We are scant weeks away from the start of the 2020 MotoGP season. And given all that has transpired – and will doubtlessly still transpire in this time – this will be a season that could well become folklore in the years to come.
Almost all the riders’ contracts are up this year, and that always makes for a tense and crazy season.
Two crucial tests remain – Sepang on February 7th, and Qatar on the 22nd, where the season kicks off under lights and to sound of howling camels on March 8th.
This year there is an added round at the KymiRing in Finland – a track none of the riders liked, saying it was rough and awful, and which none have raced on. Being in Finland, it will probably snow, or the Russians will invade, so it’s an unmissable round in that regard.
The big news over our summer was Iannone being full of banned drugs. Well, maybe “full” is not the right word. He was just over the limit, so maybe just full enough. The substance found crawling through his veins was drostanolone propionate – an anabolic steroid which was originally used to treat breast cancer, but was soon seized upon by bodybuilders for its strong anti-estrogenic properties. This means it inhibits estrogen and ramps up testosterone. And the good Lord knows Andrea needs as much of that as he can get, what with his hot new girlfriend and all.
Drostanolone is administered by direct injection into the bum or shoulder muscles. Iannone reckons he inadvertently ingested meat contaminated with the steroid, and its still possible this defence may see him not banned for four years when Dorna’s judicial body hands down its decision – which could well be sooner rather than later. If Andrea does get banned, Aprilia might well have to field grid-filler Brad Smith, on its long-promised and much-hyped new race bikes, alongside Aleix Espargaro. Which will leave Iannone free to pursue a career in underpants modelling.
The factory Ducati team is still hoping Dovizioso can do something about Marquez, but those hopes, like his team-mate Fat Petrucci, are doomed. Fatso was meant to lose a bunch of kilos over the winter, probably to counter Ducati fitting more electrical whizzbangery to its bikes. It is still unclear if his time at Fat Boys Anonymous has worked.
The satellite Ducati team, now allegedly fielding equal machinery to the factory team, will comprise once again of Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia and his hot sister. Both of these racers will torment the two factory riders, and will likely outperform them on a regular basis.
The current world champion, Marc Marquez, has his brother as a team-mate this year. Daddy Marquez can now pour all his finger-crossing stress-weirdness into one race, rather than spreading it out over two classes.
This is the first time two brothers have ever ridden in the same factory team – though what that means in terms of anything during the race is anyone’s guess. I’m guessing the new Marquez will plough a lot of gravel and maybe get a fair bit of solid air time.
His brother may well not have it all his own way this year, either. Which would be nice. I don’t know if I can stand another lame-arse celebration of video games and pool balls. Wrestle a damn bear or something.
The other big and most recent news is that Rossi’s seat will be taken by Fabulous Quartararo in 2021, so not this year. Rossi, if he decides to continue in 2021, may go to the Yamaha satellite Petronas team on a full factory bike. The smart people think this scenario is more about keeping Fabulous out of Ducati’s clutches than about forcing Rossi out. And I agree with that.
For his part, Rossi has maintained he will continue while he remains competitive – though what that means in his own head is unknowable. My guess is he will certainly see the season out, and maybe sign on for another year just because it pisses so many of his detractors off. Personally, I hope The Doctor is still racing in his fifties.
Over at LCR Honda, Cal Crutchlow will once again limp his way onto the satellite bike alongside his team-mate Nakagami, and explore new and exciting places to crash when he isn’t finishing seventh. He is the king of consistency in that regard. But I feel it is his last year. He’s just too banged up to carry on. Nakagami on the other hand will show a nice turn of pace this year because he is Japanese and full of Bushido.
Zarco joins the hapless Tito Rabat on the satellite Avintia Ducatis, and it’s anyone guess how the Frenchman will go. Everyone’s already guessed how Rabat will go, and that will be the same as always except he no longer has Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah to keep him honest at the back of the pack.
Mir and Rins return to campaign the factory Suzukis and will continue to suffer because Suzuki lacks a satellite team to help with development. I feel that Mir will eclipse Rins this year, but both are young and brave enough to annoy the front-runners from time to time.
That leaves the two KTM teams.
This year, South African rookie wunderkind, Brad Binder, will want to make a name for himself. And rightly so. The poor South Africans have spent a lot of time in the MotoGP wilderness. Kork Ballington last raced and won in the 1800s, so the advent of Binder has caused everyone’s bloemfonteins to become engorged with hope. My South African friend, Donovan Fourie, has even built an altar and lit a candle made of rendered lions in Brad’s honour. Brad partners Pol Espargaro, who will continue to glare at the Austrians and their crazy racing ideas.
The satellite KTM team will debut another fabulously-named 20-year-old Spaniard, Iker Lecuona Gascón, alongside Miguel Oliveira, who’s only in the paddock because he has nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. I look forward to him breaking more of Rabat’s bones this year. Young Iker may well surprise a few people until the Marquez boys gang up on him in the tyre shed and bare their manifold teeth in anger.
So that’s that then.
It’s going to be an extraordinary year on every level.
By Boris Mihailovic