yamaha M1 at the Brno and Misano tests, and Yamaha bringing a carbon swingarm and updated exhaust to Misano, as well as electronics updates.

If Yamaha can continue with that pace of development, they have a chance to catch Ducati, Suzuki, and Honda. And in that case, Rossi will have a chance to understand his real potential against Marc Márquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, and more importantly, teammate Viñales and Petronas Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo. That is the basis on which he will eventually make a decision about continuing.


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

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What Marc Marquez Needs To Win The Title In Buriram

With five races to go, Marc Marquez leads Andrea Dovizioso in the MotoGP championship by 300 points to 202, a difference of 98 points. He is within a couple of points of wrapping up the title, and looks nearly certain to do so at either Buriram in Thailand or Motegi in Japan.

What does Marquez need to do to wrap up the title in Thailand? The Repsol Honda rider will become champion if he leads Andrea Dovizioso by 100 points after the Thai Grand Prix in Buriram. Though Dovizioso could still theoretically tie with Marquez for points, Marquez would win the championship in the case of a tie, as he currently has 8 victories this season, and Dovizioso only has 2 wins with 5 races left including Thailand.

There are two things which Marquez has to do to ensure he takes the title in Thailand. First, he needs to finish ahead of Dovizioso. And secondly, he needs to score 2 more points than Dovizioso.

If Marquez finishes in the top four, and ahead of Dovizioso, he will become champion.

If Marquez finishes between fifth and fourteenth, he has to finish two places ahead of Dovizioso to become champion.

If Marquez finishes fifteenth (1 point) or lower, it won't matter where Dovizioso finishes, he will not have enough points to wrap up the title in Thailand.

Most of these scenarios are entirely hypothetical. In 2019, Marc Marquez has either won or finished second, barring a single crash in Austin. It seems unlikely Marquez will finish off the podium, and if he does get on the rostrum, then he just has to make sure he is ahead of Dovizioso.

Last year, Marquez won the race ahead of Dovizioso, by a margin of just 0.115 in a thrilling battle. The odds of that intense battle being repeated are good.

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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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