#RacingAhead: are you ready for Jerez?
After months of anticipation, the ‘if’ became ‘when’. But now the biggest question is who’s ready… and who’s not
Monday, 13 July 2020
Since the flag flew to mark the end of the 2019 MotoGP™ season, it seems in some ways like an eternity has passed, or like our world has been stuck in a tiny infinity. Off season, preseason, training, team changing, gearing up and settling in – it had all been done and the stage was set for the throttles of the MotoGP™ field to twist in their first spectacular of the season. And then, they just didn’t. In some ways it feels like the Qatar Test was yesterday, and in others it feels like it might have happened in an alternate reality, aeons ago. This weekend though, we’re BACK.
The Gran Premio Red Bull de España will see the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto host our return to competition, with the question of when we would race again now replaced by a million more. Back in March, it was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the spotlight as we wondered if the reigning Champion would be ready to go at 100% after shoulder surgery, but now eyes turn to key rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) after he injured his collarbone in training only a few weeks ago. Will he be ready? Can he afford to not be? Will Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) be straight back at the top of the timesheets? What can Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) do? Will Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir turn up with the same searing pace they threatened in testing? Does Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) still have that target on his back from some ominous timesheets in preseason?
A one-day test at Jerez on Wednesday – for all classes – will give us some snippets and glimpses ahead of the race weekend, but these are the questions, and more, for which we will only truly start to get answers on Sunday. And there really are more! Have Honda got more up their sleeve than we saw in testing? Will Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) come out swinging, flush with his new 2021 seat at the factory Ducati team? Or will Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) make it his mission to leave the squad on a high? Can Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) convert raw pace into a first premier class podium this year, and right after his renewal with the team for 2021? And what about Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Racing)? Can the Frenchman get up to speed on his new machinery and overhaul teammate Tito Rabat?
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), meanwhile, will be aiming to strike early in the fight for top Independent Team rider against the likes of Petronas Yamaha SRT, so can he push to get back up the timesheets after some seemingly tougher testing? It looks like it could be his last season with the team, too. Will Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) be able to pull out the stops in his sophomore season and challenge the likes of Quartararo, Miller and Crutchlow? Will KTM turn up the wick and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) make their experience pay? Espargaro is now confirmed as off to Honda next season, so 2020 is his last chance to add more results to his tally with KTM. How will the new Aprilia fare after the encouraging signs in preseason – and this time in the hands of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and his teammate, replacement rider Bradley Smith?
All that is without even mentioning the new faces on the grid, too! Who will take the first spoils in the fight for Rookie of the Year? In 2020 it’s Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) vs Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) vs Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), with plenty on the line for each of them – and Marquez and Binder especially with some nice Jerez races on their past CVs. Marquez is also set to only race this season in Repsol Honda colours for now as well, after it was announced he has signed for HRC to race with LCR next season… so there’s that added incentive to boot.
Catch your breath, buckle up and get ready to find out. We will look different on track, but we’ll race just the same; race for the thrill and love of the fight, race for the adrenaline and the competition. Race for the points and the trophies, race to show what we’ve got as contract negotiations continue and questions hang in the air. Race to feel the air scything past us on track and the freedom of the bike beneath us, race to push the limits of technology and traction. Race for the people who have waited so patiently, the people we inspire and the people who inspire us. Race to create another chapter in a more than 70-year history, and race to push towards a future that had seemed on pause. Race for those who have cared for us and helped us, race for those who have been struck by the maelstrom of 2020 more than many. Race for those who support us and always have, race for the fans who can’t be with us trackside just yet. Race for you, and each other, racing together; ahead. For the sheer love of the sport, because MotoGP™ is racing… and MotoGP™ is back.
The stage is the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto, and we cannot wait to see you. The curtain call is Friday the 17th of July, with race day set for Sunday the 19th.
Moto2™ reset, reload and get ready to race
The season opener was a stunner… so what’s in store in Round 2?
In March, Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took an incredibly popular win under the floodlights of Qatar, and he arrives into Round 2 at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto as the Championship leader. Now, he needs to find that momentum all over again – as do his rivals on the Moto2™ grid – after a long break that has doubtlessly been a mental and physical challenge for everyone. Can Nagashima pick up where he left off?
A very different track, searing temperatures and the shuffled pack of unknowns arising from the particular circumstances in 2020 say it’ll be a bigger challenge that most normally face after having taken the first win of the year. Nagashima’s teammate Jorge Martin will be one of the first hoping to hit back – and on home turf – as will the likes of Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) after their Qatar went awry. Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team), Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP), his teammate Marcel Schrötter and Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) will have their eyes on the prize too, and Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) will also be back in the mix. That mix made for pretty stiff competition even despite the drama in the desert that unfolded, too.
Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) put together an awesome weekend at Losail to come out swinging, only narrowly missing out on his first podium – and from pole – and the American will be raring to get back and track to show his form in the very different conditions of Andalucia. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), meanwhile, also put in a stunner and took third, and the Italian was a standout performer in qualifying to boot. Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team Moto2) shone with an amazing debut in the intermediate class and can’t be forgotten either, especially racing on home turf. But then there’s Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40)…
The Italian took a second place to open his account in 2020, but Baldassarri also happens to be the man who won in Jerez both last year and the year before. Can he do it again as we prepare to blast out of hibernation and go racing again? Only time will tell…
After a day of testing on Wednesday, tune in for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España from the 17th to the 19th of July to see who comes out swinging in Round 2.
Moto2™ Championship Standings
1 Tetsuta Nagashima – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 25
2 Lorenzo Baldassarri – Flexbox HP 40 – Kalex – 20
3 Enea Bastianini – Italtrans Racing Team – Kalex – 16
4 Joe Roberts – Tennor American Racing – Kalex – 13
5 Remy Gardner – ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team – Kalex – 11
Moto3™ gear up for more mayhem and miracles
The Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto beckons. Who’s going to come out swinging in the lightweight class?
If there’s one thing we can probably say for sure ahead of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, it’s that the Moto3™ class will be far from rusty. Always walking the line between madness and genius, the lightweight class know how to put on a show and that will be no different as we get back on track – finally – for Round 2. From the floodlights of Losail we head to the baking summer of southern Spain, and as luck, or skill, would have it, it’s a Spaniard who arrives at the top of the pile.
Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) is most definitely a veteran now, and his ride in Qatar stamped some early authority on the title fight as he took his third win in style. On home turf he’ll be keen to keep his advantage, but the cast of home heroes is a big one to contend with – from the more experienced likes of Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) to the younger guns like Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), all of whom will be fired up.
In terms of the Championship though, Arenas likely already has an eye on the man he beat to the top step in Qatar – John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing). And McPhee likely likewise. The Brit is another veteran who knows how to win and will be aiming for the top – but will also, like Arenas, know consistency is king. Especially in a season that already looks so different…
So who else could they be fighting? As it’s Moto3™, probably most of the field. But based on Qatar – and previous form – Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) should be one to watch. The Japanese rider gained traction in a big way throughout much of 2019 and began his sophomore season on the rostrum. Veterans and SIC58 Squadra Corse teammates Tatsuki Suzuki and Niccolo Antonelli will also be aiming high – and Antonelli’s emotional win at the venue last year was a stunner. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), meanwhile, will want in, and the Rivacold Snipers Team of Filip Salac – who shone in Qatar – and Tony Arbolino – expected to challenge for the crown – can’t be overlooked. Rookie Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) also impressed in Qatar, so there’s no shortage of names likely to be fighting it out in the freight train.
There really is nothing in the world like Moto3™, so make sure you tune in for the test on Wednesday and the race weekend proper, from the 17th to the 19th of July at Jerez.
Moto3™ Championship Standings
1 Albert Arenas – Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 – KTM – 25
2 John McPhee – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda – 20
3 Ai Ogura – Honda Team Asia – Honda – 16
4 Jaume Masia – Leopard Racing – Honda – 13
5 Tatsuki Suzuki – SIC58 Squadra Corse – Honda – 11