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Fausto Gresini Dies From Complications Arising From Covid-19

Fausto Gresini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The statement from the Gresini Racing Team appears below:


CIAO FAUSTO ❤️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

DATE COUNTRY CIRCUIT WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300
7 – 9 May Portugal Circuito Estoril** X X X
21 - 23 May Spain MotorLand Aragón X X X
11 - 13 June Italy Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” X X X
2 - 4 July United Kingdom Donington Park X    
23 - 25 July The Netherlands TT Circuit Assen X X X
3 - 5 September France Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours X X X
17 - 19 September Spain Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya X X X
24 - 26 September Spain Circuito de Jerez - Ángel Nieto X X X
1 - 3 October Portugal Autódromo Internacional do Algarve X X X
15 – 17 October Argentina Circuito San Juan Villicum X X  
12 – 14 November Indonesia Mandalika International Street Circuit*** X X  
STC Australia Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit** X X  
TBA TBA TBA**** X X  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's going on?

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

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

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

Fausto Gresini and Covid-19

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

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

Barcelona's Turn 10 restored

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

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

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

Contract time

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

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

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

Recommended reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honda Japan

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Source: 

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UPDATE: Thailand MotoGP Race Still On For 2021 Contract Extended Through 2026

Just hours after the Brno circuit announced that it would not be hosting World Championship motorcycle racing, it looked like another MotoGP round would bite the dust. A news report from the Bangkok Post stated that the Thai MotoGP round at Buriram had been canceled for 2021, and that the race would resume again from 2022.

It turns out, however, that this was a mistranslation on the part of the Bangkok Post. According to Thai PPTTV reporter Une Boonmee, the government spokesperson was explaining that the budget set aside for MotoGP in 2020 had been reused for 2021, rather than the 2021 racing having been rescheduled.

That did require a certain amount of budgetary and contractual reshuffling, however. The cancellation of the 2020 round meant that the three-year contract that was supposed to run from 2018-2020 had been extended to 2021, the third year of the contract taking place this year, after last year's race did not take place.

That also meant that the five-year contract that would see Buriram hold races from 2021-2025 also had to be shifted up a year, the new contract running from 2022-2026 instead.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta also confirmed to Thomas Baujard of French magazine Moto Journal that the 2021 MotoGP round at Buriram is still scheduled to go ahead. "There was a miscommunication: the 2021 Thailand Grand Prix is still on." Subject to the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic, of course, like the entire 2021 MotoGP season.

The other details in the Bangkok Post story, normally missing from contract announcements, make for interesting reading. A spokesperson for the Thai government told the Bangkok Post that the fee to host the race would be 900 million Thai Baht for the five years. At the current exchange rate, that is approximately €25 million for five years, or €5 million a year. That is lower than the between €6 million and €9 million being asked of most other circuits.

It was an investment worth making, however. The Thai government said that the 2018 race generated 3 billion Baht, or €83 million, while the revenue from the 2019 race increased to 3.45 billion Baht, or over €95 million.

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2021 MotoGP Calendar Update: Why Brno Won't Host MotoGP, And Where The Season Starts

The 2021 MotoGP season continues to be a fluid affair. With the Argentina and Austin rounds already canceled (technically postponed, but with no real chance of them actually taking place), it is now clear that Brno will not host a MotoGP round in 2021. And there are more signs of a shake up coming.

The biggest, and saddest news is that the Automotodrom Brno circuit today announced that they would not be hosting any world championship motorcycle racing for the foreseeable future. The cancellation had been expected, but still comes as a blow to MotoGP.

The issue is simply one of funding. During the 2020 Czech Grand Prix at the Brno circuit, the riders made it very clear that the track simply wasn't safe for MotoGP unless it was resurfaced. Aleix Espargaro was among the most outspoken of the track's critics. "I'm just a rider, but for me it’s unacceptable to race here," the Aprilia rider said. "It’s very far from being at the level of MotoGP. It’s a disaster this tarmac."

The problem is the number of bumps on the track. "It's kind of more easy to explain where the bumps aren't," Jack Miller told us that weekend. "We've been complaining about the bumps since I came here in MotoGP and yeah, they're just getting worse and worse year by year."

Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta told the MotoGP Safety Commission in Brno that he would ask the circuit to resurface the track before MotoGP returned, but even last year, it was understood that the circuit was unwilling to commit to new asphalt. "The situation in the last few years in Brno has been difficult, and you understand that to resurface everything you need a lot of money, so we speak about millions of Euros," Valentino Rossi said on the Grand Prix weekend. "And I understand because now there are no fans, the circuit does not work a lot so, I don't know if they will resurface."

The problem with resurfacing was who would be paying for new asphalt. Though the Automotodrom Brno circuit hosts the event, the promoter of the Grand Prix is a separate organization, Spolek pro GP ČR Brno, an association incorporated with support and funding from both the city of Brno and the South Moravia region.

Spolek rents the track from Automotodrom Brno management for a fee of around €1 million, according to a press release published on the MotoKari.cz. Spolek paid around €6 million for the MotoGP contract in previous years, with Dorna looking to raise the fee to €9 million a year from 2022, according to statements made by the mayor of Brno, Markéta Vaňková.

The dispute came down to who would pay for the circuit to be resurfaced. The circuit claimed that as the promoter, Spolek agreed to cover all costs related to the the MotoGP event, and consequently, Spolek should pay for the resurfacing. Spolek claimed that they leased the circuit from Automotodrom Brno, and so the circuit management should pay. Resurfacing a long track like Brno is an expensive affair: the 2019 resurfacing work at Silverstone, a 5.9km long track, as compared to Brno's 5.5km, cost £5 million. Resurfacing Brno was estimated to cost in the region of €4 million.

With one of the highest spectator attendances, raising the necessary funds should not have been impossible. Despite the high attendance, however, there were always underlying tensions between the circuit and the promoters. Those disputes between the circuit and the promoter were apparent in the claims of spectator numbers. Between 2007 and 2015, before Spolek took over the running of the event, the circuit claimed an attendance of between 130,000 and 150,000 on race day. After Spolek took over, the official tally fell to between 82,000 and 87,000.

To a journalist attending those events, it was hard to tell the difference in numbers. The circuit was always packed, one of the busiest of the season, the years with 87,000 fans looking just as busy as the years with 140,000. But as a journalist spending most of their time in the paddock, it was hard to make an accurate assessment of numbers in such a vast and sprawling complex, with trees and woods surrounding the track.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the issues to a head. Last year, even without fans, the promoter paid €1 million for the right to host the race. Facing another season without fans, the cost of hosting the event and resurfacing the track made it extremely difficult to recoup any investment made in the short term.

This is an issue for other circuits as well. There are circuits which are heavily subsidized and sponsored by local and regional governments, such as Jerez or Aragon. But tracks which must survive off ticket sales, such as Assen and Silverstone, would find it difficult to justify the expense of hosting a MotoGP round without income from fans.

Whatever the underlying issues with funding, the loss of MotoGP at Brno is a huge blow for all concerned. Even last year, the riders were sad at the possibility of losing the track. "I know it's a massive track, and it's a big big undertaking to resurface a track like this, but it's such a magical track," Jack Miller told us last August. "I mean, it's one of the favorites of everybody so it's a shame to see it like this."

Brno is what you might describe as a "real" MotoGP track. It is wide, fast, and challenging for a MotoGP machine, bikes able to use all of the horsepower they possess. It is a track which challenges both machine and rider, offering many ways to go fast, which is why there have been so many exciting races at the circuit. Losing Brno is akin to losing Mugello or Phillip Island from the calendar. The Automotodrom Brno circuit has been on the calendar since it was built in 1987, with only a brief hiatus in 1992, the year before the former Czechoslovakia split into two separate states.

With Brno out, that leaves a five-week gap in the middle of the season. There had been plans to hold a MotoGP round in Russia, at the Igora Drive circuit near St Petersburg. That idea has been dropped, however.

The 2021 MotoGP season is due to start at Qatar, but there are already signs that may not be possible. Dorna are doing all that they can to ensure it does happen, including move the planned Moto2 test from Jerez to Qatar, now set for March 19th to 21st.

MotoGP will be in Qatar for almost a month. Starting with the shakedown test on March 5th, followed by two days of MotoGP testing on March 6th and 7th. Three days of testing follows a few days later, from March 10th to 12th. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes follow a week later, from March 19th to 21st. The first races of the season happen the Sunday after that, on March 28th, with a second round of MotoGP at the Losail International Circuit the following weekend on April 4th.

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/qatar/qatar-sees-85-increase-in-number-o...

Despite Qatar's good record on Covid-19, with case numbers relatively low, the second wave is also starting to hit the country. Case numbers have nearly tripled since the start of the year, and though officially reported deaths are very low, hospitalizations are up by 85%, albeit from a low base.

There have been several discussions on how to manage the influx of 1300 people from around the world – some from countries with very high rates of Covid-19 infection – including isolating everyone in a restricted number of hotels with no contact with the outside world. Procedures have been put in place to manage the situation, but even that is subject to change if the Qatari authorities decide it is too big a risk at the current time.

The Gulf state is due to hold the FIFA Club World Cup this week, with the Qatar Open tennis tournament at the start of March. Though those events will take place in front of spectators, they will still involve a smaller number of people than the 1300 riders, mechanics, team members, and Dorna staff needed to stage a MotoGP event.

There are doubts in the paddock that this will happen. Speaking to journalists last night, Suzuki Ecstar rider Alex Rins let slip that he believed the season would start in Europe, in Jerez. "We don't know exactly where we are going to start, looks like in Jerez, but let's see," he said. He later walked that back a little. "If we don't make Qatar I think we will start in Portimao, no? It's the next one after Qatar."

Rumors of Qatar being skipped have been circulating for a while among paddock insiders. But that has been foreseeable, given the fast-developing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. There are multiple factors at play, including new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus, and steady progress being made on vaccination, with different countries going at very different rates.

Like the situation at the beginning of the 2020 season, the coronavirus is in control of the MotoGP calendar, and much of human life. But with a year of experience, Dorna are better placed to manage the organization of MotoGP races. And thanks to some remarkable scientific breakthroughs, humanity is slowly winning the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus may be in control, but we at least have a finger on the wheel.


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MotoGP 2021 Calendar: Austin And Argentina Dropped, Portimao And Qatar Double Header Inserted

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the MotoGP calendar. The second and third rounds of MotoGP, at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina on April 11th and at the Circuit Of The Americas on April 18th have been officially postponed. In their place, Qatar will host back-to-back races at the Losail International Circuit on March 28th and April 4th, and reserve circuit Autódromo do Algarve at Portimao will host a race on April 18th.

Though officially only postoponed, the Argentina and Austin rounds are almost certain to be canceled, a move which had long been expected. The logistical and cost challenges of organizing races in the Americas, added to the spread of Covid-19, especially in the Austin area, were always going to pose problems for the two races, and it had long been rumored they would be replaced.

Replacing the Americas rounds with races in Qatar and Portimao is also a no-brainer. Qatar is rushing ahead with a vaccination program, and has had the virus under control since the first wave of the pandemic ended in August. And Portimao already has experience of organizing a MotoGP round under Covid-19 conditions, having hosted the 2020 season finale in November last year.

So far, only the first three rounds have been affected. After Portimao, the calendar will continue as scheduled at Jerez on May 2nd. Dorna hopes to be able to keep to the European leg of the schedule, though that is still dependent on how the Covid-19 pandemic develops.

There may be racing, but fans are extremely unlikely to be allowed to attend for a while. That may not pose a problem for tracks like Qatar or Jerez, where the event is heavily subsidized by either circuit owners or regional governments. But for tracks later in the season, where promoters hold the financial risk, that may make holding events behind closed doors not economically viable.

One interesting development in the FIM press release issued announcing the revised calendar. In the calendar announced in November 2020, the FIM listed 3 reserve circuits: Portimao, the new Mandalika Resort circuit in Indonesia, and the Igora Drive circuit near Moscow in Russia. The Russian circuit has now been dropped from the list of reserve circuits, leaving only Mandalika. That circuit is expected to be on standby should one of the Pacific flyaways be canceled, with doubts still surrounding Phillip Island in October.

The disappearance of Igora Drive from the list of reserve circuits could also be related to the fate of Brno. The Automotodrom Brno is not currently listed on the provisional calendar, and will only reappear if the circuit is resurfaced, a demand made by the MotoGP riders in the Safety Commission. Brno has not committed to resurfacing, however, and if it does not, then there is a good chance that the Moscow circuit will take the place of Brno on the calendar. The timing is likely to be earlier, however, with logistics making it easier to travel from the Kymiring in Finland to Moscow before the summer break rather than after it.

At the moment, however, the FIM calendar does not have a slot for a Brno/Russia round. There is a note that there will be a maximum of 20 races in 2021. And the current calendar has 19 races scheduled.

The provisional calendar appears below:

Date Grand prix Circuit
28 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
4 April Qatar* Losail International Circuit
18 April Portugal Algarve International Circuit
02 May Spain Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
16 May France Le Mans
30 May Italy Autodromo del Mugello
06 June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
20 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
27 June Germany Sachsenring
11 July Finland** KymiRing
15 August Austria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
29 August Great Britain Silverstone
12 September Aragón MotorLand Aragón
19 September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
03 October Japan Twin Ring Motegi
10 October Thailand Chang International Circuit
24 October Australia Philip Island
31 October Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
14 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo

Postponed Grands Prix to be rescheduled subject to the pandemic:

  • República Argentina - Termas de Río Hondo
  • Americas - Circuit of the Americas

Reserve Grand Prix Venues:

  • Indonesia** -  Mandalika International Street Circuit

* Evening Race
** Subject to Homologation
There will be a maximum of 20 events in the 2021 season. All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities.

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Jerez WorldSBK Wash Out After Rain Stops Play

Rain forced the WorldSBK teams assembled at Jerez to abandon the test planned for the past two days. Though the weather was better on Thursday than it had been on Wednesday, the track took a long time to dry out, and with only 8 days of testing for the season, the teams decided to call off the test instead.

Honda and Kawasaki will return to Jerez next week, with Honda testing for two days, on January 27th and 28th, and Kawasaki to test on 28th. The forecast for that period is currently for good weather, which promises a dry track.

Though the official teams skipped the test, there were riders out on track. Stefan Bradl continued work on the 2021 Honda RC213V MotoGP machine, which features a new frame and swingarm. The frame is much beefier around the swingarm mount, a sign that Honda is playing with stiffness in search of rideability. A full gallery of photos can be found over on the Italian GPOne.com website.

Johann Zarco also took to the track on a Ducati Panigale street bike to get accustomed to speed again, and the Frenchman put in a total of 37 laps. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro was also at the circuit, testing Ducati's WorldSBK machinery, rather than the MotoGP bike. Pirro and Zarco lapped in the mid to high 1'45s, nearly 7 seconds off lap record pace, a sign that the track was too wet to produce too much useful data.

Press releases from some of the teams present appear below:


Superbike test scheduled to take place this week has now been cancelled due to wet weather.

Team HRC was looking forward to testing at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain yesterday and today, but the weather conditions have unfortunately put paid to its plans. Rain and a constantly wet track meant that there was little point in sending Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam out with their CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP.

Team HRC waited until lunchtime today to see if conditions might improve enough to make testing worthwhile, but although it eventually stopped raining, the track remained wet, temperatures not particularly cold but also not warm enough to allow the surface to dry quickly.

In an attempt to fully exploit the annual allocation of test days, the session has therefore been rescheduled and Team HRC will return to the Andalusian circuit on 27-28 January, ready to complete the work it had planned for this week.


WEATHER CONDITIONS CANCEL KRT TEST

Kawasaki Racing Team riders Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea were unable to take to the track for a planned two-day test at Jerez on 20-21 January, due to wet weather.

Needing a dry track surface to confirm the development programme of the exciting new Ninja ZX-10RR in WorldSBK specification, a completely wet first day - and no prospect of a truly dry track surface on day two - led the team to call an end to their immediate test plans.

New rules that limit the number of available private test days in 2021 to a total of ten also contributed to the final decision not to take the track in wet conditions.

Much of the pre-season evaluation and data-gathering has was done at the end of the 2020 season, during tests at Jerez and Motorland Aragon in November, but to re-confirm some items and try new elements of the performance package KRT is now aiming to schedule another test day at Jerez, on 28 January.

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It is a great shame not to test but the track is not going to be perfect today, so we decided to call it early. The guys can pack up and everyone can go home a little bit earlier. With the new regulations in place for limited test days, we need to be clever and use these days when they are most important. Right now we need to confirm some important items in dry conditions, that we already tested at Jerez the end of last season.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “This is typical English weather - so I must have brought it with me! It is a shame but the first thing to say is that there has been so much effort from the guys, especially with the Corona virus restrictions, to put everything in place to get us down here to test. So thank you to them. It is a shame the weather did not cooperate this time but it has been nice to see everyone – and see my bike again.”

Pere Riba (Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea): “We were here for a two day test but still the track is wet and it is raining. With the new rules we have, for a limited number of testing days through the year, we decided to cancel. It is a shame because we had some engine items to test, but this is life; something we cannot control.”

Marcel Duinker (Crew Chief for Alex Lowes): “After the November test, where we did 95% of the job we normally do in a winter test, we were very confident here to re-start the 2021 schedule. Unfortunately, we have had some wet conditions but on the other side we are confident of the job we have done so far. We already said to each other that if we had to race tomorrow, we would be ready. Next week we have the opportunity to test for one day at a sunny Jerez, so we will return and continue our plan.”


Private test at Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) cancelled due to rain

After the heavy rain that cancelled the first day of the private test at Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), the Angel Nieto Circuit was still very wet today, partly due to sporadic showers that prevented Scott Redding and Michael Rinaldi from getting on track to do some solid work with their Ducati Panigale V4 R.

Due to the restrictions on testing days introduced by Dorna this season, the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Team preferred not to take to the track, working immediately to find a new date and circuit as soon as possible.


Rain prevents Pedercini Racing from making their 2021 on-track debut with Loris Cresson

The planned two-day test at the Jerez Circuit in Southern Spain which should have seen OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini back on-track for the first of several pre-season tests has unfortunately been cancelled due to bad weather.

Whilst naturally disappointed to postpone their first 2021 outing, the squad made the decision to avoid wasting one of their limited test days and will now focus on a revised test schedule ahead of the FIM Superbike World Championship season opener at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands in April.

Lucio Pedercini – Team Manager: “It’s been frustrating for everyone over the last two days and I know Loris was keen to ride again but in the end the weather stopped us. We waited until the final moment, hoping the weather would improve enough for Loris to ride but in the end, it was not possible. The track was damp and not fully dry so what would Loris benefit from riding in less than perfect conditions? With Johan Zarco and Michele Pirro several seconds off the pace we saw no point in losing two test days from our allocation. We now need to evaluate when and where we will test before what already had planned at the beginning of March, but we need to time to see when and where it could be possible.”

Loris Cresson: “It’s not great to start the year like this but it is how it is and was the same for everyone. On Tuesday when it was clear we couldn’t ride I went back to the hotel and to the gym. I was hoping to ride on Wednesday but unfortunately the weather was still against us. Nevertheless, it was great to meet the team again and I am even more excited to get back on track as soon as we can!”

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Rain Means Track Is Mostly Silent At Jerez WorldSBK Test

Heavy rain throughout the day meant no action for most of the WorldSBK grid at Jerez for the first test of the year. Nothing was to be learned in the wet, and so the day was spent sitting in garages hoping for better weather. Maverick Viñales, who had been intending to test on a Yamaha R1 production bike, decided to abandon the test altogether.

No such luxury for HRC MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl, who put in a total of 20 laps on the RC213V, as he worked his way through a list of test items for the 2021 Honda MotoGP machine. Bradl was joined on track by Leonardo Taccini, Orelac World Supersport rider, making his debut on the ZX-6RR.

All hope is now on better weather tomorrow, though the forecast is not positive. Light rain is forecast for most of the day.

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Bikes Back On Track As WorldSBK Testing Resumes At Jerez

Despite the best efforts of the coronavirus, the winter break is nearly over, for the WorldSBK series at least. On Wednesday, half of the WorldSBK grid take to the track at Jerez for the first major test of the 2021 season. They will be working on their preparations for the season opener, not at Phillip Island, due to the travel restrictions still in place for Australia due to the pandemic, but at the Assen circuit in The Netherlands on April 23rd.

The weather does not look like playing ball for the first full test of the season. The forecast is currently for rain on both days of the test, heaviest on Wednesday but easing off on Thursday. Wednesday may see a dry spell in the afternoon, but whether that means the track will dry enough to produce usable data is open to question.

Kawasaki have perhaps the most to learn, as they KRT team of reigning champion Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes get to grips with the brand new ZX-10RR. The bike has had several major updates, including a new engine with lighter internals, to allow it to rev higher, and a new aerodynamic package with internal winglets, along the lines of the Honda CBR1000RR-R.

Both Rea and Lowes will be hoping for dry track time so they can get a better understanding of the character and power delivery of the new engine. The team will be working on the electronics package in search of the optimum setup for the opening round in April.

The Team HRC Honda WorldSBK team will also be present, Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam continuing the development of the CBR1000RR-R. The bike got off to a difficult start in 2020, though progress became apparent as the season went on. Bautista and Haslam will be working to build on that ahead of the start of 2021.

There will be two Leons in the Team HRC garage, as Leon Camier switches from rider to team manager of the Honda WorldSBK team. Camier's last couple of years was plagued by injury, forcing him into retirement. But a switch to a role as team manager should suit the Englishman, now resident in Andorra. Camier is well-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent, and analytical, and has the right mindset for management.

There are plenty of precedents for success. Camier's counterpart at HRC's MotoGP project, Alberto Puig, is also an ex-rider. Indeed, the MotoGP paddock is full of riders-turned-manager: Lucio Cecchinello, Sito Pons, Fausto Gresini, Pit Beirer, Davide Tardozzi, Pablo Nieto, Wilco Zeelenberg, Jorge 'Aspar' Martinez, and many, many more.

There will be a bevy of Ducati riders present at Jerez as well. 2020 WorldSBK runner-up Scott Redding will be joined by Michael Ruben Rinaldi, the Italian getting promotion to the factory-backed Aruba.it team after a strong showing at the end of last year.

Chaz Davies, the man Rinaldi replaced, takes Rinaldi's seat on the Team GOELEVEN Ducati Panigale V4R, shod with Ohlins suspension again, as used by Rinaldi last year. It will be the first time Davies gets to work with the GOELEVEN team, so there is much work to do.

Tito Rabat will be making his debut in the WorldSBK paddock, riding a Ducati Panigale V4R with the Barni Racing Team. Rabat has already spent time riding a Panigale for training during his time in MotoGP, and his main objective will be to learn the quirks of the WorldSBK Pirelli tires, after spending so much time on the MotoGP Michelins.

Rabat is not the only rookie on the track at Jerez. He will be joined by two Kawasaki riders: Isaac Viñales on the Orelac Kawasaki, and Loris Cresson on the OUTDO ZX-10RR. Both Viñales and Cresson are moving up from WorldSSP.

Isaac will not be the only Viñales present: cousin Maverick, Monster Energy MotoGP Yamaha rider will also be present, though he will be riding a Yamaha R1 superbike to prepare for the start of MotoGP testing in Qatar in March. Maverick Viñales will be joined by Johann Zarco in Jerez, also on a superbike, though this time a Ducati Panigale, as the Frenchman gets ready for his first test with the Pramac Ducati team in Qatar.

There will be test riders present as well. HRC test rider Stefan Bradl will be riding the Honda RC213V MotoGP machine at the Jerez circuit, working on developments for the start of the 2021 season. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro will also be present, though Pirro will be working on Ducati's superbikes, rather than their MotoGP machines.

The Jerez circuit will have live timing of the WorldSBK test. It can be found on the live timing page at http://live.crono-jerez.com/livetiming/#/livetiming


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