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David Emmett

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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.

The Johann Zarco Saga appears to be drawing to a close. The long journey, which started when he announced he would be leaving KTM at the end of 2019, looks to have taken him to Ducati.

In an interview for the French magazine Moto Revue, the Frenchman told journalist Michel Turco that he will be racing a Ducati Desmosedici GP19 with the Avintia Racing team in 2020 (since the publishing of this story, Avintia has now confirmed its signing of Johann Zarco for next season – JB).

Zarco’s statements bring to a close a long and confusing chapter in MotoGP. Zarco was summarily dismissed from the Red Bull KTM team on full pay after the race in Misano, the Austrian manufacturer wanting rid of a disruptive factor in the factory team.

The Grand Prix Commission is working through the unintended consequences of the decision to restrict testing in all three Grand Prix classes.

Those restrictions have been a positive aid in reducing costs, but have made it impossible to use riders not currently under contract unless their contracted riders are absent due to illness or injury.

Adding a further layer of complexity to this is the current state of the MotoGP rider’s market: with everyone out of contract at the end of 2020, and a large crop of Moto2 riders looking to step up, the factories want to take a look at riders not currently on the MotoGP grid.

The launch of the Honda CBR1000RR-R has caused the Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, to take preemptive action to restrict the use of active aerodynamics.

In a press release today, announcing a series of rule changes for the 2020 season, the biggest change is putting limits in place on how dynamic aerodynamics can be used.

The new rules limit the amount of movement available for active, dynamic, or movable aerodynamic parts. Moving parts will be restricted to the range of motion used on the production bike, even if the parts allow greater freedom of movement.

The fallout of qualifying in Sepang is having serious consequences for Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda rider had a huge highside during Q2, when he was trying to follow Fabio Quartararo.

It was plain to see that Marquez banged up his knees and ankles in the crash, but it now appears he also dislocated his right shoulder in the fall. 

The injury was serious enough to warrant a full medical examination, and the possibility of surgery to fix the shoulder. At the Jerez test, Marc Marquez told Israeli journalist and TV commentator Tammy Gorali that he would be having his right shoulder examined in Barcelona on Wednesday. 

On Saturday night, Karel Abraham told a meeting of his fans that he would not be back in MotoGP. The Czech rider found out on Friday that the Avintia team wanted to end their relationship, when he received an email from a notary representing the team stating in Spanish that the team would be terminating his contract.

The move can as a massive shock to Abraham. It had been completely unexpected, as he had been told at Valencia that he would be back with the team in 2020, and to turn up for the test at Jerez. Only on Saturday was he told not to travel to Jerez.

Abraham had already made arrangements, however. He also needed to recover his leathers and various other belongings which had been sitting in the Avintia truck when it was driven to Jerez for the test.

While he was at the Jerez circuit picking up his belongings, Israeli TV commentator Tammy Gorali, present in Jerez to report on the test, grabbed him and spoke to him for on our behalf. That gave Abraham a chance to give his side of the story.

Karel Abraham is to cease racing in the MotoGP class for the foreseeable future. The 29-year-old told a meeting with fans on Saturday night that he would not be returning to the Avintia team for 2020, and that it is likely he will end his active racing career altogether.

Abraham made his decision after being told not to come to Jerez for the two-day MotoGP test due to start on Monday.

The email had come as a hard blow, Abraham told the fans, as he had a contract to continue racing with the Reale Avintia team for 2020. But on Friday night, he had received an email terminating the contract, though Abraham disagreed with the reasons given.

What conclusions can we draw from the first day of testing for the 2020 season? Not much, other than a lot of factories have brought a lot of new parts.

And it really does feel like a lot of new parts, with new chassis for KTM, Yamaha, Honda, Ducati, new engines all round, and a host of other bits and pieces in preparation for the new season. New riders, too, with Brad Binder, Iker Lecuona, and Alex Márquez all moving up to MotoGP for 2020.

It is particularly tempting to jump to early conclusions about the rookies. There is a clear pecking order, an easy way of deciding who is adapting quickly, and who is taking their time. By that measure, Iker Lecuona is the man to beat, the Red Bull Tech3 KTM rider finishing just under 1.5 seconds off the leading gaggle of Yamahas at the test.

Brad Binder, in the factory Red Bull KTM team, is just under 2.4 seconds behind quickest rider Fabio Quartararo, while the latest addition to the class, Alex Márquez, was last, 2.7 seconds slower than the Petronas Yamaha rider, and nearly 2.2 seconds slower than his brother Marc.