The wait is almost over! MotoGP™ bikes will soon be back on track and on our screens as the paddock heads to Doha for the Official Qatar Test, with the premier class riders turning their wheels in anger for the first time since Portimão’s 2020 curtain closer.
The track action takes place on the 5th-7th and 10th-12th of March, with plenty of ways to stay updated. Full live TV coverage is not available, but motogp.com has a huge range of content – including 90-minute LIVE episodes of After the Flag at the end of each day for VideoPass subscribers, starting at 18:30 CET, and Live Timing to follow every rider on every lap.
In After the Flag, presenters Neil Morrison and Louis Suddaby will take the reins at Barcelona HQ to talk through the action, with pitlane reporter and 500cc Grand Prix winner Simon Crafar offering his expert analysis on the ground. Live interviews will be coming in thick and fast as the riders debrief what they learned.
In addition, there will be comprehensive highlights of the riders on track at Losail International Circuit at the end of each day, as well as photo galleries and plenty of interviews. That’s as well as in-depth reports as the factories and teams roll out their new bikes and developments in Qatar. Shorter midday reports will also be available, alongside compilation footage of the riders in the earlier hours of their testing programmes.
So what’s new? A lot. One of the biggest headlines is Valentino Rossi’s move to Petronas Yamaha SRT alongside Franco Morbidelli, with Fabio Quartararo moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team to partner Maverick Viñales. All remain on Yamahas but the shuffle is sure to prove an interesting one. Yamaha also bring new test rider Cal Crutchlow to Qatar for testing, as well as Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane.
At the Ducati Lenovo Team it’s all change as Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia move into the factory team and the other Borgo Panigale machines on the grid also greet new faces. Johann Zarco moves to Pramac Racing and has rookie Jorge Martin alongside him, with Avintia also welcoming two rookies: reigning Moto2™ Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) and his former Moto2™ challenger Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia). Test rider Michele Pirro will also be present for Ducati at the test.
There are a fair few headlines at KTM too. Miguel Oliveira moves into Red Bull KTM Factory Racing alongside Brad Binder, with both now premier class Grand Prix winners and eager to get going. Danilo Petrucci arrives at Tech3 KTM Factory Racing alongside Iker Lecuona to lend another wealth of experience, and the test will also welcome back MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa as he continues his development work for the Austrian factory.
For Suzuki, meanwhile, the line-up remains the same. Reigning Champion Joan Mir and Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate Alex Rins hit reset as they try and gear up for another assault on the top, and at the test they’ll have experienced test rider Sylvain Guintoli on duty, as well as Takuya Tsuda. After discovering such a winning formula in 2020, the Hamamatsu factory will likely be doubling down on that.
At Honda, we won’t be seeing Marc Marquez back on track for the Repsol Honda Team just yet, but new teammate Pol Espargaro will be a headline by himself as he settles in. Espargaro will be joined by Stefan Bradl for the test as the experienced German remains Honda test rider. Alex Marquez, meanwhile, settles into LCR Honda Castrol for 2021, joining LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami.
Aprilia, with a new bike last year and plenty on the testing programme, retain their line-up this season. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) will be eager to get going, and he’s joined in Qatar for the test by both Lorenzo Savadori and Bradley Smith as the Noale factory get down to work.
The shakedown kicks proceedings off on Friday the 5th of March, with only factory test riders and rookies on track, before the other riders then hit the asphalt for five eagerly anticipated days of testing across seven days at Losail. The excitement is building, so make sure to stay tuned to motogp.com and across social media over the next couple of weeks, and check out your local broadcaster coverage.
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