A significant number of the 2020 MotoGP grid will travel to Portugal ahead of next month’s French Grand Prix to experience the Algarve circuit before it joins the championship calendar as the final race of the coming season.
But they won’t be trying the circuit – which joins the revised calendar at short notice this year to make its series debut as the new finale – on their MotoGP bikes as this is prohibited under the testing regulations.
Instead they’ll be using production bikes, leading to 2021 Honda signing Pol Espargaro making a form of Honda debut while still racing for KTM.
The race riders will join most of MotoGP’s factory test team riders, who are taking part in a two-day Michelin tyre test with full MotoGP machinery at the new addition to the schedule on the Wednesday and Thursday directly before action gets underway at Le Mans.
It also marks Jorge Lorenzo’s first proper chance to test for Yamaha – as predicted by The Race last week. Despite being signed to ride for the team as test rider back in January, his running so far has been limited to a brief outing in pre-season testing.
His full testing debut has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and Yamaha’s subsequent inability to get its Japan-based test team into Europe, with Valentino Rossi expressing frustration last week that Yamaha wasn’t making use of Lorenzo.
With the Algarve track one of the most undulating and unusual circuits in the world, the test has been organised to give the grid a chance to experience it for the first time in some cases, although some have previously raced there or will complete their own private tests ahead of the November race.
“The test is a private test, and the main reason we’re going is because it’s a new track with a new surface and that makes it very interesting for us,” Michelin boss Piero Taramasso told The Race.
“We want to understand it so that we know what sort of compounds are the best.
“We’re opening it to the official riders so that they can come with commercial bikes and discover the track. It’s good for us because the more bikes you have on the track, the cleaner it is.
“We’ll provide commercial Michelin Power Performance tyres for them, the competition slicks we use in the Spanish championship.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Vinales and Pol Espargaro headline the entry list for the test. As KTM doesn’t make a 1000cc sportbike, Espargaro will instead ride a Honda CBR1000RR-R from his 2021 employer.
They’ll be joined by two riders who have experience with the track in the shape of Algarve World Superbike podium finisher (pictured above in 2010) Cal Crutchlow and Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro, who rode a production bike there as part of his pre-season training.
Another rider with plenty of experience of the circuit is local star Miguel Oliveira, with the Styrian Grand Prix winner a regular at the track.
They’re joined on the provisional entry list by Ducati riders Jack Miller, Johann Zarco and Francesco Bagnaia, Crutchlow’s fellow Honda riders Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez, Iker Lecuona and Brad Binder from KTM, and Aprilia’s Bradley Smith – who is officially test rider but in a racing role due to Andrea Iannone’s doping ban.
It’s believed that a number of other riders will test privately at the challenging track ahead of the final race of the season too, with Valentino Rossi organising a private session for his VR46 Academy riders.