MotoGP 2021 Losail/Season Preview

2021 MotoGP Teams and Riders

Joan Mir                          Factory Suzuki

Alex Rins                         Factory Suzuki

Lorenzo Savadori             Factory Aprilia

A. Espargaro                    Factory Aprilia

Maverick Vinales              Factory Yamaha         

F. Quartararo                   Factory Yamaha

F. Morbidelli                     Petronas SRT Yamaha

Valentino Rossi                Petronas SRT Yamaha

Brad Binder                     Factory KTM

Miguel Oliveira                 Factory KTM

D. Petrucci                       KTM Tech 3

Iker Lecuona                    KTM Tech 3

Pol Espargaro                   Factory Honda

Marc Marquez                  Factory Honda

Takaa Nakagami              LCR Honda

Alex Marquez                   LCR Honda

Jack Miller                       Factory Ducati

Pecco Bagnaia                  Factory Ducati

Johann Zarco                   Pramac Ducati

Jorge Martin ®                Pramac Ducati

Luca Marini   ®                Avintia Ducati

E. Bastianini ®                Avintia Ducati

As we have been saying for several years, this is the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mentality at work in MotoGP. Ever since I can remember—2008—there have always been a few retreads on the grid, riders well past their prime who could still attract sponsor dollars and therefore earned (bought) their spots on the grid. For those guys, a top ten finish would be a season high point. Those guys aren’t out there anymore.

Instead, you have brash, aggressive, fearless young blood, and plenty of it, in the form of Jorge Martin, Luca Marini, and Enea Bastianini, as well as the young vets—Mir, Rins, Bagnaia, Quartararo, etc. A fast field, with every team in the battle for points every week. There are whispers KTM has taken advantage of the rules and secretly improved their engine over the winter. There are other whispers, emanating most assuredly from the Aprilia media folks that this is it, this is the year when the Noale factory hits the jackpot and starts reeling in some podiums, restoring Aleix Espargaro’s faith in mankind in general.

Moreover, you have, top to bottom, perhaps the fastest overall field in history. Lap time differences will be measured in thousandths. Less than a second will likely separate most of the top ten qualifiers each week. Plenty of opportunities for a hot rider on a friendly track to score some surprising early points in 2021 while Himself, the 800 lb. gorilla we haven’t discussed, gets in sufficient shape to compete, spotting one of his rivals/pretenders, say, 75 points over the first four rounds. This aligns with the natural order of things, in that a rider of Marquez’s ability should get handicapped, just the way they do in horse racing. Give the other ponies a chance. Should the season evolve in this way, it promises a hair-raising chase to Valencia at season’s end, the inimitable Marc Marquez working some poor young riders in hot pursuit of another world championship. Don’t call it a comeback.

Personally, I have no idea which team I would predict to take the team championship this year. Further, I have no idea which manufacturer will win either. The sun and the stars have aligned such that no clear favorite emerges entering the season. The Repsol Honda gang would normally be favored, but Pol Espargaro needs to learn his way around the RC, and Marquez is still recovering from what sounds like a serious injury followed by a botched surgery. The Factory Yamaha team, which got spanked by the SRT kids last season, has an unproven machine and two inconsistent riders, both of whom have shown flashes of brilliance, both of whom have thus far failed to close the deal in the clutch, as it were. If memory serves, and it does, three of the four Yamaha riders finished last year in Tranche 3. The factory Ducati team, a perennial contender, promises to be young and fast this year, compared to last year, when they were old and surprisingly un-fast.

Suzuki seized the championship last year and shows no reason to mess with a good thing. No changes for 2021 (other than the ruinous loss of team boss Davide Brivio, who left for a bigger gig in F1. He has a resume to be proud of, having left the team in much better shape than when he arrived, with a competitive bike, two gifted young riders and a world championship in the locker.) And KTM’s immediate future is in the ascendancy, with a sterling collection of riders on a machine which made great strides last year. Both Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira are top five threats every time out. The jury, as usual, is still out on the Aprilia works; everyone’s an optimist in early March. They have settled on the Italian Savadori to team up with the hapless Aleix on this year’s edition which the flacks have touted as a real breakthrough, one in a series which, thus far, hasn’t produced the desired results.

MotoGP 2021 calendar

1                 3/28             Losail I

2                 4/04             Losail II

3                 4/18             Portimao

4                 5/02             Jerez

5                 5/16             Le Mans

6                 5/30             Mugello

7                 6/06             Catalunya

8                 6/20             Sachsenring

9                 6/27             Assen

10                7/11             KymiRing

11                8/15             Red Bull Ring

12                8/29             Silverstone

13                9/12             Aragon

14                9/19             Misano

15                10/03           Motegi

16                10/10           Buriram

17                10/24           Phillip Island

18                10/31           Sepang

19                11/14           Valencia

No Brno. No Argentina. No COTA. No three rounds in three weeks. For the handful of you intending to trek to Austin for the GP, that weekend on your calendar is now open. Good time to completely re-surface the COTA track to withstand the stresses of F1. Take out the bumps and you have one of the finest layouts in the world. Even if it is in Texas.

As usual, I didn’t pay much attention to MotoGP during the off-season, never do. Last year, Marquez was the odds-on favorite until late in Losail when, unbeknownst to us at the time, his season ended. Suddenly, the championship was a horse race; the door had been opened, incredibly, to several teams who had, up until that race, been plotting a strategy for finishing second in the championship.

Suddenly, the trophy was within reach.

This year, with Marquez missing the first however many starts, and probably not in top form for another month, allows the prospect of the best competition for a title in recent memory. Better than last year. Think about how many riders are legitimate podium threats every time out (once #93 is up to speed)—

Marquez

P. Espargaro

Quartararo

Morbidelli

Vinales

Mir

Rins

Miller

Bagnaia

Binder

Oliveira

11 riders competing for the top three spots sounds, from here, like big lead groups, low point totals for the early leaders, the top ten riders getting scrambled each time out, all this while Marquez does PT and rides easy motocross practice runs. I get the sense he will not be fully up to speed until close to mid-season, which would work out fine. If any of your friends are into motorsports and haven’t watched MotoGP, this could be the season for them to start. Despite, or perhaps because of my pandemic cabin fever I have renewed my video subscription for another season.

What’s the Point of Trying to Predict Losail I?

Seriously. Start with past performance, I guess:

2018: 1        04     Andrea DOVIZIOSO          ITA     Ducati Team

2        93     Marc MARQUEZ              SPA    Repsol Honda Team        

3        46     Valentino ROSSI            ITA     Movistar Yamaha

4        35      Cal CRUTCHLOW              GBR   LCR Honda  

5          9      Danilo PETRUCCI              ITA     Alma Pramac Racing       

6        25      Maverick VIÑALES            SPA    Movistar Yamaha

7        26      Dani PEDROSA                 SPA    Repsol Honda Team        

8          8      Johann ZARCO                 FRA    Tech 3 Yamaha

It’s taken me a moment to appreciate all the changes that have taken place in MotoGP since 2018 which, itself, doesn’t seem that long ago. But look at the names—Dovi, Crutchlow, Pedrosa, who retired at the end of the year. Only Marquez and Vinales are on the same bikes as were in the top eight in 2018.

2019: 1        04      Andrea DOVIZIOSO          ITA     Mission Winnow Ducati    

2        93      Marc MARQUEZ              SPA    Repsol Honda        

3        35      Cal CRUTCHLOW            GBR   LCR Honda CASTROL       

4        42      Alex RINS     SPA              Team SUZUKI ECSTAR     S

5        46      Valentino ROSSI               ITA     Monster Energy Yamaha          

6        09      Danilo PETRUCCI              ITA     Mission Winnow Ducati    

7        12      Maverick VIÑALES            SPA    Monster Energy Yamaha

8        36      Joan MIR                          SPA    Team SUZUKI ECSTAR

2019’s Crutchlow and Dovi have been replaced. Both podiumed in 2019, the last year of the race.

2020                               No race due to Covid.

Let’s not forget that, even in normal times, Losail is an outlier and that the results there, barring any unexpected runaway performance, are rarely indicative of the season as a whole. And half the top four finishers in 2018, as well as two of the top three in 2019, will be occupied elsewhere on race day. Night.

Marquez is out, wounded. Rossi, it would seem, in 2021, should be blowing kisses to his fans amidst waves of yellow smoke while finishing eighth. But, for whatever reason, he likes this place. Take Dovi, Marquez and Crutchlow off the 2019 board, as has been cleverly done for us for this race, and you have a top three of Rins, Rossi and Petrucci last time out. Petrucci, who will be on new wheels, is not expected to contend. But Mir should be around the lead group, ready to pounce late. The racing world clutches its pearls waiting to see whether Top Gun or Pop Gun shows up for the factory Yamaha season opener. If history is a teacher, the bike will be manageable once again, championship caliber. And there is a bevy of names still out there who will be letting it out chasing the pole on Saturday and trying to manage their tires as the dew settles on the sandy Qatarian tarmac on Sunday night.

As they say downtown, “What the hell.” It promises to be good stuff, especially on Saturday and Sunday evenings. I remind myself that, in my heart I really don’t care who wins. Other than I would like to see Rossi on the top step one last time in his career. Then, he could start blowing kisses to his fans, the farewell tour underway. He won’t be competitive at a number of tracks, but he has it in him to stay in some races until late and see what happens, as he did in his last win at Assen in 2017, punking Marquez and stealing the win late in the race.

One more time for Il Dottore, I say. Let the bells ring in Tavullia one more time.

Until #93 returns and is up to speed—one feels a tremor at the flashing thought he may never be up to his former speed—the grid is in a bit of a state of suspended animation, riders jockeying for the lead, awaiting the return of one of the best riders, by consensus, ever. EVER. On a bike built for him by Honda Racing, for whom he is a gold mine. At the height of his formidable skills before his late wreck here ended his 2020 season before it started, a season, as we remember, in which he was prohibitively favored to repeat, once again, as world champion.

This is starting to feel like a Three Stooges film, in which the entire Army squad, with the exception of the pre-occupied Moe, Curly and Larry, upon a request for volunteers, takes a step backwards, leaving our heroes responsible for a critical, dangerous mission. We have a host of volunteers aware that the best rider of our generation is on his way back and will likely get up to speed on his Honda tout de suite, as it were. Figure Marquez bails on Losail I and II and makes his 2021 debut at Portimao, Round Three. Suppose one of the fast movers has won twice in the desert and sits with 50 points. Suddenly, those riders with aspirations of a title in 2021 are sweating bullets.

With 17 rounds left, what would it take to get you to bet against a rusty Marc Marquez, trailing by 50?

With #93 out for Rounds I and II, and if I were a betting man getting giant odds in a trifecta in Round I, I would have The Three M’s on the podium—Morbidelli, Miller and Mir. And remind readers that what happens in Round One is not predictable. We’re just doing this for fun these days—who’s gonna stop me?

We will do our first round of tranching, as well as usual canny insights and all the one-liners we can recall in looking at results in Losail, and previewing Round II under the lights, soon after the race. Until then, don’t forget to send off for the full set of teal SRT #46 gear you’ll need to fit in with the real Rossi fans. It’s half the reason he’s still working this year; lots of new leather jackets going out the door. If they didn’t make me look fat, old and stupid I’d get some myself.

Here, courtesy of crash.net, is the top 17 riders on the second day of testing at Losail. Fabio stuck in a hot lap late in the day to edge out Jack Miller and Aleix. Franco Morbidelli in P4. So, we don’t know, at this point, who to like on Sunday. Perhaps in a few weeks we’ll have a better idea. We do know, ahem, that Vale finished in P20 and Brad Binder, struggling, in P24.

It’s early.

Cheers.

Screenshot (437)

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11 Responses to “MotoGP 2021 Losail/Season Preview”

  1. Vrooom Says:

    Though it doesn’t mean much, nice to see Aleix competitive in testing. Hope it holds through the season.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Starmag Says:

    Agreed that this season should be a good one. That’s why it really blows chunks that Cota is cancelled again. I guess I’m odd in that I like Texas and Austin. Many Californians feel the same way though and are moving there in droves.

    Odd also that all those other tracks are “safe” enough for races but not COTA. I can be packed like a sardine indoors in an airport wing with 300 strangers waiting for a plane for an hour or two, but I won’t be “safe” at an outdoor race.

    Other than Antman who is currently the accepted King by the other riders (what he did his last uninjured season was Unbelievable ) and his injury variables, I think that the “Bridesmaid of Consistency” Mir and “No Thanks, I’ll Stick With My 2019 Bike” Morbidelli are the favs at this point. El Diablo and Pop Gun have proven too inconsistent. Methuselah will likely make more excuses this year and earn his Second forced demotion for 2022 if he doesn’t have the good sense to step aside this season. That would be a shame for his considerable legacy. I don’t anticipate The Thriller doing anything different than he has been just because he now has Bold New Graphics.

    “With 17 rounds left, what would it take to get you to bet against a rusty Marc Marquez, trailing by 50?”

    “A fool and his money are soon parted”.

    It’s really a pleasure to see you back Bruce. And MotoGp. I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates your efforts sans dinero. Even if I was the only one, that and a dollar would still get you a cup of coffee. In a cheap diner. 10yrs ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      In the final tranching last year, it was Marquez, Morbidelli and Mir at the top. So, this year, I’m pretty stoked at the notion that Morbidelli could put a satellite bike at the top of the 2021 standings. Never been done before?

      Like

      • Starmag Says:

        I don’t think it’s ever been done, but that’s what El Diablo was supposed to do last year and we all saw how that turned out. We’ll see. “That’s why they run the races”.-Nicky Hayden.

        A real long shot IMO. Impossible if Antman comes back strong. There’s a definite possibility that The Ant will be more hesitant given his ordeal of the last year. I hope not though, on form he’s easily the most interesting rider to watch IMO. He had those crazy front end saves and never finished lower than 2nd in 2019. Unreal. We just won’t know the real level of the competition until he’s back on form.

        Like

      • Dale Mensch Says:

        I think Rossi was on a satellite Honda for his first championship in 2001?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Starmag Says:

          Right you are Dale.

          Little did I know. Again.

          “The satellite riders who clinched the premier class world title are Kenny Roberts, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Eddie Lawson, and Valentino Rossi.” – Wiki

          Like

  3. prakasit Says:

    I would never bet my own money aginst MM93 even if he spot one of them 50 points with 17 races left.
    This year though, I am cheering for Mobideli and Miller.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Buzz W Says:

    Bummed about no Austin and I like Texas too. Of course half of California will move there and screw it up and then wonder how it got as bad as California.

    I was booked to fly to Italy again for the September race and will still keep the option open should the Euros open up the joint once we’re all vaccinated.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Allison Sullivan Says:

    Huzzah! The odd bike has been spotted on the roads here in the frozen North (even if this week the temps have dropped into the 20F’s/-C’s again) and it’s almost MotoGP time. Looking forward to the text banter with my like minded friends and Bruce’s salty commentary on here.

    Marquez’s early season absence will mean that these boys will want to launch off the line fast, points wise, this season. With all the newly promoted younguns and a bunch of excess testosterone lining up, this year is going to be banger.

    I’m cheering for – Taka Nakagami and Frankie Morbidelli. It’s hard to call Frankie underrated after last year, but I still feel like Yamaha treat him a little like a red headed stepchild. Good thing he doesn’t seem to care, and another good season this year would likely see him promoted next one. Taka stepped up in a big way last year, and it was great to see him gaining in confidence every week. I hope that continues, and I hope he drags Alex Marquez along with him. “Being Alex Marquez” has to be a tough gig.

    I’d like to see – Pol Espargaro alligator wrestling that Honda. Someone putting a size ten up Pecco Bagnaia’s backside, because he’s so much better than we’ve seen in the last 2 seasons. Fabio back to his brilliant best, because he is brilliant, and last year would have taught him a lot about racing and life.

    But it’s more likely – Mir and Rins are going to be dominant for at least the early part of the season. Suzuki has arguably the best bike on the grid, but it will be interesting to see how that pit works with Davide Brivio this year.

    Anyway, don’t care, as long as the racing is good and I get to scream at the TV on the weekends.

    Like

  6. Old MOron Says:

    I didn’t realize how much I missed Moto GP and its For Dummies satellite team. Great to have you back, Brucey! Like you, I don’t really care who wins, but I really hope Old Yeller can have a good year.

    Liked by 1 person

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