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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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Lorenzo Savadori To Replace Bradley Smith In Aprilia MotoGP Team For Last 3 Races Of 2020

In an unexpected move, Aprilia have decided to replace Bradley Smith in the Aprilia Gresini MotoGP team with Lorenzo Savadori for the last three races of 2020. Smith has been Aprilia's main test rider for the past two seasons, and had stepped in to take the place of Andrea Iannone after the Italian was suspended for a doping offense. Savadori, who has raced for Aprilia in WorldSBK in the past, and this year was crowned Italian CIV champion on board the RSV4, is Aprilia's second test rider.

The move was a surprise, as Smith had been slower than his teammate but put in some solid performances throughout the year, while also serving as a test mule for parts and setup to pass over to Aleix Espargaro. But there have been signs of friction in the relationship between Smith and Aprilia as the long-running saga over Andrea Iannone's future with the Italian factory has dragged on. Aprilia have been courting Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, and Smith has always been treated as a backup option.

What's more, Aprilia have sometimes underplayed Smith's input to development of the RS-GP. At Barcelona, Aprilia Racing Track Manager Paolo Bonora had said that one of the development problems Aprilia had was that they only had Aleix Espargaro able to push the bike. When Smith was told of this on the Friday at Barcelona, he was clearly slighted, saying, "It's good to know, because I need to make a decision for my future."

The move is obviously a reward for Savadori winning the Italian championship. But it further complicates Aprilia's rider choice for both racing and testing for 2021 and beyond.

Below is the press release from Aprilia:


LORENZO SAVADORI TO DÉBUT IN MOTOGP WITH APRILIA

THE ITALIAN SBK CHAMP WILL BE ASTRIDE THE APRILIA RS-GP THROUGH THE END OF THE 2020 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

Noale, 27 October 2020 - Lorenzo Savadori will début in MotoGP astride the Aprilia RS-GP in the Grand Prix of Europe, scheduled to be held in Valencia from 6 through 8 November.

Lorenzo will also sub for Bradley Smith as Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider in the following rounds which will close out the 2020 MotoGP season, namely the Comunitat Valenciana GP on 15 November, also on the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, and the GP of Portugal in Portimão on 22 November.

Lorenzo Savadori is the newly crowned Italian SBK Champion after dominating the 2020 CIV premier category with six wins and two second-place finishes in the eight races held astride his Aprilia RSV4 managed by Nuova M2 Racing team. This extraordinary performance, achieved in a highly competitive championship against rivals with multiple titles, combined with his efforts as MotoGP tester pursued from the beginning of the year, led to his début in the premier class of worldwide motorcycle racing.

Massimo Rivola - Aprilia Racing CEO

“First and foremost, I wish to thank Bradley for his efforts this season. He took one the unexpected role of factory rider with great dignity and outstanding performance, and his contribution was extremely valuable. Now we are excitedly awaiting Lorenzo’s début. This promotion is certainly a reward for his great season as a CIV rider, dominating the Superbike category. But it is also a step of growth for a rider who will be a tester for our RS-GP in 2021 as well. Riding our fledgling project in the race as well will certainly be a step forward for Lorenzo and, therefore, for all of Aprilia Racing.”

Lorenzo Savadori

“To say I'm happy would be an understatement and I wish to thank Aprilia Racing straight away for this great opportunity. I will be arriving prepared for the event, thanks both to the work done during the tests on the RS-GP and to the CIV season that just ended. It was a challenging Championship that demanded top form and maximum concentration from me. Now I need to reorganise my thoughts, glean from the kilometres I’ve ridden astride the RS-GP and make sure I'm ready and focused for the first practice session.”

Rider profile

Born in Cesena in 1993, Lorenzo Savadori was Italian and European 125 GP Champion with Aprilia in 2008. In the same season, he made his début in the 125 World Championship with three wild cards. In 2007 he was runner up in the Red Bull Rookies Cup development program. In 2009 he raced in the 125 World Championship.

In 2011 he made his début in the Superstock 1000 championship where he was runner-up champion in 2014.

In 2015 rode the new Aprilia RSV4 RF in its Superstock début and it was a triumph: he took 4 wins, 7 podiums and 3 pole positions which resulted in him winning the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup championship, giving Aprilia the Manufacturers Title. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Lorenzo had already competed in the in the WorldSBK Championship, also on the Aprilia RSV4. In 2019, he finished as runner-up Superbike champion in Campionato Italiano Velocità. In 2020 he became an Aprilia test rider and dominated the CIV Superbike season with six wins out of eight races, earning the Italian Championship title astride the new Aprilia RSV4 Factory.

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Andrea Iannone Judgment Expected Mid-November

Andrea Iannone's doping saga appears to be coming to an end. In a press release issued today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the court would issue its decision in mid November on the two appeals lodged against Iannone's 18-month ban for testing positive for drostanolone, handed down by the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI). Those appeals were heard on Thursday, October 15th.

There are two appeals, because it is not just Andrea Iannone appealing for his ban to be lifted. After the FIM CDI reduced Iannone's ban from two years to 18 months, WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, appealed against that sentence, demanding the FIM impose the mandatory 4-year ban which comes with a doping violation under the WADA code, to which the FIM is a signatory.

An announcement in mid November would mean that Iannone will be able to race at Portimao, and possibly one of the Valencia rounds if the CAS rules in his favor. But it will also mean that Aprilia will be able to move forward with a decision on who they want to partner Aleix Espargaro in 2021, with Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith waiting to hear if they will be selected. Aprilia's first pick, Andrea Dovizioso, appears to have chosen to pursue a role as a test rider, with a view to returning to racing in MotoGP in 2022, rather than racing what is still a relatively uncompetitive Aprilia RS-GP.

The press release from the CAS appears below:


UPDATE ON THE CAS PROCEEDINGS IN THE ARBITRATIONS ANDREA IANNONE V/FIM AND WADA V/ ANDREA IANNONE & FIM

Lausanne, 16 October 2020 - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in the appeal arbitration procedures filed by the Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took place on 15 October 2020.

The panel of arbitrators will now deliberate and finalise the Arbitral Award containing their decision. It is expected to be notified by mid-November 2020. The final award will be announced on the CAS website.

The proceedings concern the decision taken by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) International Disciplinary Court decision dated 31 March 2020 (the Challenged Decision) in which Andrea Iannone was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation and an 18-month period of ineligibility was imposed on him.

Andrea Iannone seeks to have the Challenged Decision annulled, whereas WADA requests that the Challenged Decision be replaced by a new decision imposing a four-year period of ineligibility on the rider.

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Cold Conditions Force Radical Overhaul Of Schedule At Aragon MotoGP Weekend - UPDATED

The cold conditions at the Motorland Aragon circuit have forced Dorna to radically overhaul the schedule for the remainder of the weekend. After suffering extremely low track temperatures, despite a delay of 30 minutes on Friday morning, and after discussing th events of practice in the Safety Commission and with the teams, the decision was made to move the entire schedule roughly an hour later than originally planned.

On Saturday, the sessions all kick off an hour later, with Moto3 FP3 at 10am, MotoGP FP3 at 10:55am, and Moto2 at 11:55am. The break between Moto2 FP3 and qualifying for Moto3 is 20 minutes shorter, Q1 for Moto3 starting at 13:15, 40 minutes later than originally planned. FP4 for MotoGP follows at 14:10, with Q1 at 14:50 and and Q2 at 15:15. Qualifying for Moto2 starts at 15:50.

Warmup on Sunday is pushed back by an hour and twenty minutes, while all of the races start an hour later than originally planned. Moto3 warm up starts at 10:00, Moto2 and 10:30, MotoGP at 11:00. The Moto3 race starts at 12:00 noon, Moto2 at 13:20, and MotoGP at 15:00. All these times are local, and the quickest way to convert those times is to go to the Aragon schedule page on the MotoGP.com website, and click on the "Your Time" radio button, if it is not already selected.

This is the second update to the schedule so far this weekend, and it may not be the last. Next weekend's schedule, where the MotoGP race is due to start at 13:00 local time to avoid a clash with F1 at Portimao, could also seen changes. It would be smart to set DVRs manually, and hold off for as long as possible.

The new schedule is below:

Saturday October 17th
10:00 10:40 Moto3 Free Practice 3
10:55 11:40 MotoGP Free Practice 3
11:55 12:35 Moto2 Free Practice 3
13:15 13:30 Moto3 Qualifying 1
13:40 13:55 Moto3 Qualifying 2
14:10 14:40 MotoGP Free Practice 4
14:50 15:05 MotoGP Qualifying 1
15:15 15:30 MotoGP Qualifying 2
15:50 16:05 Moto2 Qualifying 1
16:15 16:30 Moto2 Qualifying 2
17:10   Red Bull Rookies Cup Race 1 (15 laps)
       
Sunday October 18th
10:00 10:20 Moto3 Warm Up
10:30 10:50 Moto2 Warm Up
11:00 11:20 MotoGP Warm Up
12:00   Moto3 Race (19 laps)
13:20   Moto2 Race (21 laps)
15:00   MotoGP Race (23 laps)
16:30   Red Bull Rookies Cup Race 2 (15 laps)

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Valentino Rossi Tests Positive For Coronavirus, To Miss Aragon Round

Valentino Rossi has tested positive for Covid-19. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider came down with mild symptoms while at home on Thursday morning, was tested for the coronavirus, and the test came back positive. As a result of his positive test, Rossi will be forced to miss the first round at Aragon, and in all likelihood, the second race at the Motorland Aragon circuit as well.

Rossi's absence will put an end to any lingering hopes of a MotoGP title in 2020 he may still have had. That prospect was growing increasingly remote, however. The Italian was already 57 points behind the championship leader, Fabio Quartararo, after crashing out of three consecutive races. With just one podium so far in 2020, getting a shot at the title was already going to be difficult.

When Rossi returns is uncertain. When Jorge Martin tested positive for Covid-19 just before the first round at Misano, he was unable to return in time for the second race a week later, and Martin tested positive on the Tuesday before the Misano round. That makes it extremely likely that Rossi will be forced to miss both Aragon rounds.

The lateness of Rossi's positive Covid-19 test does make Yamaha's life a little easier. Under the rules, the factory team has to make their best efforts to find a replacement within 10 days. 10 days takes us up to next Sunday, the day of the second, Teruel round at Aragon.

The most obvious candidate to replace Valentino Rossi would be Jorge Lorenzo, but Lorenzo was 3 seconds a lap slower than Aleix Espargaro at the Portimao test, and clearly not up to speed, after being off the bike for so long. At Le Mans, Rossi was critical of his former teammate for not having trained on motorcycle in between the Sepang test and the resumption of the MotoGP season. "Jorge in Malaysia in February was not so bad. Because he did a good job and he was strong with the M1. He was close to us, to the normal riders," Rossi said.

But Lorenzo needed to ride other forms of motorcycles more often to be a capable test rider, Rossi insisted. "But after, he said that he never rode the bike until Portimao. So I think that Jorge is a great opportunity for Yamaha because he has a big potential, but if you want to make the test rider he needs to train, to use motorcycles. Because if you stay eight months without touch a motorcycle, after it's impossible to bring a MotoGP bike to the limit. So I think if Jorge wants to continue, he needs to test and to ride some other type of motorcycle during the season."

In all likelihood, Yamaha will forego the chance to put a replacement rider on the bike. The complication of finding a replacement rider and having them pass a coronavirus test makes it an easy choice to sit out these two races. An added benefit is that it would limit the mileage on Valentino Rossi's engines, the Italian having already lost an engine at the first race in Jerez. Since then, he hasnt used the second engine from Jerez either. By skipping both Aragon rounds, that would leave him with two relatively well-used engines and one engine which was only introduced in Barcelona, to last the final three rounds.

The press release from Yamaha appears below:


VALENTINO ROSSI TO MISS THE GRAND PRIX OF ARAGON

Alcañiz (Spain), 15th October 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing Srl regret to announce that Valentino Rossi will be unable to attend this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Aragón.

STATEMENT – 15th October 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing Srl regret to announce that Valentino Rossi will be unable to attend this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Aragón.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

  • On Sunday 11th October, Rossi left the Le Mans circuit and travelled back to his home in Tavullia, Italy.
  • On Tuesday 13th October, Rossi underwent the usual PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, which is compulsory for those who visit their homes in between races. The result was available the next day and it was negative.
  • On Wednesday 14th October, Rossi was feeling fully fit and he trained at home without any symptoms or inconveniences.
  • On Thursday 15th October, he woke up in the morning and felt a bit sore. He had a slight fever and immediately called a doctor. The doctor conducted two tests:
    1. A ’quick PCR test‘, that again came back with a negative test result.
    2. A standard PCR test, of which the result arrived on Thursday 15th October, at 16:00 local time. Unfortunately this result was positive.
  • During Rossi‘s stay at his home from Sunday night (11th October) to today (15th October), he has NOT been in contact with any person that is currently present at the Gran Premio de Aragón, including VR46 Academy riders, VR46 staff, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team members etc.
  • Rossi's condition will be closely monitored by the medical staff in Tavullia.
  • The situation will be reviewed every day with a view to Rossi's participation at the upcoming MotoGP race events.

VALENTINO ROSSI

Unfortunately, this morning I woke up and I was not feeling good. My bones were sore and I had a slight fever, so I immediately called the doctor who tested me twice. The ’quick PCR test‘ result was negative, just like the test I underwent on Tuesday. But the second one, of which the result was sent to me at 16:00 this afternoon, was unfortunately positive. I am so disappointed that I will have to miss the race at Aragon. I'd like to be optimistic and confident, but I expect the second round in Aragon to be a ’no go‘ for me as well... I am sad and angry because I did my best to respect the protocol and although the test I had on Tuesday was negative, I self-isolated since my arrival from Le Mans. Anyway, this is the way it is, and I can't do anything to change the situation. I will now follow the medical advice, and I just hope I will be feeling well soon.

LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

This is very bad news for Valentino and very bad news for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team and for all MotoGP fans around the world. First and foremost we hope Valentino will not suffer too much in the coming days and will recover fully in the shortest time possible.

It comes as a second blow for our MotoGP operations having faced the absence of Project Leader Sumi-san and five YMC engineers at the Le Mans race after one member tested positive – despite being fortunately totally asymptomatic.

These two incidents remind us that no matter how careful you are, the risk is always present - as we see with the rising numbers of infections in Europe at this time.

We have checked with the Italian health authorities and we have been advised that any member of our team that was in contact with Valentino up until Monday is excluded from direct risk.

Nevertheless, we will be even more attentive from now on to minimise the chance for any future issues.

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WorldSBK Rider Announcements: Rinaldi Replaces Davies, Locatelli Joins Razgatlioglu, Nozane Joins Gerloff

The 2021 WorldSBK rider line up is starting to solidify, as announcements start to trickle out of the World Superbike paddock. In the last few days, Yamaha and Ducati have announced their rider line ups for next season.

Today, Ducati finally presented Michael Ruben Rinaldi as partner to Scott Redding in the factor Aruba.it Racing team. Rinaldi has impressed in the Go Eleven squad this year, not least by winning Race 1 and ending on the podium in the Superpole race and Race 2 of the Teruel round earlier this year. Ducati have been cultivating Rinaldi for a few years with a view to moving up to the factory team for some years now.

Rinaldi's promotion means there is no room for current rider Chaz Davies. Davies has been with Ducati since 2014, and has struggled to match the form he showed on the V-twin on the Panigale V4R. At the moment, Davies is without a seat, and no clear ride for him to take. There is a chance he could end up beside Alvaro Bautista on the Honda CBR1000RR-R, but that is far from certain.

A few days earlier, Yamaha announced they would be moving newly-crowned WorldSSP champion Andrea Locatelli up to the Pata Yamaha factory WorldSBK squad, to replace the departing Michael van der Mark. Locatelli's promotion is logical, given the way the Italian has utterly dominated the World Supersport category, winning 11 of the 13 race so far. Locatelli will join Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Locatelli's move to the Pata Yamaha squad means that Garrett Gerloff will remain with the GRT Yamaha Junior team for another season. Gerloff will be joined by Kohta Nozane, Yamaha's leading rider in the Japanese All-Superbike championship. Nozane has raced in the FIM EWC endurance championship with the YART team, and is one of two MotoGP test riders for Yamaha, alongside Katsuyuki Nakasuga. The GRT team will get 2021-spec Yamaha R1s, given them identical machinery to the factory Pata Yamaha squad. Loris Baz will continue in the Ten Kate Yamaha  squad.

Below are the press releases from Yamaha and Ducati:


Michael Ruben Rinaldi will ride the official Ducati Panigale V4 R of the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team in the 2021 WorldSBK season

The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team is pleased to announce that the Italian rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi - alongside teammate Scott Redding - will defend the colours of the Italian squad in the 2021 WorldSBK season with the official Ducati Panigale V4 R.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi was born in Rimini on 21st December 1995 and started racing with the minimoto when he was 7 years old, winning the Italian championship in 2006. After winning the Italian Sport Production Championship in 2011, in 2014 he faced his first international experience in the European Superstock 600 championship, which closed as runner-up in 2015. In 2016 Rinaldi rode the Ducati Panigale R of the Aruba.it Racing - Junior team in the SuperStock 1000 FIM championship, finishing sixth and then conquering the European Champion title at the end of the following season. With the Aruba.it Racing - Junior team, Michael Ruben Rinaldi also made his WorldSBK debut in the 2018 season, racing only in European rounds and then competing in all events of the 2019 Championship with the Barni Racing Team. In the current season, Rinaldi obtained his first success in WorldSBK with the Panigale V4 R of the Go Eleven team in Race-1 at Aragon, round that saw him finish on the podium also in the Superpole Race (P3) and Race-2 (P2).

Stefano Cecconi (Team Principal Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)

"It's with great enthusiasm that we welcome Michael to our team. It is a source of great satisfaction for us as well as a confirmation of the goodness of the project we undertook five years ago with the Junior team. Rinaldi himself was one of the great protagonists, achieving important results: the same results we expect him to achieve from next season on. A big thank to Chaz Davies for all the years we have spent together since we decided – together with Aruba.it - to embark on this fascinating adventure and during which a bond of deep respect and trust was created. The affection for the man and the rider will always remain intact, and for this reason, we want to wish Chaz the best for the future, both inside and outside the track".

Luigi Dall' Igna (General Manager of Ducati Corse)

"We are pleased to welcome Michael Ruben Rinaldi to the official team. This year Michael has shown great competitiveness, crowned by the Aragon victory, and has always been fighting for top positions. We believe that the time has come for him to join the official team and we are convinced that he has a bright future ahead of him. I want to thank Chaz, who has been an excellent ambassador for our brand over the past seven years and has achieved some very important results with us: 27 victories plus another 59 podiums finish and three consecutive second places in the world championships. We will try to close in the best way our adventure together in the next race weekend in Estoril".

Michael Ruben Rinaldi

"After an exciting journey in Ducati, joining the official team is an honour for me, as well as confirmation of the quality of the work done over the years. My first target will be to repay, through the results, the trust that has been given to me. For an Italian rider, racing with Ducati is an extraordinary feeling, and I am sure that the passion of the Ducati people will give me an extra boost. I would like to thank Stefano Cecconi and the Aruba family who have always believed in me, and Daniele Casolari, Serafino Foti and the whole Feel Racing for supporting me over the years. A special thought to Claudio Domenicali, Gigi Dall' Igna and Paolo Ciabatti for having involved me in this new project. Finally, I would like to involve the Ramello family, Denis Sacchetti and all the guys in the Go Eleven team in an ideal embrace. Thanks to them, I was able to make an important quality leap that allowed me to reach this great goal. And of course, I would like to thank my family for having supported me from the beginning together with Germano Bertuzzi whose support has been fundamental. I feel I can promise them all my utmost commitment to achieving great results together".


Yamaha Confirms Exciting Young Rider Line-Up for 2021 WorldSBK Campaign

Yamaha Motor Europe is delighted to confirm that the reigning FIM Supersport World Champion Andrea Locatelli will join Toprak Razgatlıoğlu at the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team for the 2021 FIM Superbike World Championship campaign. With Garrett Gerloff remaining at the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for 2021, where he will be joined by Japanese ace Kohta Nozane, it means that Yamaha will field one of the youngest rider line-ups in the championship.

Locatelli has enjoyed a stellar maiden WorldSSP season with the Evan Bros Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team, scoring a record-breaking 11 victories that saw him seal the title with two rounds to spare in Barcelona. Prior to this year’s success, the 23-year-old Italian arrives with six years of Grand Prix experience, in which he took a pair of podium finishes in the 2016 Moto3 championship.

On his WorldSSP debut, Locatelli scored a dominant victory in Phillip Island and continued to make waves after the season resumed, winning the next eight races in a row and taking his pole position tally to six, while last time out in Magny-Cours he broke another record, this time for most points scored in a single season. For 2021 the Italian will step up to the Pata Yamaha squad to partner Phillip Island race-winner Razgatlıoğlu, who remains in contention for third in the standings ahead of the Estoril finale.

Gerloff joined the WorldSBK championship from an impressive stint in the United States, in which he was crowned the MotoAmerica Supersport champion in both 2016 and 2017 and scored four victories on his way to third place in the 2019 MotoAmerica Superbike standings. The American has impressed with his quick adaptation to the WorldSBK championship and has been fully integrated into the GRT Yamaha squad, which for 2021 will be running the latest-spec Yamaha R1 machinery, identical to the Pata Yamaha bikes.

Throughout 2020, the 25-year-old continued to improve and claimed a breakthrough podium with a scintillating performance in Barcelona WorldSBK Race 2, while he also showed race-winning potential in the opening race at a wet Magny-Cours on his first visit to the circuit. After a debut season disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, remaining with GRT Yamaha for 2021 will provide Gerloff with the stability and familiarity that will be all-important as he gains experience at circuits he's yet to race at.

The American will be joined at the GRT Yamaha team by 2020 MFJ All-Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship leader Nozane, who will make his debut in the WorldSBK championship next year. The Japanese rider was the 2013 J-GP2 Class champion with Yamaha and is a multiple race-winner in the competitive JSB1000 series. This year, Nozane leads the championship having won every race so far, with just two double-header rounds remaining.

Alongside his national experience, the 25-year-old has also contested the FIM Endurance World Championship with the Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team and boasts a MotoGP outing with Yamaha in the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

Andrea Locatelli - Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team

I’m very proud and thankful to start this new adventure with Yamaha, it’s an important step for me after a great first year in the WorldSBK paddock. Thanks to Eric de Seynes, President of Yamaha Europe, Road Racing Manager Andrea Dosoli and Pata Yamaha Team Principal Paul Denning for trusting in me. I’m very excited to start working with the new team and my new crew chief Andrew Pitt, he’s a two-time world champion and has done a great job with Pata Yamaha. I’m also really looking forward to getting testing started, it’ll be the first time riding the Yamaha R1 for me and I can’t wait to get my preparations for the 2021 season underway.

Garrett Gerloff - GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team

I’m just super excited to be staying with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for the 2021 season. This year has been incredible; the people I work with on the team are exceptional, really positive and awesome people, so to be able to continue with them is fantastic. It’s going to be nice to hopefully have more of a normal year and to have some consistency in the team will be great for me. I’m really excited to be getting the new Yamaha R1 as well. Hopefully it will give us even more performance to take the fight to the current frontrunners in the championship. Thank you so much to Yamaha for continuing with me and giving me another opportunity to improve and show what I can do. I owe them and my team manager Filippo Conti everything. I think that we can do some great things next year and I’m more focused and determined than ever.

Kohta Nozane - GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team

I’ve felt WorldSBK would be the best place for me to keep growing as a rider, so I’m really happy to get a chance to race on the world stage again and I can’t thank Yamaha enough for the opportunity. I’ll be up against the best riders in the world on tyres different to what I use now, and almost all the circuits will be totally new to me, so I know it’s going to be a massive challenge. But, I take pride in being one of Japan’s top riders, so to live up to the expectations of Japanese fans as well as gain the respect of race fans around the world, I want to make my mark right from the start, so I’ll be doing all I can to be ready to race. I’ll be joining the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team and Garrett Gerloff has finished on the podium with them in his rookie season, so I know they’re strong and I can’t wait to work and grow with them next year. We’re in the middle of this year’s All Japan Road Race Championship and I’m leading in the points, so the goal is to come into WorldSBK as the All Japan JSB1000 Champion. My focus from here is on doing my best in the last two rounds of the season to take the title.

Andrea Dosoli - Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager

Yamaha Motor Europe is very excited to introduce this young and exciting rider line-up for the 2021 WorldSBK season. Obviously, this year we bid farewell to Michael van der Mark, who has made a significant contribution to Yamaha's WorldSBK program since joining us in 2017 and whom we wish all the best for the future. Replacing him we have a promising young talent in Andrea Locatelli, who was already a part of the Yamaha family. What he’s achieved in WorldSSP this year is incredible and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can achieve alongside Toprak Razgatlıoğlu in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team next year. For Garrett Gerloff it was important to offer some stability after a debut WorldSBK season disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, which is why he will remain with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for 2021. He has shown this year that he's capable of fighting at the front, even at tracks he's not familiar with, so we're excited to see what he can do next season on the 2021 specification Yamaha R1 and with a strong team behind him. We’re also delighted to welcome Kohta Nozane, who’s been the standout rider in the All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship this year, to the WorldSBK paddock. It’s important for both the series and for Yamaha to have a fast Japanese rider racing on the world stage and it means we’ll have the exciting prospect of having four riders representing three different continents on the 2021 WorldSBK grid.

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