After months of anticipation, the ‘if’ became ‘when’. But now the biggest question is who’s ready… and who’s not
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.