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Buriram MotoGP Round Postponed Due To Corona Virus

The start of the 2020 MotoGP season has been delayed even further, with Dorna, the FIM, and IRT forced to postpone the Thailand round of MotoGP in Buriram. The decision was imposed on Dorna and the FIM by the Thai government, who took the decision to cancel the event due to be held on March 22nd.

The announcement did not come as a surprise. Reports that Thailand would be canceled emerged after the cancellation of the MotoGP race at Qatar last night. The difference with Qatar, however, is that no racing will take place at Buriram in three weeks' time, whereas in Qatar, Moto2 and Moto3 are still due to race this weekend, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams and riders already present at the track for the test held last weekend.

There is also a question over what happens to the Qatar round of WorldSBK which is scheduled to be held on March 15th, the weekend after the Qatar MotoGP round. With a large number of the WorldSBK paddock having headed home to Italy, there will be an issue for them to enter Qatar for the WorldSBK round. As yet, no decision has been made on that event.

The hope is that the Buriram MotoGP round can be rescheduled at some point later in the season. The only possible openings in the calendar would be in the three-week break between Misano and Aragon, some time during the summer break between Finland and Brno, or if Finland were to be canceled due to the track not being ready in time, in the slot currently held by Finland. All of those options would be tricky, however, as it would place significant strain on logistics, and racing at Buriram in the summer would mean very hot weather with a very high chance of rain.

The chance that there are further impacts on the 2020 MotoGP season is high, given that this is a very fast-changing situation, with governments imposing travel restrictions and bans on public events around the world. But because the situation is developing so quickly, there is absolutely no way of predicting exactly what will happen. MotoGP and the bodies which run it - Dorna, IRTA, the FIM - can only react once governments make their decisions.

The FIM press release on the postponement of the Thai round at Buriram appears below:


OR Thailand Grand Prix postponed

Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the decision has been taken to postpone the Thai GP.

As the global outbreak of coronavirus continues to develop, the Thai government has communicated that it won’t be possible to hold the OR Thailand Grand Prix on its original date. The FIM, IRTA and Dorna therefore regret to announce that the event, due to be held on the 22nd of March in Buriram, has been postponed.

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna are currently evaluating if an alternative date is possible for the event later this season.

Further updates will be published as soon as available.

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Corona Virus: MotoGP Class Canceled At Qatar, Moto2 And Moto3 To Go Ahead As Normal

The COVID-19 outbreak, or corono virus as it is more commonly known, has finally had an impact on MotoGP. Today, the FIM and Dorna announced that the MotoGP race at Qatar has been canceled, while the Moto2 and Moto3 races are due to go ahead. The cancellation is due to restrictions imposed by Qatar on travelers coming from Italy and Japan. With so many members of the paddock - riders, engineers, mechanics, journalists, and other team staff - from those two countries, it would have been almost impossible for MotoGP to race there.

At first sight, this seems an odd decision. Why would only the MotoGP race be canceled, instead of all three classes? The reason is simple: the Moto2 and Moto3 classes are already in Qatar for their final preseason test, which completed today. The issue with Qatar is not fear of contagion, but restrictions on travel from Italy and Japan. Almost the entire Moto2 and Moto3 grid, plus most team members, are already in Qatar, and nobody was planning to return to Europe between the test and the race. There are no insurmountable obstacles to holding the Moto2 and Moto3 races at the Losail International Circuit.

But this is likely to be just a foretaste of what is to come. If Qatar is canceled, then the next race, at Buriram in Thailand, could pose a problem. There are currently no travel restrictions in place entering Thailand, but this could change quickly. There is also the small matter of packing up the MotoGP bikes, which are all currently sitting ready to race in Qatar, and shipping them to Thailand. Several Japanese and Italian engineers stayed on between the test and the race, as there was some fear that travel restrictions could be imposed, but there could be teams with no one to pack their stuff up for them.

Dorna could choose to postpone Thailand until September - there are already reports that this is likely - which would mean the season starts for MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on April 5th.

Even this could be problematic: the US has just raised the travel warning level for Italy, advising against all but non-essential travel. It is not unthinkable that the US government decides to impose similar travel restrictions on visitors from Italy and Japan.

Underlying all of these assumptions is the basic problem that the extent of the epidemic is still unknown, nor how far it will spread. The fate of MotoGP, and indeed, all sporting and mass-entertainment events, will be dictated by the spread of the disease, and decisions by governments and international authorities on how to handle it. Until then, we wait.

The official announcement appears below, and below that, a press release from Suzuki:


MotoGP™ Class cancelled at the Grand Prix of Qatar

Due to Qatar travel restrictions brought into force affecting passengers from Italy (amongst other countries), the premier class will not race at Losail

Sunday, 01 March 2020

FIM, IRTA and Dorna regret to announce the cancellation of all MotoGP™ class sessions at the Grand Prix of Qatar, including the race.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has resulted in Qatar travel restrictions being brought into force that affect passengers from Italy, amongst other countries. As of today, all passengers arriving at Doha on direct flights from Italy, or having been in Italy in the past 2 weeks, will be taken straight to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Italy clearly plays a vital role in the Championship and in the MotoGP™ class - both on track and off - and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition.

As the teams and riders of the Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes were already in Qatar for the three-day official test at Losail International Circuit earlier this week, the races of both categories will be possible. The lightweight and intermediate classes will therefore compete in their season opener from the 6th to 8th March. The same will apply to the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup, which will have two races during the Qatar Grand Prix as originally planned. Stay tuned for a revised schedule.


QATAR GP CALLED OFF AMID CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Team Suzuki Press Office – March 1.

The FIM, IRTA, and Dorna Sports have this evening announced that the 2020 Qatar Grand Prix will not be held for the MotoGP class due to growing concerns and strict travel restrictions enforced due to the Coronavirus Covid-19.

The Moto2 and Moto3 classes will race as the riders are already present in Qatar following testing at Losail International Circuit.

Team Suzuki Ecstar are naturally disappointed not to race but agree with the decision which was not taken lightly by the officials.

Davide Brivio - Team Manager:

“Obviously It’s a big shame to have to cancel this first race of the season, as we were all really ready to start, and so were the MotoGP fans. Some of our team staff stayed in Qatar following the test days, as we were aware of the seriousness of the outbreak. But at this time the most important thing is the safety of the people, and we have to respect the decision made by the local authorities and by the MotoGP officials. It’s a delicate and strange time for everyone around the world and we need to take things race-by-race at the moment and see what develops in the coming weeks. I’d like to wish good luck to those riding in Moto2 and Moto3 next weekend, and I hope we can be back on the track soon.”

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Thailand MotoGP Round Will Go Ahead As Planned

The Grand Prix of Thailand is to go ahead at the Buriram circuit as planned. Today, the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna issued a press release announcing that the Sports Authority of Thailand, the authority overseeing all sporting events in the Southeast Asian country, confirmed that the COVID-19 virus will not be a problem for the race, and it was safe to travel to Thailand.

The confirmation is good news for Thailand, but raises an issue with entry to the US for the race at the Circuit of The Americas. There have been reports that US Border Patrol has been refusing entry to travelers who have visited Thailand recently. However, unless the US Government issues official advice concerning travel from Southeast Asian countries, preparations will continue as normal.

The official press release appears below:


OR Grand Prix of Thailand will go ahead

The Sports Authority of Thailand confirms that the event, set for mid-March, can safely take place

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Following communication from the Thai government, the FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports can confirm that the OR Thailand Grand Prix will go ahead next month. With the outbreak of coronavirus affecting a number of locations and events worldwide, the decision required official consideration as the situation in Thailand was monitored.

After consulting with the Ministry of Public Health's Department of Disease Control, the Sports Authority of Thailand has officially communicated, on behalf of the Royal Thai government, that there is no major risk, with the country having infected patients under care and strict preventive measures in place - resulting in the highest rate of fully recovered patients worldwide.

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna therefore confirm that MotoGP™ will be back at Buriram from the 20th to 22nd March for another spectacular Thai GP.

Source: 

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Marc Marquez Signs Monster Contract Extension, Stays With Honda Through 2024

Marc Marquez has signed an almost unprecedented new contract extension with HRC, which will see him remain in the factory Honda team for four more years after his current contract expires at the end of the 2020 season. That means Marquez will be a factory Honda rider until the end of 2024.

Marquez' contract renewal had been widely anticipated, although the length of it is unexpected. It is a sign of the commitment of Marquez and Honda to each other, and a clear indication of the reigning world champion's objectives and intentions. Marquez races to win, individual races, but especially titles. He clearly sees Honda as his best bet for achieving that.

There are good reasons for Marquez to stay at Honda. The Spaniard drives and controls the development of the Honda RC213V, demanding a bike that will do the things he needs to win. The control he has is unprecedented, Honda breaking their normal cycle of rotating engineers in and out of HRC on a regular basis. Marquez has been able to ask for engineers to stay inside HRC beyond their normal period.

It is also a sign that HRC are all in on Marc Marquez. Their strategy for success is simply to give Marquez what he asks for, and trust him to deliver. It is a strategy history has proven to be correct: since his arrival in 2013, Marquez has won the title for Honda in six of his seven seasons. He starts the 2020 season as strong favorite, despite coming off his second shoulder surgery in two years.

Marquez' signing also closes a door for other factories, most notably Ducati. The shortcut to championships - signing Marc Marquez - is no longer available, and so the other factories must look for the Next Big Thing, the young rider who might be able to take the fight to the champion. Yamaha have already shown the way in this with their signing of Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo to the factory team in 2021. Expect other factories to follow similar paths.

Marquez' deal is unique for its length. Whereas most contracts for MotoGP riders are two years at most, none have been publicly announced as being for four seasons.

That does not mean that riders have not signed what are effectively four-year deals before: paddock rumor had it that Brad Binder had signed a contract with KTM which was effectively two-plus-two, two years in Moto2, followed by two years in MotoGP. But these deals are surrounded by various conditions: in the end, Binder spent three years in Moto2, only moving up to MotoGP this year.

After the loss of Maverick Viñales, Suzuki are also believed to be signing contracts which more closely resemble four-year deals. Joan Mir ostensibly signed a two-year contract with Suzuki, but it is rumored that the contracts contains clauses which allow Suzuki to extend the contract, making it harder for Mir to simply leave at the end of his two-year deal.

The Honda press release appears below:


HRC renew with Marc Marquez through to the end of 2024

Honda Racing Corporation are delighted to announce six-time MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez has signed a four-year extension of his contract and will continue to race with the factory team until at least December 2024. So far, Marc Marquez has claimed 56 victories, 95 podiums and 62 pole positions with his RC213V in the premier class. These results have established him as the most dominant Honda rider in the premier class.

Yoshishige Nomura
HRC President

“We are happy to announce that, after the end of the current season, Marc will stay in the Honda family for four more years. We started talking a few months ago, as both parties wanted to stay together and continue winning. Marc started his career in the premier class in 2013 and with him we have won six of the last seven MotoGP titles. As a unique champion, he deserves a unique deal. I am very confident in this partnership and I wish everyone involved continued success."

Marc Marquez 93
Rider – MotoGP

“I am very proud to announce my renewal with Honda Racing Corporation for the next four years. Honda gave me the opportunity to arrive in the MotoGP class with a factory bike in 2013. Since the first year we have achieved success together and I am very happy to continue being part of the Honda family. HRC gives me the confidence to extend this partnership to obtain our common goal and continue our story of success.”

Source: 

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Thailand MotoGP News: No News

There was a flurry excitement in the MotoGP media after the Chinese round of the F1 series in Shanghai was postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, as the corona virus has been officially named. The excitement concerned the MotoGP race in Thailand, at the Buriram circuit, due to take place on 22nd March. Would the second race of the season be able to go ahead?

The answer to that question is the same now as it was nearly a month ago: yes, the Thai GP in Buriram will go ahead as planned, unless the situation changes, and governments issue official warnings against traveling to Thailand.

Ahead of the Sepang MotoGP test, which took place last week, I contacted IRTA for an official statement on whether the Sepang test and the opening rounds at Qatar and Thailand would be going ahead. IRTA secretary Mike Trimby gave the following statement: "Neither IRTA or Dorna are competent to issue advice on this matter. We are advising the teams and other companies to respect any advice issued by their respective governments. Obviously, we will react to any new developments but currently there are no changes of plan for the first events of the season."

The chances of the Thai round of MotoGP being canceled look very slim at the moment. According to the World Health Organization, there have been 33 cases of the COVID-19 virus recorded in Thailand, as of 13th February 2020, with no fatalities so far.  That compares to 29 in Japan, 18 in Malaysia (where the Sepang test was just held), 14 in the United States, 16 in Germany, 3 in Italy, and 2 in Spain. In China, by contrast, there have been 46,550 recorded cases, 1,820 of which were new on 13th February.

So the Buriram round of MotoGP is due to go ahead, unless there is a serious outbreak of COVID-19 in Thailand, the Thai government bans entry to foreign visitors, or governments in Europe (where most of the riders and team members are based) advise against traveling to Thailand.

Source: 

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Bradley Smith: New Aprilia RS-GP 'Worth The Wait'

2019 was a long, hard year for Aprilia. The hiring of new Aprilia Race CEO Massimo Rivola signaled a year of rebuilding for the Italian factory, as Rivola took over the organizational side of the MotoGP project, freeing up Romano Albesiano to concentrate on building a brand new RS-GP from the ground up, and providing Albesiano with the resources to do so. That project forced Aprilia riders Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone to battle on through the 2019 season with a bike which was struggling to be competitive.

The wait came to an end at the MotoGP shakedown test at Sepang, where Aprilia rolled out the new RS-GP, in the hands of test rider Bradley Smith. "Those six or seven months of waiting were worth it," was Smith's verdict after the first full day of testing on the 2020 prototype.

"We had two or three big areas where we struggled," Smith told MotoMatters.com on Monday, "But the great thing is that the engineers managed to touch everything on the bike. They looked at every area¸and improved all the areas we were complaining about." Aprilia's engineers had not just addressed its main weaknesses, but had made steps forward in every part of the bike.

The change was badly needed, Smith said. "This was built in 2017, so it's a three year old bike," the Englishman said of the RS-GP campaigned last year. "Things have moved on since then, especially the Michelin tires, which have changed quite a bit. MotoGP sort of moved away from us. And if you look at Yamaha, they were struggling in 2017 and doing better now, things of sort of moved more in their direction."

Smith was very positive about the times set on the new bike. The Aprilia rider ended up just a tenth behind Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli, the Frenchman riding a GSX-RR which proved capable of winning races in 2019. And Smith had been keeping a little bit in reserve. "The bike is so new that we only have two 2020 machines and a limited number of spares. When I was doing my time attack, there were a couple of places I was holding back a bit. The last thing I wanted was to hand the bike back in a box."

With just two bikes and limited spares, Smith was sharing his time between the old bike and the 2020 RS-GP. The Englishman was working on electronics with the old bike, to save mileage on the new machine. But it was on the 2020 RS-GP that Smith set his quickest time.

Having just two bikes available means Smith won't be riding on the last day of the shakedown test on Tuesday. He hands both machines over to Aleix Espargaro, who has not ridden so far during the shakedown test. Espargaro will be able to test both the old and the new bike together, as well as run back-to-back tests with the new bike to start working on base setup for the machine. Espargaro will be joined by Lorenzo Savadori, who is at Sepang learning to ride the MotoGP bike, and being evaluated as a possible future test rider.

Smith will be back in action at the official test, which starts on the 7th February.


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Factories Prepare For 2020 MotoGP Season At The Sepang Shakedown Test Starting Sunday

In just a few hours from now, MotoGP bikes will roll out onto the track for the start of the 2020 season. They will do so almost completely out of the public eye (prompting the philosophical question of if an RC213V is fired up at a circuit, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?) as three days of the MotoGP shakedown test gets underway at Sepang.

The shakedown test is a private test, meaning it is closed to the media and public. There is no live timing publicly available from the test, and lap times will be both difficult to come by and probably unreliable, as teams and factories release the times they want to make public (if any), rather than a neutral timing system recording every lap.

Yet this shakedown test is extremely important, for a number of reasons. It is the first test for the brand-new Aprilia RS-GP, designed from the ground up, with a new 90° V4 engine. It sees Jorge Lorenzo make his testing debut for Yamaha, back with the Japanese factory after three years away. And it is a chance for the MotoGP rookies to get a little more track time under their belts.

Roll call

Who will be at the test? For Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Ducati, it will be their test riders. Stefan Bradl will be putting more laps on the 2020 spec Honda RC213V for HRC, after having tried the bike for the first time at Jerez two weeks ago at the WorldSBK test at the track. For Suzuki, Sylvain Guintoli will be continuing work on the 2020-spec engine for the GSX-RR, Suzuki continuing to chase more horsepower without losing rideability, much as they did in 2019.

Michele Pirro will take the next evolution of the Ducati Desmosedici GP20 out for a spin, continuing work on the new chassis, and testing the new, more powerful engine for the bike.

If the media were allowed into the test, then all eyes would be on the Yamaha garage, where Jorge Lorenzo makes his return to the Japanese factory. Yamaha, too, are working on the engine, chasing a bit more power, but especially a bit more drive out of corners and a bit better deceleration into corners. For the shakedown test, Lorenzo will be circulating with Japanese test riders Kohta Nozane and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

It is as yet unknown whether Lorenzo will ride at the official Sepang test which starts on 7th February, but it is likely that work will be handed over to Nozane and Nakasuga, while all four Yamaha MotoGP riders get on with testing the new bike.

Making concessions

Stefan Bradl is not the only Honda rider at Sepang for the shakedown test. With the reduction in official tests, extra allowance has been made for rookies to get more seat time ahead of their first season. That means that Alex Márquez will be on the Repsol Honda at the shakedown test, to get three more days of testing under his belt ahead of the official Sepang test which starts on Friday.

There are two other rookies on the grid in 2020, of course, but both Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona would probably be riding anyway. Manufacturers who have not scored enough podiums in the previous season are allowed unrestricted testing, limited only by the test tire allocation over the season.

So all four contracted KTM riders are at Sepang – Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder in the factory team, Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona in the Tech 3 satellite squad – as well as test rider Dani Pedrosa. The test is key, for the further development of the new chassis tested at the end of last year, but especially for Miguel Oliveira, who is coming off shoulder surgery in late 2019.

New dawn

The test is perhaps biggest of all for Aprilia. The Italian factory has its brand-new RS-GP at the track, and the new engine will need a lot of dialing in and setting up. The bike should have a good deal more power, giving its riders a better chance of holding their own against the other five manufacturers.

We got a first glimpse of the bike on Twitter this morning, when the official Aprilia account tweeted pictures of the RS-GP:

In terms of the chassis, it looks very similar to the RS-GP of 2019. But there are a few major changes worth noting. Obviously, the things that draw the eye are the massive front wing. A large surface underneath the nose will offer a significant amount of downforce.

But the large wing distracts the attention from elsewhere: the intake for the airbox is now huge, much larger than it was in 2019. That is entirely consistent with an engine producing more horsepower: the more power an engine makes, the more fuel it needs. The more fuel it needs, the more air it needs.

The new engine is also visible in the exhaust layouts, which now resemble the Ducati much more closely (or perhaps the KTM). The upper exhaust is also offset, to leave space for a box underneath the tail. Have Aprilia started playing with mass dampers as well? We will get a better sense when we can see the bike for ourselves.

Aleix Espargaro, Bradley Smith, and new testing stand in Lorenzo Savadori will get to ride the bike at Sepang starting from Sunday. Andrea Iannone is absent, as he is still suspended due to failing a drug test at Sepang last year. A verdict on Iannone's case is expected on Tuesday, but Bradley Smith will take his place for the time being.

Official test

Fans disappointed by the lack of coverage for the shakedown test won't have long to wait. The official test starts on Friday 7th February, and runs until Sunday the 9th. There will be live timing, and Dorna will be producing a live show of 90 minutes at the end of each test day from Sepang. More details about that on the MotoGP.com website.

Naturally, I will also be at the test, covering it for MotoMatters.com. We will have daily updates on events and developments, and analysis of where the various factories stand. Be sure to check the website for times, and to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for updates and photos.

We will be introducing new ways of supporting the site in the next few days, before the official test starts. In the meantime, settle in and get up to speed with our subscriber content describing how some of the factories are preparing for 2020.


Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

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Jorge Lorenzo Confirmed As Yamaha MotoGP Test Rider For 2020

Yamaha's media onslaught - and their assault on the MotoGP title - continues, with the Japanese factory signing Jorge Lorenzo as a test rider for the 2020 season, as we suggested they might yesterday. Lorenzo is to start immediately, taking part in the shakedown test at Sepang, and will continue his work testing in Europe for Yamaha, as well as taking part in the other official IRTA tests during the season.

For the moment, Lorenzo is to be a test rider only, with no wildcards planned. Yamaha is open to giving Lorenzo a wildcard, should he change his mind about them. Currently, he is content to be a test rider, with no ambitions to race. The injuries suffered during the 2019 season on the Repsol Honda knocked the desire to race out of him. But Lorenzo has had a long period to train and recover, and will start his testing duties fitter than he has been in a couple of season. What effect that will have on Lorenzo's interest in racing is yet to be seen.

The signing underlines how serious Yamaha are approaching the task of regaining supremacy in MotoGP. The Yamaha was strongest in recent years when Lorenzo led development, and Maverick Viñales praised the bike left to him by Lorenzo in 2017 when he joined Yamaha, Viñales winning three of the first five races that season. Viñales will be hoping that Lorenzo can return the bike to those heights.

The press release appears below:


JORGE LORENZO TO STRENGTHEN YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEST TEAM IN 2020

Yamaha is delighted to welcome back three-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. He will join the Yamaha Factory Racing Test Team programme with the aim to boost MotoGP development during the 2020 season.

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 30th January 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Racing are delighted to announce that five-time World Champion and very successful Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo will be reinforcing the Yamaha Factory Racing Test Team for the 2020 season.

Lorenzo is not only a big name in the MotoGP paddock but also a widely celebrated Yamaha rider. He made his debut in MotoGP with Yamaha in 2008 and spent nine years with the Factory MotoGP Team, winning all three of his premier class titles on the YZR-M1, in 2010, 2012, and 2015 respectively.

Starting from the MotoGP shakedown test, held in Sepang, Malaysia from 2-4 February, Lorenzo will ride the YZR-M1. He will also take part in other Official IRTA Tests and some private Yamaha tests this year, with the sole aim to help Yamaha‘s engineers with the 2020 MotoGP development. The Spaniard is the perfect man for the job as he is known for his smooth, precise riding and clear feedback. He will be supported in his search for innovation by Silvano Galbusera, who will be Crew Chief for Lorenzo in the Yamaha Factory Racing Test Team.

So far, no wild card rides are planned for Lorenzo in 2020, but Yamaha is open to the possibility, should he decide to race again.

LIN JARVIS
MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

Of course, we are delighted to welcome Jorge back at Yamaha. When we knew that Jorge would stop his active racing career, we immediately started to consider making a proposal for him to join us.

"The statistics of his achievements with us in those nine years together speak for themselves. He is a vastly experienced MotoGP rider, who is closely familiar with the M1 and the people at Yamaha. We have come to know Jorge as a very precise and motivated rider, with flawless consistency and good technical insight: all the qualities you need in a test rider at this high level.

"Combining Jorge‘s experience, knowledge, and riding speed with experienced Crew Chief Silvano Galbusera is an important element in Yamaha‘s strategy to strengthen the Test Team, which aims to bridge the gap between the engineers and test riders in Japan and the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team.

JORGE LORENZO
YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEST RIDER

I‘m very happy with the decision to join the Yamaha Factory Test Team. I was always planning on staying involved in MotoGP and returning to the paddock, and I think this is a suitable role for me. I know the team and the M1 well. The Yamaha really suited my riding style, and it will be very interesting to ’meet up with my old bike again‘.

"Returning to Yamaha brings with it some good memories. We secured many podiums and victories, and three titles together, so we know where our strengths lie. I want to thank Yamaha for this opportunity, because this allows me to do what I love – riding motorbikes and pushing the limit – whilst enjoying a slightly calmer lifestyle than I did in previous years.

"I‘m very motivated to get to work and can‘t wait to start riding. I want to do my best for Yamaha‘s future, and I hope my riding experience will be helpful to Yamaha‘s engineers and riders to bring the title back to Yamaha.

NOTES

Jorge Lorenzo was born on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain on 4 May 1987. He began riding motorbikes at home at the tender age of three, and within months of taking to two wheels he was competing in his first minicross races. In 1995, aged eight, he won the Balearic title and followed that up the next year by taking the Island‘s minicross, trial, minimoto, and junior motocross titles.

Lorenzo graduated to road racing and national competition in 1997, and it didn‘t take him long to adjust, winning the Aprilia 50cc Cup in 1998. Despite officially being too young, a special dispensation in 2000 allowed him to compete in the Spanish 125cc series at the age of 13. He made history the following year when competing in Europe and becoming the youngest ever winner of a European 125cc race.

In 2002, the precocious teenager once again showed that age was no barrier to a quick rise up the ranks of motorbike racing. He made his Grand Prix racing debut on his fifteenth birthday, on qualifying day for the 125cc Spanish Grand Prix. He had to miss the Friday practices as he wasn‘t old enough yet.

After three years in the 125cc class, he moved up to the 250cc class championship. When he switched to Aprilia in 2006, the Spaniard came into his own. He dominated the field, taking 8 wins out of 16 races and scoring 11 podiums in total. He made sure to show this was not a fluke the following year: having swapped his usual number 48 for a number 1, he convincingly duplicated his title winning ways, securing 9 wins out of 17 races and 12 podiums.

The man from Mallorca had made his point: he was ready to challenge along with the big guns in the premier class, and Yamaha took the opportunity to scoop up this racing talent in 2008.

Back with number 48, his first year in the Yamaha Factory team started in the perfect way. Lorenzo secured pole at the first race, setting a new lap record that previously stood for ten years. He went on to claim two podium finishes before his first MotoGP victory came at only his third race with Yamaha. However, a series of crashes and injuries would compromise the remainder of his debut season on the M1. But Lorenzo showed his unshakable determination: he kept pushing and still took fourth place in the final championship standings, earning him the Rookie of the Year award.

A switch in 2009 to the number 99 that Lorenzo fans have grown accustomed to, was the first sign of change. ’X Fuera‘ (a nickname alluding to his flamboyant outside overtaking style, depicted with a red cross on his helmet) was calmer and more collected and it showed in the results: a second place in the overall rankings, behind team-mate Valentino Rossi. These achievements also earned Yamaha the Constructors and Team Trophy that season.

The next year it was Lorenzo‘s time to shine. He took 9 out of 18 race wins and a staggering 16 podiums (12 of which were achieved at the first 12 rounds of that season) to take a formidable first MotoGP Championship victory in Malaysia.

Returning to the number-1 plate in 2011, he narrowly missed out on the title honours again, taking second place despite a serious crash during round 16 at Phillip Island bringing a premature end to the Mallorcan‘s season. But he got to enjoy the sweet taste of victory once more in 2012, when he proved to be unbeatable. He started his campaign with a win at the opening round and overall took podiums in every single race bar two, including six wins and ten second places, earning himself his second premier class crown in Australia.

This achievement was followed by a second and third place overall in the next two years, both seasons having been compromised by big crashes in Assen (2013) and at the Sachsenring (2014). However, Lorenzo is known for his steely performances. And so, in 2015, he claimed the number-one spot once more. During this dramatic season only team-mate Rossi was able to compete with him. The championship fight came down to the wire, but in the end it was Lorenzo who took the victory in Valencia, earning him his third and final MotoGP title.

Lorenzo completed one more season with Yamaha, taking third in his ninth year in the premier class and bringing the partnership‘s total to 44 wins, 107 podiums, and 39 pole positions. He ran two seasons with Ducati and one with Honda, before announcing his retirement as a MotoGP rider at the end of 2019. In 18 seasons he secured 68 wins, 152 podiums, 69 pole positions, and 5 World Championships. This will rightfully see him inducted as a MotoGP Legend at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

Whilst he will be thoroughly missed by racing fans this upcoming season, they might not have to miss him for long. No wild card rides are planned for Lorenzo in 2020 as of yet, but Yamaha is open to the possibility.

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Maverick Viñales Signs Through 2022 With Yamaha - What Does It Mean For Yamaha And MotoGP Going Forward?

The first penny has dropped in the long march toward the 2021 MotoGP grid. Yamaha have announced that they have signed Maverick Viñales to a two-year deal, for the 2021 and 2022 season.

The move marks a clear decision, both on the part of Yamaha and the part of Viñales. The Spaniard had offers on the table from two other manufacturers, with Ducati especially keen to sign Viñales for 2021. But assurances given to Viñales about his role in developing the Yamaha M1 helped him make his decision. Viñales is to determine the future direction of Yamaha, based on the strength of his performance in the second half of 2020.

Betting on Viñales to lead the MotoGP project makes sense for Yamaha. In the three seasons since arriving at Yamaha, he has racked up more wins, podiums, and poles than Valentino Rossi, and finished ahead of him two seasons out of three. Viñales has 6 wins to Rossi's lone victory at Assen, 19 podiums to Rossi's 13, and 9 poles to 1 for Rossi. Viñales finished third in 2019, and first Yamaha rider, while Rossi ended the year in seventh, behind even Fabio Quartararo.

This is also a choice for stability in the future. Yamaha are now certain of Viñales staying for the next three seasons, whereas Rossi is yet to make a decision on his future, and even if he does decide to keep racing, he is likely to sign contracts for one year at a time, so that he can choose to retire at the end of each season if he no longer believes he is competitive.

Signing Viñales first also provides certainty for Yamaha. The Spaniard is a proven winner and championship contender. In Fabio Quartararo, they have a youngster who is clearly exceptionally talented, but he has only ridden a single season, and in a satellite team. Quartararo rode entirely without pressure in 2019, and performed exceptionally. But having to compete in a factory team where the atmosphere is focused entirely on winning the championship is a different kettle of fish. Quartararo seems to handle pressure well, but we will only really know how well he does that once he is subject to the intense pressure of expectation in a factory squad.

But which factory squad will that be? Ducati has made it clear that they are also interested in securing the services of the young Frenchman. And Yamaha can see exactly what they have in terms of talent with Quartararo. Yamaha have credited Quartararo with opening up the eyes of the factory Yamaha riders to what the bike was capable of, and pushing that little bit harder. There seems no doubt that Yamaha will want to keep the Frenchman, and that probably means giving him a factory seat.

That puts pressure on Valentino Rossi. The Italian has previously said that he wants to wait until after the first few races in Europe before making a decision on his future. But with Ducati – and possibly also Suzuki – chasing Quartararo hard, the factory Yamaha team will want a decision sooner rather than later. Rossi will want to understand both how competitive the Yamaha M1 is, and how competitive he can be in 2020 before making a decision. But that may mean making up his mind by Jerez, or even Austin, rather than Mugello.

There may be an option for Rossi to move back to the Petronas Yamaha team, but fitting Rossi into another team is not simple. And to do it for a single year would disrupt the Petronas team significantly, if Rossi demanded that he bring his entire squad with him. Some of the mechanics and engineers in that group have strong ties inside Yamaha, and may also have ideas of their own about moving.

The first domino has fallen, and it will have wider repercussions for 2021 and beyond. The next domino is likely to be Marc Márquez staying with Honda, but Viñales' choice for Yamaha sets in a sequence of events which will determine the face of MotoGP for quite some time to come.

The press release from Yamaha appears below:


VIÑALES RENEWS CONTRACT WITH YAMAHA FOR 2021-2022

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is delighted to announce that Maverick Viñales has signed for two further years with the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team.

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 28th January 2020

It is with great pleasure that Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. confirm Maverick Viñales as one of the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP riders for the 2021 and 2022 season.

Viñales has shown great riding, motivation, and consistency so far in his three years of racing with the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team in the MotoGP World Championship. The successful partnership led to a third place in the overall standings in 2017, a fourth place in 2018, and another third place in 2019.

Further Yamaha highlights on the Spaniard‘s résumé are 6 wins and 19 podiums, including his Yamaha debut race and Yamaha‘s 500th GP win in Le Mans, both in 2017, as well as 9 poles in total out of 55 Grand Prix weekends aboard the YZR-M1.

These achievements on top of his undeniable talent and unshakable determination have Yamaha fully confident in their partnership with the 25-year-old. On 6 February they will start the first MotoGP Test of this year in Sepang, Malaysia, kicking off their 2020 campaign to clinch the premier class title.

LIN JARVIS
MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

We brought Maverick into the Factory team in 2017, knowing he is a special talent. He is highly motivated and dedicates himself to being physically strong and is always ready to give his maximum and extract the best from his YZR-M1. In his first three seasons with us, he has given Yamaha 6 wins, 19 podiums, and 100% of his commitment. Now, as the YZR-M1 is improving race by race, we foresee a very bright future for him at Yamaha. Maverick‘s decision to sign with the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team for two further years so early shows the strength of our mutual appreciation and underlines the shared conviction that together we can challenge for the MotoGP World Championship Title.

MAVERICK VIÑALES
YAMAHA FACTORY RACING MOTOGP RIDER

I‘m extremely happy because I feel like I get to keep ’my own team‘. This will be the second year with my current crew, and after this I have two more years to look forward to. I‘m so excited! I think that if we keep working really hard we are heading the right way. For me, it was very important to make this announcement before the season started, because I‘m highly motivated and want to be able to fully concentrate on the 2020 season. I don‘t want to spend too much time thinking about the future. There were no reasons not to stay with Yamaha, because they feel like family. Yamaha is giving me a lot of support and, as I said, I have ’my own team‘, which is something I really need. We need to keep working and be very strong. Our main objective is, as always, to be World Champion and try to bring Yamaha the number one honour again. I will try my best. For sure, I will give everything I have to make our team proud too. I would like to say ’Thank you‘ to Yamaha for their faith in me. They are giving me a lot of confidence, and I really have trust in our partnership. I think we will both be growing very fast and we will keep pushing.

NOTES

About Maverick Viñales:
Age: 25
Height: 1.71m
Weight: 64kg
Grands Prix Contested in Total: 158
Grand Prix Wins: 23
Grand Prix Podiums: 63
Grand Prix Pole Positions: 20
World Championship Titles: 1

MotoGP
2019 – 3rd, Race Wins 2
2018 – 4th, Race Wins 1
2017 – 3rd, Race Wins 3
2016 – 4th, Race Wins 1
2015 –12th, Race Wins 0

Moto2
2014 – 3rd, Race Wins 4

Moto3
2013 – 1st, Race Wins 3
2012 – 3rd, Race Wins 5

125cc
2011 – 3rd, Race Wins 4

Maverick Viñales Biography:

Viñales was born in Figueres, Spain, on January 12th, 1995. He began racing in minimotos at just three years of age before moving onto motocross. In 2002 his passion for speed brought him to circuit racing. He competed in the Catalonian 50cc Championship and followed it up with several successful seasons in the 70cc “metrakit” bikes.

Viñales got hold of the Catalonian 125cc Championship Title in 2007, he successfully defended his crown in 2008, and won the Mediterranean Trophy that same year. The following year he also competed at selected events in the German IDM 125GP Championship for RZT Racing aboard an Aprilia RS 125 R, achieving a best result of seventh. In 2009, he moved up to the CEV Buckler 125GP series, partnering with Miguel Oliveira in the Blusens-BQR team. Viñales secured the Rookie of the Year award, finishing as the runner-up to Alberto Moncayo in the championship standings by just four points and claiming four successive podiums during that season.

In 2010, Viñales and Oliveira joined different Blusens teams and battled it out for the CEV Buckler 125GP Championship Title. Despite winning two races to Oliveira‘s four, Viñales won the title by two points, thanks to finishing on the podium at all seven races of the season. The European Championship Title was also decided between the two riders, and again it was Viñales who came out on top.

The Spaniard moved to the 125cc World Championship for the 2011 season with the SuperMartxé VIP team. He impressed during pre-season testing at Valencia and finished ninth on his Grand Prix debut in Qatar. After retiring at Jerez due to a technical issue, Viñales finished fourth at Estoril, narrowly missing out on a podium to Johann Zarco in a photo finish, with a margin between the pair of just 0.002s. Two weeks later at Le Mans, Viñales took his first front-row grid start in third place and went on to seal his first victory by 0.048s at the age of 16 years, 123 days. This incredible performance made him the third-youngest rider to win a Grand Prix race, behind Scott Redding and Marco Melandri. Securing three further victories that same year, Viñales finished his first Grand Prix season in third place in the championship rankings and claimed the Rookie of the Year award.

The youngster went into the 2012 season as the title favourite in the newly formed Moto3 championship. He won five races on the Blusens Avintia FTR Honda early on in the season, but a lack in consistency, some misfortunes, and a dispute with his team resulted in a missed race in Malaysia, which allowed Cortese to win the title and Luis Salom to snatch second in the final standings, with Viñales taking third overall.

The next year, the young gun moved to Team Calvo alongside Ana Carrasco. He won his first two races back-to-back at the Spanish and French Grands Prix and kept his competitive form throughout the season, fighting at the front of the field. Viñales, Rins, and Salom went into the final round with a gap of five points across them all. The championship was decided in Valencia by a battle between Rins and Viñales. In the end, Viñales took the race victory and the Moto3 World Championship Title by a twelve-point margin.

The Moto3 World Champion then signed a Moto2 contract with Pons Racing, joining former title rival Salom. Viñales didn‘t have to wait long for his first intermediate class victory, which came at the Circuit of the Americas on 13 April, 2014. He ultimately finished the season in third place with four wins and nine podiums, earning himself another Rookie of the Year award.

In September 2014, it was announced that Viñales would move up to the premier class for the 2015 season, riding for the factory Suzuki team. Despite being a rookie and riding for a factory that was returning to MotoGP, he had a very good MotoGP season. Scoring points in 16 out of 18 races in a competitive field and under challenging circumstances, the young contender proved to be a notable rider. He finished the season in 12th place, winning again the Rookie of the Year award, thus completing his collection (125cc, Moto2, and MotoGP).

In 2016 Viñales shone anew. He finished third at the fifth round in France, achieving his first MotoGP podium, and it wasn‘t before long that he got to step onto the top of the rostrum. At the twelfth race, the British Grand Prix held at the Silverstone Circuit, he registered his first ever MotoGP win. He finished the season strong with two more third places in Japan and on Phillip Island, to secure fourth place in championship. His talent and strong mentality were undeniable and didn't go unnoticed by Yamaha, who signed Viñales for the 2017 and 2018 season.

Viñales lived up to the hype. After a very strong debut on the YZR-M1 during the pre-season, the young Spaniard went on to win the first two races in Qatar and Argentina. He later followed up the achievement by securing Yamaha its 500th Grand Prix victory in Le Mans, after a sensational fight with team-mate Valentino Rossi. Despite the season being filled with grip issues, the Spaniard brought in solid points, scoring second places in Mugello and Silverstone and third places in Brno and Phillip Island, to ultimately conclude the season in third place.

After such a strong first year with Yamaha‘s Factory MotoGP Team, Viñales was hungry to show his talent again in 2018, but the season proved to be one of the most difficult in his premier class career. Nevertheless, the Spaniard kept his motivation high, scoring podiums at the rounds at COTA, Circuit TT-Assen, the Sachsenring, and Buriram. He returned to winning form in the race at Phillip Island, giving Yamaha its first victory since the round at Assen one year prior. He finished the season in fourth place overall, just five points behind his team-mate in third position.

2019 signalled a new start for Viñales. He changed his rider number from #25 to #12 and welcomed new Crew Chief Esteban García to his side of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP pit box (he had worked with him before in 2013, winning the Moto3 World Championship). After a difficult start to the season, the changes that were made began to bear fruit. Though taken out by fellow riders on three separate occasions in the first half of the season (in Argentina, France, and Catalunya), the Spaniard still visited the podium regularly in 2019. He scored a third place in Jerez and followed it up with a stunning win in Assen, a second place at Sachsenring, third places at Silverstone, Misano, and Buriram, and another epic win in Malaysia. Viñales‘ relentless determination earned him third in the overall championship standings and has him fully motivated to push 100% in 2020.


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Marc Marquez: Recovery From Shoulder Surgery More Complicated Than Expected

For the second winter in succession, Marc Márquez is recovering from shoulder surgery to fix a problem with dislocation. It didn't slow him down much in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider finishing the season opener at Qatar in second place, losing out to Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.023 seconds. He went on to win the next race in Argentina by nearly ten seconds, and crashed out of the lead in Austin. It was to be the only time Márquez finished outside of the top two.

So when Márquez decided to have surgery on his right shoulder last November (in 2018, it was his left shoulder which was operated on), he was confident of a quick recovery. The right shoulder was far less damaged than the left had been, and the surgery was much more simple. He spent far less time in surgery in November than he had done a year ago.

Shoulder surgery is a difficult business, however. On Wednesday, at an event organized by Repsol, Marc Márquez spoke to the media about the progress of his recovery. It was taking much longer than he had hoped, he said: two weeks ago, he still didn't have the strength to lift even a glass of water. The loss of muscle was clearly visible in a short video he posted on Twitter.

Simpler operation, tougher recovery

"The operation was more simple but the recovery has been more complex and more difficult," Márquez told the media. "Last year I arrived to the first tests pretty much ready and this time I think I will be more or less in a similar position. In the last two weeks I’ve made a pretty big step and at the start of the month I wasn’t that optimistic."

"The recovery was not more intense than last year, it was also less painful but it has been more difficult," he said. "They told me that when they open the shoulder that there are nerves and muscles that can be affected." That had forced Márquez and his physiotherapist Carlos Garcia to adjust their expectations. Márquez was spending four hours a day on rehabilitation, and all day working to prepare his body and his fitness for the coming season.

"It has taken longer than we thought," Márquez said. "I’ve disappeared a bit from social media because I’ve been 100% concentrated on what I needed to do. There is still a difference [to his other shoulder], but I really want to ride again and try at least one type of bike before going to Malaysia. We haven’t done it yet because I haven’t been ready but I hope for next week as we’ll be going to Malaysia the week after." Márquez has already been driving a kart, to prepare him mentally, but he will want to ride a dirt track bike or a minibike before he flies out to Sepang.

Preparation

All that hard work was starting to pay off. "The evolution in the last weeks has been pretty good, but it’s possible that in preseason I won’t be able to do all the laps that are necessary and should be made. We will work hard with the physio and the team to monitor this recuperation and to try the things we need to do to have a bike ready to fight for the title again."

At the Sepang test in 2019, Márquez had run limited laps, forced by his team to reduce the time spent on track. That will be the plan for 2020 as well, Márquez explained, though it was complicated by the fact that with a rookie teammate in his brother Alex, he will have to do the bulk of the development work. The upside was that Cal Crutchlow will be fully fit at the Sepang test this year, rather than coming off ankle reconstruction surgery as he was in 2019.

"Last year Jorge Lorenzo was injured and so it fell to me to evolve the bike," Márquez explained. "Now the dynamic is the same because my teammate is Alex and he’s a rookie and cannot ask much when it comes to concepts of the bike because – like Jorge Lorenzo – he has to understand the bike and know how a Honda is. There is also Cal Crutchlow who is very capable to also have a second opinion of the development. I think the test in Malaysia will be like last year; I won’t be able to do all the laps I want but it will help to work on the shoulder as well."

No hindrance

Will this slow Márquez down? History suggests it will have little effect. By the time the first race at Qatar came around in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider was ready to challenge for victory, just losing out to Andrea Dovizioso. There is little reason to expect 2020 to be much different.

The only possible obstacle is a more demanding calendar: in 2019, Márquez had three weeks to recover after the first race of Qatar, while this year, there are only two weeks between Qatar and the second race. That race is in Thailand, rather than Argentina, and the intense heat and humidity in Buriram will also be far more punishing than it was in Termas de Rio Hondo.

There was also a gap of three weeks between the Austin race and Jerez, whereas in 2020, there are four races rather than three before the series heads back to Europe for the Jerez race. But Márquez continues to prepare as well he can for Sepang, and the start of the 2020 season.


Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

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