The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s foremost rule-making body, has decided that wildcard riders will once again be allowed for the 2021 MotoGP season – after being suspended in 2020 to try and limit the number of people in the paddock during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 restriction on wildcard riders meant that we missed what may well have been Jorge Lorenzo’s final chances to race in the premier class, as the five-time world champion had signed up at the start of the season as Yamaha’s test rider and planned three race appearances – only to have them scuppered by COVID-19.
However, with the situation within the paddock improving and with the lessons learned from 2020 informing MotoGP’s future strategies the GPC confirmed in a meeting at least weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix that the chance would again return for all three classes.
“Due to Covid-19 restrictions, wild card entries were cancelled in 2020,” the GPC stated.
“For 2021 wild cards will be permitted in all classes with a maximum of two per class at each event. However, as was previously the case for Moto2 wild cards, Moto3 wild card entries will only be considered when operated by an existing Moto3 team.”
That opens the door for British rider Cal Crutchlow to make his racing return with Yamaha after penning a deal to replace Lorenzo as their tester.
It is believed that he has also negotiated a number of wildcard rides, but he has yet to decide where he’s likely to appear – and if they will be based on Yamaha’s testing schedule or on Crutchlow’s chances of a competitive result.
It also allows long-time Ducati test rider Michele Pirro to once again ride as a wildcard, although he was able to appear during 2020 thanks to his other duties as chief replacement rider for the Italian firm, stepping in to sub for the injured Pecco Bagnaia at Pramac Ducati.
The same applies to Honda’s Stefan Bradl. The German raced the entire 2020 season bar the opening two rounds in place of the injured Marc Marquez and is also likely to make a series of appearances after extending his Honda deal ahead of an impressive seventh at Portimao last weekend.
Sylvain Guintoli will also return to action, with the former World Superbike rider a new member of Suzuki’s title-winning team. One of Aprilia’s current testing duo of Lorenzo Savadori and Bradley Smith should also get a wildcard nod – although the winner of their current shootout seems set to step into the factory team on a full-time basis to replace the now-banned Andrea Iannone.
In fact, the only manufacturer perhaps unlikely to field a wildcard next year is KTM. Relying primarily now on Dani Pedrosa for the lions’ share of their testing duties, the Spaniard is adamant that he isn’t interested in racing but wants to concentrate instead on testing.