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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.

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  

*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 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 website has a longer version of the Twitter video clip on its website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Marc Marquez Gets Green Light To Intensify Training

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

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

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

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

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

The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below:

Further update to Marc Marquez’s medical progress

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The press release from Dorna appears below:

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

Thursday, 11 March 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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