Simply put, the 2020 MotoGP season could be the best one yet, with so many subplots and stories, that almost distract you from the big game of the title race. Here, we take a look at each team, and what they could offer the championship.
Julia Marquez must be one proud parent right now. Both his boys are on arguably the most desirable team in MotoGP, and with Alex looking like he is getting to grips with the notoriously finicky Honda RC213V at the speed he is expected, he could well be joining brother Marc in the upper echelons of the MotoGP world. Marc himself has already played down his chances somewhat, saying at the Sepang test that his recovery from his shoulder surgery does not seem to be progressing as quickly as he would like, but he also said this coming into 2019 and ended up setting a record points total. Marc has to be the benchmark, and the favourite to add title number nine.
Mission Winnow Ducati.
Early 2020 signs are not looking good. Team leader Andrea Dovizioso is seemingly unhappy with Ducati designer Gigi Dall’Igna, over having a machine that still does not turn how he would like, despite his repeated requests to make it so. However, this has now taken a back seat, as it seems there is a bigger problem. The new Michelin rear tyre for 2020 has more grip, and Dovizioso cannot seem to get a handle on it. Across the garage, there is a growing feeling that the wrong man is on the sister machine, despite Danilo Petrucci taking an emotional win in Mugello in 2019, many people believe Jack Miller is the rightful heir to that throne. Petrucci seemed to be hit very hard by the untimely death of his good friend, Luca Semprini, who was the Ducati press officer and lost all form. He needs to regain it very quickly, or he may find himself exiting MotoGP entirely for 2021.
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team.
Yamaha have caught everyone on the hop, already signing up their team for 2021 and 2022. Maverick Vinales will remain, with the undisputed team leader status he has so craved, and he will be joined by the impressive rookie Fabio Quartararo. So where does this leave Valentino Rossi? Despite being told he has a 2021 factory bike available to him should he choose to take it, this is a demotion for the evergreen Italian, and signals that perhaps his time in the MotoGP class is coming to an end. You cannot imagine he will let this affect him however, as he will give his usual 100% for Yamaha. The bike itself seems to be very much improved from the 2019 iteration, with a helpful top speed increase going alongside very encouraging signs from Sepang that the bike is working very well, with Vinales setting his best race simulation times at 2pm, when the track was at it’s hottest and greasiest. If this can translate to better all-round performance, expect Yamaha to have a say in the race win discussions. The final masterstroke Yamaha have pulled, is getting Jorge Lorenzo back ‘home’, tempting him out of retirement with an offer of being the official test rider with wildcard promises written into the contract.
Team Suzuki Ecstar.
Ah, Suzuki. They’ve already got one win under their belt before points have been handed out, taking the title of prettiest livery. But they also may feature on track more prominently, as it seems the aforementioned Michelin rear tyre has really turned the worm, suiting the inline four machines (Suzuki and Yamaha) more than the previously dominant V4 bikes. On the race simulations at Sepang, the two strongest riders were both on inline four machines, and Alex Rins was one of them. Rins really needs to add consistency this year, as even though he took two wins, his championship could have been better, brilliance was often littered with mistakes, which prevented Suzuki from taking that next step. Joan Mir had a forgettable debut season in 2019 too, however he has been retained by the team though to 2022 alongside Rins, and he really needs to start showing why many considered him the hottest property to hit MotoGP since Marquez. An injury free season will help this, as will consistent top 6 finishes, which surely is the target.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing.
KTM have brought a vast improvement with them into 2020. The addition of Dani Pedrosa to the test team has worked wonders, as has their discovery of the ‘twin spartrellis’ frame, which combines the flex and feel of a trellis steel frame, with the adjustability and consistency of an aluminium perimeter frame. KTM seem to have made great strides over the winter, helping them to close in on the ‘big four’. At Sepang, it seemed as though not only were they able to put together fantastic race simulations, but the ability to set hot laps to qualify was also there. They topped every day of the shakedown test, and were always comfortably inside the top 10 in the official test. Pol Espargaro is a proven quantity on the machine, and Brad Binder made some big steps to close the gap between him and his team mate. KTM could definitely spring a surprise, do not be surprised to see dry podiums before the end of the year!
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini.
Simply put, Aprilia have brought serious heat. 95% of their bike is changed, and they’ve brought in some extremely talented brains from all walks of motorsport. They’ve finally given up on their crusade to make a 75 degree V4 work, instead bringing themselves in line with the others in running a 90 degree V4. They got around 280hp from it, slightly less than Ducati and Honda but on a par with KTM. They’ve had their aerodynamics sculpted by an ex F1 downforce engineer in Marco De Luca, which is why the front end could easily be mistaken for a fighter jet. Aleix Espargaro has said he has not loved a bike this much since his Forward Racing Yamaha machine, and he took a podium on that, saying they had podium level race pace on the simulations. It was curtailed by the old Aprilia problem of reliability however, cutting his 20 lap run short with an exhaust problem. There is major uncertainty on the other side of the garage, as Andrea Iannone (at the time of writing) has not had his doping ban taken away, meaning he will not be allowed to race in Qatar if it isn’t solved. This would mean Bradley Smith would be on the bike, with Lorenzo Savadori taking on the test rider role.
Petronas Sepang Racing Yamaha.
Yamaha’s decision to finally give their support team current machinery seems to be paying off. Razlan Razali has created a team of extremely likeable, committed and skilled people in this team, and results are reflecting that. They have Fabio Quartararo, who despite his satellite rider status was the only rider to consistently challenge Marquez for wins in the latter half of 2019, though the elusive win did not arrive. He did however, send shockwaves though the paddock after taking pole at Jerez on only his 4th meeting on the bike. The Frenchman dominated testing, and sent what some could consider a warning shot to his rivals, going faster on the 2020 bike despite ‘not being entirely comfortable’. The pressure is both increased and decreased this season, as he knows he has the Factory contract in his pocket for 2021, however he will want to enter the team as a MotoGP race winner. Franco Morbidelli has been quietly going about his business on the other side, bringing his usual level of performances and challenging the top 5 on a semi-regular basis. He will hope to make it a common occurrence to see him there in 2020, and it appears Yamaha will give both riders the tools to do so.
Pramac Racing Ducati.
Pramac have two riders on Factory Ducati contracts, and on current GP20 machinery who will want to show they deserve a move up to the full red garage for 2021. Fantastic problem to have in the grand scheme of things. Jack Miller is chomping at the bit to move up, and has already intimated that if he cannot get a promotion for 2021, he will be happy to look at other factories, which puts real pressure on the Ducati management as they will want to retain Miller. Pecco Bagnaia’s pressure has been ramped up, as he was disappointing overall in 2019, but had the saving grace of it being a ‘learning year’ aboard a GP18. Excuses will be in short supply if he cannot perform, as he will have current machinery and nowhere to hide.
Avintia Esponsorama Ducati.
Avintia have found themselves in a position that they haven’t before, having a rider who is on a Ducati contract in Johann Zarco in the team. He did himself no favours in the build up to signing, as he said he would ‘rather go back to Moto2 than with Avintia’. Ducati gave the team increased support, and promised Zarco more engineers and the same spec of GP19 Petrucci and Dovizioso finished the season on, and this seems to have been enough to convince the Frenchman to sign. He will be attempting to rebuild his shattered confidence though, as he had a hellish year on the KTM which was ended 6 races early. He got some confidence back on a Honda, replacing Nakagami in LCR for the last 3 rounds and impressing. Tito Rabat keeps his place in the team, after an average season in 2019. Expect more of the same from Tito, he has never had current machinery to show his true capabilities, and if testing is anything to go by he is in for another average year.
LCR Honda Team.
LCR have the only other 2020 Honda machine on the grid, with the enigmatic Cal Crutchlow aboard. Problem is, he seems to hate it even more than the 2019 bike, saying ‘the front end is even worse than last year’, and last year it was the weak point of the bike. He praised the work Honda did in the engine department, with even more power and acceleration, but that, combined with the new Michelin rear (that again!) means the front is pushing even more. Fully expect Cal to announce this will be his last season in MotoGP, as he has been making noises about retirement for the past two years, and they’re only going to get stronger if he cannot perform to his usual levels. Taka Nakagami has returned from a serious shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the tail end of the 2019 season. He seemed to be re-acclimatising himself with riding at Sepang, so is a bit of an unknown quantity on the 2019 Honda right now. He did seem to be making big strides before getting the injury at Assen, and he should be able to return to that pace and perhaps beyond.
Red Bull KTM Tech 3.
2019 was always going to be a transitional season for Tech 3. They’d come off a 20 year relationship with Yamaha, and gone to KTM. Everything was new, and it showed. Hafizh Syahrin looked a defeated man by Mugello, and he has suffered the ignominy of a demotion to Moto2. Tech 3 have got aces up their sleeves however, with the riders they have this year. Miguel Oliviera is a proven quantity, really impressing last year before the Australian wind blew him off going into Doohans and he missed the remainder of the season. Before this though, the Portuguese was going about his business as you’d expect, methodically and quickly, and has showed real breakthrough signs at the tests, running close to the pace of Pedrosa and Espargaro. Oliviera’s replacement at Valencia is now his team mate, in Iker Lecuona. Iker has only just turned 20, and was impressive in spells in Moto2 last season, aboard an absolute pig of a bike, as he did not receive the updated chassis like the Ajo squad. Eyebrows were raised when he was signed, and he proceeded to immediately raise them more in Valencia when he was on the cusp of points before losing the front, but he had done enough. This will be a learning year for Iker, but one would suspect it won’t stay that way all year.
With this all being said, who is your money on for 2020? Let us know on our social media pages!
Click here for the full results from the 2019 MotoGP season.
Photo Credits- MotoGP.com