Tracks are open—at least they are in Europe, where it’s sunny and shiny. MotoGP’s already had two races, and World Superbike just wrapped up its first test. Read on:
The big question this year is when Marc Marquez will return. Now we know the answer—he’s been cleared to return for the April 16-18 weekend at Portimao. This means we’ve got a new question: Just how fast will he be?
Marquez has been sidelined for almost a year, after crashing in the 2020 MotoGP opener and re-injuring his much-mashed right arm/shoulder. He missed the two Qatar races on doctor’s orders. Will he approach Portugal with the same old balls-to-the-wall vigor that got him into trouble in the first place? Or will he play it cautious, earning some smart points until he reckons he’s in a place to start winning every weekend all over again? Stay tuned.
Currently, Ducati’s Johann Zarco leads the GP standings with 40 points after two races, with Yamaha teammates Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales close behind with 36 points each. Those are big leads, but Marquez is easily capable of erasing that gap if he returns to previous form. As soon as one of those riders makes a big mistake, Marquez will be on top of that error (Quartararo, in particular, is likely to end up out of the points in a race or three, due to crashing).
Normally, World Superbike racing would be well underway by now, but thanks to COVID-19, the usual Australian jaunt was called off this spring.
Instead, teams are still waiting for their first race at Aragon on the May 21-23 weekend. They got their first stab at the track for 2021 this week, though, with a two-day test. Scott Redding and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (both riding Ducatis under the Aruba.it flag) duked it out for top times, with Redding ultimately prevailing. Yamaha factory rider Garret Gerloff was third.
What does this mean? Hard to say, as many of the series’ top riders weren’t at Aragon (remember, the pandemic means travel gets a lot more complicated). Honda, BMW, and Kawasaki were at the Catalunya test two weeks earlier, but not at Aragon. At the earlier test, Honda and BMW had the fastest bikes, generally speaking.
However, it’s worth noting that Redding’s best lap time was very close to Jonathan Rea’s track record at Aragon, set last September aboard the factory Kawasaki. Will Redding close in on Rea this summer? The Kawasaki ace has long been The Man To Beat, but maybe the Aruba team has finally figured out the formula.