2020 MotoGP Round Nine – Catalunya
The MotoGP paddock has travelled straight from Italy to Spain for the third race in a triple-header as MotoGP arrives at Montmeló near Barcelona for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya which is the eighth round of this truncated fourteen-race season.
Originally scheduled for June of this year, the race at the 4,627m Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was rescheduled for late September following the worldwide pandemic. It was reconfigured and resurfaced in 2018, and this high-abrasive circuit features fast and sweeping corners, a straight over a kilometre long and elevation changes throughout its layout. It’s a track that is favourite amongst riders and often serves up exciting racing and a fantastic atmosphere, which will sadly not be there this season as due to the health protocols there will be no spectators at trackside.
This is the 29th successive year that the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has hosted a Grand Prix, after first being included on the Grand Prix calendar in 1992. With the cancellation of the Dutch TT at Assen and the Italian GP at Mugello, Catalunya is now the second current venue that’s been used consecutively for the longest period behind Jerez (35 successive years).
Four riders split by four points, the top eight within a win, six different winners – four for the first time – and still candidates aplenty to keep that record rolling. The last time there were more than six (or more) winners in a single premier class season was in 2016 with nine different winners (the record in the class).
Despite two races at Misano that saw him pick up a seventh and an eighth, it remains wily veteran Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in the Championship lead on 84 points. He’s one of only two riders who’ve scored in every race so far, and that’s paying off despite some tougher weekends. The man knows how to finish a race. He also knows how to win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, over three seconds clear by the flag in 2017. Can he get back on top?
“In the last two GPs, unfortunately, we have not been competitive enough, but we try to see the positive side of the two races in Misano: we are on top of the Standings, even if the fight is all open. We still lack speed, and if we want to be able to fight for the Championship title, we can’t waste time anymore. We will have to adapt to the asphalt of Montmeló, which will certainly have less grip than Misano’s, and this could prove to be a determining factor for everyone. I am sure that if we continue to work as we have done in the last few weeks, better results will come soon.”
If Yamaha have anything to do with it, the answer is no. The Iwata marque are the most successful manufacturer in Barcelona with 12 wins, and this season has seen their pace at a couple of venues leave the rest in the dust. But then the question becomes, which Yamaha? It’s Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who’s second in the standings, one point off Dovizioso, and his recent form at the venue is impressive. In Moto2 he smoked the field in 2018, and in MotoGP last season he took his first podium. That was after a mechanical denied him in Jerez too, and this season Jerez saw him return unbeatable. But then, Misano 2019 to Misano 2020 was a more difficult comparison…
“It’s great to have another race weekend! Barcelona is a track that I love. One that I’m really looking forward to going to, because I feel that we can manage to get a really good result there. It’s true it has a one kilometre long straight, so we will have to work on a good setup for it. Last year our top speed wasn’t so good there, but we were still able to finish on the podium, so it means we are strong in the other parts of the track. Our pace there can be good, we know that we can be competitive and, of course, I will give my best!”
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), meanwhile, is also on 83 points. But there’s no such thing as equal in the Championship, so ‘Top Gun’ is third because he has one less win than Quartararo. He’s the most recent winner, however, and escaped the field with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) to end the Emilia Romagna GP in a different postcode to the other Yamahas.
“The hard work in Misano paid off and that felt really amazing. We have enjoyed that winning feeling a lot the last few days, and it makes us very excited for the next round. Montmeló is my home race, and I love racing here. I did great races here in the past. Last year, we didn‘t get to show our full potential, which was a shame, but we will try our hardest to get on the podium this time. We are working in the right way, and I think we can improve even further, so we need to give our maximum and make it another good race weekend, especially because the championship is very close. I‘m now joint second in the standings and just one point from the lead. We have to make the most of this opportunity!”
And then there’s Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Too quick to handle in the first race at Misano, the Italian was then struck by illness the week after, so he’ll be one to watch.
“I am happy to face the Catalan GP after the two races at Misano. I have stayed at home trying to relax and recover, to make sure I am 100% this weekend in Barcelona. There are a lot of positives from the Misano races to take with us to the race in Barcelona, where we will try to arrive well prepared and ready to attack. The Barcelona-Catalunya circuit is an historical track, with many MotoGP stories that have happened there. The layout is nice, flowy and challenging. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful tracks in the calendar and I usually do quite well there. So I am looking forward to ride there again.”
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) had great pace before a crash last time out too, and his record at Barcelona is enough to make everyone else blush: five of Yamaha’s 12 wins at the venue come from the ‘Doctor’. It’s also an incredible milestone – although he’s been well ahead of the game for a while – as he’ll start his 350th premier class race. And he’s already started more than a hundred more than anyone else! He was Yamaha’s last winner at the track, so it’s a good weekend for the number 46 to try and hit back.
“We now move on to Barcelona. This is a track that I really like, but it‘s different from Misano. The asphalt and conditions will be different, but I think we can have a good race weekend there. It‘s important to take some points. I‘m not so far from the top of the standings, and the championship is still open. This season has been crazy and there are still many races to come, so we will try our best.”
Going back to nearer the top of the standings though, it’s time to talk about Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). It was a stop-start beginning to the season for the sophomore, as he crashed, took a top five, crashed again… and then began a run of form that has gone from Jaws music for his rivals to full-on Psycho. He’s outscored everyone else for a while now, and has been that which, they say, is the key to taking titles: consistent. And not in the top ten, but the top five or the podium. He’s still missing that first win – although he seemed on for it before the Red Flag in Styria – but who can bet against him taking one? It’s Saturday that could make all the difference for the Mayorcan, as he’s been fighting through from further down the grid, most recently from 11th to a seemingly effortless second. If they can fix that… can he become the seventh winner and fifth maiden winner this year?
“It’s important to continue being as consistent as possible, and ideally scoring podiums. I’m really pleased with how the last two races went, but there was potential – especially in Misano 1 – to win. But at the moment my main focus is just on doing the best I can during each session and continuing my good feeling. I really like Barcelona circuit and I hope for a good home race.”
Almost managing that last time out was Bagnaia, who crashed out of a lead that seemed ominous, and then started diminishing, but nevertheless remained healthy. With Viñales the man getting past and taking his first win of the year – and having already won a good few premier class races – the stat of fifth maiden winner and seventh winner of the season remains attainable for Bagnaia, and he’ll be guns blazing to bounce back. Team-mate Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) will likely be in a similar mindset too, with the Australian forced out of the Emilia Romagna GP after his bike ate a tear off. He’s already won a race, but not this year – although he’s been incredibly close…
KTM could be a force to contend with again too. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took another podium last time out and teammate Brad Binder looked likely to fight for one before he crashed, but most crucially the Austrian factory blasted straight back into that fight at the front after a tougher first weekend at Misano. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) sliced through from P15 on the grid to the top five too, and his teammate Iker Lecuona was battling it out before a crash. How will they fare in Barcelona? Was it the test that saw them bounce back, or was the San Marino GP an anomaly?
“I’m motivated to go to Barcelona. After the result we got in the second race in Misano, I think we can relax a little bit and then start working again in Montmeló. I think it’s a track that can fit well to our bike and also my style. I’m really keen to keep working like this and get an even better result than we got at the Emilia Romagna GP.”
The Emilia Romgana GP was also a big step forward for Honda. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was back in the top six (he’s also the second rider to have scored in every race), and rookie Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was only just behind him – ahead of Championship leader Dovizioso. Nakagami will want to keep that consistency rolling, and Marquez could be one to watch if that step forward is a permanent one. He’s won three times at Catalunya, once in Moto3 and twice in Moto2, which actually makes him the second most successful rider on the grid at the track across all classes… behind only Rossi! What can he do?
“We arrive in Barcelona in a good way after our best result so far. I am happy with the progress we have made, and I am looking forward to riding in Catalunya with the Honda. Of course, it will be a different experience to normal and I will certainly miss seeing all the home fans in the stands because this is always a special feeling. Hopefully we can put on a good show for everyone so they can enjoy the race like they were here! The last three years I have taken two wins and a podium here, I enjoy the circuit a lot.”
There are plenty more names to look out for too. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was MIA last time out but belongs at the front, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) is looking for a move forward, Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) is already a podium finisher on the Ducati… Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) has been on pole at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya too, although with a different factory. Can they get further up the fight for the top ten again?
“After two tough Grands Prix, we are back racing on a circuit where last year I managed to get on the podium. The season is definitely not going as we had hoped. Still, we won’t give up: at Montmeló, we will try to improve the tenth place of Misano, but the conditions that we will find there will be very different: the asphalt and temperatures could prove decisive for our performance. The key will be to be able to interpret these two factors well.”
Cal Crutchlow arrived in Barcelona and went to see Dr. Xavier Mir for a final check on his right forearm and the scar appears to be healing and is in much better condition than last week. Unfortunately, upon his arrival to Circuit de Catalunya, Crutchlow slipped as he stepped out of the PCR Testing Booth, rupturing his left ankle’s ligaments. Nevertheless, despite this misfortune, Cal and the team will try their best to regularly start the Catalan GP on Friday.
Four riders within four points, eight within a win of the Championship lead, six different winners so far and a good few names who could make it seven… who’s leaving Barcelona on top?
MotoGP Facts and Stats Update
At the Emilia Romagna GP, Maverick Viñales won for the first time since Malaysia last year, for the eighth time in MotoGP and for the 24th overall in his GP career. This is the first time that Viñales won a MotoGP race after qualifying on pole position since Le Mans back in 2017.
Maverick Viñales is the sixth different winner of the season so far. The last time there were more than six (or more) winners in a single premier class season was in 2016 with nine different winners (the record in the class). This is the first time in the history of Grand Prix racing that there are six different winners in the opening seven premier class races of a single season.
At the Emilia Romagna GP, Maverick Viñales became the first Spanish winner of the season, ending a six-race sequence without a Spanish winner, which was the longest sequence since Donington 2008 to Losail 2009, 12 races.
With French, South African, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish winners in MotoGP so far this season, this is the first time there are five different nationalities winning in single premier class season since 2000, with six (the record).
With his win at the Emilia Romagna GP, Maverick Viñales has now scored 1016 points in the premier class, becoming the 25th different rider to score more than 1000 points in the premier class.
Joan Mir came second, equalling his best result in MotoGP from Austria this year. This is his third podium finish in MotoGP and the first for Suzuki in back-to-back races since Alex Rins last year in the Americas and Spain.
With Maverick Viñales, Joan Mir and Pol Espargaro on the podium last time out, this is the first Spanish 1-2-3 in MotoGP since Silverstone last year with Alex Rins, Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales. This is the 21st premier class podium with three Spanish riders.
Pol Espargaro finished third in Emilia Romagna GP, which is his third MotoGP podium so far along with Valencia in 2018 (in wet conditions) and Styria this year.
Following the Emilia Romagna GP, KTM have scored 104 points in the Constructors’ World Championship, seven points less than the whole 2019 season, which was their best season in MotoGP regarding points scored.
Only two riders have scored points in all seven of the MotoGP races in 2020: Andrea Dovizioso and Takaaki Nakagami. Of them, only Nakagami has always finished within the top ten.
Takaaki Nakagami finished sixth at the Emilia Romagna GP, which is the best result for a Honda rider since he was also sixth in Austria this year. With Alex Marquez in seventh (his best result of his rookie season so far), this is only the second time so far this year there are two Honda riders within the top 10 along with Andalucia. Since the season opener, no Honda riders have been on the podium. This is the first time with no Honda rider on the podium in five or more successive premier class races since Honda returned to the premier class of GP racing in 1982.
Neither of the Honda riders have won in the seven opening MotoGP races. The last time that Honda did not have a win in any of the first seven races of the year was in 2009 when Dani Pedrosa gave Honda their first win of the season at Laguna Seca (the eighth race of the season).
Andrea Dovizioso is still leading the MotoGP Championship with 84 points, the lowest score for a Championship leader after the opening seven races of a premier class season since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993.
Following the San Marino and Emilia Romagna GPs, this is the first time that Andrea Dovizioso has led the MotoGP Championship in back-to-back races since he stepped up to the premier class in 2008.
Andrea Dovizioso is 55 points ahead of Francesco Bagnaia in 15th place; this is the closest top 15 after the opening seven races of the season in the premier class since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993.
With 20 points between Dovizioso and Franco Morbidelli in 5th, this is also the closest top five after the opening seven races.
MotoGP World Championship Standings
Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya Schedule (AEST)