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FINALLY ... The first MotoGP ™ race of the 2021 season

After a long winter break and five days of official tests, it is finally time to get ready for the concentrated racing action.

First we were gradually introduced to the new designs and liveries, then we watched the classes of 2021 leave for testing. But now the time has finally come to open another season with breathtaking competitions in the floodlit oasis of the Losail International Circuit. In this era of MotoGP ™, things are rarely predictable, but there is at least one certainty that everyone can agree on: We are definitely ready to race. Is it you too?

This season, the headlines rolled over before the first round was even completed. A new reigning champion starts the year on the throne, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), but the MotoGP ™ world waits with bated breath to find out when eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will return. But we already know that much: He won't be driving in Qatar. Driver and team changes mean a lot of innovations, but in addition to the many new colors, there are also numerous new faces in the starting blocks and are hungry to finally get started. The level of competition is already now, after the official test drives , almost unbelievable: Hundreds, even thousandths of a second will decide who will triumph in MotoGP ™.

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It all starts this weekend at the Barwa Qatar Grand Prix when the stars of MotoGP ™ kick off another thrill-filled year ...

And so we arrive in round 1. The first two Grand Prix of the season will take place in Doha after Losail has already opened its doors for all official winter testing days. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) has probably the biggest target on his back after the test days, flanked by a fleet of Yamahas, after the Australian and his teammate, Francesco Bagnaia, took the top 5 around the Yamaha for themselves. In the race, however, more than a quick lap time will be necessary. Can the Ducati factory drivers hold up to this?

Miller will definitely be someone to look at when the lights go out, as is Bagnaia. Both are factory drivers this season and the pressure is certainly greater, as are the performances that we have seen so far. Losail seems to suit the Borgo Panigale machines very well lately, because Johann Zarco also demonstrated his Ducati power in the test when the Frenchman shook the top speed record on his Pramac Racing Ducati ...

However, the times during testing left little room for maneuver to determine a favorite before the start of the season. Three Yamahas finished the test within less than one and a half tenths of Miller at the top. These three Yamahas were ridden by Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and last year's runner-up, Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Viñales and Morbidelli start the year in the same garage as 2020. Quartararo, meanwhile, switched to the Yamaha factory squad, but seems to have found his stand straight away. Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was also close to the top ten during testing and was full of enthusiasm after five days on the track.

Just behind them, sixth in the test, Aprilia came to the fore. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took the almost brand new Noale factory motorcycle to exactly where the rising expectations were every time it hit the track after revealing an ever-increasing pace. What can the number 41 do when the lights go out on Sunday? With his injured teammate and rookie, Lorenzo Savadori, Espargaro is clearly the man in the limelight, because we've seen that the Aprilia has a lot in store for 2021.

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After a remarkable return in Montmelo a few days ago, the eight-time champion was back on the RC213V-S in Portugal

Then there is also Suzuki. The reigning champion Joan Mir and his teammate, Alex Rins, finished the Qatar test in seventh and eighth place. The feedback was positive, although the speed and consistency of the 2020 was not very evident. But let's be honest, what does that mean? The Hamamatsu plant's Achilles heel - if something like this happens after a season of so much success - is qualifying on Saturday.

An essential question has already been resolved before the first race weekend, because it has been clear since Monday that Marc Marquez will not take part in the first two races of the season. After being sidelined in Jerez last year due to a complicated injury, his long recovery journey has only recently begun. But the signs look good that he will probably take his place on the starting line-up from Portimão.

However, there is also a lot to talk about on the other side of the Repsol Honda Garage. Pol Espargaro joined the successful squad and, after an impressive development over the past two seasons, started 2021 with an equally impressively rapid adaptation to the Honda. The Spaniard finished tenth overall in the test, but occasionally showed up among the top positions. Each session gave him more experience with his new bike and team. We expect a promising start to the season from the motivated Spaniard.

LCR Honda Idemitsu's Takaaki Nakagami is hoping to move forward after a somewhat mixed test as both he and new team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) have suffered a few falls - the latter injured his foot but will be ready on to participate in the first race. Both battled for podiums last year and Alex Marquez was one of the most successful rookies - so they will do whatever they can to get back to where they left off last season.

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Find out now how the Italian factory experienced the test days ...

This also applies to KTM. The Austrian factory has immortalized itself in the history books several times in 2020 - Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) won the first MotoGP ™ race for the factory as well as for himself and as a rookie! His new teammate Miguel Oliveira added two more MotoGP ™ wins for KTM and became the first Portuguese winner in the premier class. Oliveira, now part of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team alongside Binder, was the fastest Austrian machine in the test, but both ended up a bit behind in P16 and P17. You'll want more once the action starts again in Qatar. They want to continue KTM's incredible success, but as we said earlier, a test is just a test.

It will also be exciting to see how the Moto2 ™ graduates cope with their first races in the premier class. Savadori is a rookie but has gained quite a bit of experience while other rookies who have moved up from the intermediate class sat on a MotoGP ™ machine for the first time at the Qatar test. The fastest of the three was Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) in 14th place, but it was incredibly close as reigning Moto2 ™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) was just 0.022s back. Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) was a bit more backward, but also used every session as another chance to improve.

The stage is set, the floodlights are set and the riders are ready for another rollercoaster season of incredible races, starting with the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. Don't miss when the lights go out for the first MotoGP ™ race of 2021 at 20:00 (GMT +3). Are you ready for another season of drama?

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