Yet, The 2020 season is being termed one of the most unpredictable seasons in the world championship’s long and illustrious history.
Right when we were expecting the season to start, The Coronavirus Pandemic struck the world like Marc Marquez’s bike struck him in the arm and broke his Humerus at Jerez. The season Opener had only the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, as they were already present in Losail before the local travel restrictions were enforced in Qatar, ruling out almost every MotoGP rider to be a part of the season opener.
After a lot of uncertainty and with multiple races being postponed indefinitely, most of the racefans were certain of the fact that there might not be any racing at all during the 2020 season. But then came the 11th of June, When Dorna and the FIM announced the updated calendar for 2020.
This included a 13 round calendar with double headers at the same circuit, which never happened ever before in the modern era, with two Double and three triple headers across 8 different circuits across Europe, and the surprise addition of Portugal as the 14th and final round of the championship, Bringing a wide grin on Miguel Oliveira’s face (We know, Miguel).
Petronas Yamaha’s fabulous form:
After being the most unlikely rider to be in MotoGP in 2018 to being the only rider to go Toe to toe with Marc Marquez in 2019, Fabio Quartararo and his Petronas Yamaha SRT team have had one of the best rookie seasons for any rider and team entering the MotoGP paddock.
Headed by the likes of Razlan Razali and Wilco Zeelenberg, The team finished as the top independent team for 2019 with Fabio finishing 5th in the championship with 6 Pole positions and 7 Podiums and coming tantalizingly close to the elusive first win thrice, only to be beaten by Marc Marquez. All of this whilst on an inferior machine with only 5 engines allocated to him as opposed to the usual 7 and 500 RPM lower than the other Yamaha YZR-M1’s on the grid. This earned him a Factory Spec bike for 2020.
Come 2020, “El Diablo” on the Factory spec YZR-M1 got back in business with a double victory at the first double header at Jerez. However, his lack of consistency at the next 4 rounds where he had 1 DNF and the best finishing position of P7, Fabio bounced back at his favourite track on the MotoGP Calendar: Circuit de Barcelona, Catalunya by winning the race outright, cementing his position at the top of the standings.
Should he win the MotoGP Title this year, He will be the first ever independent team rider to win a MotoGP/Premier class title after Valentino Rossi’s win on the Nastro Azzurro Honda back in 2001.
After being relegated from the lead rider to playing second fiddle to Fabio, Franco Morbidelli started showing his true talent and skill to win his first ever MotoGP race at the VR46 academy’s home race in Misano. However, His inconsistent performance onboard the inferior spec Yamaha YZR-M1 with an engine blowup and a crash seats him in P5 of the championship standings with 77 Points.
Defending Champions and triple crown holder Honda’s hopes for another success story hit a road as bumpy as the Nardo Test track, with all the Honda’s struggling right from Day 1 of the Pre season tests. Not even the Wonder Kid in Marc Marquez was able to hone and utilize the prowess of the 2020 RC213V, with his Rookie brother Alex Marquez who joins him for 2020 as a surprise addition after Jorge Lorenzo’s shock retirement languishing at the bottom of the timesheets for the most part of the tests. The lack of front end feel in the bike was slightly rectified by altering the aero package and the Last preseason test was a bit more encouraging than the previous ones.
Then came Jerez, Where Marc’s ominous pace confirmed the fears of many Non-HRC fans and delighted many HRC fans: Marc is going to match Rossi’s record by the end of the year. However, The RC213V had other plans.
Marquez was closely tailing Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales for another podium finish in the MotoGP class, scything through the field after a monumental save at Turn 4 knocked him out of the points. The 8 time champion was right on Maverick Vinales’ tail in a bid to clinch an unbelievable P2 in the opening race when the rear came around on him at turn 3, catapulting him in the air and the impact of the motorcycle causing a fracture to his right Humerus bone. Despite getting operated promptly and being in rehabilitation, a freak window accident caused the Titanium plate to break, complicating his recovery, ruling him out for most of the season. This caused HRC’s results to spiral down the order like a small plane which got hit by the wake turbulence of an Airbus A380, with HRC languishing in 5th, only ahead of Aprilia.
With Alex Marquez struggling on the other Repsol Honda seat and Cal Crutchlow’s injury woes (A bulging right arm after a botched arm pump operation and ruptured ankle ligaments), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) Rose up to the occasion on a 2019 RC213V. By consistently finishing in the top 8 in 6 of the 8 races, Takaaki’s Points tally of 72 puts him in 7th in the championship.
Yamaha’s woes continue:
Yamaha started off 2020 with a bang as usual, topping every Pre season testing in rather dominant fashion with multiple riders from the Yamaha stable being on top. However it begged the question: Can Maverick Vinales convert the early pre season and qualifying pace into race victories, given his struggles with fresh tyres and a full fuel tank? Or can Valentino Rossi edge ever closer to the elusive 10th world title that he has been after since 2010? Well, Probably not.
Despite starting off strong in the first two races with 2 successive podiums, Maverick Vinales’ form dropped off a cliff, his best finish in the next 4 races being a 6th place finish at the first Misano Race. Despite bouncing back at the second Misano race with a dominant win, Maverick just about hangs on to third in the championship standings, 18 points adrift from the Leader and future Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo. Yamaha Legend Valentino Rossi’s potential fairy tale season started off with a DNF at Jerez 1, with two more crashes at Misano 2 and the Catalan Grand Prix effectively ruling him out of title contention. The two crashes proved very costly to the 41 year old Italian competing in his 25th successive season in the MotoGP paddock who could’ve had a sure shot place in the top 4 in the standings had he not crashed. He thus sits in 11th in the championship standings.
When KTM announced their entry into the MotoGP world Championship after being successful in the junior Moto3 Class in 2017 and claimed that they want to start winning races within the next 4 years, Everyone in the paddock were surprised and most of them wrote them off.
After their comprehensive testing programme with Mika Kallio didn’t translate into the results they expected and the fiasco involving Johann Zarco in 2019, KTM were in a really dark place for 2018 and 2019.
But after signing Dani Pedrosa as their lead development rider at the end of the 2018 season and developing countless iterations of their Unique and now almost obsolete (at least in MotoGP) Steel trellis frame (KTM Developed so many frames in one year their Alphabetical naming system for the same became useless), KTM started moving towards the sharper end of the field. With only 8 Top 10 finishes with a best finishing spot of P6 in 2019, 2020 saw 4 Podiums in a span of 8 races with Two(!) wins. Taking their first ever win in the hands of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM factory racing) at Brno and another in the hands of Miguel Oliveira at the Styrian Grand Prix- Red Bull’s home circuit, They have emerged to be a force to be reckoned with.
With the world’s fastest dentist joining forces with one of KTM’s most successful riders across all classes, KTM can be in a strong position for the title bid for 2021.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the recap, which covers Suzuki, Ducati and Aprilia.
By: Suraj Bala Jr.