2021 Moto GP season preview

Photo credit: Moto GP website

2020 was the year to shake up all years, who could have predicted what happened?

Starting with Marc Marquez missing the whole season due to an injury sustained in Jerez, the possibility of no races even happening due to the pandemic, then the races going ahead but much later in the year to an unpredictable world champion and new tracks!

Marc Marquez at Jerez 2020. Image courtesy of Box Repsol/Honda Racing

However, with the new 2021 season fast approaching, there is more to discuss: will Marquez be at full fitness? Will Joan Mir be able to defend his title? Will Yamaha’s engine be problematic again and who have people got their eye on?

After Mir won his first Moto GP race and his first Moto GP championship in 2020 with Suzuki – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished for 20 years – Davide Brivio (Suzuki’s team Manager) announced that he was leaving and starting a new adventure outside of Moto GP. Suzuki have said that they are not currently looking for a replacement and are happy with the teams work-ethic. They may promote someone within the team, but nothing has been officially said. Let’s hope that they will keep the same momentum going through to 2021, with Mir being defending champion. Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he be as hungry for the win now he has won one title? Will he be able to bring the fight to Marc Marquez, if he returns fully fit? Only time will tell.

Marquez has had to have numerous operations on his arm since the beginning of the 2020 season, which saw him unable to compete for the rest of the year. It has been announced that he will not be back for the start of 2021 in Qatar either, due to the healing process of the most recent operation. This paves the way potentially for Andrea Dovisioso to return to Moto GP, in place of Marc.

Andrea Dovizioso at the 2019 Misano Test. Image courtesy of Ducati

Dovisioso decided to leave Ducati last year, due to some differences, which left the “Undaunted” rider with no ride for the 2021. However, as he now has no ties or affiliation with any team, Honda are able to ask him to step in for Marc. Having ridden for Honda previously in Moto GP, starting in 2009, it wouldn’t be their worst decision.

When Marquez does return to racing, the questions are: will he be fully able to compete as he once did? Will he be physically and mentally prepared for the close contact, action packed races? And after having a year off, will the others riders be more focused and the teams more prepared than him and Honda?

Of course Alex Marquez is now going to be racing for LCR Honda, instead of being with his brother on the Repsol. So, Marc will also have to get used to his new team-mate Pol Espargaro and vice versa.

The teams are as follows:

Team

Racers

Repsol Honda

Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro

Ducati

Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia

Monster Energy Yamaha

Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quatararo

Suzuki Estar

Joan Mir and Alex Rins

Red Bull KTM

Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira

Aprila Racing

Aleix Espargaro and Lorenzo Salvadori (or Bradley Smith)

Petronas Yamaha

Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli

LCR Honda

Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami

Pramac Racing

Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin

Red Bull KTM Tech 3

Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona

Esponsorama Racing VR46 Team

Luca Marini and Enea Bastinini

Jorge Martin and Luca Marini are the rookies for this season and would be good to keep an eye on as they have shown great potential in previous Moto 2 and Moto 3 championships.

Pol Espargaro and Franco Morbidelli at Jerez 2019. Image courtesy of Philip Platzer/KTM

2021 also sees three different sets of brothers competing against each other: Marc and Alex Marquez, Pol and Aleix Espargaro and Valentino Rossi and Luca Marini.

As for the tracks they will be competing on, the line-up is looking good. However, there are some reserve tracks should the Coronovirus impede on the championship again, namely: Portugal, Indonesia and Russia.

The calendar for the year is as follows:

Date

Location

Track

28th March

Qatar

Losail International Circuit

11th April

Argentina

Termas di Rio Hondo

18th April

America (Austin, Texas)

Grand Prix of the Americas

2nd May

Spain (Jerez)

Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto

16th May

France

Le Mans

30th May

Italy (Tuscany)

Autodromo Internaziole del Mugello

6th June

Spain (Catalunya)

Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya

20th June

Germany

Sachsenring

27th June

Netherlands

TT Circuit Assen

11th July

Finland

Kymi Ring

TBC

TBC

TBC

15th August

Austria

Red Bull Ring – Spielberg

29th August

Britain

Silverstone Circuit

12th September

Spain (Aragon)

Motorland Aragon

19th September

San Marino

Misano World Circuit – Marco Simoncelli

3rd October

Japan

Twin Ring Motegi

10th October

Thailand

Chang International Circuit

24th October

Australia

Phillip Island

31st October

Malaysia

Sepang International Circuit

14th November

Spain (Valencia)

Circuit Ricardo Tormo

However, due to Covid 19 the Sepang tests have already been cancelled. All dates and tracks are up to date and confirmed at the time of writing (January 2021), but can be subject to change.

There has also been a change for the Circuit de Barcelona. Turn 10 has had the shape re-designed, in agreement with the FIM and FIA for both Moto GP and F1, following safety concerns from past years.

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales during the Austrian 2020 Race in which both riders avoided bikes re-entering the track. Image courtesy of Yamaha Motor Racing

There is one new important rule to Moto GP this year: both non-concession and concession manufacturers must start the 2021 season using March 2020 approved parts. After that, normal upgrade regulations will apply for the rest of 2021.

Yamaha had issues last year with their engines and once with brake failure, which led to Vinales having to jump off at the end of the start-finish straight at the Styrian Grand Prix. Will this continue into 2021? Arguably, the Petronas Yamaha seemed to be the more competitive and reliable bike within the Yamaha team, will that still be the case for Rossi and Morbidelli this year? If so will Valentino be able to achieve his illusive 200th podium?

Marco Bezzecchi, Moto2 race, European MotoGP, 08 November 2020. Picture courtesy of Triumph

As for BT Sport viewers, they will also not be hearing the familiar voice of Keith Huewen as he has decided he would like to step down from commentating and spend more quality time with his family. It has not been announced yet who will be filling his shoes, but there are plenty of possibilities. Best wishes for him in the future.

Whatever the outcome, audiences are sure to be in for a treat with the 2021 Moto GP Championship.

Who do you think will come out victorious? And also which team will be number one at the end of the season?

The Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea partnership

As we know Jonathan Rea has won six consecutive World Titles in World Superbikes and must wait until the 2021 season to achieve his 100th career World Superbike race win after crashing in the final event of the 2020 season.

Jonathan Rea Estoril WSBK. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

That is a pretty impressive achievement in any sport but in order to achieve this any driver or rider cannot achieve this on their own, they need to be part of a team that that works together as one with the drive and ambition that they will win races and they will win driver’s and constructor’s championships and of course you have to have a combination of the right team and the right bike in order to achieve any of this.

Did you know that not only has Jonathan Rea won six consecutive rider’s World Titles in World Superbikes but that Kawasaki have won six consecutive constructors World Titles in World Superbikes too?

To me, this says that both Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki have worked together and together they have achieved these amazing achievements but what is Kawasaki’s history in bike racing?

Kawasaki have a long history of motorbike racing which goes back to 1961 when they entered an All Japan Motocross race on a racing bike based on the Kawasaki B7, they started competing the following year and at the first race meeting of the MFJ Hyogo Prefectural Motocross Race in 1963, the top six positions were filled by Kawasaki B8 riders.

Jonathan Rea the Estoril 2020 Press conference Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

The famous Kawasaki racing colour of lime green was developed in 1968, previous to this Kawasaki race bikes had been painted red. At the Daytona 200 in 1969 all the A7RS and A1RAS factory race bikes were in the official lime green colour and have been to this day.

In 1973 the KX was born. The KX was the result of the formation of a new development department set up in 1972 charged with creating a motocross racer. Sales started in 1973 and the development of the KX series continues to this day.

1973 also saw Gary Nixon take the AMA Superbike title in the AMA Road Racing Championship having won three races on a H2R which was a two-stroke three-cylinder bike which was given the nickname “Green Meanie” by it’s racing rivals.

From 1978 to 1982 GP250 and GP350 World Grand Prix racing was pretty much dominated by Kawasaki on KR250’s and KR350’s which were ridden by Kork Ballington and Anton Mang. Between the two classes the riders took an impressive eight world championships and Kawasaki won the manufacturers title in the GP250 class four years in a row. A truly impressive achievement.

Success continued in the AMA Superbike championship when back to back titles were won in 1981 and 1982 with Eddie Lawson on the KZ1000J and KZ1000S1 respectively and the following year on the new GPZ750 after a change in the regulations, which was ridden by Wayne Rainey. The Kawasaki was the dominant bike and earned Kawasaki it’s third consecutive title.

During the same period Kawasaki also dominated the Endurance World Championship with their KR1000 endurance racer with the French endurance team, Kawasaki France Performance. In 1981 and 1982 the Kawasaki riders took all the top positions and 1983 saw Kawasaki sweep the podium at the Le Mans 24 hours. Kawasaki had won the manufacturers title for three years running and were beginning to make a habit of winning consecutive titles!

Jeff Ward, former AMA Motocross 125 and AMA Motocross and Supercross 250 champion, took back to back class titles on a KX500 thus becoming the first rider in AMA history to win four different crowns.

Kawasaki stopped participating in works entries from 1983 to 1988 but they entered the Endurance World Championship in 1988 and came back with a bang dominating the field for three consecutive years winning the title on the ZXR-7 which was the new TT-F1 racing machine in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Kawasaki also entered the Suzuka 8 Hours race in 1993 with Scott Russell and Aaron Slight giving Kawasaki their first win in this race.

The AMA Superbike Championship was won again in 1992 by Kawasaki with Scott Russell riding a ZXR750 which had been prepped by Rob Muzzy and the following year saw the pair take the Superbike World Championship by storm on a ZXR750R and take their first World Superbike victory when they won the title in their first year of competing.

Kawasaki were certainly taking the bike racing world by storm showing that when they entered whichever realm of championship, they were the team to beat.

Kawasaki Motocross picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

The first World Motocross title came for Kawasaki in 1995 when Stefan Everts on a KX250 dominated the championship with five victories. The following year saw Sebastien Tortelli, on a KX125, win the class championship stepping up the following year to the 250 class and taking the world title on the KX250.

In 2001 Kawasaki took it’s first world title in the AMA Supersport Championship with Andrew Pitt riding the green machine. In the same year Kawasaki cleaned up in Motocross with James Stewart on a KX450F taking the Supercross title; Ryan Villopoto took the Supercross Lites West title and Ben Townsley the Supercross Lites East title on the KX250F. WoW!

Ryan Villopoto, a multi-time Supercross Lites and Motocross Lites champion on KX250F’s, stepped up to the 450 class in 2009. After a couple of seasons perfecting the bike, success came in 2011 with the first of four back-to-back Supercross titles. Ryan Villopoto truly was in a class of his own in the motocross world aboard the green Kawasaki.

After a 20 year absence from the World Grand Prix road racing scene, Kawasaki returned in 2002 on Ninja ZX-RR machines competing in the MotoGP class and started to make steady progress in it’s classes over the next few years.

In the Superbike World Championship series upon a Ninja ZX-10R in 2012, Tom Sykes just missed out on the title by a small margin but completely made up for it the following year when he took the World Superbike title with 9 race victories and 18 podium finishes giving Kawasaki it’s first world championship in Superbikes in 20 years.

The 2012 Supersport World Championship was won by Kenan Sofuoglu on a Ninja ZX-6R and in 2015 he took five wins this season to take the title again followed by a successive title in 2016 with six wins. The world was taking notice of Kawasaki and the true potential the ZX-6R machines held.

Ana Carrasco (DS Kawasaki Junior Team) Is on the verge of creating history

In 2017 the Supersport 300 World Championship was established. In the 2018 season history was again made when Ana Carrasco became the first female rider to win a race on a Ninja 400 and then made history again later in the season when she took the title and became the first female rider to win a title in the history of the FIM world championship racing.

A truly outstanding achievement by both Ana and Kawasaki with Kawasaki once again paving the way forward in the motorbike racing world.

2019 saw Kawasaki claim it’s second consecutive title in this class with Manuel Gonzales at the helm when he became the youngest ever FIM Road Racing Champion. A fabulous achievement in what is considered an ultra-competitive class.

For the first time since 1993, Kawasaki Racing Team won the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race in 2019 on Ninja ZX-10RR’s in what was a closely fought battle with the top three teams all completing 216 laps. Alongside, Team SRC Kawasaki France finished in 12th place taking the title in the 2018-2019 Endurance World Championship. Kawasaki was showing the world their bikes were not only made for road racing but for long distance racing too.

Back in the Motocross scene, Eli Tomac took back to back titles in the 2017 and 2018 AMA Motocross Championships on a KX450F and the following year upon the new KX450 he took the title again with 11 wins and 19 podium finishes. Another third successive title for Kawasaki.

Jonathan Rea at Portamao 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

We then come to the Jonathan Rea era of motorbike racing. Jonathan joined the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015 competing in the World Superbike Championship and took the motorbike racing world by storm by winning the title in his first year with Kawasaki with 14 race wins and 23 podiums.

 

 

In 2016 Jonathan took his and Kawasaki’s successive World Title with 9 wins and 23 podiums; the triple world title was claimed in 2017 with 16 wins and 24 podiums and then in 2018 a fourth consecutive title was claimed by Jonathan and Kawasaki with 17 wins and 22 podiums.

Jonathan Rea Estoril WSBK 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Kawasaki and Jonathan had not finished re-writing history when in 2019 they had a record five consecutive rider’s and manufacturer’s titles and in 2020 history was re-written once again when an incredible sixth consecutive rider’s and manufacturer’s title was claimed by Kawasaki and Jonathan. Jonathan has continued to re-write history with most wins in a season, most points in a season and most podiums in a season.

A truly impressive achievement by both Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea.

Karen Bristow

 

 

 

Jonathan Rea’s Six Consecutive World Titles

Jonathan Rea at Portamao 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Having been born with racing in his blood with his father, Johnny a former Road Racing Champion and Isle of Man Junior TT winner, his grandfather sponsoring Joey Dunlop and his great-grandfather being a regular competitor on the Ulster Grand Prix circuit, it was little wonder that Jonathan Rea went on to be one of the greatest road racers that we have seen. An amazing achievement from someone who wasn’t even sure if he wanted to go into road racing!!!

Having been riding for his entire road racing career for Honda Racing and for six of those years in World Superbikes, Jonathan Rea made the switch to Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015 and took the racing world by storm.

In the 2015 World Superbikes Championship season there were 26 races of which Jonathan won the first race at Philip Island and there started an incredible run for the Irishman of 23 podiums, 14 of them of which were on the top step and 7 on the 2nd step. Jonathan amassed an incredible 548 points this season, just a few short of the all time record and he bagged his first World Superbike Championship three rounds early at Jerez in Spain. A very impressive start with the Kawasaki team.

Jonathan Rea Misano WSBK. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

In 2016 there were 26 races of which Jonathan won 9 of them with 9 second place finishes and 5 third places, a total of 23 podiums and at the end of the season which went down to the wire and was decided in the last race of the season at Qata, he was crowned World Champion again and now joined a select group of double World Champions: Carl Fogarty, Troy Baylis, Max Biaggi, James Toseland, Troy Corser, Colin Edwards, Doug Polen and Fred Merkel.

Jonathan is now one of only four World Champions who have had back to back championships, he joins this illustrious group of riders alongside Fred Merkel, Doug Polen and Carl Fogarty.

Again in 2017 there were 26 races of which Jonathan won an impressive 16 of them with an incredible 24 podiums in total. During this year Jonathan had the largest points finish in the history of the championship breaking Colin Edwards 2002 record and was crowned triple world champion. Jonathan was now in a very select group of triple World Champions alongside Carl Fogarty and Troy Baylis. Jonathan being the only rider to have had three consecutive world titles.

Jonathan Rea celebrating at the Estoril GP WSBK 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

2018 sees the World Superbikes series hold 25 races, an incredible 17 of which were won by Jonathan equalling the most number of wins in a season previously set by Doug Pollen in 1992. Having been on the podium 22 times this season, Jonathan earned his fourth world title. The only other person in World Superbike history to have won four titles is Carl Fogarty. A truly incredible achievement for both riders. Jonathan, again, being the only rider to have had four consecutive world titles.

Jonathan wasn’t finished yet. In 2019 there was a record 37 races that season. Having got off to a slow season points wise due to the arrival of Ducati’s new rider, Alvaro Bautista, who dominated the first four rounds of the season, Jonathan went on to win 17 races this season and was on the podium an incredible 34 times with 16 second place finishes and one third place. A truly outstanding achievement and one which earned him his fifth World Championship by the time they got to Magny Cours.

Jonathan is the only rider in the history of the Championship to have achieved five world titles and indeed five consecutive world titles, and he was now truly in a class of his own.

Jonathan Rea Estoril WSBK. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

During this year, Jonathan also took part in the Suzuka 8 Hour event for Kawasaki with teammates Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu.

In a dramatic ending to the race, Jonathan, who was riding the final leg of the race, slid off after another bike had deposited fluid on the track with just two minutes of time left in the event and the race was red flagged. As the Kawasaki team did not make it back to the paddock within the stipulated five minute window, it lead to Yamaha’s team of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga being declared winners.

Kawasaki appealed the decision as official data showed Jonathan’s team were leading by 18.720 seconds from Yamaha. The appeal was upheld and the trio were finally declared the winners.

Jonathan Rea Estoril WSBK 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Yet still there was more to come from the Northern Irish rider. Although 2020 has been a somewhat unprecedented year for all motorsport, having started the season at Philip Island at the beginning of March where we saw Jonathan crash out of Race 1 and win Race 2, there was then a long break before racing finally got underway again in Spain at the end of July/beginning of August.

In the remaining 23 races of the season, Jonathan won 10 of those with a total of 17 podiums and rode straight into the record books with his sixth consecutive World Championship at the season ending Estoril with two races to spare. Again the only rider in the history of the Championship to have achieved this. A truly awe inspiring achievement.

Jonathan has also set all time records for race wins, points, podiums and fastest laps. In 2018 Jonathan took his 60th career win at Brno surpassing the record of Carl Fogarty.

Jonathan Rea Celebrating his six WSBK titles. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Having crashed in the final race of the 2020 season, Jonathan will have to wait until the 2021 season to achieve his 100th career World Superbike win.

Jonathan is arguably one of the most talented young racers in any class of competition today.

Karen Bristow

What makes Jonathan Rea a success – from the fans

When Jonathan Rea took the 2020 World Superbike Championship for the sixth time it made him the most successful World Superbike Rider in the history of the series. He is also credited with the highest number of race wins in the Championship.

Before moving to Superbikes, Rea was runner up in World Supersport in 2008 on the Ten Kate Honda and previously took the HM Plant Honda to be runner up in the 2007 BSB Championship.

In 2012, Rea made two MotoGP appearances replacing the injured Casey Stoner. He finished both inside the top ten – 8th in Misano and 7th at Aragon before making his return to World Superbikes.

So what is it that has helped the 33 year old from just outside Larne to be so successful? We asked our social media followers their thoughts, and there were clear themes – dedication, commitment, riding style and race craft as well as a supportive team and family.

@Simon46storm called out dedication, commitment and being surrounded by a supportive team.

@vickster1984 also suggested the support of a team who understand you as a person and are willing to learn and grow with you, has played a part.

Earlier this year, Rea said himself ‘I’m really happy at Kawasaki, it suits the way I work. I have a great support network around me, and my mechanics are incredible. When things aren’t going well, instead of feeling the pressure of why we aren’t winning, they are really pushing me up and helping me. That helps you in the tough times”

 

Jonathan Rea is set to break all the records in WorldSBK history.

As well as the team, @LJHammond1 attributed Rea’s success to being fast and smooth, and conserving his tyres. He tweeted: ‘Fast, smooth, conserves his tyres (Sykes often out-qualified him and remained in contention until the closing laps when his tyres went off but Rea’s didn’t), wins most of his races and usually finishes when he can’t win (unlike Davies who often crashed from a winning position)’.

It is true – Rea can set a pace that affords him a comfortable lead yet crucially conserves the tyres, and undoubtedly this has been a strong contributor to his consistency. That said he is not averse to baring his teeth and showing aggression, the second race at Aragon in September this year (2020) was a case in point.

As well as the team, we cannot overlook the role family plays. @FifiSimbaBSD says “I think having children grounds you…..children don’t care how many races you have won when they want to play…” Family truly is important to Rea – two years ago, after clinching his fourth WSBK title he dedicated the win to them and said “My family sacrifice a lot to be here, trailing after me, supporting my dream, but I’m really proud to have them with me. They ground me in such a great way. It means a lot.”

With her tweet, @RSnugglebutt talks about his love for what he does, and how at the end of 2019 he said he would enjoy winning for as long as it lasts – he certainly has a great attitude, and it’s really apparent he has the love for the job as much as ever.

@MarkLawrence77 says it is down to hard work and along with @DoubleMRacing, reckons Rea should have gone to MotoGP (the latter also said he could still have been winning and adds ‘might as well set your World Championships in stone, keep winning so you are unbeatable with World Champs’).

Jonathan Rea 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

So what is next for the man who grew up in Ballyclare? Well, in June he renewed his contract on a multi season deal, so surely achieving a century of career victories must be in his sights (he’s currently on 99), and a seventh title in 2021 would bring him to the same number of consecutive titles achieved by Giacomo Agostini between 1966 and 1972. We are eagerly anticipating the start of the 2021 season to see how he does.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our question, but my favourite response to the question of what makes Jonathan Rea so successful has to be the one from @Paulmur22095740 who quite simply said… “Him!”

Laura Sawyer