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Marc Marquez will again be the rider to beat when the 2020 Moto GP Grand Prix season officially gets underway.
The Spaniard is set to defend his sixth premier class world championship, although the start of the campaign has been altered after the Qatar Grand Prix was cancelled amid concerns about the outbreak of the coronavirus, while the same reason has prompted the postponement of the Thailand Grand Prix.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso beat Marquez in Qatar last year, with the former again set to be among the primary contenders taking a crack at the title.
However, this season could belong to rising star Fabio Quartararo. The 20-year-old Frenchman pushed Marquez all the way in San Marino, Thailand, Japan and Valencia during 2019.
Quartararo, Marquez and others will pay attention to how the schedule is altered after the decision was taken to call off the main race in Qatar, per the MotoGP official website:
“The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has resulted in Qatar travel restrictions being brought into force that affect passengers from Italy, amongst other countries. As of today, all passengers arriving at Doha on direct flights from Italy, or having been in Italy in the past 2 weeks, will be taken straight to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Italy clearly plays a vital role in the Championship and in the MotoGP class—both on track and off—and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition.”
The same source also released another report on Monday detailing the message from the Thai government “that it won’t be possible to hold the OR Thailand Grand Prix on its original date.”
At the moment, these are the other 18 races confirmed on the original calendar:
2020 Season Schedule
Grand Prix of the Americas
- Sunday, April 5: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET, Circuit of the Americas
Argentine Grand Prix
- Sunday, April 19: 6 p.m. BST/1 p.m. ET, Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo
Spanish Grand Prix
- Sunday, May 3: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Circuito de Jerez
French Grand Prix
- Sunday, May 17: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Bugatti Circuit
Italian Grand Prix
- Sunday, May 31: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Mugello Circuit
Catalan Grand Prix
- Sunday, June 7: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
German Grand Prix
- Sunday, June 21: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Sachsenring
- Sunday, June 28: 1 p.m. BST/8a.m. ET, TT Circuit Assen
Finnish Grand Prix
- Sunday, July 12: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Kymi Ring
Czech Republic Grand Prix
- Sunday, August 9: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Masaryk Circuit
Austrian Grand Prix
- Sunday, August 16: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Red Bull Ring
British Grand Prix
- Sunday, August 30: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Silverstone Circuit
San Marino Grand Prix
- Sunday, September 13: 1 p.m. BST/8 a.m. ET, Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
Aragon Grand Prix
- Sunday, October 4: 1 p.m. GMT/8 a.m. ET, Ciudad del Motor de Aragon
Japanese Grand Prix
- Sunday, October 18: 6 a.m. BST/1 a.m. ET, Twin Ring Motegi
Australian Grand Prix
- Sunday, October 24: 4 a.m. GMT/11 p.m. ET (Saturday), Phillip Island Circuit
Malaysian Grand Prix
- Sunday, November 1: 7 a.m. GMT/2 a.m. ET, Sepang Circuit
Valencia Grand Prix
- Sunday, November 15: 1 p.m. GMT/8 a.m. ET, Circuit Ricardo Tormo
Full schedule available per the MotoGP official website.
Marquez set his sights on maintaining his dominance of the sport when he re-upped with Honda until 2024, according to Autosport‘s Lewis Duncan. The presence of his younger brother, Alex, who took the Moto2 crown last season, is thought to have helped swing the deal.
Alberto Saiz/Associated Press
As for the senior rider, Marquez assessed some of his team’s rivals, identifying the best bike after winter testing, per GPOne.com: “…the most complete bike was the Yamaha, but it might not necessarily be the case in the championship, races are always another thing.”
Problems have been common for Honda during pre-season testing. Duncan noted for Motorsport.com how the bikes have had difficulty handling the corners and turns, leaving Marquez concerned during his recovery from shoulder surgery.
By contrast, Yamaha being up to speed means Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales both have a strong case to unseat the champion. It’s a similar story for Dovizioso, who was second in the standings last season, a position he’s had to settle for three times in a row.
Riders like Dovizioso and Rossi have plenty of experience on the podium, something Quartararo accrued at a prolific rate during the 2019 campaign. He might be Yamaha’s best means of crowning a new champion:
Quartararo’s bid to unseat Marquez will be one of the highlights for the new coverage set to begin this season, involving races being aired on NBCSN as part of Dorna Sports’ agreement with the broadcaster, with individual schedule details provided by the MotoGP official website.