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2020: year of the Independent Team surge

Eight wins in 14 MotoGP™ races, five riders in the top 10 overall – this year has seen non-factory teams and riders rise to the fore

In a crazy 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship season where we’ve seen just about everything a sport can throw at us, Independent Teams have really risen to the fore. Red Bull KTM Tech3 and Miguel Oliveira capped off a scintillating campaign with a Grande Premio MEO de Portugal 25-point haul that will live long in the memory of many. In fact, the top three today were all Independent Team riders.

Herve Poncharal’s team is in their second season on KTM RC16 machines after a long and successful stint with Yamaha. But the victory, in the premier class, evaded them. That ended this year though thanks to that last-lap, last corner move by Portugal’s hero as the French-led Independent Team bagged their first victory. And it signalled the continued shift that we have really started to see in the last 18 months or so – Independent Team riders taking it to the factory riders.

As we know, Jerez was dominated by one man: Fabio Quartararo. The Petronas Yamaha SRT squad enjoyed a brilliant MotoGP™ debut season in 2019 and although title aspirations fell by the wayside in 2020, they’ve won six of the 14 races this season. Quartararo’s two in Jerez and one in Barcelona, and Franco Morbidelli’s San Marino, Teruel and Valencia five-star performances. Add Oliveira’s double to the equation and Independent Teams have won over half the races (8) in 2020. Impressive.


And then you factor in Jack Miller’s podiums this year, four of them, Pramac Racing teammate Francesco Bagnaia’s podium in Misano and Johann Zarco’s (Esponsorama Racing) Brno third place. You could argue that yes, the Pramac riders and Quartararo are on factory-spec machinery, but the riders themselves will tell you – being in a factory set-up does make a difference.

Credit goes to the riders, the Independent Teams themselves and series organisers: Dorna, IRTA and the FIM. 2020 has shown us a lot of things. But with nine different winners and 15 different podium finishers, it has highlighted how competitive every bike on the grid is. They’re all capable of winning or challenging for victory.

Only four races saw no Independent Team riders stand on the podium, while Morbidelli finished second in the World Championship on a year-old YZR-M1. Five of the top 10 in the overall standings are Independent Team riders in the shape of Morbidelli, Miller, Quartararo, Oliveira and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). Miller was just eight points away from making it two in the top three.

In short, MotoGP™ is as competitive as it has ever been. Independent Teams taking it to the experienced factories week in, week out is an unmissable show. 2020 has been utterly sensational on track. Now, we wait for 2021 to be even better. 

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