The saying goes that there are only two things one can’t avoid in life: death and taxes. But the 2020 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship season is doing its best to add a third as unpredictability remains the name of the game in what has so far proven a true history maker of a season. Electrifying racing, four different winners from three factories, battles to the line; history has been made across the board for man, machine, team and nation… you couldn’t ask for more. But we’ll get more, because it’s time to get back in the saddle to take on the stunning Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
A splash of multi-coloured kerbs and run-offs glistening next to the clear blue waters of the Adriatic, Misano is a glorious homecoming for many and could be welcome respite for some. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) will be banking on the latter as we head into round six, with the Frenchman starting the year with double wins and then watching that record-breaking pace fade over the tougher rounds of Brno and Austria. But cast your thoughts back 12 months to a rookie taking the reigning Champion to the wire and remember where ‘El Diablo’ belongs… the question is though, can he get back there? For Yamaha it should be a more suited track, and no one should count out the only man to have so far won twice this season.
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will also be eyeing Misano with optimism as it’s a better layout for the Iwata marque, but also a chance for him to put to bed some truly awful luck at the Red Bull Ring. Narrowly avoiding one huge crash only to get hit by technical trouble, and then playing protagonist in another huge incident a week later due to… technical trouble, it hasn’t been an easy ride for ‘Top Gun’ lately. But he’s been quick, taken podiums and been on pole, and he knows – as we all do – that the unpredictability and ever-shuffling pack this season means one thing: no one is out of it yet.
That goes for his teammate, too. The “Most Wins” stat at Misano is shared three ways, but only one of the riders on the list will be lining up in 2020: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The ‘Doctor’ has three wins at the venue to equal Jorge Lorenzo and reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), who remains sidelined, but it’s the number 46’s backyard. He also arrives with some deceptively solid consistency in 2020. His protegee of sorts, Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), will also be optimistic on the way in. Robbed of what looked like a first podium earlier in the year, the number 21 has taken a key step forward this season. On very familiar turf, what can he do?
The man second overall, however, is a different Italian. Veteran Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) hasn’t had a perfect run of form in 2020, but he’s wrung the most out of it on the day including that searing ride to victory in the Austrian GP. After the up and down form of so many and the drama we’ve seen in 2020, the wily Italian is now the man doing the daunting as he homes in on Quartararo’s lead. It’s just three points now, and Dovizioso has won at the venue before. He and Rossi will also have some fans cheering them on, giving that little extra twist of hometown glory to the mix.
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), meanwhile, is another to watch. 11 points off Dovizioso and therefore just 14 off Quartararo’s lead, he’s very much in touch after some impressive rides to the podium at the Red Bull Ring. Riding Ducati machinery as well, there’s plenty at stake for Miller and the Australian is seriously on song. His teammate Francesco Bagnaia will be back from injury too, and what can Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) do on home turf after a tougher 2020 so far?
A run through of the likely Borgo Panigale factory frontrunners would no longer be complete without a shoutout to Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing), however. Since that searing Long Lap Penalty – yes, we’re going to keep bringing it up – the Frenchman has been on quite the rollercoaster, but he managed to take two points last time out despite a broken scaphoid and a pitlane start. More time to heal and no penalties on the horizon at Misano make Zarco an interesting prospect, as ever.
And then, of course, there’s KTM. Brno was a milestone and Styria another, as Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) added to Brad Binder’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) glory, as well as making some history for Tech 3 with their first premier class win. So do KTM lose concessions? They do. Does it look like they need them? You be the judge. The Austrian factory are the steamrolling success story of 2020 so far, and are now third in the constructors’ standings… by just six points. And that’s to the top held by Yamaha. Ducati? They’re only one point ahead of the orange armada! Binder, Oliveira and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will all be out for glory, and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) will be looking to build on some much-improved solid finishes in Austria.
For Team Suzuki Ecstar, meanwhile, the points don’t really tell the story. The Hamamatsu factory are very fast, and Alex Rins and Joan Mir have now both run at the front despite injury struggles for the former and still ever-growing experience for the latter. But some bad luck and crashes – and the Red Flag in Styria seemingly snatching victory from the hands of Mir – mean they’re not quite where they should be in terms of results on paper. Nevertheless, they remain two extremely fast riders on one extremely quality motorcycle, and the reset of Misano will see them aiming for the top again.
The Red Flag that seemed to dent Mir’s hopes of a perfect Sunday last time out was a similar story for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). A fourth in Jerez is his best so far, but the Japanese rider was on the front row in Styria for the first time and stayed as calm and collected as if he’d been there every week. He’s not been out the top ten so far this season, and he’s fought far up within it. Will Misano see that form rollover to the next events? And what can Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) do for Honda? The Red Bull Ring ended up being a tougher double, and the rookie will want to score – Binder’s Czechia victory and frontrunning form puts him well ahead in the fight for Rookie of the Year.
For Aprilia, as well as Ducati and the Italian riders, Misano is also the first home race of the year. What can Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) do? He’s scored a good chunk of points in the last three races, and he’ll want more – as will teammate Bradley Smith, a few places behind in the standings.
Misano. It’s a modern classic that’s staged some serious memorable showdowns, and now we’re on the verge of enjoying two races at the track. First it’s the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini as we return after a short break. Have you caught your breath yet? Get ready for more on Sunday the 13th of September at 14:00 (GMT +2).
MotoGP™ Championship Standings
1 Fabio Quartararo* - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 70
2 Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team - Ducati - 67
3 Jack Miller* - Pramac Racing - Ducati - 56
4 Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 49
5 Maverick Viñales - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 48
*Independent Team riders