MotoGP in 2019 witnessed thrilling action on track and dramatic turn of events off it which will define how the year will be remembered. From surprise splits to rifts between manufacturers, the year has been filled with talking points some of which will spill into 2020.

Here’s a look over the standout MotoGP storylines that were most read and generated the biggest debates this year.

Jorge Lorenzo’s shock retirement as Alex Marquez steps up as replacement

Perhaps this comes as no surprise to many, but the shock retirement of a five-time world champion at the final round of the 2019 MotoGP season will be remembered as the standout moment of the year.

Rumours had been rife around Lorenzo’s future during the flyaway races heading towards the Valencia finale but each time the Repsol Honda rider batted away speculation and remained determined to turnaround his fortunes.

In what started as the ‘Dream Team’ during the team launch, it quickly became a nightmare for Lorenzo as a series of injuries and an unyielding RC213V made the multiple world champion look increasingly ordinary – something magnified alongside Marc Marquez as he stormed to the world title with a record points haul.

A turning point in Lorenzo’s thoughts about his future came in his nasty crash at Assen during practice for the Dutch TT in which he sustained broken vertebrae and duly missed the following four rounds.

Even when Lorenzo was out of the paddock due to his back injury his name remained firmly on the lips of everyone in MotoGP as he was linked with trying to find a way back to Ducati, and taking Jack Miller’s spot, which was duly met by division and amazement.

On Lorenzo’s return he cooled off the speculation but with his results for Honda continuing to suffer – with the 32-year-old actually going backwards through the field – he arrived at Valencia with a shock announcement which, in the end, didn’t prove too dramatic given the year he’d been through.

The timing of Lorenzo’s retirement call duly sent the rumour mill into a late-season spin as most candidates to replace him at Repsol Honda had already signed 2020 deals. But negotiations between HRC, the Marquez family and Marc VDS saw Marc’s younger brother and reigning Moto2 world champion Alex Marquez step up to become his teammate for 2020.

Johann Zarco’s KTM split, LCR Honda stand-in role and Avintia Ducati 2020 spot which displaced Karel Abraham

Running alongside the news of the vacant Repsol Honda ride for 2020 was Johann Zarco’s future in the sport. After only 13 races with KTM the pair went separate ways which led to the French rider becoming an opportunistic stand-in at LCR Honda for the final three races with Takaaki Nakagami requiring shoulder surgery.

The fill-in role doubled up as a potential job interview for Zarco as he searched for a 2020 ride after turning down a test role at Yamaha.

With Lorenzo exiting and Zarco available there was an obvious link until HRC overlooked the two-time Moto2 world champion in favour of the reigning intermediate class titleholder Alex Marquez.

Ducati remained increasingly interested in Zarco throughout this period but had a hard job convincing him to join its ‘third team’ Reale Avintia and that it would give him the competitive package he desired.

But with factory staff, a GP19 and 2020 contract on the table Zarco committed himself to the Italian manufacturer meaning he will ride four different brands in MotoGP in the space of 18 months.

The unfortunate rider without a spot in the late game of MotoGP musical chairs became Karel Abraham – unceremoniously dumped by email – as he attended the Jerez test only to collect his belongings.

Andrea Iannone’s doping ban

One of the last major stories to drop in 2019 could also prove to be one of the biggest in 2020. Andrea Iannone, at the time of publication, is banned from all racing following a failed anti-doping test.

The ban was announced in mid-December from a test conducted during the Malaysian MotoGP some six weeks earlier. Iannone is preparing to fight the ban and remains adamant of his innocence. An investigation, including the analysis of his B sample, will take place in early January which will shape Iannone’s future.

While doping has been a talking point in MotoGP for a few years it has surged to the surface at the end of 2019 with calls for clearer and stricter rules already coming out from Iannone’s ongoing case.

Ducati’s tyre cooler protest and MotoGP Court of Appeal victory

MotoGP jumped into controversy as soon as the opening race finished when a joint protest from Aprilia, KTM, Honda and Suzuki was lodged against Ducati’s new swingarm device attached to the GP19’s rear wheel. The protest was based on the device providing downforce to the rear wheel which was not permitted within the technical rules.

The device was fitted to Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati, who won the race in Qatar, while team-mate Danilo Petrucci (sixth place) and Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller (DNF) also used the attachment.

In a hearing between the Qatar and Argentina rounds, Ducati’s technical chief Gigi Dall’Igna explained, much to his annoyance, the ‘spoon’ device is a rear tyre cooling part rather than a reported aerodynamic wing, with downforce gains a minor secondary effect. With the tyre cooling device permitted within MotoGP’s technical rules Ducati revealed its data to prove its impact and were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Court of Appeal.

But the matter has demonstrated divisions within MotoGP and MSMA (manufacturers’ association), which usually solves technical matters internally, with Ducati suggesting its own protest against the Honda fairing design before dropping the idea. 

In preparation for similar situations arising in 2020, MotoGP gamekeepers have tightened up rules on the Aero Body of a bike with any parts considered within it needing homologation while only one upgrade is permitted per season for each manufacturer.

 

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