Despite strong hopes from race organizers at the end of 2020, it seems the 2021 race season is going to be a mess, just like the previous year. Coronavirus pandemic restrictions mean more racing events are canceled. Despite that, it also seems teams are still looking forward to a strong 2022, planning ahead for next year’s racing already.
First up, here at home in Canada—Ontario-based SOAR was scheduled to have its opening practice weekend on May 15-16, but thanks to the latest COVID-19 regs, that’s not possible. As the Ontario government’s current stay-at-home order is in effect until May 20, SOAR organizers are considering making Round 1 (May 28-30) a practice round, with Round 2 (June 18-20) the first actual racing round. However, this is not confirmed; racing organizations in Ontario are attempting to work out a compromise with the government, so stay tuned. We may see more changes here yet.
On to the overseas race series. Endurance World Championship, often gets the dirty end of the stick, scheduled around more-glamorous MotoGP and World Superbike. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that organizers were unable to re-schedule the 8 Hours of Oschersleben endurance event. Originally, the race was supposed to run May 23; pandemic restrictions made that unfeasible, and organizers looked to re-schedule to mid-summer. That didn’t work out either, so Oschersleben is dropped from the 2021 schedule.
More significantly, we also see Phillip Island dropped from the World Superbike schedule. Like Oschersleben, this is no real surprise; overseas travel is tricky during COVID-19, and with the last WSB calendar update, the Australian round did not look promising. Here’s hoping it’s back for 2022.
Despite the schedule changes for 2021, it seems MotoGP teams are still hopeful for the next season. Suzuki and Aprilia have both extended their factory team contracts through the end of the 2026 season. That’s good news for the series, as Suzuki is back in serious contention, with the 2020 championship going to go Suzuki’s Joan Mir. As for Aprilia, rulebook changes meant it was hard for the team to improve its bike last season, so more time in the series will probably mean better results.
Suzuki and Aprilia returning is good news, but now we also know Valentino Rossi’s VR46 team plans to run in MotoGP’s premier class starting next season, signing a deal through 2026. Supposedly, VR46 will run a Ducati (most likely) or maybe an Aprilia, says GP writer David Emmett. VR46 already has a massive sponsor nailed down; Saudi Arabian petro-giant Aramco is supposedly backing the team. Having the Saudi national oil company behind the team will mean deep pockets, you’d think, but some are already unhappy, due to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. We heard the same thing when the Dakar went to Saudi Arabia, though, but the race goes on, so will unhappy fans change much? Time will tell.