MotoGP's Grand Prix Commission recently announced the cancellation of wild-cards this season, as part of a growing range of measures taken in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The decision was justified by the need to keep 'participant numbers to the absolute minimum' for closed-door events, allow 'optimum utilisation of pit box space' and was 'in line with cost reduction policies for MotoGP Class manufacturers'.

But Ducati test rider Michele Pirro - one of those now denied a chance to line-up alongside the MotoGP regulars in 2020 - suggested there might have been a more underhand motivate, telling Motosprint:

"Honda maybe wants to make Lorenzo pay for going to Yamaha."

Lorenzo's retirement at the end of last season saw the triple MotoGP champion released halfway through a two-year Repsol Honda contract.

HRC placed no restrictions on Lorenzo's 2020 activities and the Spaniard subsequently signed as a test rider for Yamaha.

"I always got good support in the year I spent in Honda. I’m very grateful they didn’t put any clause to stop me riding another bike this year. They could have done, but they didn’t," Lorenzo said at February's Sepang test, where he rode his first Yamaha laps since 2016

Asked about Lorenzo's Yamaha move, Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig said in Malaysia: "Every person is free to do what he wants with his life. And we respect it. If he had this opportunity [with Yamaha] we are happy for him."

Lorenzo was then due to make his racing return for Yamaha as a wild-card at this year's Catalunya round, plus possibly Misano and Motegi.

'Pirro’s comments a shame and quite inappropriate'

So what does Puig now make of Pirro's suggestion that HRC might be angry at Lorenzo joining Yamaha and therefore behind the ban on wild-cards?

“Pirro’s comments are a shame and quite inappropriate, I do not understand where it comes from," Puig told Crash.net.

"Honda, like all the manufacturers participating in the MotoGP World Championship have been working extremely hard for weeks to understand the feasibility of this season [due to the coronavirus].

"We have held many meetings during this period to find a consensus with all the manufacturers.

"We, as Honda, have given up many things that we wanted to do in the future in terms of technical evolution and we have done it for the good of this sport, to maintain equality among all the manufacturers.

“It’s not easy, we are all adapting, from the organisation to the teams, the sponsors and of course also the riders – all with the aim of returning to a World Championship as we know it.

"This is why it hurts us that someone who belongs to a factory team makes these type of comments in such a difficult and critical situation for everyone.

"I believe that Pirro should know, at Honda we have respect for Lorenzo. We ended last year with him in a good and respectful way and wish him the best for his future.”

The wild-card ban also means HRC test rider Stefan Bradl will not be able to make his usual race appearances this season.

MotoGP has 'every intention' to restore wild-cards entries next year, but a final decision 'will be reviewed prior to the 2021 season'.

 

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