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The 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship season has been nothing short of box office. Hand the script of the opening five races to a film director and they probably laugh you out the building. It really has been a season full of shocks, twists, turns, relentless excitement and the rest – but it’s just beginning. Ahead of the upcoming triple-header that begins with two races at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, motogp.com recap five of the major talking points for the 2020 campaign so far.
It’s a crash we’re not going to stop talking about for the rest of the season, and probably beyond. Reigning eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) suffered an injury in the first race of the year at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, after one of the most remarkable comebacks we’ve ever seen.
A monumental save at Turn 4 while leading put the World Champion outside of the points when he came back on track. Then, having reached the tailpipes of second place Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) with four laps to go, the number 93 was down. A vicious highside on the exit of Turn 3 would have serious consequences as the front wheel of his RC213V hit his right arm, causing his humerus to fracture.
An operation in Barcelona was followed by a staggering return to Jerez, with Marquez back on track in FP3. However, listening to his body later that day, Marquez pulled in after an out-lap in Q1 and withdrew from the Andalucia GP. But the worst was yet to come. An accident at home bent the metal plate that was inserted, and Marquez was forced to undergo a second operation. The result? Marquez and his team confirming he would miss a further “two to three months” of action.
After being on the verge of savouring glory in his rookie season numerous times, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) announced himself as the leading heir to Marc Marquez’ throne at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto. One win became two a weekend later in Andalucia as ‘El Diablo’ made history for France and Yamaha, becoming the first rider from one of their satellite teams to win in the MotoGP™ era.
Quartararo dominated the opening two Grands Prix of the season, but it hasn’t gone quite to plan since. That 50-point haul in southern Spain has helped Quartararo retain the title lead in the overall standings, with the Frenchman finishing no higher than 7th in the last three races – an indicator of how unpredictable 2020 is.
The absence of Marc Marquez saw Quartararo, Viñales and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) emerge as early favourites in the title race. But Sunday in Brno would see the beginning of MotoGP™ predictions being thrown out the window. In just his third race in the premier class, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) would conquer the Monster Energy Czech Republic Grand Prix in a way that shocked everybody – including Binder himself.
The South African led his country and KTM to glory for the first time in MotoGP™, bringing his name onto the list of three other well-known and rather successful riders who also won a MotoGP™ race in their first year: Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. Binder now sits fourth in the Championship and is a genuine title contender in 2020.
In a weekend that was largely marked by Dovizioso’s announcement that he won’t be signing with Ducati for the 2021 campaign, Sunday afternoon witnessed one of – if not the – most terrifying crashes we’ve ever seen. Czech GP podium finishers Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) collided at around 300km/h at Turn 2, with their out of control bikes heading straight for Turn 3 like missiles. Somehow, no one was seriously injured as Viñales and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) miraculously escaped disaster, with Dovizioso picking up his third win at the venue in the restarted race.
In the aftermath, Zarco was confirmed to have suffered a fractured scaphoid, but the Frenchman was back racing the following weekend. The images from the crash will remain imprinted on the minds of many for years and years to come, all we can do is thank the racing Gods that everyone walked away from the incident.
A week on from the Austrian GP, the Red Bull Ring hosted another weekend that will live long in the memory. A red flag after Viñales’ high-speed Turn 1 crash frustrated some – Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) the unfortunate parties – but handed a chance to others. And, once again at the Red Bull Ring, it all came down to the final corner.
A last lap duel between Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) played perfectly into the hands of Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3). The Portuguese star took advantage of Miller and Espargaro going toe-to-toe at the final corner to win his first MotoGP™ race. Tech3 also picked up their first MotoGP™ win in the premier class, with KTM losing their concession privileges – but gaining another MotoGP™ winner.
Misano and the rest of 2020: what have you got in store for us?
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