Jorge Lorenzo will finally make his Yamaha in-season testing debut next month, when he will join MotoGP’s other five official factory test riders in heading to Portugal’s Algarve circuit.
The track, which will be newly-resurfaced ahead of then, will join both the MotoGP and Formula 1 calendars in 2020, with grand prix motorcycle racing scheduled to return there on September 22.
Lorenzo was announced as returning to the Yamaha team earlier this season, rejoining the factory he won three world championships with after two years at Ducati and one abortive season with Honda.
However, since returning to the Yamaha stable, Lorenzo has not completed any meaningful testing duties, with his entire track activity limited to 20 laps on the 2019-spec Yamaha M1 at the pre-season test in Sepang back in February.
There has been consternation recently by his factory teammates about his role, with Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararao leading the questioning about Lorenzo’s continued absence at Thursday’s pre-event press conference for this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix.
“I have exactly the same question for Yamaha because I was very happy when I understood that Jorge was our test rider,” said Rossi. “He’s one of the best riders in history on the M1, and he can help us a lot.
“We’ve seen what [Dani] Pedrosa did for KTM in one year – he gave them a lot of good advice. Yamaha has to trust in the programme too, and sincerely I don’t know. Sometimes things happen in Yamaha that are difficult to explain, and you have to ask them why.”
It’s believed that that delay in getting Lorenzo back in action – while Stefan Bradl, Dani Pedrosa, Bradley Smith, Sylvain Guintoli and Michele Pirro have all been in action for Honda, KTM, Aprilia, Suzuki and Ducati respectively – has been a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the majority of Yamaha’s test team composed of Japanese engineers rather than Europeans, as is the case with most test teams, coronavirus travel restrictions have kept them at home in Asia in recent months.
However, The Race’s sources in the MotoGP paddock have confirmed that that will change at the Algarve test on October 7 and 8, as Lorenzo will join the other five factory testers for a key analysis of Algarve’s new surface for control tyre manufacturer Michelin.
The news was in part confirmed today by Michelin’s MotoGP boss Piero Taramasso, who said that all six teams would be in attendance as global restrictions on travel are finally eased.
“Right now it looks like all the test riders from all the factories will be there,” Taramasso said. “I know that some of the Japanese factories have had some problems getting their staff there because there is a limited number of days that they can be in the Schengen area, but they are working around that because they know that it is a very important test for us.”
The news will come as welcome relief to Rossi and his fellow racers, with Yamaha undoubtedly set to make the most of the opportunity to begin detailed development of its 2021 machine.
While Yamaha is unable to change engine specification thanks to a technical freeze implemented as part of MotoGP’s cost-saving response to the pandemic, the test nonetheless will allow Yamaha to begin working on the extensive array of components that it is free to modify for the coming year.
In what is the first time Yamaha has properly launched a European test team after experimenting with a limited set-up built around former MotoGP podium finisher Jonas Folger last year, Lorenzo will be paired up with Rossi’s former crew chief Silvano Galbusera to continue the good work started last winter in closing the gap to Yamaha’s rivals after a series of tough years for the factory.