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UPDATE: Thailand MotoGP Race Still On For 2021 Contract Extended Through 2026

Just hours after the Brno circuit announced that it would not be hosting World Championship motorcycle racing, it looked like another MotoGP round would bite the dust. A news report from the Bangkok Post stated that the Thai MotoGP round at Buriram had been canceled for 2021, and that the race would resume again from 2022.

It turns out, however, that this was a mistranslation on the part of the Bangkok Post. According to Thai PPTTV reporter Une Boonmee, the government spokesperson was explaining that the budget set aside for MotoGP in 2020 had been reused for 2021, rather than the 2021 racing having been rescheduled.

That did require a certain amount of budgetary and contractual reshuffling, however. The cancellation of the 2020 round meant that the three-year contract that was supposed to run from 2018-2020 had been extended to 2021, the third year of the contract taking place this year, after last year's race did not take place.

That also meant that the five-year contract that would see Buriram hold races from 2021-2025 also had to be shifted up a year, the new contract running from 2022-2026 instead.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta also confirmed to Thomas Baujard of French magazine Moto Journal that the 2021 MotoGP round at Buriram is still scheduled to go ahead. "There was a miscommunication: the 2021 Thailand Grand Prix is still on." Subject to the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic, of course, like the entire 2021 MotoGP season.

The other details in the Bangkok Post story, normally missing from contract announcements, make for interesting reading. A spokesperson for the Thai government told the Bangkok Post that the fee to host the race would be 900 million Thai Baht for the five years. At the current exchange rate, that is approximately €25 million for five years, or €5 million a year. That is lower than the between €6 million and €9 million being asked of most other circuits.

It was an investment worth making, however. The Thai government said that the 2018 race generated 3 billion Baht, or €83 million, while the revenue from the 2019 race increased to 3.45 billion Baht, or over €95 million.

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2021 MotoGP Calendar Update: Why Brno Won't Host MotoGP, And Where The Season Starts

The 2021 MotoGP season continues to be a fluid affair. With the Argentina and Austin rounds already canceled (technically postponed, but with no real chance of them actually taking place), it is now clear that Brno will not host a MotoGP round in 2021. And there are more signs of a shake up coming.

The biggest, and saddest news is that the Automotodrom Brno circuit today announced that they would not be hosting any world championship motorcycle racing for the foreseeable future. The cancellation had been expected, but still comes as a blow to MotoGP.

The issue is simply one of funding. During the 2020 Czech Grand Prix at the Brno circuit, the riders made it very clear that the track simply wasn't safe for MotoGP unless it was resurfaced. Aleix Espargaro was among the most outspoken of the track's critics. "I'm just a rider, but for me it’s unacceptable to race here," the Aprilia rider said. "It’s very far from being at the level of MotoGP. It’s a disaster this tarmac."

The problem is the number of bumps on the track. "It's kind of more easy to explain where the bumps aren't," Jack Miller told us that weekend. "We've been complaining about the bumps since I came here in MotoGP and yeah, they're just getting worse and worse year by year."

Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta told the MotoGP Safety Commission in Brno that he would ask the circuit to resurface the track before MotoGP returned, but even last year, it was understood that the circuit was unwilling to commit to new asphalt. "The situation in the last few years in Brno has been difficult, and you understand that to resurface everything you need a lot of money, so we speak about millions of Euros," Valentino Rossi said on the Grand Prix weekend. "And I understand because now there are no fans, the circuit does not work a lot so, I don't know if they will resurface."

The problem with resurfacing was who would be paying for new asphalt. Though the Automotodrom Brno circuit hosts the event, the promoter of the Grand Prix is a separate organization, Spolek pro GP ČR Brno, an association incorporated with support and funding from both the city of Brno and the South Moravia region.

Spolek rents the track from Automotodrom Brno management for a fee of around €1 million, according to a press release published on the MotoKari.cz. Spolek paid around €6 million for the MotoGP contract in previous years, with Dorna looking to raise the fee to €9 million a year from 2022, according to statements made by the mayor of Brno, Markéta Vaňková.

The dispute came down to who would pay for the circuit to be resurfaced. The circuit claimed that as the promoter, Spolek agreed to cover all costs related to the the MotoGP event, and consequently, Spolek should pay for the resurfacing. Spolek claimed that they leased the circuit from Automotodrom Brno, and so the circuit management should pay. Resurfacing a long track like Brno is an expensive affair: the 2019 resurfacing work at Silverstone, a 5.9km long track, as compared to Brno's 5.5km, cost £5 million. Resurfacing Brno was estimated to cost in the region of €4 million.

With one of the highest spectator attendances, raising the necessary funds should not have been impossible. Despite the high attendance, however, there were always underlying tensions between the circuit and the promoters. Those disputes between the circuit and the promoter were apparent in the claims of spectator numbers. Between 2007 and 2015, before Spolek took over the running of the event, the circuit claimed an attendance of between 130,000 and 150,000 on race day. After Spolek took over, the official tally fell to between 82,000 and 87,000.

To a journalist attending those events, it was hard to tell the difference in numbers. The circuit was always packed, one of the busiest of the season, the years with 87,000 fans looking just as busy as the years with 140,000. But as a journalist spending most of their time in the paddock, it was hard to make an accurate assessment of numbers in such a vast and sprawling complex, with trees and woods surrounding the track.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the issues to a head. Last year, even without fans, the promoter paid €1 million for the right to host the race. Facing another season without fans, the cost of hosting the event and resurfacing the track made it extremely difficult to recoup any investment made in the short term.

This is an issue for other circuits as well. There are circuits which are heavily subsidized and sponsored by local and regional governments, such as Jerez or Aragon. But tracks which must survive off ticket sales, such as Assen and Silverstone, would find it difficult to justify the expense of hosting a MotoGP round without income from fans.

Whatever the underlying issues with funding, the loss of MotoGP at Brno is a huge blow for all concerned. Even last year, the riders were sad at the possibility of losing the track. "I know it's a massive track, and it's a big big undertaking to resurface a track like this, but it's such a magical track," Jack Miller told us last August. "I mean, it's one of the favorites of everybody so it's a shame to see it like this."

Brno is what you might describe as a "real" MotoGP track. It is wide, fast, and challenging for a MotoGP machine, bikes able to use all of the horsepower they possess. It is a track which challenges both machine and rider, offering many ways to go fast, which is why there have been so many exciting races at the circuit. Losing Brno is akin to losing Mugello or Phillip Island from the calendar. The Automotodrom Brno circuit has been on the calendar since it was built in 1987, with only a brief hiatus in 1992, the year before the former Czechoslovakia split into two separate states.

With Brno out, that leaves a five-week gap in the middle of the season. There had been plans to hold a MotoGP round in Russia, at the Igora Drive circuit near St Petersburg. That idea has been dropped, however.

The 2021 MotoGP season is due to start at Qatar, but there are already signs that may not be possible. Dorna are doing all that they can to ensure it does happen, including move the planned Moto2 test from Jerez to Qatar, now set for March 19th to 21st.

MotoGP will be in Qatar for almost a month. Starting with the shakedown test on March 5th, followed by two days of MotoGP testing on March 6th and 7th. Three days of testing follows a few days later, from March 10th to 12th. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes follow a week later, from March 19th to 21st. The first races of the season happen the Sunday after that, on March 28th, with a second round of MotoGP at the Losail International Circuit the following weekend on April 4th.

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/qatar/qatar-sees-85-increase-in-number-o...

Despite Qatar's good record on Covid-19, with case numbers relatively low, the second wave is also starting to hit the country. Case numbers have nearly tripled since the start of the year, and though officially reported deaths are very low, hospitalizations are up by 85%, albeit from a low base.

There have been several discussions on how to manage the influx of 1300 people from around the world – some from countries with very high rates of Covid-19 infection – including isolating everyone in a restricted number of hotels with no contact with the outside world. Procedures have been put in place to manage the situation, but even that is subject to change if the Qatari authorities decide it is too big a risk at the current time.

The Gulf state is due to hold the FIFA Club World Cup this week, with the Qatar Open tennis tournament at the start of March. Though those events will take place in front of spectators, they will still involve a smaller number of people than the 1300 riders, mechanics, team members, and Dorna staff needed to stage a MotoGP event.

There are doubts in the paddock that this will happen. Speaking to journalists last night, Suzuki Ecstar rider Alex Rins let slip that he believed the season would start in Europe, in Jerez. "We don't know exactly where we are going to start, looks like in Jerez, but let's see," he said. He later walked that back a little. "If we don't make Qatar I think we will start in Portimao, no? It's the next one after Qatar."

Rumors of Qatar being skipped have been circulating for a while among paddock insiders. But that has been foreseeable, given the fast-developing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. There are multiple factors at play, including new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus, and steady progress being made on vaccination, with different countries going at very different rates.

Like the situation at the beginning of the 2020 season, the coronavirus is in control of the MotoGP calendar, and much of human life. But with a year of experience, Dorna are better placed to manage the organization of MotoGP races. And thanks to some remarkable scientific breakthroughs, humanity is slowly winning the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus may be in control, but we at least have a finger on the wheel.


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MotoGP 2021 Calendar: Austin And Argentina Dropped, Portimao And Qatar Double Header Inserted

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the MotoGP calendar. The second and third rounds of MotoGP, at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina on April 11th and at the Circuit Of The Americas on April 18th have been officially postponed. In their place, Qatar will host back-to-back races at the Losail International Circuit on March 28th and April 4th, and reserve circuit Autódromo do Algarve at Portimao will host a race on April 18th.

Though officially only postoponed, the Argentina and Austin rounds are almost certain to be canceled, a move which had long been expected. The logistical and cost challenges of organizing races in the Americas, added to the spread of Covid-19, especially in the Austin area, were always going to pose problems for the two races, and it had long been rumored they would be replaced.

Replacing the Americas rounds with races in Qatar and Portimao is also a no-brainer. Qatar is rushing ahead with a vaccination program, and has had the virus under control since the first wave of the pandemic ended in August. And Portimao already has experience of organizing a MotoGP round under Covid-19 conditions, having hosted the 2020 season finale in November last year.

So far, only the first three rounds have been affected. After Portimao, the calendar will continue as scheduled at Jerez on May 2nd. Dorna hopes to be able to keep to the European leg of the schedule, though that is still dependent on how the Covid-19 pandemic develops.

There may be racing, but fans are extremely unlikely to be allowed to attend for a while. That may not pose a problem for tracks like Qatar or Jerez, where the event is heavily subsidized by either circuit owners or regional governments. But for tracks later in the season, where promoters hold the financial risk, that may make holding events behind closed doors not economically viable.

One interesting development in the FIM press release issued announcing the revised calendar. In the calendar announced in November 2020, the FIM listed 3 reserve circuits: Portimao, the new Mandalika Resort circuit in Indonesia, and the Igora Drive circuit near Moscow in Russia. The Russian circuit has now been dropped from the list of reserve circuits, leaving only Mandalika. That circuit is expected to be on standby should one of the Pacific flyaways be canceled, with doubts still surrounding Phillip Island in October.

The disappearance of Igora Drive from the list of reserve circuits could also be related to the fate of Brno. The Automotodrom Brno is not currently listed on the provisional calendar, and will only reappear if the circuit is resurfaced, a demand made by the MotoGP riders in the Safety Commission. Brno has not committed to resurfacing, however, and if it does not, then there is a good chance that the Moscow circuit will take the place of Brno on the calendar. The timing is likely to be earlier, however, with logistics making it easier to travel from the Kymiring in Finland to Moscow before the summer break rather than after it.

At the moment, however, the FIM calendar does not have a slot for a Brno/Russia round. There is a note that there will be a maximum of 20 races in 2021. And the current calendar has 19 races scheduled.

The provisional 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
11 July Finland** KymiRing
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 Japan Twin Ring Motegi
10 October Thailand Chang International Circuit
24 October Australia Philip Island
31 October Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
14 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo

Postponed Grands Prix to be rescheduled subject to the pandemic:

  • República Argentina - Termas de Río Hondo
  • Americas - Circuit of the Americas

Reserve Grand Prix Venues:

  • Indonesia** -  Mandalika International Street Circuit

* Evening Race
** Subject to Homologation
There will be a maximum of 20 events in the 2021 season. 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.

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Jerez WorldSBK Wash Out After Rain Stops Play

Rain forced the WorldSBK teams assembled at Jerez to abandon the test planned for the past two days. Though the weather was better on Thursday than it had been on Wednesday, the track took a long time to dry out, and with only 8 days of testing for the season, the teams decided to call off the test instead.

Honda and Kawasaki will return to Jerez next week, with Honda testing for two days, on January 27th and 28th, and Kawasaki to test on 28th. The forecast for that period is currently for good weather, which promises a dry track.

Though the official teams skipped the test, there were riders out on track. Stefan Bradl continued work on the 2021 Honda RC213V MotoGP machine, which features a new frame and swingarm. The frame is much beefier around the swingarm mount, a sign that Honda is playing with stiffness in search of rideability. A full gallery of photos can be found over on the Italian GPOne.com website.

Johann Zarco also took to the track on a Ducati Panigale street bike to get accustomed to speed again, and the Frenchman put in a total of 37 laps. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro was also at the circuit, testing Ducati's WorldSBK machinery, rather than the MotoGP bike. Pirro and Zarco lapped in the mid to high 1'45s, nearly 7 seconds off lap record pace, a sign that the track was too wet to produce too much useful data.

Press releases from some of the teams present appear below:


Superbike test scheduled to take place this week has now been cancelled due to wet weather.

Team HRC was looking forward to testing at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain yesterday and today, but the weather conditions have unfortunately put paid to its plans. Rain and a constantly wet track meant that there was little point in sending Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam out with their CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP.

Team HRC waited until lunchtime today to see if conditions might improve enough to make testing worthwhile, but although it eventually stopped raining, the track remained wet, temperatures not particularly cold but also not warm enough to allow the surface to dry quickly.

In an attempt to fully exploit the annual allocation of test days, the session has therefore been rescheduled and Team HRC will return to the Andalusian circuit on 27-28 January, ready to complete the work it had planned for this week.


WEATHER CONDITIONS CANCEL KRT TEST

Kawasaki Racing Team riders Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea were unable to take to the track for a planned two-day test at Jerez on 20-21 January, due to wet weather.

Needing a dry track surface to confirm the development programme of the exciting new Ninja ZX-10RR in WorldSBK specification, a completely wet first day - and no prospect of a truly dry track surface on day two - led the team to call an end to their immediate test plans.

New rules that limit the number of available private test days in 2021 to a total of ten also contributed to the final decision not to take the track in wet conditions.

Much of the pre-season evaluation and data-gathering has was done at the end of the 2020 season, during tests at Jerez and Motorland Aragon in November, but to re-confirm some items and try new elements of the performance package KRT is now aiming to schedule another test day at Jerez, on 28 January.

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It is a great shame not to test but the track is not going to be perfect today, so we decided to call it early. The guys can pack up and everyone can go home a little bit earlier. With the new regulations in place for limited test days, we need to be clever and use these days when they are most important. Right now we need to confirm some important items in dry conditions, that we already tested at Jerez the end of last season.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “This is typical English weather - so I must have brought it with me! It is a shame but the first thing to say is that there has been so much effort from the guys, especially with the Corona virus restrictions, to put everything in place to get us down here to test. So thank you to them. It is a shame the weather did not cooperate this time but it has been nice to see everyone – and see my bike again.”

Pere Riba (Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea): “We were here for a two day test but still the track is wet and it is raining. With the new rules we have, for a limited number of testing days through the year, we decided to cancel. It is a shame because we had some engine items to test, but this is life; something we cannot control.”

Marcel Duinker (Crew Chief for Alex Lowes): “After the November test, where we did 95% of the job we normally do in a winter test, we were very confident here to re-start the 2021 schedule. Unfortunately, we have had some wet conditions but on the other side we are confident of the job we have done so far. We already said to each other that if we had to race tomorrow, we would be ready. Next week we have the opportunity to test for one day at a sunny Jerez, so we will return and continue our plan.”


Private test at Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) cancelled due to rain

After the heavy rain that cancelled the first day of the private test at Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), the Angel Nieto Circuit was still very wet today, partly due to sporadic showers that prevented Scott Redding and Michael Rinaldi from getting on track to do some solid work with their Ducati Panigale V4 R.

Due to the restrictions on testing days introduced by Dorna this season, the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Team preferred not to take to the track, working immediately to find a new date and circuit as soon as possible.


Rain prevents Pedercini Racing from making their 2021 on-track debut with Loris Cresson

The planned two-day test at the Jerez Circuit in Southern Spain which should have seen OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini back on-track for the first of several pre-season tests has unfortunately been cancelled due to bad weather.

Whilst naturally disappointed to postpone their first 2021 outing, the squad made the decision to avoid wasting one of their limited test days and will now focus on a revised test schedule ahead of the FIM Superbike World Championship season opener at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands in April.

Lucio Pedercini – Team Manager: “It’s been frustrating for everyone over the last two days and I know Loris was keen to ride again but in the end the weather stopped us. We waited until the final moment, hoping the weather would improve enough for Loris to ride but in the end, it was not possible. The track was damp and not fully dry so what would Loris benefit from riding in less than perfect conditions? With Johan Zarco and Michele Pirro several seconds off the pace we saw no point in losing two test days from our allocation. We now need to evaluate when and where we will test before what already had planned at the beginning of March, but we need to time to see when and where it could be possible.”

Loris Cresson: “It’s not great to start the year like this but it is how it is and was the same for everyone. On Tuesday when it was clear we couldn’t ride I went back to the hotel and to the gym. I was hoping to ride on Wednesday but unfortunately the weather was still against us. Nevertheless, it was great to meet the team again and I am even more excited to get back on track as soon as we can!”

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Rain Means Track Is Mostly Silent At Jerez WorldSBK Test

Heavy rain throughout the day meant no action for most of the WorldSBK grid at Jerez for the first test of the year. Nothing was to be learned in the wet, and so the day was spent sitting in garages hoping for better weather. Maverick Viñales, who had been intending to test on a Yamaha R1 production bike, decided to abandon the test altogether.

No such luxury for HRC MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl, who put in a total of 20 laps on the RC213V, as he worked his way through a list of test items for the 2021 Honda MotoGP machine. Bradl was joined on track by Leonardo Taccini, Orelac World Supersport rider, making his debut on the ZX-6RR.

All hope is now on better weather tomorrow, though the forecast is not positive. Light rain is forecast for most of the day.

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Bikes Back On Track As WorldSBK Testing Resumes At Jerez

Despite the best efforts of the coronavirus, the winter break is nearly over, for the WorldSBK series at least. On Wednesday, half of the WorldSBK grid take to the track at Jerez for the first major test of the 2021 season. They will be working on their preparations for the season opener, not at Phillip Island, due to the travel restrictions still in place for Australia due to the pandemic, but at the Assen circuit in The Netherlands on April 23rd.

The weather does not look like playing ball for the first full test of the season. The forecast is currently for rain on both days of the test, heaviest on Wednesday but easing off on Thursday. Wednesday may see a dry spell in the afternoon, but whether that means the track will dry enough to produce usable data is open to question.

Kawasaki have perhaps the most to learn, as they KRT team of reigning champion Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes get to grips with the brand new ZX-10RR. The bike has had several major updates, including a new engine with lighter internals, to allow it to rev higher, and a new aerodynamic package with internal winglets, along the lines of the Honda CBR1000RR-R.

Both Rea and Lowes will be hoping for dry track time so they can get a better understanding of the character and power delivery of the new engine. The team will be working on the electronics package in search of the optimum setup for the opening round in April.

The Team HRC Honda WorldSBK team will also be present, Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam continuing the development of the CBR1000RR-R. The bike got off to a difficult start in 2020, though progress became apparent as the season went on. Bautista and Haslam will be working to build on that ahead of the start of 2021.

There will be two Leons in the Team HRC garage, as Leon Camier switches from rider to team manager of the Honda WorldSBK team. Camier's last couple of years was plagued by injury, forcing him into retirement. But a switch to a role as team manager should suit the Englishman, now resident in Andorra. Camier is well-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent, and analytical, and has the right mindset for management.

There are plenty of precedents for success. Camier's counterpart at HRC's MotoGP project, Alberto Puig, is also an ex-rider. Indeed, the MotoGP paddock is full of riders-turned-manager: Lucio Cecchinello, Sito Pons, Fausto Gresini, Pit Beirer, Davide Tardozzi, Pablo Nieto, Wilco Zeelenberg, Jorge 'Aspar' Martinez, and many, many more.

There will be a bevy of Ducati riders present at Jerez as well. 2020 WorldSBK runner-up Scott Redding will be joined by Michael Ruben Rinaldi, the Italian getting promotion to the factory-backed Aruba.it team after a strong showing at the end of last year.

Chaz Davies, the man Rinaldi replaced, takes Rinaldi's seat on the Team GOELEVEN Ducati Panigale V4R, shod with Ohlins suspension again, as used by Rinaldi last year. It will be the first time Davies gets to work with the GOELEVEN team, so there is much work to do.

Tito Rabat will be making his debut in the WorldSBK paddock, riding a Ducati Panigale V4R with the Barni Racing Team. Rabat has already spent time riding a Panigale for training during his time in MotoGP, and his main objective will be to learn the quirks of the WorldSBK Pirelli tires, after spending so much time on the MotoGP Michelins.

Rabat is not the only rookie on the track at Jerez. He will be joined by two Kawasaki riders: Isaac Viñales on the Orelac Kawasaki, and Loris Cresson on the OUTDO ZX-10RR. Both Viñales and Cresson are moving up from WorldSSP.

Isaac will not be the only Viñales present: cousin Maverick, Monster Energy MotoGP Yamaha rider will also be present, though he will be riding a Yamaha R1 superbike to prepare for the start of MotoGP testing in Qatar in March. Maverick Viñales will be joined by Johann Zarco in Jerez, also on a superbike, though this time a Ducati Panigale, as the Frenchman gets ready for his first test with the Pramac Ducati team in Qatar.

There will be test riders present as well. HRC test rider Stefan Bradl will be riding the Honda RC213V MotoGP machine at the Jerez circuit, working on developments for the start of the 2021 season. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro will also be present, though Pirro will be working on Ducati's superbikes, rather than their MotoGP machines.

The Jerez circuit will have live timing of the WorldSBK test. It can be found on the live timing page at http://live.crono-jerez.com/livetiming/#/livetiming


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Extra Qatar MotoGP Test Scheduled To Replace Sepang Test

The cancellation of the MotoGP test at Sepang - a result of the state of emergency imposed by the Malaysian government in response to rising numbers of cases of Covid-19 in the country - threw a spanner in the works for the MotoGP teams preparing for the start of the 2021 season. Losing days of testing meant less time for the MotoGP rookies to acclimatize to the new class, and less track time to gather data for the coming season.

To address this issue, Dorna and IRTA announced that there will be an additional test in Qatar at the beginning of March. In addition to the original test scheduled for March 10th - 12th, there will be three more days of testing a five days earlier. On March 5th, there will be one day of a shakedown test, where the test riders will get to ride the MotoGP machines to ensure they are all working as expected, as well as a chance for the MotoGP rookies - Enea Bastianini, Luca Marini, and Jorge Martin - to get their first taste of a Ducati Desmosedici.

They will be joined by the rest of the MotoGP field on March 6th and 7th, for an official two-day test. The entire paddock will then stay in Qatar for two days, when the originally scheduled three-day test starts on March 10th, until March 12th.

What happens after that is still open to question. GPOne is reporting there is a chance that the season opener, scheduled for March 28th at Qatar, will be moved forward a week to avoid clashing with the first F1 race of the season in Bahrein. That would also make sense in terms of logistics: it would mean that most people could stay in Qatar, rather than risk flying home and finding themselves unable to return should further measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic be imposed.

That would also set up a chance to replace one of the two races in the Americas, with both Austin and Argentina likely to be dropped from the schedule unless the Covid-19 situation in the US and Argentina changes dramatically. Having a second race in Qatar on consecutive weekends would bring the calendar back up to 19 races, and the addition of a race at Portimao - the most logical place for a replacement race, given its proximity to Jerez and the experience of the circuit in hosting a race last year.

However, nothing is yet certain, and everything is still subject to change. As happened at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the situation changes almost on a daily basis. The advantage for Dorna, IRTA, the teams, and the factories, is that at least they have a season's worth of experience running MotoGP under a coronavirus protocol. That makes changing plans much easier. But as ever, the coronavirus remains in control.

The press release announcing the change appears below:


Qatar Test schedule updated
Two Official Test days and a Shakedown Test have been added to the calendar

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Following a recent meeting between the Championship organisation and the MotoGP™ Class Teams, changes to the Qatar Test schedule have been agreed. Two extra Official Test days and a Shakedown Test day will now also be held at Losail International Circuit in March, ahead of and in addition to the previously confirmed Qatar Test, allowing the teams extra preparation ahead of the 2021 season.

On the 5th of March, a Shakedown Test will take place in which participation will be limited solely to test riders and MotoGP™ class rookies.

On the 6th and 7th of March, all riders may participate in two extra Official Test days.

The new MotoGP™ class test schedule is therefore as follows:

3rd-4th March: Setup
5th March: Shakedown Test – rookies and test riders only
6th-7th March: Official Test
10th-12th March: Official Test

Any further updates or information will be provided as soon as available.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Canceled - Early Part Of 2021 Calendar Still Subject To Coronavirus

The MotoGP Test At Sepang, due to be held from 19th - 21st of February, has been canceled, Dorna announced today. The King of Malaysia, at the request of the Malaysian government, has declared a state of emergency in Malaysia which is due to last until August 1st. The state of emergency has been declared in an attempt to stem the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to spread around the world.

The cancellation comes despite the best efforts of Dorna, IRTA, and the circuit to make the Sepang test as self-contained as possible. Dorna and IRTA had put forward a proposal to house everyone involved in the test at the Sama Sama hotel, located next to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, to the exclusion of other guests. Everyone - riders, teams, officials - would travel between the hotel and the circuit only, with no time outside of the MotoGP bubble. As the Sama Sama hotel is where most teams and riders involved stay during the test anyway, very little would change.

This proposal had a great deal of support, but in the end, the Malaysian government declaring a state of emergency made it impossible.

At the moment, the Qatar test, set to take place from 10th - 12th March, will still go ahead. This, of course, is still subject to how the Covid-19 pandemic develops over the next two months. The situation in Qatar is relatively stable, with case numbers and deaths still very low and showing only a small rise over the winter. Qatar may not want to allow a large group of people to enter from a region where the pandemic is still not under control. However, Qatar's vaccination program is already underway, with everyone over 65 years of age and with certain chronic illnesses currently being given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine expected to come on stream very soon.

If the Qatar test has to be canceled, then the fallback position would be a test at either Jerez or Portimao, with Jerez being the most likely option. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes are currently scheduled to test at Jerez from March 16th-18th, though that, too, is far from certain.

At the current moment, the start of the season is far from clear. Although no announcement beyond the cancelling of the Sepang test has been made - and no further announcements can be made, given the uncertainty of the current situation - MotoMatters.com understands that the opening races of the season are far from certain to go ahead. Most at threat are the overseas rounds at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina, and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, as a result of the restrictions currently in place and expected developments.

Should Argentina and Austin be dropped, then that would leave room for Qatar to be rescheduled later in the year, or for one of the reserve circuits, such as Portimao, to be inserted between Qatar and Jerez. With the race at Jerez due to happen on May 2nd, that leaves a lot of time for the pandemic to be contained - either through better weather, as was the case in 2020, or as a result of vaccination. However, the first few races, at least, are still expected to happen without fans present, or at least with only limited numbers allowed in.

The current understanding of the 2021 season is that it will go ahead, and there will be more races than there were in 2020. But as was the case early in 2020, the coronavirus is in charge, as French Grand Prix organizer Claude Michy put it.

The press release from Dorna appears below:


Sepang Tests cancelled
Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of both the Shakedown Test and the Official Sepang Test.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and complications have obliged the cancellation of both events, which were set to take place at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia in February.

The Qatar Test, currently set to take place at Losail International Circuit from the 10th to the 12th of March, continues to be confirmed and any further updates or changes will be provided as soon as available. 

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Davide Brivio Leaves Suzuki For F1 Role

Less than two months after winning Suzuki's first MotoGP championship in 20 years, Davide Brivio has decided to leave his role as manager of the Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP team and move to lead the Alpine F1 team in four-wheel racing's premier class. The move was reported last night by Autosport and confirmed by a press release from Suzuki this morning.

The move comes as a massive shock to Suzuki and the MotoGP world. It is also a serious blow to Suzuki's MotoGP project. Brivio was instrumental in putting the team together to run Suzuki's return to MotoGP in 2015. Brivio joined Suzuki in 2013, at the very beginning of the project which launched the GSX-RR upon the world, and has overseen the team's steady success.

Brivio has been a key player in finding and hiring the staff for the team, as well as being the main driver behind Suzuki's philosophy of trying to hire and develop young talent and turn them into champions. That choice was proven to be correct by Joan Mir winning the 2020 MotoGP title.

The Italian has a history of success. Davide Brivio first entered the World Superbike championship in 1990, running a private team for Yamaha. He then went on to run Yamaha's factory WorldSBK team, before switching to MotoGP in 2002, leading the project when Grand Prix racing went four stroke. Brivio was instrumental in persuading Valentino Rossi to leave Honda and join Yamaha, going on to win five championships for Yamaha with both Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, until he departed Yamaha for Ducati with Rossi.

When Rossi left Ducati at the end of 2012, that left Brivio at a loose end, a situation which Suzuki leaped upon to their benefit. Brivio has been instrumental in not just staff decisions, but he was also one of the drivers behind persuading Suzuki to set up a separate racing department, along the lines of the other major manufacturers. That organizational change made decision-making a great deal easier, and gave the racing department and team much more freedom to act without requiring the approval of Suzuki's top management.

Davide Brivio leaves behind a huge legacy in MotoGP, and big boots for Suzuki to try to fill.

The official press statement from Suzuki appears below:


DAVIDE BRIVIO AND TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR PART WAYS
Team Suzuki Press Office - January 7.

After eight years at the helm of Team Suzuki Ecstar in the role of Team Manager, Davide Brivio and Suzuki have announced an end to their collaboration.

The Italian has been present in the MotoGP World Championship paddock for more than 20 years and has been involved with Suzuki since 2013. He held the position of Team Manager when Suzuki embarked on their new MotoGP project, and has remained in place throughout their rise to success, which was this year topped-off by the incredible World Championship crown achieved by Joan Mir, and the Teams’ Championship title for Team Suzuki Ecstar.

Brivio is pleased with the milestones achieved with Suzuki but now wishes to pursue new challenges in his professional and personal life, away from MotoGP.

Team Suzuki Ecstar appreciate the work done by Davide Brivio, and the excellent goals achieved together. The Suzuki squad now look to the future with sights set high for the 2021 season.

Davide Brivio:
“A new professional challenge and opportunity suddenly came to me and in the end I decided to take it. It has been a difficult decision. The hardest part will be to leave this fabulous group of people, whom I started this project with when Suzuki rejoined the Championship. And it’s hard to say goodbye also to all the people who have arrived over the years to create this great Team. I feel sad from this point of view, but at the same time I feel a lot of motivation for this new challenge - which was the key when I had to decide between renewing my contract with Suzuki or starting a completely new experience.

“Achieving a MotoGP title is something that will remain in the Suzuki history books and it will always have a special place in my life memories. I would like to deeply thank all the Suzuki management for their trust and confidence in me, which they had since the beginning. I would like to thank every single member of our MotoGP group in Japan and at the track, all the Suzuki network, and of course all the riders who rode for the Team in this period, especially Joan and Alex who did a great 2020 season.

“Joan becoming World Champion was a dream come true for me and for all the people who worked hard and accompanied me on this magnificent journey. I wish the best to Team Suzuki MotoGP, I hope that the results in the future will be better and better and I will always be a Suzuki fan. Thanks very much Suzuki!”

Shinichi Sahara – Team Suzuki Ecstar Project Leader:
“Sincerely, it was shocking news for us about Davide’s departure from Team Suzuki Ecstar. It feels like somebody took a part of me, because I always discussed with him how to develop the team and the bikes, and we’ve worked together for a long time. In 2020 we achieved fantastic results despite the unusual and difficult situation due to Covid-19. And 2021 will be an even more important year for us to keep the momentum. Now we are trying to find the best way to cover for the ‘Davide loss’. Luckily in most cases I have had quite a similar way of thinking to him, therefore it is not so difficult to keep the direction we should go as Team Suzuki Ecstar, I think. We would like to wish him the best of luck for the future.”

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Pedrosa And Kallio To Stay As KTM Test Riders In 2021

Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio are to continue as test riders for KTM's MotoGP project throughout 2021. The two test riders, who have played a fundamental role in the success of the Austrian factory's MotoGP project, will carry on in their respective roles for another season.

The two riders have had a huge impact on the development of the KTM RC16, and their division of labor has been key in fast-tracking the project through 2020. Kallio continues his role as workhorse, doing preliminary testing of parts and testing durability, while Pedrosa works on preselecting packages of parts which work together to produce the best performance. Those packages are then passed to the factory riders for final approval before being used in a race.

The role of the test riders will be even more important in 2021, as KTM have lost concessions for next season after their astounding success in 2020, racking up three wins and five other podiums. As a result, Miguel Oliveira, Brad Binder, Danilo Petrucci, and Iker Lecuona will only be able to test at officially sanctioned test, putting more of the burden of testing on the shoulders of Pedrosa and Kallio.

Losing concessions also means that KTM will only be allowed three wildcards in 2021, as opposed to 6 for factories with concessions. Mika Kallio will continue to appear as a wildcard, Dani Pedrosa having made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in racing any longer.

The press release from KTM appears below:


Pedrosa and Kallio to continue as Red Bull KTM test riders for 2021
MotoGP 2020

Red Bull KTM have renewed contracts with former Grand Prix winners Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio to form the backbone of the MotoGP™ testing team for 2021 and continue work evolving the promising KTM RC16.

38-year old Kallio has been a key part of the MotoGP development crew for half a decade. The Fin debuted the KTM RC16 at the 2016 Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana and has completed wild-card appearances and substitute racing duties since 2017; notably contesting six rounds with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing in 2019 and the final round of the 2020 campaign for Red Bull KTM Tech3.

35-year old Pedrosa joined the KTM team upon his retirement in 2018 and as one of the most decorated MotoGP racers of the modern era. The Spaniard brought 13 years of top-flight experience in the premier class to the KTM MotoGP project.

The work of both Kallio and Pedrosa and the testing squad helped KTM to win three Grands Prix with two different riders in 2020 and register eight podium finishes thanks to the advancement and potential of the KTM RC16.

Mika Kallio: “It is great to continue this project. Five years have passed already with this crew and I cannot believe time has gone so fast. It has been rewarding to see the development of the bike and all the phases which have got us here. Especially in 2020 with victories and podiums; it has been amazing. It is good to see all the hard work and dedication paying off for everyone involved in the project. I have worked with KTM for eleven years now during my career, which is basically half of my whole time in racing. KTM is my second family and I am proud and privileged to continue being with this company. I think the results of this year motivate both the crew and riders towards an even better 2021, so I am already looking forward to the upcoming season. I think we have now what it takes to fight at the top.”

Dani Pedrosa: “KTM is very keen to keep improving and I’m only too happy to keep working with them and helping their riders onto bigger goals. I want to thank Pit Beirer, Stefan Pierer and Red Bull for all their trust in me.”

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director: “We’re pleased to be able to keep the stability and all the knowledge we have with our current testing team. In 2020 we could show how well and how fast we are working behind-the-scenes for our MotoGP programme and both Mika and Dani’s input were important in the progress we have made. It’s only been four years but it gives the whole company a lot of pride and excitement to be able to set new targets and to make more memories in MotoGP.”

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