The 2022 MotoGP calendar will feature a total of 21 races, starting in Qatar on March 6th and finishing exactly 8 months later in Valencia. The 2022 calendar sees further expansion of the number of races, as Dorna add new circuits and new countries to the schedule. For the Kymiring in Finland, that had originally been planned for 2020, but the pandemic put paid to that happening, either in 2020 or 2021. And the Mandalika Resort circuit on Lombok in Indonesia had been added to 2021 as a reserve circuit, but will now be raced on at the start of next season.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the MotoGP calendar. The second and third rounds of MotoGP, at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina on April 11th and at the Circuit Of The Americas on April 18th have been officially postponed. In their place, Qatar will host back-to-back races at the Losail International Circuit on March 28th and April 4th, and reserve circuit Autódromo do Algarve at Portimao will host a race on April 18th.
Though officially only postoponed, the Argentina and Austin rounds are almost certain to be canceled, a move which had long been expected. The logistical and cost challenges of organizing races in the Americas, added to the spread of Covid-19, especially in the Austin area, were always going to pose problems for the two races, and it had long been rumored they would be replaced.
MotoGP will continue into 2021, and scheduling difficulties continue to accompany it. Unlike 2020, however, Dorna and the FIM are prepared for it, however, and so today, we saw a provisional 2021 MotoGP calendar announced. It is a very conventional-looking schedule, with a giant caveat attached underneath: "All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities."
After two tests, at Sepang in mid February and Qatar in mid March, the 2021 season is scheduled to kick off at Qatar on March 28th. After Qatar, the series heads to the Americas, where MotoGP races in Argentina at Termas de Rio Hondo and at Austin. They then head back to Europe, for the usual round of spring races: Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, Sachsenring, and Assen. They round it off with a trip to Finland, subject to the Kymiring being homologated on time.
After last week's announcements that the Silverstone and Phillip Island MotoGP rounds were canceled, today, the Japanese round of MotoGP joined the list of cancellations. The race at Motegi has been called off, and will not take place this year, despite the importance of the race to the Japanese manufacturers.
Today's announcement was the last step in a general clearing out of the schedule to allow for a calendar of races which could feasibly be held for 2020. The plan, as Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta pointed out in the press release, is to do as many races in Europe as possible, and only heading overseas after that, if international travel is still possible. "For this reason, the FIM and Dorna, in consultation with IRTA and MSMA, have decided that, until mid-November, MotoGP will remain in Europe to do as many European MotoGP events as we are able to. Therefore, overseas events, if at all possible, should be scheduled after mid-November – which would be too late in the year for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan to be held," Ezpeleta is quoted as saying.
The ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has forced yet another change to the MotoGP calendar for 2020. Due to the restrictions on movement imposed in Italy, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the US round of MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has been postponed until November.
The MotoGP paddock will gather in Austin on November 15th, instead of April 5th. November 15th was originally the date planned for the final round of MotoGP in Valencia, but to make way for Austin, Valencia has been pushed back a week, and will now be held on the weekend of November 22nd.
That means that as of today, March 10th, the MotoGP class will kick off their season at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina on April 19th, with the paddock returning to Europe two weeks later for Jerez.
In part one of Akira Nishimura's interview with Joan Mir, the Ecstar Suzuki rider spoke about adapting to MotoGP, what he learned from his teammate Alex Rins, and where they need to improve for 2020. In the second half of the interview, Mir goes on to talk about his path into MotoGP, how much easier or harder it is to be a rookie on a Suzuki, compared to a Ducati or a Yamaha, and how long he will need to adapt.
Q: Looking back at your racing career, it is just your fourth year in the world championship. So, when you started your world championship career in 2016, did you imagine you would be a MotoGP rider in four years?
Joan Mir: In four years, no. This is impossible. I think that this is a record or something. We have to find this, because it’s so, so fast. One year in Moto3. Win first race in Moto3, podiums. Then second year in Moto3 world champion. Then first year in Moto2 podiums. Then first year in MotoGP. It’s unbelievable. It’s so fast, but in all my career, I was always competitive, always. Also in MotoGP. So, I’m happy to be here.
Obviously, I would like to do one year more in Moto2 and fight for the title, because it’s something that we were able to do, to have a title in Moto2. I didn’t have it, but because everything came like this, everything fell into place so I had the contract with Suzuki. Otherwise I needed to wait two more years if I wanted to go up to MotoGP. I said, the moment is now. I went up. At the end I’m happy to be here.
It was hard being a MotoGP rookie in 2019. It was probably the strongest rookie class we have seen in many years: Pecco Bagnaia and Joan Mir, two world champions; Miguel Oliveira, who has runner up in both Moto2 and Moto3; and Fabio Quartararo, the young man they changed the Moto3 entry rules for. Yet even these exceptionally talented youngsters faced probably the most talented MotoGP field in history.
Quartararo's meteoric success dominated the headlines, but it overshadowed some strong debuts by the other three. Ecstar Suzuki's Joan Mir, for example, crossed the line in eighth in his first ever MotoGP race, and went on to become a regular top eight rider. By the end of the season, he was challenging his more experienced teammate Alex Rins, and scoring his best result of the season at Phillip Island, finishing fifth in the group battling for the podium.
Before the Japanese round of MotoGP at Motegi, top Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura talked to Joan Mir about his first thirteen races – Mir was forced to miss two races due to the lung injury he suffered in the huge crash at the Brno test. The Suzuki rider spoke at length about his rookie season, about his rapid progression through the Grand Prix ranks, and about what he learned. He also talked to Nishimura-san about racing against his teammate, and how making your debut on a Suzuki compares to the Ducati and the Yamaha.
It was an insightful and long conversation, and so it has been split into two parts. Part two will be published tomorrow, but here is part one:
To win a motorcycle race, team, rider, and machine need to get as close as possible to extracting 100% of performance from both motorcycle and rider. In the Socratic Ideal of a motorcycle race, as the bike crosses the line, it runs out of fuel, explodes into a thousand pieces, the tires destroy themselves, and the rider drops down dead. That, however, would contravene the engine durability regulations, be extraordinarily expensive, and make winning a championship impossible.
Instead, what the riders and teams try to do is maximize the performance of the bike, and allow the rider to manage performance throughout the race. That means finding the right engine mapping to extract as much power as possible without burning through tires and fuel, and setting up suspension and electronics to keep as much edge grip, corner speed, and braking ability as possible for as long as possible.
In 2017 and 2018, tire consumption was often the limiting factor. Riders knew tire performance would drop significantly at some point, so they had to design their race strategy around that: either push hard from the beginning and manage to the end, or slow up the race and hope to keep as much performance as possible to make a dash for the end. Andrea Dovizioso was a master at this, which allowed him to control the races such that he could win them, or at least keep them close.
MotoGP standings after Motegi:
Results and summary of the MotoGP race at Motegi: