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2021 MotoGP Provisional MotoGP Rider Line Up Complete: Aprilia To Choose Between Savadori And Smith After Testing

The 2021 MotoGP grid is finally complete. Or complete-ish, anyway. Aprilia have finally made a decision on their second rider for 2021, and their decision is that they will decide after the winter tests at Sepang and Qatar have finished.

Both Lorenzo Savadori and Bradley Smith have been signed for 2021, to fill the roles of second contracted MotoGP rider alongside Aleix Espargaro, and MotoGP test rider. Smith and Savadori will run through the testing program, including private tests and the scheduled official tests at Sepang and Qatar in February and March, and Aprilia will make their decision based on the outcome of that, Aprilia said in a press release.

Aprilia have been forced into this position by their decision to stick with Andrea Iannone throughout his appeals process. Once the Italian lost his appeal against his suspension for doping, Aprilia were forced to look elsewhere, but by that time, there choices were severely limited. Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow had turned down the opportunity. Aprilia had talks with WorldSBK rider Chaz Davies and Joe Roberts, Marco Bezzecchi, and Fabio Di Giannantonio in Moto2. But all those options fell through too, Roberts the last to turn down the Aprilia ride, informing the Italian factory on Sunday night.

The best solution, Aprilia decided, was to continue the project as they had started at the beginning of the year, sticking with their three current riders, and putting one of their test riders in the second seat. Aprilia intend to expand the number of bikes on the grid to 4 in 2022, once the new five-year contract period for factories and teams in MotoGP commences, so doing this opens up perspectives. The idea is to set up a system like Ducati, with a junior satellite team feeding into the factory squad, giving young riders a chance to learn and find their feet in MotoGP.

The MotoGP rider line up for 2021 appears below:

Rider Bike Contract until
Monster Energy Yamaha
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2022
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2022
     
Repsol Honda
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2024
Pol Espargaro Honda RC213V 2022
     
Suzuki Ecstar
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
     
Ducati Factory
Jack Miller Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2021 (option for 2022)
Pecco Bagnaia Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2022
     
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2022
Lorenzo Savadori/Bradley Smith* Aprilia RS-GP 2022
     
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Brad Binder KTM RC16 2021
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2021
     
Red Bull KTM Tech3
Danilo Petrucci KTM RC16 2021
Iker Lecuona KTM RC16 2021
     
Petronas Yamaha SRT
Franco Morbidelli Yamaha M1 2022
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2021
     
Pramac Ducati
Jorge Martin Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2022
Johann Zarco Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2021 (option for 2022)
     
LCR Honda
Alex Márquez Honda RC213V 2022
Takaaki Nakagami Honda RC213V 2022
     
Avintia Ducati
Luca Marini Ducati GP19 2021
Enea Bastianini Ducati GP19 2021

* To be decided after preseason testing is complete in February/March

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Valentino Rossi Cleared To Race In Valencia After Narrow Escape With Covid-19 Test

Valentino Rossi had a narrow escape this week, after initially failing another Covid-19 test. The Italian produced two more negative tests, and has been cleared to race at the Valencia round of MotoGP.

The Italian had flown back to Italy on Sunday night, and on Tuesday had a PCR test. That test came back positive with a very low viral load, a result which can occur with people who have had Covid-19 and have had symptoms. Rossi's doctors recommended he do two more tests, and after the first test came back negative, he flew to Valencia to wait for the results of the second test taking 24 hours later. When that test came back negative, he was cleared to race.

A positive Covid-19 test is the one thing the riders fighting for the championship have feared. Joan Mir, who tested negative earlier this week, arranged to limit his exposure as much as possible. He asked his girlfriend to get a PCR test, and only drove back home when it came back negative. He then isolated at home before driving back to Valencia, avoiding contact.

The press release from Yamaha on Valentino Rossi's test appears below:


VALENTINO ROSSI‘S PARTICIPATION CONFIRMED FOR THE VALENCIA GP

Valencia (Spain), 12th November 2020

Today, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi received confirmation that he will be able to take part in this weekend‘s Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana. Following a marginally positive PCR test on Tuesday 10th November, the Italian had two further PCR tests done (on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th November), both of which came back negative for the Covid-19 virus.

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP are delighted to confirm that Valentino Rossi will be able to take part in this weekend‘s Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana.

Following a weakly positive PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test result received on Tuesday 10th November, Valentino Rossi had to have two further PCR tests done (on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th November), as per FIM regulations, in order to be allowed to take part in the upcoming Valencia GP. Both follow-up tests came back negative for the Covid-19 virus, confirming Rossi‘s attendance for this race weekend.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

  • On Tuesday 10th November, Rossi underwent the usual PCR test, which is compulsory for those who visit their homes in between races. The result of this first test became available the next day and it was reported as “positive with very low viral load”. The doctors recommended Rossi to take two more tests, separated by 24 hours.
  • On Wednesday 11th November, Rossi took a second PCR test, of which the result came back negative this morning (Thursday 12th November).
  • This morning (Thursday 12th November), Rossi took a third PCR test at home and then travelled to Valencia, Spain, where he self-isolated while waiting for the result. It was again negative, allowing Rossi to reunite with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team and take part in this weekend‘s Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana.
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Andrea Dovizioso Officially Announces He Is Taking A Sabbatical

Andrea Dovizioso has confirmed he will be taking a sabbatical after the end of the 2020 season. As reported on Monday, the Italian has rejected multiple offers to be a test rider, in favor of a year of racing motocross and hoping for a better project in 2022. Below is the post he made announcing the move on Instagram:

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

🇬🇧 THIS IS WHAT I'M GOING TO DO IN 2021 Over the last few months, I have received several offers to work as a test rider in developing MotoGP projects and I am grateful for the consideration received by the manufacturers. However, I have decided not to make any commitments and to remain free from formal agreements for now. I have an immense passion for racing. I still have the ambition to compete and fight to win. I will return to MotoGP as soon as I find a project driven by the same passion and ambition that I have and within an organization that shares my same objectives, values ​​and working methods. Now I am focused on finishing the World Championship in the best possible way, and I have already started developing some projects with my partners. 🇮🇹 ECCO COSA FARÓ NEL 2021 Nel corso degli ultimi mesi ho ricevuto le proposte di alcune Case per partecipare nel 2021 come test rider al lavoro di sviluppo dei loro progetti in MotoGP. La cosa mi ha fatto molto piacere e sono grato per la considerazione ricevuta. Nonostante queste opportunità ho deciso di non prendere nessun impegno e di rimanere libero per ora da accordi formali. Ho un’immensa passione per le gare e ho ancora l’ambizione di voler correre e lottare per la vittoria. Tornerò quindi in MotoGP se e quando troverò un progetto guidato da altrettanta passione e ambizione e all’interno di un’organizzazione che condivida obiettivi, valori e metodo di lavoro. Ora sono focalizzato nel terminare il mondiale nel miglior modo possibile e ho gia’ iniziato a sviluppare alcuni progetti con i miei partners per il futuro. #Dovi04 #AD04 #undaunted #ForzaDucati #MotoGP #Alpinestars #SuomyHelmets #RedBull #Biotekna #Mondottica #DucatiEyewear #lentidavistaGalileo #MucOff 📷 @calloalbanese

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Marc Marquez Rules Out A Return in 2020

Marc Marquez has finally confirmed what had long been known. The Repsol Honda rider announced via social media - and the Repsol Honda team confirmed it in a press release - that he will not make a return to racing in 2020. He is focused on his recovery, and will attempt to be fit for the start of the 2021 season.

The problem for the Spaniard has been the rate at which his arm is recovering from injury. The humerus, the bone in his upper right arm, which he broke at Jerez, is taking a very long time to grow back and heal sufficiently for him to race. Repeated scans of his arm have shown the slow rate of his recovery, and consequently, after consulting with multiple medical experts, Marquez has decided to skip the last two races in the hope of giving himself more time to recover.

What this means for next year is still far from clear. The expectation for Marquez is that he will be fully fit by the time the 2021 season kicks off, provisionally at Qatar on March 28th. But as of right now, there are no guarantees, and his rehabilitation program has to continue.

There were credible reports in Spanish media of Marquez requiring additional surgery to fix his arm, but so far, there is no sign of that happening. Marquez continues his recovery, and continues to post pictures of him training on social media.

Below is Marquez' post on Twitter, announcing he would not be back:

 

The Repsol Honda press release appears below:


Repsol Honda Team prepare for penultimate race, Marc Marquez to return in 2021

The European GP showed the great potential Alex Marquez and Stefan Bradl have built to over the season, the pair aiming to deliver as the 2020 season begins to wrap up.

As his recovery continues, Marc Marquez and the Repsol Honda Team confirm he will not participate in the remainder of the 2020 MotoGP season and aims to return to racing in 2021. Working through his recovery programme and tracking the progress of his arm, Marc Marquez in conjunction with Honda, his team and multiple expert doctors, has elected to officially delay his return to action until 2021.

Last week, Alex Marquez was the unfortunate victim of a second DNF in two races, the MotoGP rookie tumbling while fighting for the top ten. Before the fall, and throughout the weekend as a whole, Alex demonstrated consistently strong pace abroad the Honda RC213V as his impressive growth in the premier class continues. With two wet days of practice for the European GP, dry track time was at a premium and Alex is hoping for a dry weekend this time out. The objective for the second week in Valencia is to continue fighting inside the top ten.

Stefan Bradl will complete the 2020 season for the Repsol Honda Team. With back-to-back point finishes, Bradl has hit a strong vein of form and like Alex showed well during the course of the weekend, especially in the wet. Bradl will be aiming to make it three point-scoring finishes in a row, repeating his run from 2019 when he replaced the injured Jorge Lorenzo.

Alex Marquez

“Straight back to work for the second last race of the season. The two days of rain last weekend made Sunday a bit unknown, but I think we were able to handle it well before the fall. This gives me some good confidence for the weekend as I think we can work well again. Of course, everyone else will surely make a step so we need to keep working but we can challenge for our goals again. Now is the time to push and end the season in the best way possible.”

Stefan Bradl

“First of all I want to wish Marc all the best in his continued recovery and thank HRC for giving me this opportunity. We have made a lot of progress since Le Mans and I have felt my level increase with more bike time and working with the Repsol Honda Team. The week of data will help us and the forecast is looking better at the moment. It’s going to be a busy end to the year but I am looking forward to it.”

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Andrea Iannone Loses Appeal, Banned For Four Years Through 2023

Andrea Iannone has lost his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his suspension for failing a drug test. The CAS ruled that Iannone had failed to prove that he had ingested drostanolone, the banned substance which had appeared in the urine sample taken from him after the Sepang race, as a result of eating contaminated meat. 

Both Iannone and the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) had appealed against the 18-month suspension imposed by the FIM's International Disciplinary Court (CDI). Iannone was asking to have the ban dropped, claiming that he had failed the drug test because he had eaten some contaminated meat. WADA wanted the 18-month ban extended to four years, which is the mandatory suspension for violating the WADA doping code.

Iannone had argued that the very small quantities of drostanolone which had been detected in his urine sample could only have come as a result of accidental ingestion by eating contaminated meat. However, in the WADA code, which covers nearly all sports, the onus is on the athlete failing a drug test to prove their innocence, reversing the burden of proof in a criminal court.

The CAS ruled that Iannone had not been able to supply convincing evidence of accidental contamination. He and his legal team and the scientific experts they had called on had failed to provide evidence for what type of meat he had eaten that might have been contaminated, what such meat might have come from, nor that there was any evidence of widespread contamination with drostanolone in meat production in Malaysia.

Failing to provide evidence for this fatally undermined Iannone's case, and the CAS felt compelled to impose the mandatory four-year ban set out in the WADA code. The suspension commences on December 17th, 2019, and runs until December 17th 2023.

With Iannone out for the next three years, his career is essentially at an end. He would be 34 by the time he is eligible again, and would have been out of competition for four years. By that time, there will be another cohort of fresh young faces from Moto3 and Moto2 knocking at the gates of MotoGP, who will be a much safer bet for team managers.

Iannone's suspension also leaves a hole at Aprilia. The Noale factory had been holding off on a decision about a replacement rider until Iannone's case had been dealt with by the CAS. As a result, they have missed out on the opportunity to sign replacement riders. Andrea Dovizioso has chose a sabbatical - and the risk of retirement - over a seat at Aprilia, and Cal Crutchlow looks set to go to Yamaha as a test rider. Options are few and very far between for the Italian factory.

There have been rumors of Jorge Lorenzo going to Aprilia, Lorenzo admitting he had an offer from the Italian factory. But doubts linger over Lorenzo's commitment to racing after a poor showing at the Portimao test last month. Lorenzo has little incentive to return to MotoGP on a bike which is not yet competitive. Whether he has the will to do so should become clear in the next few days.

The press release from the CAS appears below.


MEDIA RELEASE
MOTO GP - DOPING

THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT (CAS) IMPOSES A FOUR-YEAR PERIOD OF INELIGIBILITY ON ANDREA IANNONE

Lausanne, 10 November 2020 - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has announced its decision in the appeal arbitration procedures between the Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone, the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) and the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). Andrea Iannone and WADA filed separate appeals at CAS against the decision rendered by the FIM International Disciplinary Court dated 31 March 2020 in which Andrea Iannone was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) (presence of Drostanolone, a anabolic steroid featured on the 2019 WADA Prohibited List) and an 18-month period of ineligibility was imposed on him.

The CAS Panel rejected the appeal filed by Andrea Iannone and upheld the appeal filed by WADA. As a consequence, the decision rendered by the FIM International Disciplinary Court has been set aside and replaced with the following new decision:

• Andrea Iannone is sanctioned with a period of ineligibility of four years commencing on 17 December 2019.

• All competitive results obtained by Andrea Iannone from and including 1 November 2019 through the commencement of his suspension are disqualified, with all resulting consequences, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.

The appeals were consolidated and referred to the same Panel of arbitrators: Dr. Hamid G. Gharavi, France/I.R. of Iran (President), Judge Franco Frattini, Italy, and The Hon. Michael J. Beloff Q.C., UK (Co-arbitrators). The hearing took place on 15 October 2020.

On 3 November 2019, on the occasion of the FIM World Championship MotoGP in Sepang/Malaysia, Mr. Iannone underwent an in-competition doping control which revealed the presence of Drostanolone. Further to an internal disciplinary procedure, the FIM International Disciplinary Court decided on 31 March 2020 that Mr. Iannone should be suspended from participating in any motorcycling competition or activity during 18 months as of 17 December 2019.

Andrea Iannone asserted that the source of the prohibited substance was contaminated meat that he had ingested in Malaysia prior to the 2019 Sepang FIM World Championship MotoGP and that accordingly, he should be fully acquitted and that the Challenged Decision should be annulled. WADA, on the other hand, sought the imposition of a four-year period of ineligibility on the grounds that Andrea Iannone had failed to establish to the requisite standard that the origin of the prohibited substance in his sample resulted from meat contamination, and that as a consequence, the imposition of a four-year period of ineligibility was the appropriate sanction.

The CAS Panel found that Andrea Iannone had failed to establish neither the precise type of meat he had consumed nor the origin of said meat. Moreover, the Panel found that neither Andrea Iannone nor his experts were able to establish specifically that there was an issue of meat contamination by Drostanolone in Malaysia. The Panel considered therefore that an ADRV has been committed.

Andrea Iannone essentially left the Panel with protestations of innocence, his clean record and his alleged lack of incentive to dope. Factors which were insufficient to establish, on a balance of probability that Andrea Iannone’s ADRV was not intentional (in case of an unintentional ADRV, the applicable period of ineligibility would have been of two years maximum).

Since it is for an athlete to establish on the balance of probabilities that an ADRV is not intentional, his inability to do so means that he is deemed to have committed an intentional ADRV, pursuant to the applicable anti-doping rules. The Panel’s conclusion does not of itself rule out the possibility that Andrea Iannone’s ADRV may be the result of consumption of meat contaminated by Drostanolone but means that Andrea Iannone has not been able to provide any convincing evidence to establish that the ADRV he committed was unintentional.

Accordingly, the Panel found, contrary to the Appealed Decision, that the ADRV committed by Andrea Iannone was to be treated as intentional for purposes of the applicable anti-doping rules, and therefore upheld WADA’s Appeal. The CAS award sets aside the decision rendered by the FIM International Disciplinary Court dated 31 March 2020 and imposes a four-year period of ineligibility on Andrea Iannone.

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Andrea Dovizioso To Take A Sabbatical, Cal Crutchlow To Take Yamaha Test Rider Role?

Andrea Dovizioso's future is becoming increasingly clear, and his choices are going to have a knock on effect for the test rider market. According to a report from Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont, Dovizioso has decided to take a sabbatical and spend a year racing motocross, in the hope of making a return to MotoGP in 2022.

Dovizioso had been in talks with KTM, Yamaha, and Honda for a role as a test rider, and at one point had looked very close to signing with HRC, to work as a test rider, and as a competitive replacement rider in the worst-case scenario of Marc Marquez not being fit enough to start the 2021 season. He was also a long way into negotiations with Yamaha to replace Jorge Lorenzo as test rider, but both those options fell at the last hurdle.

There are a number of reasons for negotiations to have failed. Firstly, there was Dovizioso's insistence that he wanted to race motocross at the national level in Italy. Manufacturers are believed not to have been thrilled by the thought of signing Dovizioso as a test rider, and him being unable to fulfil his duties if he were to pick up an injury in an MX race.

Secondly, Dovizioso made no secret of his desire to return to racing in 2022. That meant that factories knew that they would only have him as a test rider for one year, and risked losing him - and the knowledge of their bikes he would have acquired - to a rival the following season. That placed Dovizioso's manager Simone Battistella in a weaker negotiating position, and factories appear to have been unwilling to accede to his demands.

According to the story by Puigdemont, Dovizioso will announce his intention to take a sabbatical some time this week. Whether that sabbatical will turn into permanent retirement is a good question. With several contracts up for grabs in 2022, as well as two extra bikes on the grid from Gresini and Aprilia splitting into two separate teams, and the VR46 operation expected to take over from Avintia, there are options open. But there will also be another batch of young talent coming through from Moto2, and at 36 years of age, Dovizioso may not be at the top of most team's candidate lists.

With Dovizioso out of the equation, that opens the door for a reshuffle in the test rider market. Yamaha have dispensed with Jorge Lorenzo's services after a disappointing performance at Portimao, and because Lorenzo did not keep himself in the kind of shape needed to ride a MotoGP bike at a competitive pace.

That opens doors for Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman lost his ride at LCR Honda earlier this year, and had been linked to the second seat at Aprilia. However, Aprilia's insistence on waiting for the outcome of Andrea Iannone's appeal to the CAS against his suspension for doping violations has not sat well with any of the potential candidates for the role, and especially not with Crutchlow, who has been very outspoken against doping.

At 35 years of age, and with a daughter approaching school age, a role as a test rider would suit Crutchlow much better. Those who have worked with him through the years have praised his feedback, and he played a key role in driving development of the Honda RC213V.

All this puts Crutchlow at the front of the line for the Yamaha test rider role. Well-informed Italian journalist Giovanni Zamagni, writing for Moto.it, is reporting that the deal is almost done, with Crutchlow set to sign a two-year deal with Yamaha as a test rider. This reporting confirms information from my own sources in the paddock, which put Crutchlow in extended talks with Yamaha for the role.

With Dovizioso out of the picture and Crutchlow heading to Yamaha, this leaves one big open question. Who will take the second seat at Aprilia for next year if Iannone's suspension is either upheld or extended, which appears to be the most likely outcome. Aprilia may find themselves forced to either sign Lorenzo Savadori, current test rider, to a full-time role, after parting ways with Bradley Smith, or look outside the MotoGP paddock for a replacement.

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Luca Marini And Enea Bastianini Confirmed At Avintia Ducati For 2021

The penultimate piece of the 2021 MotoGP rider puzzle has fallen into place. As has long been reported, Luca Marini and Enea Bastianini will be riding for the Avintia Ducati team next year. The young Italian pairing will be riding updated Ducati GP19s, with strong support from Ducati.

It was an open secret that Bastianini would be moving up to MotoGP after the Italian Moto2 rider announced as much at Misano in September. Marini's move was also long-anticipated, as protracted negotiations continued over how the VR46 Racing structure would replace the funding lost by replacing Tito Rabat, who had a contract with Avintia for 2021. Those details took a long time to sort out, but are finally settled.

The signing of Marini and Bastianini leaves one space unclaimed on the 2021 MotoGP grid. The final seat in the factory Aprilia team is still being held open for Andrea Iannone, should the Italian be cleared of his doping offense by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or CAS. So while Aprilia wait for that verdict, they are running out of options for riders to replace him. Andrea Dovizioso is actively negotiating with Yamaha and Honda for a role as a test rider, with Honda currently the hot favorite there. Cal Crutchlow is also believed to be looking at a test rider role, rather than racing for Aprilia. Aprilia have parted ways with Bradley Smith, who had been angling for the seat alongside Aleix Espargaro, and replaced him as test rider with Lorenzo Savadori.

All this means that Aprilia will have to wait until after mid-November to try to persuade someone to race for them, if Andrea Iannone's suspension is not lifted. That could be very difficult.

The press releases from Esponsorama/Avintia, Ducati, and the VR46 organization appear below:


ESPONSORAMA RACING BETS ON YOUNG TALENTS IN 2021

Esponsorama Racing is pleased to announce that Luca Marini and Enea Bastianini will form a team in the 2021 season in the MotoGP World Championship.

Both Italian riders, who are currently fighting for the Moto2 title since the start of the season, have shown great abilities to deserve a motorcycle in the premier class.

For the first time, Esponsorama Racing team will have in its ranks two riders of a similar level with which to continue growing as a team. The structure will feature with two Ducati GP19s with improvements throughout the season, which will allow the two young riders to fight for the title of ¨Rookie of the year¨ in the category.

RAÚL ROMERO:

“Esponsorama Racing demonstrates once again the evolution carried out in recent years, going from being the tail of the category to fighting for front positions thanks to the technical and sporting restructuring of the team added to the arrival of Johann Zarco and the evolution of Tito Rabat in recent years. Time has shown that things well done pay off and we only have words of thanks to our partners such as Ducati, Öhlins or Brembo and all our sponsors. Having Luca Marini with us next year and the structure of the SKY VR46 is a source of pride since, to this day, it is one of the strongest structures in the championship in all categories. Next year we will make a leap in quality in which we have high expectations of continuing to show that we are a benchmark team in the MotoGP World Championship "

LUCA MARINI:

“Getting to MotoGP is the dream that every rider has had since childhood. Having this great opportunity and being able to share it with Sky Racing Team VR46, Esponsorama Racing and Ducati is even better. In these years with the team I have accumulated a lot of experience, I have grown, and I have achieved the first important results. We are in a crucial phase of the season; we will continue to work hard to reach the maximum goal before taking this big step together"

ENEA BASTIANINI:

“I am very happy to get into MotoGP with Ducati and Esponsorama Racing. Now I have to concentrate on finishing the season, since I would like to go up as World Champion although I know it will not be easy. The following season, several riders made the leap to MotoGP, we started a new adventure together with the fastest riders in the world in which I think that together with the team I will be able to achieve good results"


Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini will be the two Ducati riders of the Esponsorama Racing team in 2021

Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with the Esponsorama Racing team and riders Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini, thanks to which the two young Italian riders will make their debut in MotoGP in 2021 with the Ducati Desmosedici GP bikes entrusted to the Andorra team.

Born in Rimini in 1997, Enea Bastianini participated in his first season in Moto3 in 2014 after two victories in the Rookies Cup in 2013. In his debut year in the World Championship, Enea conquered three podiums taking his first victory the following year together with other five podium finishes and ending third in the overall standings his second season in the class. 2016 Moto3 runner-up in the Championship with six additional podiums to his credit, including one victory, the rider from Romagna raced two more seasons in this class picking up several successes. In 2019, Enea stepped up to Moto2 taking his first podium in Brno, Czech Republic. In the current season, in his second year in the intermediate class, Enea has so far scored three wins and seven podiums and is fighting for the title: he occupies the second position in the overall standings, just 7 points behind the championship leader.

Luca Marini, born in Urbino in 1997, joined Moto2 in 2016 after having distinguished himself in Moto3 in the Italian and Spanish Championships. After two seasons of apprenticeship, Luca joined the SKY Racing Team VR46 in 2018, and took his first victory, together with four other podiums and two pole positions. The rider from Marche continued with the same team in Moto2 the following year, adding two more victories and four podiums to his tally. This year Marini has so far achieved three wins and five podiums in total and, with 155 points, occupies the third position in the Championship, just 23 points from the top of the standings.

Luigi Dall'Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager:

"We are very pleased to have reached this agreement thanks to which two young Italian talents will be able to make their debut in MotoGP next year on our Desmosedici GP bikes entrusted to the Esponsorama Racing team. This year Raul Romero's team has shown that it has reached an excellent level of professionalism. Thanks to the renewed technical support that we will provide to the Andorra team in 2021, we are sure that it will support Enea and Luca in the best possible way in their first rookie season. Both Bastianini and Marini have shown to be highly competitive in Moto2 this year, and we are sure that the time has come for them to move up to MotoGP. We will provide them with all the necessary support to accompany them on their way to the top category. With this decision, Ducati intends to continue with its strategy to enhance the young talents, that has already led Pecco Bagnaia to make his debut in MotoGP with Pramac Racing in 2019 and to reach an important goal for 2021: to wear the colours of the official Ducati team".

Enea Bastianini:

"Racing in MotoGP is a dream come true for me, and I'm happy to be able to do it with Ducati, of which I've been a big fan since the days of my idol Casey Stoner. It will undoubtedly be an important step that will push me to grow a lot, and I would like to move up as the Moto2 World Champion, even if it will not be easy. I want to thank my family for all the support they have given me since I was a child and my manager Carlo Pernat. I would also like to thank Ducati and the Esponsorama Racing team for the trust they have in me: I will try not to disappoint them!

Luca Marini:

“Having this great opportunity to race in MotoGP in 2021 is a dream come true for me, it's the desire that every rider has had since childhood. In these years with Sky Racing Team VR46 I have accumulated a lot of experience, and thanks to them, I have grown and achieved my first important results. Now we are in a crucial phase of the Moto2 season, and we will continue to work hard to reach our maximum goal, before embarking on this exciting new adventure together with Ducati and the Esponsorama Racing team".


AGREEMENT SIGNED WITH DUCATI: LUCA MARINI TO COMPETE IN MOTOGP IN 2021 IN THE COLORS OF THE SKY RACING TEAM VR46 WITH THE ESPONSORAMA RACING TEAM

Another mission accomplished for the Sky Racing Team VR46 as after Bagnaia, another young Italian talent moves up the top class

New rider line up in Moto2: newly-promoted CELESTINO VIETTI RAMUS will share the pit with MARCO BEZZECCHI on Kalex

Valencia, November 2020 – 2021 will be a year full of news with Luca Marini debuting in MotoGP thanks to the agreement signed with Ducati: he will compete in the colors of the Sky Racing Team VR46 within the Esponsorama Racing Team. New rider line up in Moto2: it has been confirmed that Marco Bezzecchi will race in Moto2 and will thus share the pit with Celestino Vietti Ramus, promoted to the new class. Sky Racing Team VR46 is confirming and stepping up its commitment alongside the young Italian riders as in the next season it will be focusing on three riders and two classes, Moto2 and MotoGP, with the great news of the team’s debut in the top class.

MOTOGP - With Luca Marini the promise to support the young Italian motorcycling talents is once again fulfilled. Luca will be riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP of the Esponsorama Racing Team with the colors of the Sky-VR46 duo and will bring with him in the top class some of the members of his current technical crew. For the second time since its birth (the first in 2018 with the Moto2 title won by Francesco Bagnaia), the Team born from the synergy between Sky and VR46 reaches one of its main goal with Luca Marini set to compete in MotoGP after an intense training and growth path. Considering the World Championship, the Spanish Championship and the CIV, over 10 riders took their first steps into the Circus with the colors of the Sky Racing Team VR46. Currently third in the Moto2 standings, Luca will be the second rider who grew up in the orbit of Sky and the VR46 Riders Academy to move up to MotoGP following Francesco Bagnaia, who won the world title with the Team in 2018.

MOTO2 – The effort of the Sky Racing Team VR46 in the intermediate class has been confirmed, with Marco Bezzecchi ready to get back on the track among the protagonists. Currently fourth in the standings and with five podiums achieved this season, Marco will share the pit with Celestino Vietti Ramus, rookie in the class. Celestino, with the Team since the CEV and from 2018 in Moto3, will continue his growth path with the same team. Well-established partnership also with Kalex: the German factory will supply the technical material also in 2021.

Alessio Salucci, VR46 Riders Academy and Sky Racing Team VR46

“Announcing that another rider of ours and of the Sky Racing Team VR46 will move up to MotoGP makes us so proud. Together with Sky, with whom we started this extraordinary adventure in 2014, in recent years we have given a decisive boost in favor of Italian motorcycling. Today, thanks to the agreement with Esponsorama Racing Team and Ducati, Luca Marini and the Sky Racing Team VR46 will be able to race in the top class, which from next year will thus be relying on the talent of another Italian promise. It is a great opportunity for the whole Team, but also a decisive moment for the rider's future and for our entire motorcycle movement. I'm sure we have a spectacular 2021 ahead of us”.

Pablo Nieto, Team Manager Sky Racing Team VR46

“For those who have been part of this project since 2014, MotoGP has always been a dream. After being alongside Bagnaia in his path to the top class in 2019, we are about to watch him compete in 2021 in the colors of an official factory while reaching a similar goal with Marini and the Sky Racing Team VR46. We decided to put ourselves to the test along with Esponsorama Racing and Ducati, whom we ensured our trust and maximum support. We also expect a lot from Moto2, with Bezzecchi among the fastest and most talented riders in the class and Vietti Ramus as a rookie”.

Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati Corse Sporting Director

“We are very pleased to have signed this agreement with Esponsorama Racing and Sky Racing Team VR46 thanks to which Luca Marini will be able to make his MotoGP debut in 2021. Luca has proven to be one of the fastest and most competitive riders in Moto2 and Ducati will give to him all the necessary support in his first year as a rookie in the top class. With this decision Ducati wants to continue its strategy for enhancing the young talents that has already led Pecco Bagnaia, who also grew up in the Sky Racing Team VR46, to make his debut in MotoGP with Pramac Racing in 2019 and to reach an important milestone for 2021 to compete with the colors of the Ducati official Team”.

Raul Romero, Esponsorama Racing Team

"With the agreement signed today, the technical and sporting restructuring of the Esponsorama Racing Team continues: in the recent years, from being the tail light of the category to fighting for the positions that matter thanks to Johann Zarco and the important grow path made by Tito Rabat. Over time we have shown that work pays off and we have to thank our partners such as Ducati, Öhlins, Brembo together with all our sponsors. We are so proud to welcoming Luca Marini to the Team next year together with the SKY Racing Team VR46, one of the strongest and most solid Teams in the Championship. We have high expectations for this great breakthrough, our goal is to continue to demonstrate that we are a reference Team in the MotoGP World Championship".

THE RIDERS

LUCA MARINI

“Competing in MotoGP is every rider’s dream. Having this great opportunity and being able to share it with the Sky Racing Team VR46, Esponsorama Racing and Ducati is even better. In these years with the Team I have gained experience, I have grown and I have achieved the first important results. We are in a crucial phase of the season, we will continue to work hard to reach the maximum goal before making this big step together”.

CELESTINO VIETTI RAMUS

“Competing in Moto2 with the Sky Racing Team VR46 is a great opportunity. I am very happy to share another key moment in my career with this Team. Marco is a lifelong friend, it will be nice to work together and Luca is an example to follow".

MARCO BEZZECCHI

“I am very happy for Luca, he has proven to be ready for MotoGP. I am also happy with my new teammate because Celestino is my lifelong friend. Since I joined the Sky Racing Team VR46 I have regained the confidence I was hoping for, I'm sure we will have fun in 2021”.

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Provisional 2021 MotoGP Calendar Announced - 20 Races, Normal Schedule, 3 Reserve Circuits

MotoGP will continue into 2021, and scheduling difficulties continue to accompany it. Unlike 2020, however, Dorna and the FIM are prepared for it, however, and so today, we saw a provisional 2021 MotoGP calendar announced. It is a very conventional-looking schedule, with a giant caveat attached underneath: "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."

After two tests, at Sepang in mid February and Qatar in mid March, the 2021 season is scheduled to kick off at Qatar on March 28th. After Qatar, the series heads to the Americas, where MotoGP races in Argentina at Termas de Rio Hondo and at Austin. They then head back to Europe, for the usual round of spring races: Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, Sachsenring, and Assen. They round it off with a trip to Finland, subject to the Kymiring being homologated on time.

The next race depends on whether the Brno circuit is resurfaced or not. If the track gets a new surface, as the riders demanded in the Safety Commission this year, then there will be a Czech Grand Prix on August 8th. Then MotoGP heads to Austria, and then Silverstone at the end of August.

A few changes follow: Aragon and Misano are swapped, the Spanish round preceding Italy. Then the paddock heads to Motegi for the Japanese Grand Prix, which is back to back with Thailand. After a week off, there follows another double header, Phillip Island preceding Sepang. The season finishes up at Valencia, on November 14th.

Three reserve circuits have been added to the calendar in case a particular race cannot go ahead. Portimao was expected, as it is on the 2020 calendar. The Mandalika Circuit in Indonesia is also no surprise, though that circuit is still a long way from being finished and must first be homologated. But the big surprise is the inclusion of the Igora Drive circuit in Russia, which is some 50 km from St Petersburg, and not far from the Finnish border.

Will this calendar actually happen as scheduled? That seems extremely unlikely. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the world, and national and regional governments have a range of restrictions in place. Fortunately, a vaccine appears to be getting closer, but even with a vaccine, it will be six to nine months before it is in widespread enough use, most medical experts suggest.

The purpose of the provisional calendar is to show that MotoGP is serious about racing in 2021. Behind the scenes, negotiations and planning is underway for a whole range of scenarios to race if the pandemic is still disrupting everyday life and international travel. Contracts and negotiations are focusing heavily on the possibility of cancellation and rescheduling, to ensure races can take place whatever happens. Such a scenario would look more like 2020 than 2019, but with a less compressed calendar.

It will be imperative for circuits to start allow fans back again soon. Financial reserves have been raided to allow tracks to survive this year, but another year without large-scale events and large numbers of fans attending could take a heavy, possibly insurmountable toll on some circuits. Some semblance of normality cannot come soon enough for them.

Below is the provisional 2021 calendar

Date Grand prix Circuit
28 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
11 April Republica Argentina Termas de Rio Hondo
18 April Americas Circuit of the Americas
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 Germany Sachsenring
27 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
11 July Finland** KymiRing
TBD To be decided  
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

* Evening Race
** Subject to Homologation
All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities.

Reserve Grand Prix Venues:

Portugal Algarve International Circuit
Indonesia** Mandalika International Street Circuit
Russia Igora Drive Circuit

 

 
 

 

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

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

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

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

Time to think

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

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

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

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

True crimes

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

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

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

Hoist by their own petard

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

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

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

Getting off scot-free

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

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

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

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

Precedent

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

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

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

The press release from the FIM Stewards appears below:


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

Thursday, 05 November 2020

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The two press releases from Yamaha appear below:


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

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 4th November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garrett Gerloff

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

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

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


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

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 4th November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MASSIMO MEREGALLI
TEAM DIRECTOR

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

MAVERICK VIÑALES

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

VALENTINO ROSSI

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

GARRETT GERLOFF
MEYM, STANDBY REPLACEMENT RIDER

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

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