Casey Stoner 2011 on Repsol Honda – things have become very quiet for the Australian since his retirement and a few assignments as a test driver. In later years he almost never appeared on the track, and he was absolutely never in conversation for a position in the paddock (© MotoGP).

Losail test results to determine favorites – a capital mistake

It’s interesting how well-established journalists and authors from the racing scene often repeat the same mistake. There are even some whose books we have in our huge library. In connection with Qatar, we are talking about determining favorites based on the results of the Losail tests. What a capital mistake when you compare it with previous years and the statements made by many team bosses and drivers over the past few weeks! We provide several proofs here of how lacking the meaningfulness of the tests and first races for the season was in the past. The same applies, of course, to the winner of the first Grand Prix, who later became world champion in far less than half of the cases.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) – the Spaniard was the last driver, ahead of his compatriot Marc Marquez in 2012, to win the season opener and then take the title. Since the year began in Losail, this was otherwise only the case with Casey Stoner before that (© MotoGP).

The example since Losail as the season opener

The usual mistakes in determining favorites before the start of the season in Qatar are apparently based on the bad memory of many supposed experts. Let’s take the time from which the Qatar GP in Losail started the season. Initially, it wasn’t under the floodlights when Casey Stoner won the first ever MotoGP race in the desert state in 2007. The Australian then also became world champion, the only one for Ducati to this day. Since then, the season opener has taken place at the Losail International Circuit twelve more times. The eventual world champion won three times, namely 2011 Stoner (Honda), 2012 Lorenzo (Yamaha) and 2014 Marquez on Honda. Makes exactly a third and not a single time in the last 5 years with the GP of Qatar as the opening race.

Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda pit on the second weekend in Jerez before giving up in qualifying, checking his right arm. Against the advice of the doctors, who had operated on him 4 days earlier, the Catalan wanted to try anyway and became a long-term injured person. Everyone is wondering when he’ll be back and how competitive (© MotoGP).

Why Qatar is not a reference for the rest of the season
Anyone who listened carefully to the interviews with drivers and team members found this question answered quickly. Not a single one of them said the Losail tests would be helpful for the remainder of the season. No, it was exactly the other way around and everyone emphasized in unison that the findings of the first tests in terms of chassis setup, tire selection and all possible factors cannot be applied to any other route in the calendar. But here of all places, thanks to the bad planning of the Dorna, the only test and the first double race in the 2nd Corona year will take place! Testing on a track that, according to everyone involved, is of no help for the other races of the season, is awesome. This is precisely why the results on the edge of the desert do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the strength of riders and bikes for the rest of the year.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – For the reigning vice World Champion there would be only one form of improvement next season, namely the Title. The fast Italian with half Brazilian roots can do what he wants. He will definitely remain the underdog for almost everyone until a first World Championship (© MotoGP).

The 2020 season as a prime example of false prognoses

Hand on heart, who had Joan Mir as a World Cup favorite on their radar before the start of the 2020 season? Even the Marquez crash did not change the fact that the young Suzuki driver from Palma de Mallorca was anything but the crown favorite. After the first double race of the season, we unfortunately missed writing down the betting odds. With a double win by Quartararo over Viñales, the supposed favorites were clearly given. On the other hand, Mir even had a crash in the first race in Andalusia. The Catalan finished fifth on the second weekend and another zero result in Brno. Even after the second race in Jerez, most of the media headlined headlines like “Fabio Quartararo – the coming world champion?“.

Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) in front of Ducati Rookie Enea Bastianini – the fast French is again one of the most popular favorites next season. But like his team-mate Maverick Viñales, he often showed excellent performances on the first two days that he was unable to implement in the race on Sunday (© MotoGP).

Many forecasts are wonderful to read – but questionable

The more cautious of the authors when it comes to determining the favorites for 2021 work with a conspicuously large number of rhetorical questions. In order not to make a fool of yourself later, of course, the phrase “will Pol Espargaró also sit down?” or “does Yamaha manage to get their fast training times over the distance?” We had to smile about the wording of some forecasts and leave it to each reader of other portals to judge them for themselves. But as in the past, we save some opinions from so-called experts and will come back to them later. After 2020, in any case, many writers became much more cautious because, without exception, all of them were simply a world away from what they predicted before the start of the season. We too, by the way, ashes on our heads.

Giacomo Agostini – the 15-time record world champion has earned the award for the most original proposal to return Marquez. For more information, see this article a few days ago:

Two original prime examples from the WorldSBK of 2020

As far as forecasts are concerned, we saw two original patterns at the season opener in Australia and one more after racing continued. BMW driver Tom Sykes was lightning fast in the pre-tests and qualifying at Phillip Island. After Troy Corser, he inherited the title “Mister Superpole” from the two-time WSBK world champion, as a specialist in sensationally fast times over a single lap. Quasi the Quartararo of WorldSBK, only a lot more entertaining during his interviews than the young Frenchman. Due to his top performance, Sykes was promptly hyped up as a supposed favorite. We were there at the time and read what the journalists who stayed at home reported from afar about what was happening Down Under.

Alex Lowes in front of Maximilian Scheib (both on Kawasaki ZX-10RR) – photographed by us in the Superpole on February 29, 2020, in Australia. Hardly anyone had the twin brother of Moto2 ace Sam on their radar for the race. The only reason for this was that, as was often the case with Valentino Rossi in MotoGP, he had only focused on a good race pace. As a result, he was promptly placed at the bottom of the table with his times in tests.

From underdog to crown favorite within a little over a day
Unlike Alvaro Bautista (HRC Honda), Alex Lowes did not have to start from far behind on his brand new CBR-1000RR-R as 15th in the Superpole. For the Englishman it was enough for 8th place on the grid in qualifying. Like the Spaniard, however, Alex was considered an absolute underdog by journalists before the race. In the first race, the fast Kawasaki rookie missed victory in the fight with Yamaha ace Toprak Razgatlioglu by only 7 thousandths of a second. Bautista came in a sensational sixth and the supposed candidate for victory Sykes was passed through to 9th place after initially leading in the first race. Lowes finished fourth in the Superpole Race the next day, won the second race in the afternoon and returned from Australia as world championship leader.

Our picture in Turn 4 (Honda Corner) after the start of the Superpole Race in Phillip Island with “Magic Michael” van der Mark in front of Jonathan Rea (hidden) and Alex Lowes (right in the picture). Behind Lowes, you can still see the helmet and arm of Tom Sykes, who only finished tenth in the 10-lap sprint race.

The allegedly stumbled – Jonathan Rea and his transformation in Portugal
Immediately after the MotoGP double race, the WSBK continued on the Circuito de Jerez after the compulsory break. In midsummer when it was scorching heat, the Lowes and Rea’s Kawasaki with the Pirelli tires did not work as intended. While Lowes stumbled badly, the reigning second came in the first race on Saturday and even won the Superpole Race on Sunday afternoon. Over the full distance in the second run on Sunday he had tire problems and ended up in 6th place. We know these problems from the same year with Michelin tires in MotoGP, some teams almost despaired. A sports portal from Red Bull Media headlined “Redding shone and Rea failed” after the reigning world champion ranked 6th. I beg your pardon? If a KTM landed in 13th place, was this described by the same portal as a top performance for years and if a 6th place with tire problems failed the driver?

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) photographed by us before the start in BuriRam (Thailand) 2019. Anyone who portrays this man as a failure and works as a so-called “journalist” can only have been employed by the Monster Energy competitor Red Bull and have no idea about motorsport!

The correction of the alleged failure followed immediately
The Northern Irishman may have seen the headline and also understands German, which we doubt at this point. In any case, the stupid comment of a writer on his tire bad luck was to be read in a German-language portal from Red Bull at the time. The record world champion definitely understands his Catalan team members almost blindly and has already learned many words in their language for the Provec Racing Team in almost 6 years. The collaboration after the tire misfortune in Jerez worked perfectly well at the Autodromo do Algarve. There is no other explanation for the fact that the then five-time world champion won all three races in Portimão. The humble man from Ballymena is often absolutely unbeatable on his bike and he gave his answer to the nonsense of a press nerd right after Jerez on the weekend.

Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) – a self-proclaimed expert recently described the fast Frenchman as a loose wrench in the toolbox. Perhaps, however, only the arrogant commentator himself has a screw loose. In any case, we count the Ducati driver from Cannes among the favorites and hope that he will prove it to his critics with very strong performances, as he did last year (© MotoGP).