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David Emmett

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While the motorcycle racing world awaits the return of real racing, contract time is heaving into view. Though the methods are different – Skype calls and WhatsApp messages, rather than private conversations at the backs of garages or between trucks – the objective is the same: to find the best match of bike and rider, giving the most hope of success.

Having to work remotely is the least of both managers’ and teams’ problems. The bigger issue is that there is next to no data to go on. Teams and factories are having to make a guess at who they think will be strong in 2021 based on who was fast in 2019, and who showed promise in the winter tests.

Riders have no idea which bikes have made progress over the winter, and which have stagnated. Is it worth taking a gamble on KTM? Has the Honda gotten any easier to ride?

After last week’s announcements that the Silverstone and Phillip Island MotoGP rounds were canceled, today, the Japanese round of MotoGP joined the list of cancellations.

The race at Motegi has been called off, and will not take place this year, despite the importance of the race to the Japanese manufacturers.

Today’s announcement was the last step in a general clearing out of the schedule to allow for a calendar of races that could feasibly be held for 2020.

The plan, as Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta pointed out in the press release, is to do as many races in Europe as possible, and only heading overseas after that, if international travel is still possible.

After thirteen and a half weeks of silence, MotoGP bikes are to roar into life once again in their natural habitat.

The KTM RC16 machines are to spend two days testing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, on May 27th and 28th. The last time MotoGP bikes were on track was at Qatar, on February 24th.

Factory rider Pol Espargaro will be joined at the Red Bull Ring by test rider Dani Pedrosa, where they will continue work on the RC16.

The good news was that Dorna had submitted a plan to hold two races in Jerez on the 19th and 26th of July, and that the authorities in Andalusia and the city of Jerez had supported the plan.

But many obstacles remained in the path to turning the plan into reality. Now, nearly three weeks later, those obstacles are starting to disappear.

The biggest obstacle was removed on Monday, when the Spanish government announced that the enforced quarantine on anyone entering the country would be lifted from July 1st.

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, the gears of the motorcycle world are starting to grind again. Riders are training once again, and their thoughts are turning to the future. 

It is also clear that riders, teams, and factories are starting to think about 2021. This summer had promised to unleash a Silly Season of unrivaled scale, with all riders bar Tito Rabat out of contract at the end of 2020.

Last week, Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP boss Davide Brivio held a teleconference with a number of journalists to face questions on a broad range of topics.

Brivio talked about the possibility of MotoGP resuming again at Jerez, as Dorna has announced, and what that would entail for Suzuki and for the paddock. He discussed how the manufacturers are working together to cut costs, putting an end to the long-running dispute which has divided the MSMA members, which I examined in detail on my site in this story.

Brivio also fielded questions on the 2020 MotoGP season, and how Suzuki saw the advantages and disadvantages of a curtailed season with a limited number of races taking place on an even smaller number of circuits. And he went into some detail on the contract extensions signed with riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir.

Below is the second half of the interview Davide Brivio gave to journalists:

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated motorcycle racing in many different ways, some quite unexpected. To address some of those complications, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rulemaking body, agreed a number of exceptions to the rules for the 2020 season, concerning wildcards, concerning concession points, and concerning engine development.

Engine development had already been frozen in response to the coronavirus crisis. In part as a cost-cutting measure, and in part because the European manufacturers had had their factories closed, all six MSMA members agreed to halt engine development and use the engines they were due to homologate for the 2020 season for the start of the 2021 season.

For a few weeks, it looked like racing in 2020 might be impossible. But as the peak of the COVID-19 crisis appears to have passed in many parts of Europe, there are a few rays of hope that racing might resume before the end of the year.

At the moment, Dorna have put plans in place to hold two races at Jerez, on July 19th and 26th, with more races to follow.

These plans see factories and teams start to slowly ramp up their preparations for racing in Jerez. At the same time, the factories are having to come to terms with the still-emerging post-coronavirus economic reality.

Measures have already been put in place to cut costs, including a freeze on engine development and aerodynamics until 2021, while the factories and teams are considering further proposals to cut costs and secure the future of the sport.

On Monday, the Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP team organized a press teleconference with team manager Davide Brivio, in which he discussed this, and many other subjects.

Brivio talked about starting the championship in Jerez, the impact of the coronavirus on Suzuki and on the MotoGP championship, and about Suzuki’s plans for a satellite squad. He also talked about what life in the paddock could look like when racing resumes.

The German round of WorldSBK at Oschersleben has now officially been canceled.

With Germany still imposing restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and large-scale events being banned in the country until August 31st, it was clear that the race would have to be postponed at the very least.

When postponement proved not to be possible, cancellation was the only option which remained. In its place, Dorna is planning to hold a round of WorldSBK in Jerez.

The return of World Championship racing took a big step towards reality on Thursday morning.

At a teleconference, Dorna, the regional government of Andalusia, and the city council of Jerez agreed on conditions to hold two MotoGP races and a WorldSBK round at the Jerez circuit.

The conditions would include a vastly reduced paddock, and holding the races behind closed doors, with no fans present. Those conditions have been turned into a proposal and submitted to the Spanish government for consideration.