With MotoGP and World Superbike done for the season, we’re now moving into preparation for 2021. Riders are changing seats, and in case of Honda’s Marc Marquez, it’s time for more surgery.
Under the Knife
Marquez’s right shoulder and arm have caused him considerable trouble over the past few years, and going into the 2020 season, there questions about his capability to race. Lucky for Marquez, he didn’t have to race at Qatar, before he was ready. Unlucky for Marquez, he then proceeded to crash out at Jerez, re-injuring the arm that was already questionable.
That meant surgery, and another surgery, and it cost him a whole season’s worth of riding. Now, Marquez has just undergone a third surgery on that arm, preparing for 2021. This time, he’s had a new plate fitted to patch up his mangled humerus, along with a bone graft from his hip. Ouch. Doesn’t sound fun, and it certainly seems to be taking Honda’s star rider a long time to get better.
It’s December now, so with the 2021 season-opening Qatar race almost four months away (March 28), Marquez has time to recover and get up to speed. But, that’s what he thought last year, and he wasn’t able to recover properly. Don’t be surprised if this is a problem that continues to haunt him through next riding season, even if he does make it back on track.
There’s considerable rider turnover this year, with some of MotoGP’s biggest names changing roles.
Most notably, Andrea Dovizioso, long the foundation of the Ducati factory team, lost his job and is taking a year’s sabbatical. Dovi finished fourth this year, with 135 points, behind Alex Rins (Suzuki, 139 points), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha, 158 points) and Joan Mir (Suzuki, 171 points). That’s very respectable, but things haven’t been great between Ducati and Dovisioso for a while now, and he’s out, replaced by Jack Miller.
It’s no shocker. Cal Crutchlow didn’t fare well at Ducati, and even Valentino Rossi couldn’t change the team’s culture. Something’s going on there.
Speaking of those two guys, Rossi is demoted from Yamaha’s factory team to the Petronas satellite team … except the Petronas bikes were generally more successful than the factory Yamahas this year, so it might not be a bad move at all. As we told you several months back, Fabio Quartararo moves up from Petronas to the factory Yamaha team. We’ll see how that works out; Quartararo was favoured to be champ at the start of 2020, but ended up 8th overall.
And Cal Crutchlow? He’s retired, sort of. Crutchlow lost his seat at LCR Honda to Alex Marquez, who’s been demote from the Honda factory team to make space for Pol Espargaro. It was probably time; 2020 was a horrible year for Crutchlow. It’s possible he could have made a comeback in 2021 on the right bike, but he’s getting older, and when he was snubbed for the Honda factory seat this year, he probably saw the writing on the wall.
Instead of moving to World Superbike, where he might still spank most of the field, Crutchlow is becoming Yamaha’s test rider, replacing Jorge Lorenzo. This means Lorenzo now has lots of free time on his hands; there’s talk of him jumping back into the racing paddock with Aprilia, but for now, Lorenzo seems content to spend time on Twitter, chirping Crutchlow. You’d think a former world champ would have better things to do with his life, but maybe the sting of replacement is too much for his wounded pride?
For a more complete list of who’s moving where, check out MotoGP’s provisional entry list here. At this point, Suzuki’s looking like it’s the most stable factory team for 2021, with maybe KTM right there with it. Expect that to pay off, if next season has the same level of chaos as this year did.