After a long wait – but not as long as last spring – the MotoGP circus was flying in full formation in Qatar once again, the premier class joining the action alongside the juniors after two years away from the Losail track. The grid was not quite in full configuration yet, with only one Marquez in attendance as the other rests for another couple of races but rivals fought to keep the spotlight firmly on them as the season gets going. Despite windy, sweaty and slippery conditions, Franco Morbidelli achieved that and led the way throughout FP1.
Despite the excitement brought by having motorcycle racing back our screens, the intermediate class did not have much to learn from their first official session of the season. A hot dusty Losail predictably saw them significantly off their usual race pace but some names stood out from the start, in particular Sam Lowes and Marco Bezzecchi who gave a taster of the speed shown in testing by trading top spot in FP1. After Lowes led the way for most of the session, rival Bezzecchi took over in the closing stages and finished a mere hundredth of a second ahead of the Marc VDS rider.
After a long strange winter, the noise of racing machines was back in our ears to distract us from reality once more. After a successful test, Rookie Pedro Acosta continued to shine in the sands of Qatar and on the rather dusty track surface and took control of the timesheets in the first official session of the season. Eight hundredths of a second behind was the more familiar face of Darryn Binder, thriving on the Petronas Sprinta machine. Ryusei Yamanaka in third was almost three tenths off the South African’s time, ahead of testing headliner Jaume Masia.
The preseason is over. Preparations have been made, new parts tested, bikes, bodies, and brains readied, though not necessarily in that order. MotoGP is on the verge of starting another brand new season.
There was less to develop, test, and prepare this year, the aftermath of rules imposed during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic introducing freezes on engine development and limiting aerodynamic updates.
The four factories who did not have concessions in 2020 – Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha – will all be forced to use the engines they homologated for their riders last year for the 2021 season. KTM, who lost concessions thanks to a phenomenally successful season which included three victories, have been allowed to design a new engine for 2021, but must freeze it at the first race in Qatar.
Aprilia, the only remaining factory with full concessions, will be allowed to continue to develop their engine throughout 2021, and will have nine engines to last the season, instead of the seven the other factories have to try to make last the year.
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.
Marquez had already been riding on MotoGP tracks, the Spaniard having spent a day on track in Barcelona on board a Honda RC213V-S street bike, followed by another day at the Portimao circuit in Portugal. Despite good progress being made, and the positive response his arm had shown to Marquez stepping up his training program, the medical team felt it was better to advise Marquez to skip the first two races to give his arm more time to heal, and for the bone density in his humerus to further improve and gain strength.
Sam Lowes ends his preparation for the 2021 Moto2 season on a strong footing, the Marc VDS rider ending the final day of the test as fastest. But the competition was not far behind: Sky VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi and Red Bull KTM Ajo's Remy Gardner were just one hundredth and five hundredths of a second behind Lowes.
The Red Bull KTM Ajo team leads the way at the end of the three-day test for the Moto3 class at Qatar. It was Jaume Masia who was the fastest rider in the test, the Spaniard finishing three tenths of a second ahead of his rookie teamate Pedro Acosta. With rookies finishing second and fourth - Izan Guevara of the Gaviota Aspar GasGas team was under half a second off Masia - the new entrants into the Moto3 class are looking very strong.
The second day of the Moto2 test at Qatar saw six riders end the day with nothing between them at the top of the timesheets. Xavi Vierge took top spot on Saturday, the Petronas Sprinta Racing rider leading Aron Canet on the Inde Aspar Boscoscuro bike, while Jorge Navarro of the MB Conveyors Speed Up Team put another Boscoscuro (the chassis formerly known as Speed Up) into third, three hundredths behind Canet.
John McPhee took the baton from his Petronas Sprinta teammate on the second day of the Moto3 test, the Scotsman taking a big lead over the rest of the Moto3 field. McPhee ended the day three tenths of a second faster than Dennis Foggia of the Leopard Racing team, who was in turn a tenths of a second quicker than Snipers Rivacold rider Andrea Migno.