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David Emmett

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It was a busy day at the Dexeus clinic in Barcelona, as both Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow went under the knife to fix injuries picked up at the opening round of the season at Jerez.

Marquez broke his right humerus in a fast crash at Turn 3 during the race, while Crutchlow fractured his left scaphoid in a crash during warm up. Surgery was successful for both riders, with no complications reported.

An awful lot happened at Jerez on Sunday, when the 2020 MotoGP season resumed/started. First, an update on Marc Márquez.

After a preliminary examination in hospital, with the swelling of the initial trauma surrounding Márquez’ broken humerus starting to reduce, doctors are optimistic that Márquez has not suffered damage to the radial nerve in his right arm.

That would greatly improve his chances of a speedy recovery, a pin or plate enough to hold the bone in his upper arm together. Dr Mir, overseeing Márquez’ care, told the media that Márquez could be ready to race in Brno.

That would mean missing just a single race, the Grand Prix of Andalusia, to be held on Sunday at Jerez once again. But it would also leave Márquez a long way behind in the championship in an extremely shortened season.

For a stunning and heartrending reminder of just how difficult and delicate the 2020 MotoGP season is going to be, see Alex Rins’ huge crash at Turn 11 during qualifying on Saturday at Jerez.

The Suzuki Ecstar rider lost the front at one of the fastest and most treacherous corners of the circuit, and was forced to pick the bike up to try and save it.

But as he entered the gravel trap, he realized he was traveling too fast, and decided to drop the bike to avoid hitting the barrier on the outside of the corner.

That is never an easy maneuver at speeds well over 170 km/h, and Rins fell badly in the attempt.

Be careful what you wish for. For four months, MotoGP riders sat at home and twiddled their thumbs, hoping for the racing to return. They got their wish, but there was a catch: the season opener is in Jerez, in July, in the withering heat of an Andalusian summer.

It was positively punishing on track, especially in the afternoon, once track temperatures started to creep into the mid 50s °C. The track gets greasy, and that catches riders out, especially rookies. Alex Márquez was one such rider: the Repsol Honda rider tucked the front at Turn 8, disrupting the plan for the session.

“In the crash, I was too optimistic, coming from the morning with a good feeling on track, you know,” the younger Márquez brother told us. “I made a rookie mistake.

The grip changed quite a lot from the morning to the afternoon. I was a little bit wide in the entry, but I was on a good lap so I tried to go back to the right line but I was a with a little bit too much lean angle on a dirty surface, and then the front was just closed.”

Understanding how the heat affected the track was the key to the afternoon. The track has plenty of grip when temperatures are in the 30s and 40s°C, but once the mercury creeps past 50°C, the grip goes away, turning the MotoGP bikes into a real handful.

By the end of FP1, track temperatures had hit 40°C. By the start of FP2, the track temperature was already 54°C, and rising.

Racing is back, at last. After a period of four months, in which the COVID-19 pandemic took us on a journey from concern through despair and back to hope again, the MotoGP paddock is busy once again, preparing for a weekend of on-track action.

Not as busy as otherwise, perhaps, the atmosphere is very different from a normal weekend, with no fans, no VIPs, no guests, no media, and half of the team members working from home.

But the trucks are behind the garages, the riders are in their leathers, and the bikes are back on track.

So what should we be looking out for this weekend, now that racing has returned? Here are a few things to keep an eye on at this critical opening race.

Fabio Quartararo and Sergio Garcia have both been handed penalties for using unauthorized machines to practice on track. The pair have been punished by being forced to miss the first 20 minutes of FP1 when action resumes on Friday.

The two were punished for separate incidents, Garcia for riding at Aragon in June, Quartararo for riding at Paul Ricard in the same month.

It is hard to believe, but it is here at last. After a layoff of over four months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Prix racing motorcycles will be back on track in just a few hours time.

At first it seemed like there would be no racing at all in MotoGP, as race after race was canceled, but as the pandemic started to burn itself out in Spain and Italy, Dorna and the FIM started searching for a way ahead.

As the weeks passed, the cancellations ceased, and plans were laid for a new season. Hugely curtailed, and limited to just a handful of tracks, and with the way the series would be run radically reconfigured to make it as safe as possible.

13 races to be held over 18 weekends, teams limited to a much smaller presence, a limited number of TV crews, and journalists excluded entirely. Everything to avoid MotoGP becoming a catalyst for the further spread of the disease, and races having to be canceled once again.

So on Wednesday, bikes take the track again for a day of testing for all four classes – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3, and MotoE – before the season kicks off in earnest again on Friday. On Sunday, we should be racing again, at last.

It was a busy day for MotoGP rider announcements, this Monday. Three riders were confirmed in teams, with a fourth confirmed as leaving. The announcements were hardly a shock, but there was room for the odd raised eyebrow or two.

At Honda, there was the expected reshuffling to make room for Pol Espargaro in the Repsol Honda squad, the Spaniard offered a two-year deal alongside Marc Marquez. This bumped Alex Márquez down to the LCR Honda team, with a two-year contract as compensation.

Alex Márquez may have lost his ride in the factory team before a wheel has turned in the 2020 MotoGP season, but at least he is now assured of three seasons in the premier class to prove himself.

If there was a surprise in the announcements, it was that Cal Crutchlow was being released to make room for Alex Márquez.

The Englishman has been a valuable asset in the development of the Honda RC213V, his feedback highly rated, and he is a firm favorite in the LCR squad, bringing a lot of media exposure to the satellite team.