World Superbike Superpole qualifying took place under a 21ºC sunny sky and a track temperature of 31ºC. Scott Redding was quickest in this morning's FP3, but the biggest news is the absence of a BMW team, with Eugene Laverty's team undergoing "internal restructuring" causing their absence.
World Supersport qualifying culminates in Superpole, twenty minutes to determine the grid for this afternoon's race. Dominique Aegerter and Steven Odendaal dominated qualifying yesterday, and are favourites for the top two places.
Scott Redidng went quickest, ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu, but Jonathan Rea and Garrett Gerloff's times from yesterday keeps them on the provisional front row.
Dominique Aegerter took the top spot from Steven Odendaal, the pair setting exceedingly close times once again. Manuel Gonzales and Philipp Oettl also swapped places from this morning's session, ending the session third and fourth quickest, over a half second off the pace of the leading two.
Four bikes in the top four for this session, and not a Ducati amongst them. Jonathan Rea held off Garrett Gerloff and Alvaro Bautista with Tom Sykes maintaining his morning's form to make the BMW look good. Scott Redding was seventh quickest, but his morning time keeps him third quickest overall.
Steven Odendaal and Dominique Aegerter were within lap record pace, with Philipp Oettl the only other rider withing seven tenths of a second. Yamaha R6s made up seven of the top eight places.
Scott Redding is quickest at Assen, a traditionally Ducati track, with Jonathan Rea second quickest ahead of the Ducatis of Chaz Davies and Michael Ruben Rinaldi. Toprak Razgatlioglu is the only other rider within half a second of Redding's best time while Tom Sykes held off talk-of-the-town Garrett Gerloff, who has just re-signed with Yamaha for another year.
Assuming we really do have a full 13 round WorldSBK Championship in 2021 (and we all know what assumption is the mother of, don’t we?) then we will be starting new racetrack romances and rekindling old paddock flames from now until we arrive in the tropical idyll of an Indonesian Island racetrack, just in time to get some global Christmas shopping in. Well, mid-November, in reality.
Maybe my memory is misfiring but that seems very late for WorldSBK to park the Covid testing bus for a well-earned rest. But if we get all 13 rounds in without any changes from now until then, we will not be doing just well, we will be doing better than MotoGP, as they are having to change as they go, it appears.
Our principal 2021 changes since the last WorldSBK calendar released on 29 April have been more related to new and returning circuits, when we compare 2021 to the weirdest season of all time last year.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to remind us that it is a global, not a local, phenomenon. As cases continue to rise in Thailand, and the vaccination program is only being rolled out slowly, the organizers of the Thai GP have been forced to cancel the 2021 MotoGP round at Buriram.
It is believed that a replacement round is being planned, but finding a venue is proving difficult, for much the same reason the race was canceled. There have been rumors of a second round at Sepang, but also of hosting two races in Austin, at the Circuit of the Americas. Much of this is speculation, with little confirmation, given the ever-shifting nature of the pandemic. Holding two races at the same track is the most likely course of action, however: minimizing travel increases the chances of a race actually being held.
The current 2021 MotoGP calendar appears below, though it is certain to change:
The old guard of MotoGP are making something of a comeback after the summer break. Two familiar names and now test riders are to make a brief return to racing, in Austria and beyond. Only one of those riders - Dani Pedrosa - has been officially confirmed as a wildcard at the first race at the Red Bull Ring - but Cal Crutchlow is widely expected to replace Franco Morbidelli for the next three rounds.
The news that Dani Pedrosa is to make a wildcard appearance at the Red Bull Ring at the Styrian Grand Prix had been widely rumored, but still comes as something of a surprise. There had been much talk early in the year that Pedrosa would race for KTM as a wildcard, but the Spaniard's aversion to media appearances and general lack of interest in racing made that seem unlikely.
Kevin Schwantz, the hugely popular 1993 500cc world champion tells us about some of his scariest moments, some of his nastiest crashes and his greatest victories
Kevin Schwantz won 25 500cc grands prix and one world title between March 1988 and July 1994 but his impact on the sport of motorcycle racing was much greater than that.
The American’s wild riding technique, his ability to magic victories apparently out of nowhere and his willingness to ride way beyond the limit – sometimes with painful consequences – made him a huge favourite with fans.
In the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, Steve English, Neil Morrison, Adam Wheeler, and David Emmett gather to cover some of the topics coming up over the summer break. We start off on a tangent, discussing soccer and what it means to be a fan again, and our plans for the summer, before moving on to talk about the calendar for the second half of the MotoGP season, and how a rise in Covid-19 infections might affect it.
Then we dive into the burgeoning Silly Season. We talk about who will take the seats expected to open up at Petronas Yamaha for next year, and what the team's options are. We discuss Raul Fernandez' imminent promotion to MotoGP, and what it means for KTM and their pool of talent. And we talk wildcards and replacement riders, with Cal Crutchlow set to take the place of Franco Morbidelli for the next three races, and Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa possibly making wildcard appearances for Aprilia and KTM respectively.
As some of you might have noticed, updates to the site have been less frequent over the past week. This is in part because, with MotoGP on a five-week hiatus, there is not much going on in the world of Grand Prix motorcycling, other than a lot of managers frantically texting Lin Jarvis and Johan Stigefelt about the vacant Yamahas for 2022. But it is too early for anything to come of that.
The other reason for posting to be a little slow on the site is also because I need a break too. It has been a very long, hard 12 months: first, the insanely compressed 2020 MotoGP season, with 13 races in 18 weeks, and barely a moment to catch your breath. Then I traveled to the UK to help my mother and brother care for my severely ill father. And after he died, I have had to balance the care for my grieving mother - nearly 57 years is a long time to spend together, and the loss of that love has left a gaping hole in her life - with covering the start of a fascinating 2021 MotoGP season.
Though MotoGP is on its longest summer break in years, WorldSBK is here to carry the load through the summer. And last weekend's round of World Superbikes at Donington Park helped shake up the championship, with Toprak Razgatlioglu taking over the lead from odds-on favorite Jonathan Rea. As usual Steve English and Gordon Ritchie gather to compare notes on the weekend.
The state of the championship is where Steve and Gordo start, asking if this is a sign of Jonathan Rea's stranglehold on the WorldSBK title being broken at last, or whether the 6-time world champion's crash was just a slip up, and whether Razgatlioglu is capable of challenging Rea consistently. They also discuss BMW's strong weekend, with podiums for both Tom Sykes and Michael van der Mark, and they take a look at the difficulties Ducati faced at Donington Park, and what it means for the title chances of Scott Redding and Michael Ruben Rinaldi.
Though the Assen MotoGP race and its fallout raised the most talking points, the Moto2 and Moto3 races left plenty to discuss as well. Steve English, Adam Wheeler, David Emmett, and a windswept Neil Morrison gathered to discuss the events of the Moto2 and Moto3 races, and what they might mean over the summer break.
The crew start off the Follow Up Show Fueled By Marc VDS Racing with the winner, Raul Fernandez, and what his future might hold. They discuss what he said himself about where his future lies - in Moto2 with the Ajo KTM team - and the rumors placing him in both the Tech3 KTM team and the Petronas Yamaha squad.