Photos

Tue, 2020-10-20 02:51
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It seems like everybody wants to win a race in 2020, but nobody wants to win the championship. The Aragon round of MotoGP produced another new winner, and shook up the championship once again. The result you might have expected after qualifying never materialized. Yamahas finished top in all four free practice sessions, and there were three Yamahas in the first four slots on the grid after qualifying, Cal Crutchlow in third the only non-Yamaha on the front row.

What happened? Well, the temperature went up, and that persuaded riders to gamble on the medium front with little or no data on the tire. Racing and practice turned out to be two very different things – who would have thought? Tire wear, especially the way tires wear, became a factor. And riders who love the track found a little bit extra.

With his convincing victory, Alex Rins became the eighth winner of the season, and the eighth winner in as many races. Starting at Brno, we have had victories for Brad Binder, in Austria we had Andrea Dovizioso and Miguel Oliveira, at Misano there was Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo in Barcelona, and then Danilo Petrucci at Le Mans.

The last time that happened was in 2016, in Michelin's first year in MotoGP. In the eight-race stretch between Mugello and Misano, from May to September, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Jack Miller, Marc Márquez, Andrea Iannone, Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Viñales, and Dani Pedrosa all took victory. By the end of 2016, Andrea Dovizioso had made it nine winners overall. You wouldn't want to bet against a ninth, maybe even a tenth winner emerging from the four races remaining in the 2020 MotoGP season.

Closer now

There is a difference between the 2016 and 2020 seasons, however. The switch to Michelins had a big impact on 2016. The teams and factories were still trying to adapt their bikes and their setups to the Michelin rubber, after years perfecting their bikes for the Bridgestones. A lot of races were decided by riders and teams getting it right on Sunday, while others didn't. The weather was a factor too: of the eight races between Mugello and Misano, three of them - Assen, Sachsenring, Brno – were wet.

There's a new rear Michelin in MotoGP for 2020, but that hasn't had anywhere near the impact of a complete switch of tire brands. And though the weather has been a factor, with races being held at tracks at very different times than usual (Jerez in July, Barcelona in September, Le Mans in October), there has been only a single properly wet race.

The biggest difference in 2020 is the closeness of the field. There are now four Yamahas, two Suzukis, four Ducatis, three KTMs, and after Aragon, two, maybe three Hondas which either have won races or have looked capable of winning. Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, and KTM have all won races, Yamaha, Ducati, KTM, Honda, and Suzuki have all had podiums. There have been 15 different riders on the podium.

That happens because the differences between the bikes are small. That is reflected in the race as well. Neil Morrison, with a little help from Thomas Morsellino, pointed out on Twitter that the Aragon round of MotoGP was the second closest top ten in history, with just 9.6 seconds between the winner, Alex Rins, and Johann Zarco in tenth. It was also the second closest top fifteen in history. And so far, the ten MotoGP races of 2020 have produced the second and fifth closest top tens in history, and the second, fourth, and eighth closest top fifteens.

There is once again much to talk about, too much perhaps for a single article, so these subscriber notes will be split over two parts. In part 1, we will talk about the podium, and how the winners came from so far behind on the grid, outclassing the Yamahas who had been so fast in qualifying:

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Wed, 2020-10-14 22:37
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Joan Mir invented the sport of gravel skiing when he crashed, stood up, slid, and ran on Saturday


October racing means light magic. Brad Binder turns up the contrast


Alex Marquez would get another taste of wet weather, and capitalize on the opportunity


Suzuki in wet weather trim, with full shrouds around the Brembo carbon discs, and tape on the radiator to keep the heat in


Johann Zarco arrived at his home GP with a good deal less pressure on his shoulders


Unlike El Diablo, Fabio Quartararo, who looked like cleaning up in the dry


Ducati's rear wheel aero cover on Jack Miller's Pramac Ducati. Note also the torsion meter sprocket carrier


Clear visors in the rain mean you can follow Alex Rins eyes


A rough weekend for Valentino Rossi ...


Crashing at Turn 4 in practice ...


And then in the same place on the first lap of the race. That made it three crashes in three races


Words were exchanged between Pecco Bagnaia and Miguel Oliveira. But they sorted it out after qualifying


Pole at home, and a punishing pace in FP4. Who could stop Fabio Quartararo in the race?


The weather, and a gaggle of Ducatis, that's who


4 into 1. Or rather, 4 into Turn 9, as Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Alex Rins, and Andrea Dovizioso all try to fit into the Chemin aux Boeufs esses


Jack Miller would be foiled by the rain, and using an engine which was starting to display problems during warm up. It let go in the race


Danilo Petrucci rode a near perfect race, controlling from the front, and reminding the world just how good he is


Saving the honor of HRC, Alex Marquez scored a superb podium in the wet at Le Mans.


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Mon, 2020-10-12 23:36
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If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that it is pointless to try to make sense of 2020. There is neither rhyme nor reason to this year; you just have to let it wash over you like an autumnal rain shower and hope to emerge on the other side, if not unscathed, then at least in some sort of shape to continue. It is impossible to make plans, impossible to predict what might happen next.

So it is in MotoGP too. After Barcelona, we started to believe that a shape was emerging to the 2020 MotoGP championship. That favorites were emerging who would do battle over the title for the remaining six races. Naturally enough, this turned out to be naively optimistic, reckoning without the weirdness which runs like a shimmering thread through this pandemic-blighted year. We really should have known better.

Le Mans confronted us once again with the reality of 2020. A rain shower as the bikes headed out for the sighting lap threw the race into disarray, reshuffling the cards once again. Teams had to gamble on whether the rain would persist, and if so, for how long, and make choices about tires and setup. Once the race started on a very obviously wet track, the rain came and went, ending any thoughts of pitting for slicks, leaving the riders to sink or swim by their tire choice, and how well they managed to preserve their tires to the end.

Even then the race wasn't that simple. There was chaos at the start, Valentino Rossi crashing out at the chicane, throwing another wildcard into the mid pack melee. Riders were shuffled toward the back, but then came through the field as a result of smart tire management and fortuitous tire choices. And perhaps just with getting lucky with conditions.

Where to begin? Here's a selection of subjects in these subscriber notes:

  • Jack Miller's cruel luck
  • how the weather made tire choice both crucial, and a lottery
  • Was this an inline 4 vs V4 race?
  • Maverick Viñales' decision to skip launch control and do it himself
  • why qualifying matters, and sometimes doesn't matter
  • a day that was simultaneously very good, very bad, and pretty insignificant for the championship contenders
  • a two-meatball race, something we haven't seen before
  • Danilo Petrucci and Alex Márquez, an unlikely podium and a chance to take aim at their critics
  • MotoGP's Mr Regularity

There is a lot to try to make sense of, though this time, that may be hard. But we have to begin with weather, and how the rain, and tire choices made, would have a profound impact on the outcome of the race. Though ironically, not so much on the championship.

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Thu, 2020-10-01 18:52
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Contrary to appearances, Fabio Quartararo was not lying down on the job at Barcelona


Which Maverick Viñales would turn up this weekend, we asked ourselves? Unlike Misano, the wrong one.


Franco Morbidelli pushed early, but had no tire left at the end of the race. Alex Rins did the opposite, and finished ahead


A weekend of up and downs for Valentino Rossi...


His deal to race a factory Yamaha in the Petronas team was announced...


He qualified on the front row of the grid, key to a good result on a Yamaha M1...


He chased down Franco Morbidelli and looked to be on course for a podium, maybe even a win ...


Until ...


Down...


Out...


Better luck next time


Joan Mir was like a shark smelling blood in the water


The battle for ninth, tenth, and eleventh. Some come down for Viñales, who finished ahead of Cal Crutchlow and Brad Binder


Brad Binder gets serious


It was not to be for Pol Espargaro, the factory KTM rider crashing out of the race at the halfway mark


Marc Marquez made a brief return to the paddock at Barcelona, to meet with Honda about his progress


And explain how his recovery was going


And dream of a return. Aragon? Maybe. Valencia? More likely

 


If you'd like to have very high-resolution (4K) versions of the fantastic photos which appear on the site, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. A subscription will also give you access to the many in-depth and exclusive articles we produce for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The more readers who join our growing band of site supporters, the better we can make MotoMatters.com, and the more readers will get out of the website. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here. You can also see these photos and all our subscriber material on our Patreon page.

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Tue, 2020-09-29 01:15
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It turns out there is someone who wants to win the 2020 MotoGP championship after all. A couple of people in fact, and they are now starting to make an effort to actually win this thing. After last week at Misano, when the top four in the championship were separated by just 4 points, it was hard to discern a shape to the 2020 title chase. Unseasonably cold weather, a punishing track for tires, and the usual run of random racing incidents events shook up the championship at Montmelo. Now, a pattern seems to be emerging from the fog of racing war.

After Misano, just 4 points separated the top four. A week later, there are 24 points covering the first four places, and 8 points – twice what covered last week's top four – the gap from first to second place. The points spread between the top ten has nearly doubled, from 27 to 50 points.

At Misano, Takaaki Nakagami was highlighted as a rider still in with a shot of the championship, not least by Repsol Honda boss Albert Puig, in defense of the job Honda have done in 2020. The LCR Honda rider was seventh, but trailed the leader Andrea Dovizioso by 21 points. With 7 races still left to contest, Nakagami had a shot at the title which was anything but theoretical.

A week later, and Nakagami is still seventh in the championship. But his chances of actually lifting the 2020 title have gone from vaguely plausible to a very long shot indeed. Now, Nakagami is 36 points behind the leader, with only 6 races left. A 36-point deficit would require help from other riders to become champion, and to take points off Fabio Quartararo at two races at least. And if Dorna and the FIM are forced to cancel races once again if the second wave of Covid-19 currently gaining steam across Europe forces governments to impose new restrictions, then a 36-point deficit becomes pretty much insurmountable.

Shakeout at the top

At the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, two clear championship favorites emerged, and two others let their title chances slip away. Fabio Quartararo seized control of the 2020 title chase, while Joan Mir established himself as the chief challenger.

Former championship leader Andrea Dovizioso was taken out of contention by another Ducati rider, Avintia's Johann Zarco (who in the same motion, also lost any lingering chance of a seat in the factory team once Ducati announce their 2021 MotoGP line up on Wednesday. Maverick Viñales needed no help taking himself out of contention, swallowed up without a trace in the first lap of the race, and never reemerging to mount a challenge.

What happened? There are a number of issues to cover in these subscriber notes if we are to describe how we got to where we are now, and where we go from here. So here is what we will be discussing:

  •  how a war of attrition ended up with Fabio Quartararo (almost) cruising to victory
  •  Fabio Quartararo's championship worthy rider
  •  the strength of the Suzuki, and especially Joan Mir
  •  the real favorite for the championship
  •  why tire options were so limited, and how different tire strategies created an intriguing race
  •  how disaster struck for Andrea Dovizioso
  •  is Franco Morbidelli's speed deficit as bad as he claims
  •  how Takaaki Nakagami is flying under the radar, and is in line for a podium soon
  •  why Maverick Viñales had a terrible race, and whether this is a permanent feature of his racing

But first, it feels right to pay tribute to the winner. Here is how Fabio Quartararo took victory in Montmelo, and what it means in the championship.

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If you would like to read more of our exclusive content you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here. If you prefer, you can also support us on our Patreon page and get access to the same exclusive material there.

Sat, 2020-09-26 10:19
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Valentino Rossi at Misano in 2020 - Photo Cormac Ryan Meenan

The deal is done at last. Today, the Petronas Yamaha SRT team has announced that Valentino Rossi will partner Franco Morbidelli in 2021. Rossi has signed a one-year extension of his contract with Yamaha, to race in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team.

This has been a long and difficult negotiation since the beginning of the year. Back then, Yamaha had faced the problem of trying to fit three riders into their factory Monster Energy team.

Ducati had been chasing both Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo, and Yamaha did not want to lose their two young riders. Rossi had told Yamaha that he wanted to wait for the first five or six races before making a decision on whether he would retire, or stay on for another year. Yamaha moved to fend off Ducati's attempted poaching of Viñales and Quartararo by signing them to the factory team, and offering Rossi a factory-supported Yamaha M1 if he decided to continue.

That meant Rossi and Petronas were condemned to one another, if you can use such a phrase for the most successful premier class rider in history and the best satellite team in MotoGP. And each side had their own list of demands: Rossi wanted to bring his entire crew with him, along with various others, Petronas were willing to take only his crew chief David Muñoz and data engineer Matteo Flamigni. Then there was sorting out the mass of sponsors on both sides.

At Jerez, it became clear that Rossi would only be allowed to bring Muñoz, Flamigni, and rider coach Idalio Gavira to Petronas. That sparked a long negotiation over the rest of the conditions, the final details of which were only settled in the week between the two races in Misano, when Petronas Yamaha boss Razlan Razali visited the VR46 headquarters along with Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis. That resulted in the deal signed in Barcelona.

Rossi's move leaves the remainder of his crew in a difficult position. Mechanics Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens have been told there is no place for them in Yamaha, mostly a question of travel costs. Briggs lives in Australia, and Stephens in New Zealand, and both were used to flying home in between races. American Mark Elder will stay with Yamaha, as will Belgian Bernard Ansiau, it is believed.

The fact that this is a one-year deal is another reason Petronas were not keen on taking Rossi's crew. Briggs, Stephens, and Ansiau have all been with Rossi for a very long time, most since he arrived in the premier class with Honda. If they had decided to retire along with Rossi, Petronas would have been forced to look for replacements. That was not a task they relished after investing so much time in putting together their team at the beginning of the 2019 season.

Will 2021 be the end of Valentino Rossi's MotoGP career? It is too early to say. He already has a podium this season, and believes he is capable of more. If he fares worse in 2021 than he does this year, then he may decide to hang up his helmet, especially given that there are talks of the VR46 team making a move up to MotoGP.

But that is all still a long way off. For the moment, Valentino Rossi stays on for another year.

Below are the press releases from Petronas and from Yamaha announcing the deal:


Valentino Rossi to join PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2021

9-times World Champion confirmed to continue in MotoGP with the Malaysian squad together with Franco Morbidelli

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team is proud to announce that Valentino Rossi will join the squad for the 2021 MotoGP season. Valentino Rossi needs no introduction, considered by many as the Greatest Of All Time through a record-breaking career in the premier class of the sport since 2000.

Rossi – Urbino, 16th February 1979 – has competed in the premier class since 2000 and is the only rider in history to win 125, 250, 500 and MotoGP World Championships. In the premier class alone, Valentino boasts seven world titles, 89 race wins, 199 podiums, 55 pole positions and 76 fastest laps. As part of PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2021, the Italian will compete aboard a Yamaha YZR-M1 for the ninth season in a row.

The move will see Rossi join the satellite team in what will be only their third season in the MotoGP category, after the Malaysian squad made their debut at the Qatar GP in 2019. That first season in the premier class saw PETRONAS Yamaha SRT rack up six pole positions and seven podiums, and win the Independent Teams’ Championship. This year has already seen two pole positions, four podiums and three race wins, and the lead of the outright Teams’ Championship, for the outfit.

The announcement of Rossi alongside fellow countryman and friend Franco Morbidelli completes the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT line-up for 2021 – a line-up eager to write another chapter of MotoGP history next year.

Razlan Razali - Team Principal

On behalf of PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and all its partners, it is an absolute honour to welcome Valentino Rossi – an iconic rider and legend into the team next year. His experience will be a great asset to the team as we move into our third season in MotoGP and we are sure we will be able to learn a lot from Valentino. At the same time, we will do our absolute best to assist him to be competitive to reward him for the trust he has in us as a team. We are humbled by this opportunity and ready to take on the challenge. We believe that the combination of Valentino and Franco will provide a truly formidable force on track to help us in our goal of being as competitive as possible together next year. We can’t wait!

Johan Stigefelt - Team Director

To be able to sign a rider like Valentino Rossi, for what will be only our third year in the MotoGP championship, is amazing. We have evolved from a Moto3 team to a Moto2 team to a MotoGP team in a short time frame and now to be leading the MotoGP teams’ championship and signing one of the greatest riders the sport has ever known is incredible. It has been a long time since Valentino was in a satellite team and we will try our best to help him feel like new again. We want to make sure that he feels comfortable in our team, which we trust in and believe in so much. Our target is to get even better as a team, help Rossi deliver the best results possible and make 2021 a memorable year.


YAMAHA MOTOR CO., LTD. SIGNS 2021 CONTRACT RENEWAL WITH VALENTINO ROSSI

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi have officially signed a one-year contract renewal for 2021. The Grand Prix racing icon will take part in next year‘s MotoGP World Championship as a Factory Yamaha rider for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, with full support from Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

Montmelò (Spain), 26th September 2020

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce that it has signed a one-year renewal agreement with Grand Prix racing legend Valentino Rossi. Fans all over the world will be delighted to know that the nine-time World Champion will be participating in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship as a fully supported Factory Yamaha rider for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team.

Due to the global Covid-19 outbreak, Rossi was obliged to state his future intention to continue as a MotoGP rider before competing in a single 2020 MotoGP race. However, having completed seven GP weekends since then, the 41-year-old is certain that he made the right decision. He reunited with his beloved YZR-M1 showing competitive pace and has a lot of fight left in him.

The Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team wants to thank Rossi for his continuous contribution and effort. Currently competing in their 15th MotoGP season together, to date they have secured 4 world titles, 142 podiums, 56 victories, and competed in 250 races.

Rossi can be assured of the team‘s full support for the remainder of the 2020 championship. Everyone is fully focused on completing this season on a high note, as the team continues to push for the three World Championship titles.

LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

We are delighted that Valentino will be staying in MotoGP for another year, and we are sure the fans of the sport feel the same way. A substantial part of the MotoGP fanbase will have grown up with Valentino and followed him throughout his career.

"This current and final season with the Factory Yamaha Team is his 25th in the motorcycle Grand Prix racing World Championship and his 15th year with Yamaha.

"Early on we assured Valentino that, should he stay in MotoGP for 2021, Yamaha would continue to give him full support and a Factory YZR-M1. In the end, this is exactly what he decided to do.

"I previously stated that this Covid-19 influenced MotoGP season would not be the appropriate year for such a legendary rider to close his career. Valentino has always been so popular with the fans all around the world, so it‘s great that he has decided to continue for at least another season. Hopefully the fans will be allowed back into the tracks next year to savour watching the GOAT in action again.

"I would like to thank the management of the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for their enthusiasm and full collaboration to welcome Valentino into their team. They are still quite a ’young‘ team, but they are very professional and serious contenders for race wins and feature in the top of the championship standings, so we are sure that Valentino will feel comfortable and be able to perform at his best level.

VALENTINO ROSSI - MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER

I am very happy to continue riding in 2021 and to do it with the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team. I thought a lot before taking this decision, because the challenge is getting hotter and hotter. To be at the top in MotoGP you have to work a lot and hard, to train every day and lead an ’athlete's life‘, but I still like it and I still want to ride.

"In the first half of the year I made my choice and I talked with Yamaha, who agreed with me. They told me even if there was no place for me in the Factory Team, the factory bike and the factory support were guaranteed.

"I am very happy to move to PETRONAS Yamaha SRT. They are young, but they‘ve shown to be a top team. They are very serious and very well organised. For this year I also changed my crew chief. I‘m very happy with David, and I think we haven‘t reached our best yet. This was one of the reasons why I chose to continue, because the atmosphere in the team is something I like a lot.

"It‘ll be nice to have Franco as my team-mate, as he‘s an Academy rider, it‘s going to be cool. I think we can work together to make good things happen.

Tue, 2020-09-22 11:48
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Misano 2 was Pecco Bagnaia's race to lose. Something he promptly did. But he'll be back


A crash in FP1 was a sign of a tough weekend ahead for Alex Rins


Up and down in Misano for KTM. Misano 2 was definitely up, with Pol Espargaro ending up on the podium


Winner last week, but sick all weekend for Misano 2. Things didn't go to plan for Franco Morbidelli


The old man can still get it up


You wouldn't have put money on this happening after Misano 1


The Suzuki is one of the few bikes left without a holeshot device, the tail of the bike riding high


Compare and contrast with Jack Miller's Ducati, and how the rear squats on corner exit as he deploys the GP20's shapeshifter


Valentino Rossi prepares


Pol Espargaro put up a valiant battle to hold off Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo, but couldn't quite make it


It is no small miracle that the MotoGP field makes it through the first two turns at Misano mostly unharmed


Brad Binder watches and learns


Cornering technique, El Diablo style


Bradley Smith is doing what he can to secure a ride for next year. But he will need to get faster, and soon


The aftermath of Valentino Rossi's race crash: wings and fairings flapping about in the wind


At this point, it looked like game over. But Pecco Bagnaia couldn't stay upright, and Maverick Viñales profited as a result


Just imagine what the championship would look like if Joan Mir could qualify well


Viñales style


Best joke of the weekend. Andrea Dovizioso has Unemployed on his leathers because he lost a bet and is leading the championship


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Wed, 2020-09-16 22:09
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Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Franco Morbidelli made Misano his own


King of practice and qualifying, lost in the race. Maverick Viñales has questions to answer


Things didn't work out the way Andrea Dovizioso hoped at one of Ducati's two test tracks in Italy


Pecco Bagnaia came back with a bang after breaking his leg at Brno


Style and substance: Fabio Quartararo


Winner last time out, but Misano was not kind to Miguel Oliveira


Victory by proxy for Valentino Rossi, though he would have preferred to get a podium himself


Always good to get your ducks in a row


Don't look behind you, Joan Mir


Lights to flag. That's how good Morbidelli was. This was about as close as Valentino Rossi got.


It was a really tough weekend for both Espargaro brothers, not just Aleix. Their grandfather died, and they weren't competitive.


A hero in Brno, but Brad Binder was invisible in Misano


You don't do much braking in Misano, but when you do, you have to bury the front


Jack Miller plays peekaboo


The fans were back at Misano. In limited numbers, and with plenty of space between them, but it was a start


The Misano circuit is a streak of color, Aldo Drudi designing the paint which graces the runoff


Not for want of trying... Pol Espargaro gets some air


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Wed, 2020-09-16 00:16
Body:

The Covid-compressed 2020 season has very little room for maneuver. To fit fourteen races into nineteen weeks means making a lot of sacrifices. One of those sacrifices is testing: of the original three one-day post-race tests planned, only one remains, at Misano, on Tuesday.

What is the point of a midweek test in the middle of a year where so much development has been frozen to cut costs? "I think it's just a lot a people getting bored during the week, not moving anywhere, not doing anything, so they're trying to keep each other busy, keep themselves busy," joked Jack Miller.

The Pramac Ducati rider may have said that in jest, but it is easy to believe he is right. Engine and aerodynamics development is frozen for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, which already cuts down dramatically on the options for progress with a bike for this year and next. So surely the teams and factories wouldn't have much to test?

So it was something of a shock to see exactly how much the various factories had brought to the test. Above all Yamaha: a new frame, a new carbon swingarm, a new exhaust, and that was just the parts we could see. Suzuki had a new swingarm, KTM had a new frame, Ducati had a range of parts that were hard to distinguish, Honda had parts for both this year and next, and everybody was working on the electronics. So here is what the factories were working on:

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Mon, 2020-09-14 05:21
Body:

It's 2020, and if there's one thing we know about 2020 is that it is utterly unpredictable. If at any point, a certain event, path of action, or result seems set in stone, 2020 finds a way to rip that up and throw it away. The Misano MotoGP race – Misano 1, that is, the round sponsored by the microstate San Marino, as opposed to next week's round, sponsored by the Emilia-Romagna region – was a case in point. The timesheets in free practice were clear: Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales would run away with this race, trailing the rest of the field, led by the Yamahas of Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi, in their wake.

It didn't quite work out that way. Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi led the field for a while, before they went their separate ways, and a couple of young upstarts started to interfere with their plans. The pre-race favorites suffered an ignominious fate, shaking up the championship along the way. While the winner tore away at the front, a fascinating and thrilling battle unfolded for the other podium places over the final few laps. We are left with a championship that is closer than ever, and even more unpredictable than ever.

How weird is the 2020 season? Franco Morbidelli's maiden MotoGP victory turned him into the fourth different first-time winner in the first six MotoGP races of the year. The last time that happened? 1949, the very first year of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. That is not even a fair comparison: after all, everything was a first in the first year of the officially organized FIM Grand Prix World Championship. Six races was the entirety of the 1949 championship, which started on June 17th, finished September 4th, and crammed a triple header in Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Belgium in the middle.

In 2020, winning a race is no guarantee of sustained success, however. The winner of the previous five races were never in contention for the podium in Misano. Fabio Quartararo, who won the first two races at Jerez crashed out of the Misano race, twice. Brad Binder, who won in Brno finished twelfth. Andrea Dovizioso, who won the first race in Austria, crossed the line in seventh. Miguel Oliveira, who won the last time at the Red Bull Ring, finished just in front of Binder in eleventh. Dovizioso's seventh place finish was good enough to see him leading the championship. A championship which is wildly closer than before.

So there is much to talk about in these subscriber notes. Here's a rundown of the topics covered:

  • The crazy numbers behind the 2020 MotoGP championship
  • Franco Morbidelli's maiden victory – an overlooked talent?
  • Pecco Bagnaia stakes a claim to the second factory Ducati seat
  • Joan Mir snatches a podium from Valentino Rossi, but missed out on much more
  • Valentino Rossi wasn't on the podium, but his legacy is burned indelibly into MotoGP
  • Alex Rins comes up just short
  • The Yamahas that failed – where Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo went wrong
  • Why seventh place makes Andrea Dovizioso the championship favorite, even though he doesn't believe it himself

There is a lot to get through. So let's start off with a look at the bizarre numbers which define the state of the 2020 MotoGP championship.

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This is part of a regular series of unique insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes interviews, background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion, and is available to everyone supporting the site by taking out a subscription.

If you would like to read more of our exclusive content you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here. If you prefer, you can also support us on our Patreon page and get access to the same exclusive material there.

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