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Marc Marquez Rides Again - Private Track Day At Barcelona

Marc Marquez took a major step closer to a return on Tuesday. The Spaniard rode a full-sized production bike - a Honda RC213V-S street bike - at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo. It was the first time he had ridden a big bike since pulling out of the Andalusian round at Jerez during his precipitate return after his first crash.

Marquez rode a track-prepared version of Honda's RC213V-S, the exclusive and limited edition race replica based on the RCV1000R CRT machine raced by the likes of Nicky Hayden and Jack Miller. One of the perks of being a multiple world champion for Honda is that they give you motorcycles to train on, and Marquez trains on the RC213V-S when he rides on a track. The bike was in full Repsol Honda colors - another perk of being a multiple world champion is your win bonuses will easily stretch to a special paint job.

In a tweet, shown above, Marquez said he had not enjoyed himself so much for a very long time. The Spaniard appears to have put in a lot of laps at Barcelona, accompanied and assisted by his crew chief Santi Hernandez and other members of his crew. The website has a longer version of the Twitter video clip on its website.

That would suggest a return for the six-time MotoGP champion is nearer than ever. Marquez has already flown to Qatar to receive the Covid-19 vaccine offered to the MotoGP paddock by the Qatari government, and is due to fly back to receive the second jab. The chances of Marquez at least trying to ride at one of the Qatar rounds appear to be very high, given how comfortable he appeared on the road bike. Whether a week is sufficient time to prepare for the rigors of riding a MotoGP bike remains to be seen, but the smart money is on the Repsol Honda rider participating in the second Qatar round at least.

How strong Marquez will be on his return is the big question. There is little reason to doubt his desire to race, the question is whether he is able to erase the doubts and fears from his mind. Knowing the character of Marc Marquez, that is unlikely to take very long.

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On The Road To Return: Marc Marquez Rides A Minibike, Heads To Qatar For A Vaccine

Marc Marquez sits on his Honda RC213V while recovering from injury at the Barcelona MotoGP round in 2020

Marc Marquez has finally started taking major steps toward a return to racing in MotoGP. Four major milestones were passed by the six-time MotoGP champion in the past week: he received the go ahead to start training more intensively, he rode a bicycle for the first time in months, he rode a motorcycle for the first time since Jerez last year, and he flew to Qatar to receive the vaccine against Covid-19 being offered by the Qatari regime to everyone in the MotoGP paddock.

On Friday, the Repsol Honda team announced that Marc Marquez had been given the green light to start to intensify his training, as the growth and consolidation of the bone in his right humerus was satisfactory and strong enough for him to start to place serious weight on the arm.

Marquez followed that up on Saturday with a couple of social media posts. In the first one, he was out cycling on his mountain bike, calling that "another small step".

The second post showed Marquez riding a minibike at an unspecified track, with a caption stating that he had ridden a motorbike for the first time in eight months, since his failed return at the Jerez 2 round at the end of July 2020.

To top it all off came the news that Marquez had flown to Qatar on Saturday, in order to vaccinated against the Coronavirus. The Spaniard had arrived on Saturday afternoon, for the specific purpose of receiving the first of his two vaccinations.

This timeline points to a path to Marc Marquez' full time return to the MotoGP paddock. Riding a minibike is a very, very long way from riding a MotoGP machine, but it is a small first step. The next step will be riding his flat track bike, a more physically demanding exercise. From that, he progresses to riding motocross, and then a fully-fledged production sports bike on a proper track.

It seems unlikely that Marquez can fit all that in within the next 13 days before the first race of the season at Qatar. Marquez is on the provisional entry list for Qatar, though that is a formality given he is one of the two official riders in the Repsol Honda team. It does give him options, should he decide he is fit enough, and it also allows Honda to maintain that Stefan Bradl's role is as a test rider, a notion which became more difficult to uphold through 2020 as Marquez missed the entire season.

Marquez will be in Qatar around the time of the first race, though. The Repsol Honda rider has traveled to Qatar to receive his first dose of the vaccine, but most return to be given his second dose in two weeks time. Those jabs are due to be given in the week between the first and second races in Qatar. 

That offers the intriguing prospect of a possible return to racing at the second round in Qatar. The timeframe for the first race is exceptionally tight, and perhaps more challenging that Marquez is willing to attempt given his experience with the aftermath of the Jerez crash last year. The second race is set to happen in three weeks' time, which would give Marquez that little bit of extra time to prepare more fully and test himself on various types of motorcycle.

Of course, Marquez may decide just to head to Qatar for his second vaccination, and then return home to prepare for a return at Portimão on April 18th, or wait another two weeks after that for Jerez. At this point in time, we can only guess: Marquez and his entourage, including his management, have remained silent on their plans, on occasion keeping even Honda in the dark. Marquez will return when he is ready. But that could be sooner than we think.


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Marc Marquez Gets Green Light To Intensify Training

There is light at the end of the tunnel for Marc Marquez, and the fears are receding that it might be an oncoming train. Today, the Repsol Honda team announced that the results of Marquez' medical assessment performed this week were positive, and the consolidation of bone in his fractured humerus was proceeding well.

That had been the major problem for Marquez in the latter part of last year. An infection of the fracture had stopped bone growth and badly delayed the healing process. Marquez had been forced to undergo a third operation to clean up the fracture, implant tissue to promote bone growth, and reduce infection.

That has finally paid off. In a medical assessment of the bone, the doctors who performed the third surgery pronounced themselves happy with the healing of his humerus, and that it was now strong enough for him to intensify his training and prepare for a return to motorcycle racing.

That does not necessarily mean that Marquez will be ready for Qatar, or at least, for the first race of the season there on March 28th. Marquez is yet to ride a motorcycle, but with this approval, he is ready to try a dirt track or motocross bike, to prepare the way for riding a MotoGP bike.

At the Repsol Honda launch last month, Marquez had been cautious about a return date. He would only move on to the next stage when he had both received the medical say so, and felt strong enough and ready for it physically. "Now I’m waiting for the bone consolidation," Marquez said back in February. "When it's OK I will continue with my rehabilitation, in the gym, with my physio. We will see. My target was to be in the Qatar test. The doctors said no. I accepted. The second target is try to be in Qatar race. Doctors will decide. This will be the process. But I will ride MotoGP bike when I will feel in an acceptable way, in good condition. Now, even if tomorrow the doctor says you can ride a bike, I’m not in the condition to ride a bike. We will see. I don’t have a clear target. The only clear target is I will not ride in Qatar test. Another target is this week I feel better than last week. This is the main target."

The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below:

Further update to Marc Marquez’s medical progress

In the medical review performed on Marc Marquez, 14 weeks after surgery for an infected pseudoarthrosis of the right humerus, the medical team led by Doctors Samuel Antuña and Ignacio Roger de Oña have clinically and radiographically verified satisfactory progression of bone consolidation. From this moment on, Marquez can now intensify his strength and mobility recovery programme with a view to gradually returning to competitive racing.


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Qatari Regime Offers Vaccination Program For Entire MotoGP Paddock Present In Qatar

The staff and freelancers present at the MotoGP test in Qatar are to be offered the chance to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The Qatari government has agreed to vaccinate all staff who want to receive the vaccine starting from tomorrow morning, before a large section of the paddock flies home in between the two tests. If they accept, they will receive a first shot on Friday morning, and the second of the two required doses after the first race at Losail, to be held on March 28th.

The stated objective of the vaccination is twofold: to protect the state of Qatar from having members of the MotoGP paddock bring the disease with them when they return for the 2021 season opening double header at the end of March. And to offer protection to a large group of itinerant workers who, by the very nature of their job, are at risk due to the amount of travel MotoGP has to do to get from race to race.

The decision to offer the vaccine followed on from a similar decision in Bahrain, where the regime there also offered the F1 teams and paddock a vaccination. A large section of the F1 paddock, including F1's organization, have rejected the offer, as being based in the United Kingdom, many are already enrolled in the UK's successful NHS vaccination program. Some teams, such as Ferrari, based in Italy, have chosen to accept the offer.

For MotoGP, where the vast majority of the teams are based in Spain and Italy, where vaccination started much later, there is more interest in the vaccine.

Despite the fact that there have been rumors for over a week or so that vaccination could be offered to the MotoGP paddock, there was still some confusion over what people would decide to do. When asked about vaccination, Maverick Viñales wasn't decided. "About the vaccination, I don't know," the Monster Energy Yamaha rider said. "I didn't even talk to the team yet. So we will see later on. But sure it's some protection that you put to yourself."

Of course, motorcycle racers are not the best people to ask about matters epidemiological, but if there is an exception, it is Miguel Oliveira. As a qualified dentist, the Portuguese rider at least has extensive medical training. But KTM told media that neither Red Bull Factory KTM rider would answer questions about the vaccination program.

There is another reason for Qatar offering the vaccine to the MotoGP paddock, of course, and that is because of the PR value. The value of that is debatable, however, at least from a national and organizational level.

For the state of Qatar, offering the vaccine to a group of privileged foreign visitors while according to the Oxford University project Our World In Data only 11% of their own eligible population has received the vaccine may seem to be favoring sport over the local residents. Qatar's large population of migrant workers, exploited and living in very cramped quarters, would seem to be much more deserving recipients than a group of people in the country for a few short weeks.

The decision to accept the Qatari offer can also backfire for Dorna. The organization is engaged in something which looks a little too much like queue jumping, exploiting the privilege which comes with elite sport. That may provoke a backlash in some quarters.

On the other hand, footage of high-profile athletes receiving the vaccine can also help to overcome vaccine hesitancy among some groups. As always, there are no easy solutions to complex questions.

The personal perspective is competely different from an organizational point of view. Individuals inside the paddock will rightly jump at the chance to protect themselves against a disease that just three weeks ago, claimed the life of former 125cc champion and team boss Fausto Gresini, and the lives of countless others directly or indirectly linked to the MotoGP paddock.

The press release from Dorna appears below:

The State of Qatar and MotoGP™️ partner to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to all members of the MotoGP™️ family coming to Doha

Thursday, 11 March 2021

The State of Qatar has significantly ramped-up its COVID-19 vaccination program in 2021, and as a result of this progress, it is able to offer all travelling members of the MotoGP™️ Paddock access to the vaccine.

Qatar and MotoGP™️ have been partners since 2004, when Losail International Circuit first joined the calendar, and Qatar has opened the MotoGP™️ calendar every year since 2007.

This season Qatar will host all pre-season testing for all classes of the Championship, as well as the first two Grands Prix, with the entire MotoGP™️ family being present in Qatar for up to five weeks.

To ensure the health and safety of the entire tour while they are in Qatar and on their continued travels around the world this season, the Government of the State of Qatar has offered MotoGP™️ access to COVID-19 vaccines.

All members of the Championship, including those working and travelling within the MotoGP™️ paddock, will have the chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The vaccination program is aimed at increasing the personal safety of all those on-site. It will offer increased protection for those in the MotoGP™️ paddock and all those that come into contact with it as the sport travels the world this season.

Qatar has provided incredible sporting moments and many milestones have been achieved together, and it is an honour to add another, even more vital for the longstanding collaboration. The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports would like to thank the State of Qatar for offering this incredible opportunity to the MotoGP™️ family which will help minimise any risk to the future of the Championship and all its members.


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2021 WorldSBK Calendar Updated - Estoril Postponed, Navarra Joins The Calendar

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed back the start of the WorldSBK season even further. After the Assen SBK round, which had been due to kick off the 2021 WorldSBK season, was postponed until July, Estoril had taken over as season opener. Now, however, the number of Covid-19 cases and the prevalence of the Brazilian variant in Portugal has meant that travel restrictions imposed to combat the virus make holding the Estoril round on the proposed dates extremely uncertain.

As a result, the Estoril round has also been postponed until later in the year. At the current point in time, a new date for the Portuguese round has not been set, but the most likely timing for the race is around July or August. That is when both the weather conditions are favorable and there are the biggest gaps in the schedule.

The summer break has already been shortened, with the insertion of an additional round at the Circuito de Navarra in Northern Spain. The track, situated 60km southwest of Pamplona, in the province of Navarra, has played host to the FIA GT1 championship and the Superleague Formula car races, as well as the RFME Spanish championship motorcycle races, joins Aragon, Barcelona, and Jerez to make it four rounds of WorldSBK in Spain in 2021.

Whether this is a permanent shift to have more Spanish races, or merely a response to another Covid-19 foreshortened season remains to be seen.

The 2021 WorldSBK season now kicks off at the Motorland Aragon circuit on May 21st, with races being held on the 22nd and 23rd of May.

The new calendar and press release appears below:

MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship/FIM Supersport and Supersport 300 World Championships
2021 Provisional* calendar, update 09 March

The Circuito de Navarra will make its debut on the WorldSBK calendar, while the Aragon Round becomes season opener due to Estoril postponement.

Due to ongoing local restrictions the FIM and Dorna WSBK Organization (DWO) confirm updates to the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, for what is set to be an exceptional season.

Following a further modification to the 2021 season, a new circuit will join the calendar as the Circuito de Navarra becomes the fifth Round of the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. Located in Los Arcos, in the north of Spain, the Circuito de Navarra was opened in 2010 and has already hosted events for both national and international level competition. The Spanish circuit will host, from the 20th to the 22nd of August, WorldSBK and WorldSSP classes.

MotorLand Aragon will now host the opening Round of the 2021 calendar from the 21st to the 23rd of May, due to the postponement of the Estoril Round, initially scheduled to be held from the 7th to 9th of May. All parties involved are working hard to confirm a new date for the event.

With the Supported Test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya taking place in less than a month, the FIM and Dorna WSBK Organization are constantly working with Government Officials and Circuits in order to continue putting everyone’s safety first.

Any further updates to the 2021 WorldSBK calendar will be communicated accordingly.

21 - 23 May Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
11 - 13 June Italy Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” X X X
2 - 4 July United Kingdom Donington Park X    
23 - 25 July The Netherlands TT Circuit Assen X X X
20 – 22 August Spain Circuito de Navarra X X  
3 - 5 September France Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours X X X
17 - 19 September Spain Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya X X X
24 - 26 September Spain Circuito de Jerez - Ángel Nieto X X X
1 - 3 October Portugal Autódromo Internacional do Algarve X X X
15 – 17 October Argentina Circuito San Juan Villicum X X  
12 – 14 November Indonesia Mandalika International Street Circuit*** X X  
TBA**** Australia Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit** X X  
TBA**** Portugal Circuito Estoril** X X X

*All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the global pandemic and the approval of the corresponding governments and authorities.

** (STC) Subject to contract / *** (STH) Subject to homologation /**** (TBA) Venue/event/date to be announced

2021 SUPPORTED TEST - Championship Filming and Photo-shoot season opening

  • 29 - 30 March: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya - WorldSSP & WorldSSP300
  • 31 March - 1 April: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya - WorldSBK

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MotoGP Paddock Packs Catalunya Circuit For World's Fastest Track Day

Nearly 41% of the MotoGP grid hit the track at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo near Barcelona on Wednesday, as the riders gathered together for what would essentially become the world's fastest track day. Nine MotoGP riders were joined by a handful of stars from Moto2, Moto3, and the WorldSBK paddock to get some track time, all on production machines.

The MotoGP stars on track included the Espargaro brothers, Pol and Aleix, both LCR Honda riders Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami, Ecstar Suzuki riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins, factory Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo, and the Ducatis of Jack Miller and Johann Zarco. Bikes used included the Ducati Panigale V4S, Yamaha YZF-R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Aprilia RSV4, the Honda RC213V-S, and a Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade ridden by Repsol Honda rider Pol Espargaro. On track in other classes were Ana Carrasco, Remy Gardner, Raul Fernandez, Tito Rabat, Albert Arenas, and Jaume Masia.

It was the first time some of the riders had gotten to sample the revised layout of Turn 10 at Barcelona, the corner having been restored to its former sweeping glory, if moved a little further away from the barriers on the other side of the F1 chicane at Turn 14. The responses to the revised corner were positive, as riders spoke to the official website

Jack Miller was perhaps the most enthusiastic. "The Montmelo circuit is fantastic and to have similar like the old layout is fantastic at Turn 10, you can carry the speed a lot, the asphalt has a lot of grip so 10/10 job for them," the factory Ducati rider said. "The turn layout is quite different, but it feels good," factory Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo told "It's between the old one and the F1 layout. I like it, and I'm happy to be back, one step closer to Qatar."

The day of riding was a warm up for when MotoGP testing starts in earnest in just over a week. The MotoGP rookies and test riders kick off the official preseason on March 5th at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, with the full MotoGP grid joining them for the two days after that.


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Fausto Gresini Dies From Complications Arising From Covid-19

Fausto Gresini

Fausto Gresini, double world champion and long-standing Grand Prix team manager, died this morning as a result of complications arising from a Covid-19 infection. The 60-year-old Italian was being treated for Covid-19 in the intensive care unit of the Carlo Alberto Pizzardi hospital in Bologna, Italy.

Gresini had been diagnosed with Covid-19 shortly before Christmas 2020. His condition worsened sufficiently for him to be admitted to hospital shortly after Christmas. From there, his condition grew worse, occasionally showing only minor improvements, but the disease caused severe damage to his lungs, meaning he required help breathing for long periods of time. The toll from the disease mounted up, Gresini eventually succumbing to the complications arising from Covid-19.

Fausto Gresini was born in Imola, Italy, in 1961, and began racing at the age of 17, in an era where racers started at a much later age. He joined the Grand Prix paddock in 1983, racing an MBA, a Morbidelli 125. Gresini would go on to win two World Championships, in 1985 and 1987, and take 21 Grand Prix victories in the 125cc class. The Italian remained a 125cc specialist, never leaving the smallest Grand Prix class.

After his racing career ended before the start of the 1994 season, Gresini turned to team management, starting the eponymous Gresini Racing team in 1997. The Italian had major successes, winning championships with Daijiro Kato in the 250 class in 2001, with Toni Elias in Moto2 in 2010, and with Jorge Martin in Moto3 in 2018. He also had major success in the MotoGP class, winning races with Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri.

Gresini had run the Aprilia factory MotoGP team for the Italian manufacturer since their official return to the class in 2015. Fausto Gresini was team manager for the operation, while Romano Albesiano and Massimo Rivola ran the Aprilia side of the organization.

Gresini's career was tinged with tragedy. Gresini was team manager for Daijiro Kato when the Japanese rider was killed at Suzuka in 2003. Gresini also had Marco Simoncelli as a rider in MotoGP in 2011, when the Italian was killed during the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

The team send their deepest condolences to the family, friends, and team colleagues of Fausto Gresini.

The statement from the Gresini Racing Team appears below:


The news we would have never wanted to give, and that unfortunately we are forced to share with all of you. After nearly two months battling against Covid, Fausto Gresini has sadly passed away, few days after turning 60.

All of Gresini Racing are close to Fausto’s family in support: his wife Nadia and the four children Lorenzo, Luca, Alice and Agnese... as well as everyone who had the chance to get to know him and love him throughout the years

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2021 WorldSBK Calendar Update - Assen Round Postponed To July, Season Starts In Estoril

The start of the 2021 WorldSBK season will have to wait for another two weeks. The Dutch round of WorldSBK, scheduled to take place at the TT Circuit Assen from 23-25th April, has been pushed back to 23-25th of July due to Covid-19 restrictions. The season will now start at Estoril, on the weekend of May 9th.

The postponement of the WorldSBK race to the end of July is a result of local restrictions put in place by the mayors of the largest municipalities in the Dutch province of Drenthe, where the TT Circuit Assen is located. The mayors have agreed to ban large-scale events until June 1st 2021, which rules out holding World Superbikes on the originally scheduled weekend.

The June 1st date is crucial in Drenthe, as several major events are due to take place in the province from June onward. Including the Dutch TT MotoGP round at Assen, still scheduled for June 27th. That race, like all major events at the moment, are subject to further changes to Covid-19 restrictions being relaxed or extended, a situation which is likely to extend until enough people have been vaccinated for the coronavirus to be limited to an inconvenience rather than a threat.

It is also worth noting that the restrictions in Drenthe forcing the postponement of the Dutch WorldSBK round are locally imposed. Although a national ban on events is still in place in the Netherlands, that ban has only been extended until June 1st in the province of Drenthe. Whether other events can go ahead, such as the MXGP round in Oss in May, is still undecided, subject to national restrictions.

The press release from the FIM with the new provisional calendar appears below:

2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship
provisional calendar update
The 2021 Dutch Round will be rescheduled for the end of July

Following the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting regulations, the FIM, Government Officials, the TT Circuit Assen and Dorna WSBK Organization (DWO) informs of the postponement of the Dutch Round to the 23rd to the 25th of July.

As local authorities have determined that no major events may be held in Drenthe until the 1st of June 2021, the Dutch Round, initially scheduled from the 23rd to the 25th of April, will now take place at the end of July.

FIM and Dorna WSBK Organization are constantly working with Government Officials and Circuits in order to continue putting the safety of everyone first. Any further updates to the 2021 WorldSBK calendar will be communicated accordingly.

7 – 9 May Portugal Circuito Estoril** X X X
21 - 23 May Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
11 - 13 June Italy Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” X X X
2 - 4 July United Kingdom Donington Park X    
23 - 25 July The Netherlands TT Circuit Assen X X X
3 - 5 September France Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours X X X
17 - 19 September Spain Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya X X X
24 - 26 September Spain Circuito de Jerez - Ángel Nieto X X X
1 - 3 October Portugal Autódromo Internacional do Algarve X X X
15 – 17 October Argentina Circuito San Juan Villicum X X  
12 – 14 November Indonesia Mandalika International Street Circuit*** X X  
STC Australia Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit** X X  

*All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the global pandemic and the approval of the corresponding governments and authorities.

** (STC) Subject to contract / *** (STH) Subject to homologation /**** (TBA) Venue/event/date to be announced

2021 SUPPORTED TEST - Championship Filming and Photo-shoot season opening

  • 29 - 30 March: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya - WorldSSP & WorldSSP300
  • 31 March - 1 April: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya - WorldSBK

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News Round Up: Launch Season Coming, 2022 Contracts, Rossi Interview, Honda Updates

Around this time in a normal year, we would be back from the launch of a couple of the MotoGP manufacturers, and looking forward to a couple more as we prepared to travel to Sepang for the first test of the year. But this is not a normal year, of course. Nor was last year, for that matter.

So instead of packing my bags in preparation of the test at Sepang – originally scheduled for the 19th-21st of February – I, like the rest of the media, are checking our microphones and internet connections to get ready to do the MotoGP launch season from home. And not just the launch season: in all probability, the media won't be allowed to physically attend a MotoGP race for the first half of the 2021 season at the very least. But at least we will have a 2021 MotoGP season.

Launch season kicks off tomorrow, with the presentation of the Ducati Factory MotoGP team. The launch will be streamed live on the Ducati website and on YouTube from 4pm CET on Tuesday, February 9th. Journalists will then afterwards get the chance to interview Ducati bosses Gigi Dall'Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, as well as new riders Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia.

Ducati leading off the launches is a MotoGP tradition, with the others following suit shortly after. The Monster Energy Yamaha team follows next Monday, February 15th, at 10:30am, when Fabio Quartararo will be introduced as Maverick Viñales' teammate in the factory Yamaha squad. The two sides of the LCR Honda garage follow a few days later on Facebook, Alex Márquez being presented at noon on February 19th, and Takaaki Nakagami at 10am on February 20th, while the Repsol Honda squad of Marc Márquez and Pol Espargaro will be presented on Monday, February 22nd.

Much media interest is expected for the Repsol Honda launch, Marc Márquez making his first public media appearance since last year. Many questions will be asked about his fitness, his injury, and much more.

Technically, of course, the Ducati Factory launch wasn't actually the first MotoGP team to launch. Last week, the Avintia/Sky VR46 Ducati squad of Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini streamed their team presentation via Instagram from what appeared to be a gas station in Andorra. Instagram Live proved to be a problematic platform for a team launch, especially when done from a phone with a spotty internet connection. No doubt the factory launches will all run a little more smoothly.

What's going on?

As we are still awaiting the start of the 2021 MotoGP season, meaningful news from the championship has been rather thin on the ground. But here is a quick overview of some of the most important stories at the moment.

The most shocking news in recent days was the huge fire which destroyed the building housing the pits at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Though the race had already been officially postponed (and unofficially canceled), the blaze put paid to any realistic chance of the race being held there in 2021.

The cause of the blaze appears to have been tracked down, according to German-language website Speedweek, quoting Argentinian daily Clarin. The fire was the result of a short circuit, which occurred at the site where some welding work was being done in the area housing the VIP lounges.

Fausto Gresini and Covid-19

Similarly disturbing is the long-running saga of Fausto Gresini's battle with Covid-19. The Italian team manager contracted the virus shortly before Christmas, and after a brief spell in hospital in Imola has spent the past month in the Intensive Care Unit of the Maggiore Carlo Alberto Pizzardi hospital in Bologna.

Although no longer being held in a medical coma, Gresini's condition is still very serious, with a severe respiratory failure due to the coronavirus and complications arising from the disease, including pneumonia. It has been a tough time for Gresini, and the MotoGP world is hoping for the best possible outcome for the Italian.

Barcelona's Turn 10 restored

In more positive news, the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya has received FIM and FIA approval for the changes made to Turn 10 at the circuit. Since the tragic death of Luis Salom in 2016 at the track, the circuit has used the F1 hairpin at Turn 10, instead of the classic long, round corner used up until then. The reason for dropping the classic layout was a lack of run off on the outside of the corner.

The circuit changes have addressed that problem with an ingeniously simple adaptation. The round corner has been restored, but the straight between Turns 9 and 10 has been shortened by several meters, and using the F1 hairpin as the starting point for a rounder corner. The two turns – the F1 hairpin and the long MotoGP corner – have been replaced with a single, more sweeping turn.

This is good news for the circuit, as the more sweeping variant of Turn 10 was a more natural corner for motorcycle racing. It has seen some classic battles – it was the place where Marc Márquez and now Repsol Honda teammate Pol Espargaro touched in Moto2 in 2012, forcing Espargaro into the gravel and generating controversy over the championship. And it should allow for a wide range of lines for the MotoGP bikes.

Contract time

There has also been a steady trickle of contracts with the MotoGP manufacturers, as they look ahead to the next five-year contract period with Dorna in MotoGP, from 2022 to 2026. Teams and factories are signing on for the next five-year slice of MotoGP.

The contracts are important because it means both guaranteed slots on the grid for five years, and guaranteed funding for the teams. It also means stability in the MotoGP technical regulations, with only minor changes allowed during the contract period through 2026. Dorna and the MSMA have that time to review the rules and discuss whether any major changes to engine capacity, type, etc need to be made.

All six MotoGP manufacturers are expected to sign up, as are most MotoGP teams bar Avintia/Esponsorama, which is expected to be bought out by the VR46 organization. So far, KTM, Honda, and Ducati have already signed up, as has the LCR team of Lucio Cecchinello. Suzuki, Yamaha, and Aprilia are expected to follow soon, Aprilia and Gresini going their separate ways so that Aprilia can compete as a factory, and Gresini race as an independent team once again.

Recommended reading

As a nine-time World Champion and legend of the sport, Valentino Rossi has the luxury of being able to keep his media appearances to an absolute minimum. Normally, he only does TV interviews, a contractual obligation it is very hard to get out of. Interviews with the written press are few and very far between.

Leading Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Serra was lucky enough to be given the chance to interview Rossi, his first interview with the written media since joining the Petronas Yamaha squad. Though wide-ranging in nature, the interview, in Italian here, does not contain very much we didn't already know.

Rossi talks of the strangeness of living through the Covid-19 pandemic; on the one hand, more time for training, on the other, less ability to socialize. "It's like having the plague," he joked. He spoke of why he wants to keep racing – "I race because I think I can win" – but explains that winning is much harder now, with so many good riders on the grid. He had been very close several times, he said, but the margin between winning and losing is now much slimmer.

Rossi laments losing his spot in the factory Yamaha squad, putting it down to the "MotoGP vice" of signing contracts very early, even before the 2020 MotoGP season had begun. He also described the fact that Andrea Dovizioso is without a ride as "absurd". "He is fast, he is an expert."

The part of the interview making all of the headlines is Rossi's comments on Marc Márquez. The Italian is still clearly very bitter indeed about the events of 2015, and how he saw them play out. It was impossible to forgive Márquez for what he had done, Rossi said. "What Márquez did to me is unforgivable," he told the Corriere della Serra.

Just how bitter is Rossi about it? He used the interview to claim that Márquez was not the strongest rival he had faced, a peculiar claim given that Rossi has only finished ahead of Márquez in the championship in one of the seven seasons they have competed against each other (not counting 2020). Rossi also suggested that Márquez' return to racing after breaking his humerus at the first Jerez round of 2020 was only possible because Dorna pushed the limits to a previously unheard of extent.

Honda Japan

For those of you who can read Japanese, there is also a fascinating interview with HRC bosses Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Takehiro Koyasu, who spoke to contributor Akira Nishimura for the Mr Bike website. There is much in the interview of interest, but one significant point was that Kuwata-san insisted that if Marc Márquez is not fit and ready to race at the start of the 2021 season, then it will be Stefan Bradl who takes his place. That implicitly rules out Andrea Dovizioso getting Márquez' ride, as many believed he would.

For those who don't read Japanese, the interview is still worth perusing. The Mr Bike website has a host of photos of the 2020 Honda RC213V without the fairings on, an exceptionally rare sight indeed.

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Massive Fire Destroys Garage Complex At Termas De Rio Hondo Circuit In Argentina

A huge fire has destroyed a large part of the facilities at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, home to the Argentinean round of MotoGP. The fire started in the early hours of Saturday morning, and damaged the building housing the pit garages. Fortunately there were no casualties.

According to a statement released by Héctor Farina, Director General of the circuit, the fire destroyed the pit complex, the media center, the VIP rooms, and Race Control. Other buildings, including the automotive museum, control tower, medical center, and offices were not damaged to any significant extent.

The statement went on to thank the firefighters, police, and circuit staff who tackled the blaze, despite the substantial danger posed by high winds which were fanning the flames.

The circuit facilities are covered by insurance, Farina stated, but the damage was so extensive that it will take some time to recover and rebuild. Farina concluded by saying the circuit would be working toward preparing for the MotoGP round already postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and provisionally scheduled for a date to be decided in November.

The chances of holding the 2021 MotoGP round in Argentina were already virtually zero thanks to the pandemic. The destruction of the garages and other facilities make it even more likely to be canceled completely.

The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is loved by fans and riders for its layout, but its remote location make it less well-liked by the teams. There have been rumors that the circuit is likely to be dropped in favor of the San Juan Villicum circuit used by the WorldSBK series instead. That circuit has better facilities, and is more easily accessible. The fire at Termas is only likely to accelerate any such moves.

Below is a Twitter thread with footage of the blaze at the circuit, from Argentinian journalist Leonardo Regueira:



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