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Tech3 Signs Up With KTM For 5 More Years In MotoGP

The satellite bike situation for the coming five-year contract period in MotoGP is starting to crystallize. Today, KTM and Tech3 announced that the French team would be staying inside the stable of the Austrian factory for the entire five years of the MotoGP period, from 2022 to 2026.

That Tech3 would stay with KTM was hardly a surprise: the French team won their first ever premier class race last season with Miguel Oliveira, and the team is an important part of KTM's talent structure, which brings riders through all the way from the Red Bull Rookies to MotoGP. But the fact that it is a five-year deal is unusual, satellite team contracts in MotoGP are usually only for two to three years.

With Tech3 signed up for 2022, that means that KTM will be on the grid with four bikes for 2022. Of the remaining satellite squads, Pramac is certain to remain with Ducati, playing a similar role to Tech3 at KTM, and the LCR squad will almost certainly continue with Honda. Petronas is also almost certain to stick with Yamaha for 2022 and beyond as well.

That leaves the Gresini and VR46 teams. Aprilia is keen to supply a satellite squad, for which Gresini is the most likely candidate, having so much experience with the Italian factory. VR46, meanwhile, is likely to take over the Ducatis from the departing Esponsorama squad. But there is a possibility that Gresini could take Ducatis as well, with Ducati supplying a total of eight bikes in MotoGP. "It's something we have done before," Ducati Corse sporting director Paolo Ciabatti told Italian media. Decisions are likely to be made in the next four to six weeks, with VR46 hoping to make a decision as early as the next race at Le Mans.

The press release from KTM appears below:


KTM extend beneficial MotoGP™ partnership with Tech3 KTM Factory Racing until 2026

There will be four full-factory KTM RC16s on the MotoGP grid for the next five seasons after KTM renewed their association with the Tech3 KTM Factory Racing team and one of the most successful satellite squads in Grand Prix.

Tech3 turned ‘orange’ for 2019 where they helped promising rookie Miguel Oliveira impress with several top ten results. The team and the Portuguese star were able to graduate to the role of Grand Prix winners in 2020 when Oliveira triumphed in Austria and Portugal: bringing Tech3 their first garlands in the premier class.

The 2021 season marks exactly twenty years since the team first entered the premier class of the FIM Grand Prix World Championship. Tech3 was founded in 1990 and enjoyed title success in the old 250cc category before making the jump. They have had representation through the Grand Prix divisions but didn’t scale the heights of MotoGP until Oliveira’s breakthrough achievement last summer.

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director: “We are very proud to make this announcement of a new five-year deal with Tech3. It is a very important strategic move for us as part of our long-term strategy in the sport. We already agreed our participation with Dorna for another five years and it was vital to have that foundation and stability in MotoGP by renewing our agreement with Tech3. For the last few years we have been building-up our structure and now it provides an incredible path from Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, Moto3, Moto2 and then four valuable places in the premier class where we want to succeed. With Hervé and the Tech3 crew we have the ideal partner and we see the whole operation as part of ‘one team’. It’s more than a pleasure to say we’ll be able to attack the next five years together.”

Hervé Poncharal, Team Principal, Tech3 KTM Factory Racing: “I feel very proud, very privileged and very honored to announce our renewed partnership with KTM. I think we will be the first independent team to announce a five years agreement with a manufacturer in MotoGP history. This is quite an achievement and it also highlights how strong our relationship is and how well the first three years of our partnership have been working. I believe the best is yet to come. We share the same values, the same target, which is to never give up and be ready to race. So now that this deal is done, signed, confirmed, let’s work even harder on the 2021 season and of course let’s think how to be best prepared for 2022. I really believe this organization has all the ingredients to be winning and it’s just up to us to put all the pieces together to make it work and chase victory at every single round.”

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2021 WorldSBK Calendar Updated Again - Phillip Island Dropped, Czech Round In Most Added

The 2021 WorldSBK calendar has been updated once again in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. After delaying the Australian round provisionally until the end of the season, the Phillip Island event has now been postponed until 2022. And a race in the Czech Republic, in Most, has been added in the middle of the calendar.

The Australian round has always been the most precarious date on the calendar. Australia continues to impose very strict rules on entry into the country, with restrictions making inbound and outbound travel almost impossible. Rather than wait out the uncertainty of whether a race might take place in 2021, Dorna and the organizers decided to move the race back a few months to its previous place as the opening round of the 2022 season.

To fill the gap left by Phillip Island, the Czech circuit in Most, in the northwest of Czechia. The Autodrom Most, which lies roughly halfway between the Czech capital Prague and the Sachsenring, in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany, has not hosted WorldSBK before, and is taking the opportunity to expand its presence on the global racing scene. It is a popular destination for track days and has hosted various high profile car racing events, including the ALMS and European NASCAR series.

Most has signed a five-year deal to host a round of WorldSBK. The World Superbike championship will be racing at the Czech circuit through the 2025 season. The date chosen, in early August, slots nicely into the spot in the calendar which was previously occupied by the MotoGP championship in Brno, which has chosen not to resurface the track, thereby forfeiting the right to host MotoGP.

Below is the revised 2021 WorldSBK calendar, and below that the press release announcing the calendar changes:

DATE COUNTRY CIRCUIT WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300
21 - 23 May Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
28 - 30 May Portugal Circuito Estoril 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
6 - 8 August Czech Republic Autodrom Most 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 Xs 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 TBA TBA**** 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.

*** (STH) Subject to homologation


The Autodrom Most will make its debut on the WorldSBK Calendar in 2021 after signing a five-year agreement, while the Australian Round is set to return in 2022.

The FIM, the Autodrom Most and Dorna WSBK Organization (DWO) are delighted to announce a new agreement that will see the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship race in Czech Republic from 2021. The five-year agreement means the Czech Round will be included in the WorldSBK Calendar until 2025 with the announcement made at a presentation in Prague on Thursday 29th of April.

The Autodrom Most will host the Czech Round for the first time as it joins the WorldSBK calendar with the Czech circuit hosting the sixth Round of the 2021 season from the 6th to the 8th of August. All three classes as well as the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU European Cup will compete at the Autodrom Most, which includes two Czech riders in WorldSSP300 with Petr Svoboda and Oliver König as well as the Jakub Smrz-run Accolade Smrz Racing team.

Located near Prague, the Autodrom Most was opened in 1983 and was then the first permanent motor racing complex in what was then known as Czechoslovakia. The circuit has already hosted many motorsport events including national motorcycle championships and will be a new, exciting addition to WorldSBK in 2021; while the Championship venue fits within the circuit's commitment to be part of the sports, social and cultural life of the region. The event will also be broadcast live on Czech channel Nova Sport, following a five-year agreement with DWO.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the FIM, the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and DWO have agreed there will be no 2021 edition of the Australian Round. We will now work for a return to the iconic venue in 2022 in the most successful way as the first event of the 2022 Championship.

Josef Zajíček, Autodrom Most Chief Executive Officer: “This is a milestone and a unique event during Autodrom’s history of almost 40 years. We are becoming organisers of World Championship races for the first time. This fact places demanding technical and organisational requirements on us. Nevertheless, we are happy to take up this challenge. Our objective is to open our complex to the general public, which is why we have to offer the best-quality events possible to our racing fans; the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship indisputably belongs to such events. We will make sure that the riders, teams, partners, sponsors as well as spectators may be absolutely satisfied with us and look forward to the next edition of this fantastic display of powerful machines and brave riders.”

Jan Šťovíček, Czech Republic Autoclub’s president: “Speaking for the Autoclub of the Czech Republic, the nation’s authority for motorcycle sports, I’m delighted to see Czech fans at a Czech track enjoying world-class motorcycle road racing, and I’m equally glad that I could contribute to this event. Naturally it’s a win for the promoter of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship too: acquiring a new route with an attractive profile and an experienced organising team is not easy at the moment.”

David Bennett, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, General Manager: “Phillip Island has hosted more World Superbike events than any other circuit in the world. We agree that now is the time to focus our efforts on the Official Test and season opening Round in 2022. The decision not to run a round in 2021 will not adversely impact the continuation of the event. The event is secured for the Phillip Island Circuit until 2027.”

Gregorio Lavilla, WorldSBK Executive Director: “We are thrilled to welcome the Autodrom Most to our calendar for the next five seasons. Today’s announcement that WorldSBK is set to return to the Czech Republic for the first time since 2018 reflects the continuing popularity of the Championship among the Czech fans. With Czech teams and riders within the paddock, this is a great opportunity to showcase the Czech Republic on a world stage and I trust the Autodrom Most will be hosting exciting events in the future. Regarding Australia, all parties involved decided that analysing the latest changes in all major motorsport events and with the current uncertainty related to the pandemic, the best solution was to move the event to our usual start-of- the-season date in 2022. We look forward to returning there next year with the Australian Round a key event of the Championship.”

With the 2021 season set to begin 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.

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VR46 Team Announces Saudi Backing For MotoGP Project - Sportwashing Or Business As Usual?

There is good news and bad news for MotoGP. The good news is that the VR46 team will, as expected, make the full-time leap to the premier class for 2022, replacing the departing Esponsorama team. The VR46 team has signed a five-year deal with Dorna to compete in MotoGP during the next contract period, from 2022-2026.

Which bikes the VR46 team will use is still to be determined. The choice appears to be between Ducati and Aprilia, with a decision to be made in the next month or so. Given that VR46 are already fielding Luca Marini in MotoGP via a collaboration agreement with the Esponsorama squad, alongside Enea Bastianini, the most logical step would be for the team to continue working with Ducati.

In the end, the decision will come down to the level of support available. Alberto Tebaldi, head of VR46 and a long-time friend and confidant of Valentino Rossi, told Matteo Aglio of GPOne.com that having factory support mattered. The Aprilia was looking like a competitive machine, Tebaldi said, but the difference which factory support made could be the difference between success and failure. "I think that today, with the gaps that exist, this is fundamental. If you don't have support at the level of the official teams in MotoGP, it becomes difficult. You lose those 4 or 5 tenths, and you're screwed."

While it is undoubtedly good news that a team with the experience and talent of the VR46 outfit, and backed by the biggest name in motorcycle racing (and one of the biggest in global sport), the bad news is the source of the sponsorship. The title sponsor of the team is Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia.

Aramco is the highest valued company in the world (a title it competes for with US tech giants Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon), and a key part of the economy of Saudi Arabia, managing the vast majority of Saudi oil and gas production, which makes up 42% of the country's GDP.

Aramco is also a key part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 project, backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aimed at transforming the country and reducing its reliance on the oil and gas industry. The country is trying to sell shares of up to 5% of the company to fund the Vision 2030 transformation programs, and to soften resistance to the program as the economy shifts away from a guaranteed income for Saudi citizens toward an economy based more on private industry.

Part of that shift has involved huge societal changes: relaxation of the incredibly strict practices imposed under the form of Wahhabi Islam which is the official religion of Saudi Arabia, allowing entertainment, loosening rules on the mixing of the sexes, and weakening the role the religious police play in the Kingdom. Vision 2030 has seen the building of a whole host of entertainment complexes as part of a vast construction program.

That is where the VR46 project comes in. The deal between VR46 and Aramco has been signed through Tanal Entertainment Sport and Media, who are heavily involved in the KSA New Cities project. Part of that project is the creation of a new racing circuit in Saudi Arabia.

The tie-up came through contacts between Alberto Tebaldi and Marco Bernadini, an Italian architect who is working closely with Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud, which started with discussions about a VR46 theme park, similar to the Ferrari theme park in Abu Dhabi, and then went far beyond to become a sporting collaboration including the Aramco title sponsorship. "It is a true collaboration, and fills us with pride, because we have been working on it for a long time," Tebaldi told GPOne.com.

The collaboration is part of a wider move on the part of Saudi Arabia. The Vision 2030 project has included tempting various major sporting events to the kingdom, including hosting the Dakar Rally in 2020 and 2021, after the South American countries funding it since its move out of Africa refused to pay for the event. Saudi Arabia has also signed a deal with F1 to host a race at a street circuit near Jeddah later this year.

This is because the Vision 2030 project contains a huge element of what is referred to as sportwashing, the use of high-profile sports events to gloss over Saudi Arabia's appalling record on human rights, and many other fronts. The use of popular, major events, and extremely popular figures is meant to distract from the dark side of Saudi Arabia, and boost its image globally.

The problems of Saudi Arabia are widely documented. Women are subject to so-called guardianship, whereby they are not viewed as having any independent existence outside of their male relatives. Sexual harassment and abuse is widespread, and the guardianship system makes it difficult to escape that abuse, as a surge in pseudonymous social media posts revealed last year.

Migrant workers are subject to the Kafala system, also in use in Qatar, whereby they are at the mercy of their employers who obtained their visa for them, and results in many cases in something closely resembling indentured servitude. During the Covid-19 pandemic, migrant workers were locked in detention camps in squalid conditions with little access to food or water, with many dying as a result.

Political dissent is absolutely forbidden, as is any religious worship outside of the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam. Those criticizing the Saudi regime for their approach to human rights are frequently imprisoned, such as Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned for the right of women to drive, and spent two and a half years in a maximum security prison as a result.

The Saudi regime also has a habit of executing its critics, either via dubious pseudo-judicial processes or via outright extrajudicial murder, as was the case with Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist who was killed and dismembered with a bone saw in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

While Saudi Arabia is using the popularity and profile of Valentino Rossi to whitewash their own image, the risk for Rossi is that his own image and legacy will be tarnished by association with the Saudi regime.

Of course, this collaboration between the VR46 team and Saudi Arabia is hardly the first time motorcycle racing has been involved in ethically dubious projects. Though the long association with tobacco sponsorship largely ended when sports sponsorship was finally banned in 2006, tobacco giant Philip Morris still provide a large part of Ducati's budget. Ducati are also being sponsored by Lenovo this year, and though the computer maker is nominally a privately held company, it holds very close ties to the Chinese government, and its products have been banned for use by intelligence agencies in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Tobacco has largely been replaced by energy drinks as a source of sponsorship, though the ethics of that industry are not much better. Energy drinks have been linked to diabetes, obesity, and similar diseases due to their very high sugar content, and the purchase price bears almost no relation to the cost of production.

MotoGP holds a race in Qatar, which uses a similar Kafala visa sponsorship system to Saudi Arabia. They race in Thailand, where strict lèse-majesté laws ban all criticism of the Thai royal family. There are plans to race in Indonesia at the Mandalika International Circuit in a tourist resort which has been criticized by the UN for seizing land from local farmers and fishermen without offering compensation and evicting them from their land.

And yet the link with Saudi Arabia feels somehow worse. The human rights record of Saudi Arabia is far worse than any of the other countries MotoGP is involved in. And the role of Aramco as title sponsor seems to be a far more blatant attempt at sportswashing the regime than any commercial interest from the involvement.

It seems unlikely that Valentino Rossi will escape the tie up with his reputation unscathed. In the past, Rossi made a point of resisting tobacco sponsorship, and yet VR46 has no qualms over links to a regime which practices the death penalty on an almost industrial scale. A figure of Rossi's stature – the most important and significant figure in motorcycle racing of all time, and almost single-handedly responsible for the explosion in the popularity of the sport in the 21st Century – should not struggle to find partners willing to pay for the privilege of being linked with his name. Which makes it all the more curious that the VR46 team would make a conscious choice to agree to be the face of the regime which would appear to be the antithesis of almost everything he stands for.

The press release announcing the deal appears below:


TANAL ENTERTAINMENT SPORT & MEDIA ANNOUNCES IMPORTANT STRATEGIC AGREEMENT BETWEEN VR46 TEAM AND ARAMCO IN THE MOTORCYCLE SECTOR GP 2022

Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media, the holding company of HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud, is pleased to announce an important strategic agreement with VR46 Team, Valentino Rossi's company, for the near future of MotoGP.

In 2022 the VR46 Team will debut in the MotoGP class together with Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media with Saudi Aramco, as the new Main Sponsor for the period 2022-2026: the new ARAMCO Racing Team VR46 will heat the track supported by other important sponsors of the world scene.

Saudi Aramco, the company already heavily involved in motorsport including in F1, will therefore enter the 2022 MotoGP World Championship through the VR46 Team.

A wide-ranging partnership between Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media and VR46 Team which aim to communicate the major projects within the program, developed following the previous sponsorship agreement for the 2021 sports season, with their partners.

Shared strategies and vision, synthesis of a mutual sharing objectives, led to the extension of this partnership by signing this important five-year agreement: an extensive joint-venture between Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media and VR46 Team which also presents the activation and management of communication.

In addition to the traditional commercial promotion through the activity of the VR46 Team, a communication strategy will be aimed at promoting the programs related to the impressive Saudi Vision 2030 project.

Based on the Vision 2030, Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media will present the new scenarios of future life that will be created in Saudi Arabia, starting with sports and entertainment infrastructures for the general public, up to involving large urban projects in the name of sustainability keeping in mind the green vocation that characterizes the KSA New Cities brand.

KSA New Cities is the brand that promotes Saudi Arabia' majestic new cities projects wich include NEOM and Najima The Fantastic City. Project developed with the support of the Korean KMHG team and the creative contribution of Italian and Saudi architects. New cities that will involve sport at the forefront with different forms of entertainment such as the creation of racing track for young drivers and new competitions.

A communication dedicated to the various projects also in support of international industrial programs in the world of motosport, motorcycling and motoring, developed by His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud with MAIC Technologies.

Sponsor of VR46 Team and Team Bardahl VR46 Riders Academy MAIC Technologies role, is to develop and increment the production of road vehicles in Saudi Arabia. Also MAIC Technologies will produce the first prototype of a four-wheel drive off-road motorcycle with hybrid, thermal and electric propulsion, Joint by several partners from automotive Industry.

The joint-venture with VR46 Team confirms its intentions to take the sporting project to the MotoGP class from 2022, maintaining its presence in the Moto2 class. VR46 Team once again demonstrate its commitment and ability in promoting new talents showing its ambitious horizon.

The brand Aramco as the team main sponsor, will accompany us in the sporting future new scenarios with ‘our’ shared ambitions and projects for years to come!


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2021 WorldSBK Calendar Updated - Estoril To Be Second Race Of The Season

After the previous revision to the 2021 WorldSBK calendar, where the Estoril round was postponed, Dorna, the FIM and the Circuito Estoril have found a new date for the Portuguese round of the World Superbike Championship. The Estoril round is to be held the week after the opening round at Aragon, from May 28th to May 30th.

The season will start at the Motorland Aragon circuit near Alcañiz on May 21st, before heading to Estoril. The tail end of the season is still to be settled, with the controversial Mandalika circuit in Indonesia set for November, and a date for the Australian round to be announced for the end of the year.

The revised calendar appears below:


2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship
provisional calendar update

The Circuito Estoril will host the second Round of the 2021 season with WorldSBK and WorldSSP classes taking to the Portuguese venue.

The FIM and Dorna WSBK Organization (DWO) are thrilled to announce that the Circuito Estoril will host WorldSBK and WorldSSP classes for the second Round of the 2021 season from the 28th to the 30th of May. The 2021 season will start with a double header for the fifth time in MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship history as the Estoril Round goes back-to-back with the Aragon Round. The Circuito Estoril hosted the 2020 Championship-deciding season finale, with the 2021 event also set to be full of action.

With the 2021 season set to begin in just over 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 and to ensure the original scheduled programme for all three classes is accomplished.

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

DATE COUNTRY CIRCUIT WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300
21 - 23 May Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
28 - 30 May Portugal Circuito Estoril 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 TBA TBA**** 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

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LED Panels To Be Used At All Remaining MotoGP Races In 2021

MotoGP is to get a head start on the implementation of LED flag panels for the remainder of the 2021 MotoGP season. The panels, which will be made compulsory by both the FIM and FIA from 2022, are to be transported from track to track by LED panel manufacturer EM Motorsport, and used for each race.

The panels are already being used in some tracks. They have been present at the Le Mans circuit for a couple of years, where the MotoGP riders got their first taste of them, and Assen fitted LED panels as part of their upgrades to the circuit at the end of the 2019 season.

The riders have been pushing for this to happen for some time, Aleix Espargaro explained at Portimão. "This was one thing that the riders had requested to Dorna. In Le Mans, because of the 24 Hours, we had banners from two or three years ago, and sincerely, it helps in some places in Le Mans. So after the Le Mans race two years ago, we asked Dorna to try to have it everywhere, so they did a great job."

Having LED flag panels will help, but the responsibility will still ultimately lie with rider, Espargaro said. "There are some riders who say it will change their life, and I don't agree. If you don't want to see a yellow flag and you want to keep pushing for your own interest and doing the fast lap, you can put LED panels, you can put a yellow flag in the middle of the corner, you will not close the throttle. But obviously, in some places where you have a big runoff area because it is a very fast corner, the LED panels can help."

The press release from Dorna appears below:


Digital Flag Panels to be used from Portuguese GP
Dorna to install high-tech digital Flag Panels at all MotoGP™ circuits in 2021
Thursday, 15 April 2021

Dorna Sports are delighted to announce an agreement with EM Motorsport to supply the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship with 22 digital, high-tech flag panels for use at each Grand Prix event. From 2022, it will be mandatory for circuits that host MotoGP™ to install T1 or T2 panels following a joint directive from the FIM and FIA to increase the visibility of and information regarding track conditions for all competitors in order to increase their safety during any incident, regardless of the discipline. The introduction of the panels for the rest of the 2021 MotoGP™ season, before they are mandatory, will enable both the riders and each host circuit to become accustomed to the technology before the new regulations come in.

The 22 new high-tech flag panels, which will travel with the MotoGP™ paddock throughout the remainder of 2021, will make their debut at the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal. Homologated Digital Flag Panels provide excellent visibility at high speeds in all weather conditions, making it easier for the riders to know the status of the circuit during sessions and increasing safety significantly. Particularly, EM Motorsport has vigorously tested its Flag Panels to ensure that whatever the weather or lighting conditions, they can be seen clearly utilising a brightness of 64,000 candela per square meter. They have been the first to be homologated by the FIM and FIA.

MotoGP™ will use a combination of T1 and T2 panels, with the T1s being used at long run off areas and fast straights and the T2s covering the rest of the circuit. T1 panels are EM Motorsport’s flagship product, with T2 panels evolving from those to offer the high-end technology to the entirety of the motorsport market. T1 and T2 differ in dimensions and performance in order to adapt to different Championship and circuit needs.

The Flag Panels will be fully integrated into MotoGP™’s current Race Control system, meaning the panels will be controlled first and foremost by Race Control, enabling them to change the status of the entire circuit instantly. Each panel has a console that will be operated by a trackside marshal for localised yellow flags and sector incidents. Marshals will be given full training on how to use the new panels before each event. The positions of the panels around the track will be determined by the FIM MotoGP™ Safety Officer, ensuring that they are placed in the natural eyeline of the riders throughout the lap.

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Private MotoGP Test In Jerez: Andrea Dovizioso To Get First Ride On Aprilia RS-GP

Monday sees the start of three days of activity at the Jerez ciruit, as first the MotoE teams, and then MotoGP test teams get to work at the Andalusian circuit. Alongside the full MotoE grid - it is an official MotoE test - the test teams of Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Yamaha will be present at the track.

Though the MotoE test is an official event, a one-day official test or the electric motorcycle class, and will consequently have live timing available via the MotoGP.com website, the MotoGP part of the test is a private test, and will therefore run without coverage, and without transponders. The MotoGP test teams will be at Jerez from Monday through Wednesday, sharing the track on the first day with the MotoE teams (and making use of the dead track time while the Energica machines are recharging between sessions), before having the track to themselves for the final two days of the test.

Though there will be no official coverage of the test, media interest in the test is high. For alongside KTM's Dani Pedrosa, Honda rider Stefan Bradl (now demoted to test rider again with the return to competition of Marc Marquez), Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow, and Lorenzo Savadori, Andrea Dovizioso will be making his debut aboard the Aprilia RS-GP. The ex-Ducati veteran will be getting his first taste of what from the Qatar test and races looks like being a competitive bike.

The test is the first of two which Dovizioso is scheduled to have with Aprilia. The Italian is also due to try the RS-GP at Mugello in May, and despite protestations to the contrary by both sides, the test is widely seen as a way for the two sides to assess one another. Aprilia gets a look at how Dovizioso works, and Dovizioso gets to see exactly how competitive the RS-GP really is.

The rider who won't be at Jerez, at least not on a MotoGP bike, is Marc Marquez. There had been rumors that the Spaniard could ride at Jerez, but the MotoGP rules make it clear that private testing is only allowed at a two-day private test already planned for later in the year. If Marquez were to attend, he could ride the Honda RC213V-S street bike, of course. But so far, it looks like Marquez is saving himself for his MotoGP return at Portimao on Friday.

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Marc Marquez Given Green Light To Return At Portimao MotoGP Round

Marc Marquez has finally been given the green light to return to racing. On Friday, the Repsol Honda rider visited the doctors in Madrid who have been treating him since his decision to have a third operation on the right humerus he broke at the opening round in 2020 in Jerez, and the doctors assessed that the bone growth in his humerus was finally strong enough to assume the normal risks associated with racing, and crashing. That means that Marquez will make his MotoGP return next Friday, the 16th of April, when he takes to the track at Portimao for free practice.

It has been a long and difficult road for Marquez. He broke his humerus as he cut his way through the field trying to recover the ground lost after running wide and off track in the opening race of the 2020 season, at Jerez in July. He had surgery later that week, and was doing push ups again on the day after his surgery. He attempted to ride in the Andalusian round at Jerez, the Saturday after breaking his humerus. But he pulled out after FP4.

That attempt to ride proved to be a very bad decision. The stresses involved in preparing and trying to ride stressed the plate inserted into his humerus, and it eventually broke as he tried to open heavy glass patio doors. A second operation to replace the plate resulted in an infection of the bone, preventing the bone from growing and recovering strength, and eventually, a third operation was needed, to clean the infected site, replace the plate a second time, and insert bone growth agent.

Since that operation, in mid-December 2020, Marquez has made slow but steady recovery toward full fitness. He rode a minibike at a track for the first time on March 12th, and took part in a track day on a Honda RC213V-S production bike at Barcelona a couple of days later. Another track day at Portimao followed, but at that point, his doctors judged the bone consolidation of the humerus was not sufficiently advanced to allow the Spaniard to race safely again. Marquez was forced to miss the two opening rounds at Qatar, though at the insistence of his entourage, the press release issued stated only that he would miss the first race, even though Marquez himself posted on social media that he would miss both races.

Another inspection was planned, this time for the week before Portimao. The date for his medical assessment was announced as April 12th, but like many of the announcements in the run up to his return, that date was incorrect, to throw journalists off the trail and allow Marquez to take a more measured approach. He actually underwent the exam on Friday, April 9th, and the announcement he had been passed fit was made this morning, April 10th.

The big question is how Marquez will approach his return, and whether any lingering fears from this traumatic process will affect the riding of the six-time MotoGP champion. There are hints of this in his past. In an interview with MotoMatters at Assen 2018, Marc Marquez talked about fear when riding after the huge crash he suffered at the end of the straight at Mugello in 2013. He didn't believe he was afraid, he explained, but the data showed otherwise. "I think that was because I was afraid, because normally in that point it's full gas, and after that crash I was closing the gas. And my data recording guy says, 'Look at Dani and Cal, they are full gas, just try to be full gas,' but I said to him 'No, I'm full gas'. But I thought that I was full gas, but always I was closing the throttle. I said, 'No, I'm full, check the data', they said 'no, look' and then I went out again and I thought it was full gas, but no, I was closing. But it was the only time. The rest of the time I am not afraid."

His record bears him out. After that incident, Marquez went on to win the title at his first attempt, becoming the youngest ever MotoGP champion in history. And his success continued, winning in 2014, and from 2016 through 2019. In 2019, Marquez achieved the unparalleled feat in the modern era of finishing no lower than second in every race bar Austin, where he crashed out. Marc Marquez may take a little while to get up to speed. But there is little doubt that he will.

The press release from the Repsol Honda team and Marc Marquez' tweet announcing his return appear below:


Marquez cleared to return

In the review carried out on Marc Marquez by the Hospital Ruber Internacional medical team, four months after surgery, led by Doctors Samuel Antuña and Ignacio Roger de Oña, and made up of Doctors De Miguel, Ibarzabal and García Villanueva, for an infected pseudoarthrosis of the right humerus, a very satisfactory clinical condition was found, with evident progress in the bone consolidation process. In the current situation, Marquez can return to competition, assuming the reasonable risk implicit in his sporting activity.

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Dorna Approves Progress Of Mandalika Circuit In Indonesia - First Contours Of 2022 Calendar Appear

Today, Dorna issued a press release praising the progress being made in the construction of the Mandalika International Street Circuit, the new circuit being built inside the Mandalika tourist resort on the island of Lombok in Indonesia. FIM Safety Officer Franco Uncini, Race Direction representative Loris Capirossi, and Dorna Managing Director Carlos Ezpeleta, son of CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, visited the Mandalika site to assess progress and the safety of the site.

During their meeting, the Dorna and FIM staff agreed a tentative schedule for events with representatives from the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and the Mandalika Grand Prix Association (MGPA). The plans for a World Superbike round in November were reaffirmed, subject to international travel being possible despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The parties also agreed to hold the inaugural MotoGP round at the circuit there in March 2022, with the option of a MotoGP test at the circuit during the Asian flyaways in October, should those races happen.

Setting a provisional date for the Indonesian Grand Prix draws the outlines for the possible start of the 2022 MotoGP season. There had been plans to move the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island to the start of the season for 2021, but the pandemic put paid to that idea. The idea had previously met with resistance from the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, but last year, the organization which runs both the F1 and MotoGP races changed its mind, giving such a move their blessing.

With Mandalika set for March, the 2022 season could kick off at Phillip Island, before moving to Indonesia. From there, the series would fly to Qatar, and then on to Austin and the Circuit of the Americas, before heading back to Europe for the summer round of races, starting in Jerez.

Switching the Phillip island race to be the MotoGP season opener may not be popular with the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, which currently holds a contract to be the first race of the season. However, with Saudi Arabia pushing to hold both an F1 race and a MotoGP race, that has given Dorna leverage in the negotiations. Paddock rumor suggests that one condition for a race in Saudi Arabia happening is that Dorna would drop the race at Qatar. Dorna can use that to persuade Qatar to accept a change of date for the race, and turn down the offer from Saudi Arabia.

The other reason for rejecting the advances of Saudi Arabia is the country's appalling human rights record, its proxy war in Yemen, which has seen thousands of civilians to die, and the country's habit of murdering journalists such as Jamal Khashoggi and imprisoning women's rights campaigners such as Loujain al-Hathloul.

The Mandalika International Street Circuit is not without its own controversy, however. The United Nations Human Rights Council issued a statement condemning abuses by the Indonesian government over the building of the circuit and the wider resort. The report condemned the aggressive seizing of land from farmers and fishing families, forced evictions of Sasak indigenous peoples, and intimidation and threats against human rights activists.

“Farmers and fisher folks have been expelled from their land and have endured the destruction of their houses, fields, water sources, cultural and religious sites, as the Government of Indonesia and the ITDC (Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation) groomed Mandalika to become a ‘New Bali’,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

“Credible sources have found that the local residents were subjected to threats and intimidations and forcibly evicted from their land without compensation. Despite these findings, the ITDC has not sought to pay compensation or settle the land disputes,” UN human rights experts said.

As with the maltreatment and abuse of migrant workers in Qatar, such abuses will not prevent the event from going ahead, of course.

Below is the press release from Dorna:


FIM and Dorna representatives visit Mandalika International Street Circuit
The new Indonesian track, on the Island of Lombok, is on course to welcome MotoGP™ and WorldSBK
Friday, 09 April 2021

Following the TISSOT Grand Prix of Doha, representatives from the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and Dorna Sports have undertaken an inspection of Mandalika International Street Circuit on Wednesday, 7th of April 2021. The visit to Lombok, where the circuit is under construction, was made by FIM Grand Prix Safety Officer Franco Uncini, Dorna Race Direction Representative Loris Capirossi and Dorna Sports Managing Director Carlos Ezpeleta in order to assess the progress made on the remarkable site.

During the inspection process, the representatives of the FIM and Dorna Sports, who were welcomed by President Director of PT Pengembangan Pariwisata Indonesia (Persero) or Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation / ITDC Abdulbar M. Mansoer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mandalika Grand Prix Association (MGPA) Ricky Baheramsjah, were impressed by the evolution of the project as well as the safety standards implemented.

The target remains for the new Mandalika International Street Circuit to host the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on the 14th of November 2021. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all parties involved agreed to hold the first FIM MotoGP™ World Championship Grand Prix at the track in the first part of the 2022 season, in principle during March. However, if MotoGP™ is able to hold events in South East Asia towards the end of 2021, efforts will be made to undertake a possible test of the MotoGP™ Class Teams at Mandalika International Street Circuit during that time period in anticipation of the track’s inclusion on the calendar in 2022.

Indonesia State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir stated, “I fully support the MotoGP™ event to be held in March 2022. This is in line with the Indonesian government’s accelerated national vaccination programme. We want to guarantee the safety of both domestic and international visitors.”

President Director of ITDC Abdulbar M. Mansoer stated, “We thank the FIM and Dorna for coming and conducting the technical visit which went well and met their expectations. By knowing the firm month for MotoGP™ event, we are assured of focusing on finishing the Mandalika International Street Circuit development project, while also maximizing the value that this world class sporting event has to offer.”

"The visit to Lombok was very successful and we can confirm that the Mandalika International Street Circuit will be one of the most important venues of the calendar in the future. We also know that the fans from Indonesia will attend massively and the GPs will become one of the most iconic ones of the whole season. Indonesia is a key market, not only for Dorna but for all the stakeholders of the Championship", commented Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO.

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Marc Marquez To Miss The First MotoGP Race Of 2021 in Qatar

The 2021 MotoGP season will kick off without six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez. After review by the medical team monitoring his recovery from the broken humerus he suffered at the opening MotoGP round of 2020, the decision has been made to postpone a comeback until after the two Qatar rounds.

Marquez had already been riding on MotoGP tracks, the Spaniard having spent a day on track in Barcelona on board a Honda RC213V-S street bike, followed by another day at the Portimao circuit in Portugal. Despite good progress being made, and the positive response his arm had shown to Marquez stepping up his training program, the medical team felt it was better to advise Marquez to skip the first two races to give his arm more time to heal, and for the bone density in his humerus to further improve and gain strength.

The next medical check for Marquez is scheduled for April 12th, in the week before the Portuguese round of MotoGP. That implies that Marquez will also miss the second round in Qatar, set for April 4th, but opens the door for a return in Portugal.

During the Repsol Honda team launch, Marquez had stated quite clearly that he would listen to his doctors and follow their advice. There were question marks over this, however as the Spaniard had already flown out to Qatar to get vaccinated, and made an appearance in the hotel gym to show the other riders present that he was serious about a return. The question was, if Marquez was already in Qatar, would he be able to resist the temptation to jump on a MotoGP bike proper and give it a go.

With this announcement, Marquez has shown he is sticking to the pre-agreed plan. No doubt he has learned the lessons of his attempted early return at the Andalusian round, just a few days after breaking his arm and then having it plated again, which went so horribly wrong and saw him end up with an infection on the bone and a severely weakened humerus, and forced to miss the entire 2020 season. That will likely make him all the more determined once he does return, and more likely to be at full strength.

The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below:


Marc Marquez to miss opening Qatar race

Marc Marquez, together with his medical team from the Hospital Ruber Internacional, have considered it prudent not to re-join competition this weekend in Qatar.

In the review carried out on the Spanish rider by the medical team led by Doctors Samuel Antuña and Ignacio Roger de Oña, and made up of Doctors De Miguel, Ibarzabal and García Villanueva, 15 weeks after surgery for an infected pseudoarthrosis of the right humerus, a good clinical response has been found after the intensification of his training.

However, considering the time period and the current state of the bone consolidation process, doctors consider it prudent and necessary not to accelerate Marquez’s return to the track after such an inactive time, and to avoid putting the humerus at risk in intense competition. Marquez will undergo another medical check on Monday, April 12.

Marc Marquez

“After the last review with the medical team, the doctors have advised me that the most prudent thing was not to take part in the Qatar Grand Prix and to continue with the recovery plan that we have followed in recent weeks. I would have loved to be able to participate in the opening race of the World Championship, but we will have to continue working to be able to recover the optimal conditions that allow us to return to competition.”

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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 MotoGP.com 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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