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David Emmett

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After the press conference part of Ducati’s 2020 MotoGP launch, we got a chance to ask Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna a few more questions about the Italian factory’s plans for the coming season.

Dall’Igna expanded on some of the things he had told the press conference, such as his priority for the Desmosedici GP20, and how he expected the new Michelin rear tire to affect the racing.

But Dall’Igna also answered some other questions as well. The Ducati Corse boss talked about why he wanted more power from the GP20, the support on offer for Johann Zarco, how he sees rider contracts, and Ducati’s thoughts on racing in Endurance.

He even fielded a question about Marc Márquez, and managed to answer it by not answering it.

For the second winter in succession, Marc Márquez is recovering from shoulder surgery to fix a problem with dislocation.

It didn’t slow him down much in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider finishing the season opener at Qatar in second place, losing out to Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.023 seconds.

He went on to win the next race in Argentina by nearly ten seconds, and crashed out of the lead in Austin. It was to be the only time Márquez finished outside of the top two.

So when Márquez decided to have surgery on his right shoulder last November (in 2018, it was his left shoulder which was operated on), he was confident of a quick recovery.

Testing resumes today at Jerez for the WorldSBK class. At least, it will if the track dries out enough to make conditions usable. Heavy overnight rain has soaked the track, and more rain is expected over the next two days.

The WorldSBK field will be hoping for dry track time for a lot of reasons, not least because it will be the first time that the Honda CBR1000RR-R will be seen at a public test.

As the world of motorcycle racing starts to get into the swing of things, activity is starting to ramp up.

The first of the MotoGP factory launches is due this week, Ducati to present their 2020 livery and (unchanged) rider line up in a 13th Century palace in the middle of Bologna.

That event happens on Thursday evening, January 23rd, and I will be attending to try to find out more about Ducati’s plans for the coming season.

The other factories will have to wait. The three Japanese factories will be launching their bikes just ahead of the Sepang test.

Since they returned to the MotoGP paddock officially – and not under the guise of the ART, the RSV4-based bike which raced first under the Claiming Rule Team banner, and then in the Open Class – Aprilia has struggled.

Their MotoGP program got off to a bad start, the loss of Gigi Dall’Igna to Ducati forcing them to reschedule their plans.

Romano Albesiano, who took over as head of Aprilia Racing, found it hard to combine his role as lead engineer with the organizational duties of managing the racing department.

Albesiano came from a development and engineering background, and seemed to lack interest in the practicalities of a running a race team. Those took time away from developing the RS-GP, and so the project floundered.

2020 is supposed to be a big year for Aprilia. The reorganization instigated by Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola has helped free up lead engineer Romano Albesiano to design a brand new RS-GP from the ground up. The bike is expected to be much more competitive than the 75° V4 which has served them up until now.

But they enter 2020 with every chance of being without an important part of the MotoGP program. Andrea Iannone’s lawyer confirmed to Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport that Iannone’s B sample from the drug test he failed in Sepang has also come back positive. The Italian now faces a four-year ban for use of the anabolic steroid drostanalone.

The quantities found in the sample were minute, Iannone’s lawyer Antonio De Rensis told Gazzetta. “The counter-analysis showed the presence of metabolites equal to 1.15 nanograms per milliliter,” De Rensis said.

Taking into consideration that the sample was extremely concentrated due to Iannone being dehydrated from the hot and humid MotoGP race in Malaysia, that would point to an even lower concentration, De Rensis claimed.

This would corroborate the theory of accidental contamination through food, according to Iannone’s lawyer.

The world of MotoGP and WorldSBK has been relatively quiet for the last two weeks, as factories close and teams and riders take time off to celebrate their various holidays.

Very little has happened, with people off around the world, and only now returning to prepare for the 2020 season.

As we wait for the bikes to be back on track, and thus the news flowing again, here are the headlines that are tracking during the off-season.

As the MotoGP field prepares to spend the holiday season at home with friends and family – or in Andrea Iannone’s case, with his lawyers – the impending pressure of MotoGP Silly Season will be pushed to the back of their collective minds.

But with the contracts of the entire MotoGP grid plus the leading Moto2 riders up at the end of the 2020 season, that state of quietude will not last long. Silly Season has been temporarily suspended for holiday season, but it will soon burst forth in a frenzy of speculation, rumor, and signings.

So how will the Silly Season for the 2021 MotoGP grid play out? Given the number of changes likely, it will be a complex jigsaw puzzle indeed, with a few key players at the heart of the process.

And as a confounding factor, teams and factories will want to avoid the current tangle they find themselves in. The era of the entire grid being on two-year contracts is as good as over.

There are a number of reasons for no longer automatically offering two-year deals to everyone on the grid. Neither the team managers nor the rider managers I spoke to over the course of 2019 were thrilled at the prospect of another contract cycle like we have seen for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

And the way the year has played out has given them plenty of reasons to avoid the same mistakes for 2021.

Jorge Lorenzo’s announcement at Valencia that he would be retiring at the end of the 2019 MotoGP season came as a shock to the paddock.

In the immediate aftermath, attention focused on who would take his place in the Repsol Honda Team, speculation reaching a crescendo when HRC announced it had signed Alex Marquez to ride alongside brother Marc in the factory squad.

With MotoGP testing out of the way, and Jorge Lorenzo returned home to Switzerland after his hard-earned extended vacation in Bali, Indonesia, talk has now turned to Jorge Lorenzo’s future.

Andrea Iannone has been provisionally suspended from all racing activity for violating the FIM’s antidoping code. A urine sample taken from Iannone at the Malaysian round of MotoGP at Sepang was found to contain traces of anabolic steroids.

Once the findings of the sample, analyzed by a WADA-accredited laboratory, were reported, Iannone was handed a provisional suspension in line with the FIM antidoping code.

Iannone can appeal the result, and request that the B sample (the second sample taken at the same time) is analyzed.

He can also appeal to the CDI (International Disciplinary Court) for his suspension to be lifted, but to do that, he would have to be able to provide evidence that the samples he provided had been contaminated in some way, or that he had taken the banned substances accidentally (something which is very difficult for anabolic steroids).

Who is the greatest MotoGP rider of the past decade? Followers of the sport will all have their own answers to this question, based on their own criteria. One way of trying to answer the question objectively is by using numbers to quantify performance.

Sure, the numbers may overlook certain factors. But going over the numbers from 180 races held over the space of 10 years helps eliminate outliers, and separate the signal from the noise.

To qualify for consideration, you have to win races. The 180 races held between 2010 and 2019 have seen 13 different winners: Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez, Jack Miller, Dani Pedrosa, Danilo Petrucci, Alex Rins, Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Casey Stoner, and Maverick Viñales.

Of that group, Iannone, Miller, Petrucci, and Spies have all won only a single race, ruling them out of contention. Alex Rins has won two races, but the Suzuki rider has only been active for three seasons, meaning he made little impact over the full decade.

That left eight riders who have won multiple races this decade: Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Márquez, Pedrosa, Rossi, Stoner, and Viñales.

Of those eight, Andrea Dovizioso is the only rider to have started in all 180 races (he actually started 181 races, but the 2011 race in Sepang was red-flagged after Marco Simoncelli’s tragic death, and would have started in Silverstone last year, had the race not been canceled due to the weather).

Two other riders have started every MotoGP race held while they were in the class: Marc Márquez has competed in all 127 races held since 2013, and Maverick Viñales has started all 91 races held since 2015.