The 2021 MotoGP season will kick off without six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.
After review by the medical team monitoring his recovery from the broken humerus he suffered at the opening MotoGP round of 2020, the decision has been made to postpone a comeback until after the two Qatar rounds.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for Marc Marquez, and the fears are receding that it might be an oncoming train.
Today, the Repsol Honda team announced that the results of Marquez’ medical assessment performed this week were positive, and the consolidation of bone in his fractured humerus was proceeding well.
Episode 135 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one covers the season-opener for the grand prix season, which oddly didn’t include the MotoGP riders. We are of course talking about the Qatar GP.
On-hand in the Middle East was the dynamic duo of Neil Morrison and David Emmett, as they discussed the racing action for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.
It has been a decade, but it is here at last. The last time a rider from the United States of America took pole position in a Grand Prix was in 2010, at Indianapolis, where Ben Spies set the fastest time in qualifying. The last time an American rider was fastest in the intermediate class was Kenny Noyes at Le Mans in 2010. 2010 was a good year for Americans in racing.
Are we likely to see a revival of Americans in Grand Prix racing? Unlikely, given that there is only one rider from the US current in the entire series. But that doesn’t preclude seeing a lot of success for the US this year.
Joe Roberts has found something this year. The American Racing team (owned, ironically, by someone who is not American) have taken a big step forward with the Kalex, and the bike suits Joe Roberts’ riding style much better than the KTM did.
There is nothing like the sight of racing motorcycles entering a track for timed laps to bring a circuit alive.
If yesterday, the atmosphere was best described as eerie, the baritone roar of a pack of Moto3 bikes was enough to snap the MotoGP paddock out of its malaise.
We went from wandering around looking lost to watching the timing screens, and jumping out of the way of bikes as they entered the pits.
Walking up and down pit lane, and with a chance to focus on Moto2 and Moto3 exclusively, a few things catch your attention.
The cancellation of the Qatar MotoGP race and the Thai round of MotoGP in Buriram throws MotoGP’s regular schedule into a bit of disarray. The deadlines under which the MotoGP manufacturers were working have suddenly been opened up again.
Factories without concessions – Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Ducati – were due to homologate their engines this week, ahead of the first race, and all six manufacturers were due to submit their aerodynamics packages for homologation, although aerodynamics packages can vary per rider.
Similarly, teams were due to submit their gearbox ratios ahead of the first race, with a maximum of 24 different gearbox ratios and 4 different final drive ratios allowed during the season.
So now that Qatar and Thailand have been canceled or postponed, what happens next?
The COVID-19 outbreak, or coronovirus as it is more commonly known, has finally had an impact on MotoGP.
Today, the FIM and Dorna announced that the MotoGP race at Qatar has been canceled, while the Moto2 and Moto3 races are due to go ahead.
The cancellation is due to restrictions imposed by Qatar on travelers coming from Italy and Japan. With so many members of the paddock – riders, engineers, mechanics, journalists, and other team staff – from those two countries, it would have been almost impossible for MotoGP to race there.
The MotoGP Court of Appeal has ruled that Ducati’s aero spoiler, attached to the bottom of the swingarm of the three Desmosedici GP19s and used in the opening MotoGP race at Qatar, is legal.
The decision of the court means that the race result stands, and that Ducati can continue to use the spoiler going forward.
Episode 94 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Neil Morrison, and David Emmett on the mics, as we cover the very eventful Qatar GP. MotoGP racing has finally started in earnest, and the two-wheeled action under the lights of Losail did not disappoint GP fans.
The action off the track was there as well, with teams protesting Ducati’s use of aerodynamic aids on its swingarm. The guys give this topic a lengthy discussion, looking at the protest from all the angles, as it will have huge implications for the MotoGP Championship.
For a place which 95% of the paddock hates going to, Qatar certainly knows how to make us want to come back. The area between Doha and the Losail International Circuit has been a mixture of noisy construction, omnipresent sand and dust, and an ever-changing and convoluted road system (the route to the track regularly and literally changing overnight) ever since I first went to a race there in 2009. But once at the circuit, the track layout serves up some of the best racing in the world.
Fittingly, the title sponsor for the Qatar round of MotoGP was VisitQatar, the Qatari tourist office aimed at stimulating inbound tourism to the Gulf peninsula. To be honest, the best thing VisitQatar could do to attract visitors to the country is just play all three of Sunday’s races on a loop. In the Moto3 race, the first eleven riders all finished within a second.
The first five riders in MotoGP finished within six tenths of a second. And the winning margin in all three races was five hundredths of a second or less. These were races decided by the width of a wheel, the winner in doubt all the way to the line.
The MotoGP race was a thrilling affair, a close race from start to finish, with wild passes as far as the eye can see. Riders jockeyed for position, vying to make their contesting strategies pay off.
Yet it still left some fans feeling empty, with the impression that they were being cheated of an even better race if the riders has been willing and able to go flat out as soon as the lights went out all the way to the end.
Andrea Dovizioso’s victory in the opening race of the 2019 MotoGP season at Qatar is currently subject to appeal. Dovizioso raced in Qatar using the aerodynamic components previously debuted by factory Ducati teammate Danilo Petrucci at the Qatar test, and used by Petrucci and Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller during practice at the Qatar MotoGP round.