Pol Espargaro will start his fourth and final season as a KTM rider at this weekend's closed-door MotoGP season-opener at Jerez.

After leading the Austrian factory's premier-class project for the past three seasons - including a wet podium at Valencia 2018, then a front row (Misano) and dry sixth place (Le Mans) last year - Espargaro will move to Repsol Honda in 2021 alongside reigning champion Marc Marquez.

"As you may already know, next year KTM and I will separate our paths after what will be the 4 most intense and beautiful years of my life," Espargaro wrote on Instagram.

"Knowing that on many occasions we have had weaker weapons than the others, we have fought and persevered together overcoming all the obstacles that a project as new as this has presented us.

"I have been surrounded by a technical and human team from out of this world, tireless fighters who have always given their all!

"In 2021 I am going to compete for @hrc_motogp and I am going to try to show what I am capable of achieve with the same effort and sacrifice, in a new stage of my life that promises to be even more intense.

"But we still have a whole season together in which, as always, I will try to be on the level that this great factory deserves! Let’s do it @KtmFactoryRacing."

Despite that rallying cry, Espargaro knows Jerez will be far from a normal home event.

The Spanish Grand Prix - the first round of a heavily revised 2020 calendar - will not only see a strict range of coronavirus protocols but take place behind closed doors, without any fans.

Jerez will also mark the first time that MotoGP has returned to the same venue on the following weekend.

“I think for all the Spanish riders it is important – and nice – to start racing at Jerez, even if the stands will be empty. It will be strange and even painful to see because emotions at Jerez are usually so big," Espargaro said.

"Anyway, I think Dorna have done an amazing job to get this organised so soon after the COVID-19 confinement and we are all looking forward to starting.

"It is going to be a tricky year and very different to past seasons but we are all excited to feel that racing spirit and the nerves on the racetrack again.”

One of those especially excited will be rookie team-mate Brad Binder, who finally gets to make his premier-class debut.

“I'm really happy to be back to racing," said the South African. "It'll be challenging with the protocol and how we approach the whole weekend but at the same time I’m super-excited to get started.

"Two races back-to-back is like a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s cool to have that second chance to go back and redo the Grand Prix and find a feeling you might have from FP1 but it is also nice sometimes to reset on a Monday after the race and think ahead to another [different] challenge.

"However, this will be good for me – the chance to have extra time.”

Red Bull KTM Race Manager Mike Leitner added: “It will be a special season this year and a very different way to start with two back-to-back races at the same track. It won’t be a disadvantage for the rookies because they will have more time to learn and potentially perform even better at the second attempt.

"It is important that the riders stay healthy in the short calendar we have. I think we have done the maximum we could with tests in Red Bull Ring and Misano. The riders are motivated, so we’ll go to Jerez and see what the outcome is.”

Miguel Oliveira will move from the Tech3 KTM team to fill the void left by Espargaro in 2021.

Revised 2020 MotoGP Calendar (including free weekends)

Round

Date

Race

Circuit

 

15 July

Official Test

Jerez

1

19 July

Spain

Jerez

2

26 July

Andalusia

Jerez

 

2 August

 

 

3

9 August

Czech Republic

Brno

4

16 August

Austria

Red Bull Ring

5

23 August

Styria

Red Bull Ring

 

30 August

  
 

6 September

  

6

13 September

San Marino e Della Riviera di Rimini

Misano

7

20 September

Emilia Romagna e Della Riviera di Rimini

Misano

8

27 September

Catalunya

Barcelona

 

4 October

  

9

11 October

France

Le Mans

10

18 October

Aragon

Aragon

11

25 October

Teruel

Aragon

 

1 November

  

12

8 November

Europe

Ricardo Tormo

13

15 November

Comunitat Valenciana

Ricardo Tormo

(Final European race)

 

22 November

  
 

29 November

  

 

6 December

 

 

 

13 December

 

Deadline for any Flyaway races.

MotoGP 2020: List of 'To Be Confirmed' events

1

4 October

Thailand

Buriram

2

1 November

Malaysia

Sepang

3

22 November

Argentina

Termas

MotoGP 2020: List of Cancelled events

1

8 March

Qatar (MotoGP class)

Losail

2

31 May

Italy

Mugello

3

21 June

Germany

Sachsenring

4

28 June

Netherlands

Assen

5

12 July

Finland

KymiRing

6

30 August

Great Britain

Silverstone

7

18 October

Japan

Motegi

8

25 October

Australia

Phillip Island

9

15 November

Americas

COTA

 

Comments

Loading Comments...