MotoGP riders itching to jump start season in Spanish heat

It’s almost 250 days since MotoGP riders raced in anger, so the long-awaited start of the 2020 season has been greeted with a mix of celebration, nerves and relief.

The new 14-round season begins with the Spanish GP at Jerez this weekend and then backs up with the second round next weekend.

But the pandemic pause has been a busy time for teams finalising their rider line-ups for next year.

The rider reshuffle has meant a fair chunk of the 2021 new grid is already in place.

Here are the main moves: Pol Espargaro to factory Honda; Alex Marquez to LCR Honda; Cal Crutchlow out of LCR Honda; Jack Miller to Team Ducati; Danilo Petrucci to Tech3 KTM; Fabio Quartararo to factory Yamaha; and probably Valentino Rossi to Petronas Yamaha.

Jack Miller is keen to race at last after a long break and securing a ride for 2021.Source:Getty Images

LOOKING FOR JACK

Aussie Jack Miller improved as the 2019 season progressed and was jumping out of his skin for 2020. Until coronavirus.

He cooled his jets at his parents’ property outside Townsville for three months, at the same time completing Team Ducati deal for 2021.

His current Pramac bike has close to factory kit so the 25-year-old Queenslander is hoping for more podium celebrations this year after five third-placings last year.

“It’s the best I’ve felt coming into a season that’s for certain but we’ll wait and see I’m trying not to be over confident or anything like that just keep my feet on the ground and keep my focus on the ultimate goal which is trying to battle with Marc (Marquez),” Miller said.

And he believes with the disrupted season, anything could happen, maybe even a championship.

“We wouldn’t rock up here if we didn’t think we could do it … the championship being short, the championship starting in the middle of the year, it may catch a few people by surprise so if we’re able to capitalise on that that’s going to be an amazing thing.”

Marc Marquez fronts the rider line-up at the Jerez track before the Spanish Grand Prix.Source:AFP

MARC OF A CHAMPION

The question again is can anyone beat Marc Marquez on the factory Honda.

After all, the Spaniard has won six MotoGP titles in his seven years competing in the elite category. He won every race in Spain last year so with a Jerez double-header to kick off 2020, he starts favourite again.

Andrea Dovizioso still has to sign on for Team Ducati in 2021.Source:Getty Images

DOVI, WHERE ARE YOU?

One big name still to be signed is Andrea Dovizioso who has yet to seal the deal with Team Ducati as Miller’s partner.

The Italian probably didn’t do his chances any good by injuring his collarbone in a motocross race last month.

The 34-year-old should be right this weekend but the scorching Spanish heat will be a test for any rider not 100 per cent fit.

British rider Cal Crutchlow is now in his final year with LCR Honda.Source:AFP

WHAT ABOUT CAL?

Brit Cal Crutchlow has always been a favourite with Australian fans in recent years. He’s Miller’s best mate in the paddock and the 2016 winner at Phillip Island. Not to mention his remarkable comeback to second position at the island last October after a horror crash at the circuit the year before that meant an extended stay in the Epworth Hospital.

Crutchlow has now been dumped by LCR Honda for 2021 after six years. But the 34-year-old says his MotoGP career isn’t over. Aprilia has already been mentioned as a possible destination.

The Brits would love him to find a ride to keep the sport’s profile up at home.

The class of 2020 on the Jerez main straight.Source:Getty Images

PANDEMIC PITS

The Jerez circuit will be an eerie place for the teams with no fans and limited numbers in the paddock.

The experience will be like a test weekend with no hospitality, limited media and fewer team members all around.

Riders have already remarked how quiet it is without the circus in tow. It would be easier to communicate with your pit team if not for face masks.

And rest assured, when the riders lean into the first turn it will be on. After so many months waiting, you can forget social distancing on the circuit.

ANY SURPRISES?

Maybe Aprilia. The 2020 Aprilia RS-GP has already shown some promise in (limited) testing thanks to new engine configuration, electronics and tweaks to the aerodynamics. If not at Jerez, perhaps a few races down the track.

Also, not really a surprise but expect Suzuki to make serious progress this year.

Remy Gardner of Australia finished fifth in the only Moto2 round, at Qatar, on March 8.Source:Getty Images

GO REMY GO

The Moto2 and Moto3 classes squeezed in one round at Qatar back in March before the shutdown. Barcelona-based Australian Remy Gardner is confident he can step up and claim some podium results. Gardner has made no secret of his ambition of progressing to MotoGP class even as soon as next year.

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Originally published asMotoGP riders itching to jump start season

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