Following the test – with an eye on shedding approximately 12 percent of downforce from the 2019 cars – Supercars signed off on new aero changes for both the Ford Mustang and the Holden Commodore, with the category’s head of motorsport Adrian Burgess initially satisfied with the results.
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“Following the recent VCAT testing that took place in Queensland, Supercars Head of Motorsport, Adrian Burgess has elected to extend the programme by an additional three days in January,” read a Supercars statement.
“While originally scheduled for five days, the VCAT testing process timeline is dependent on all variables being accurately measured and checked.
“Rigorous analysis of the data following the initial testing has indicated some results that require further verification. Given the criticality of the process, the Supercars Motorsport Team and the two homologation teams, Triple Eight Race Engineering and DJR Team Penske, agreed that extending the test was necessary to ensure all variables are fully covered.
“The final results of the testing will be available in the second half of January 2020.”
Dovizioso’s 2017 title fight was perhaps his best, the Ducati rider tying Marquez for race wins (six) and taking the battle down to the Valencia season finale.
However, he fell away in 2018 and 2019 as Marquez tightened his grip on the premier class, the latter season seeing Honda’s increase in top speed wiping away Ducati’s obvious advantage.
With Ducati the first squad to unveil its 2020 challenger, the GP20, Dovizioso acknowledged the difficult season just past – even if he finished second – as a way to build on the new season as the Italian marque chases a first crown in 13 years following Casey Stoner’s 2007 breakthrough.
“2019 was interesting and made us understand a few aspects that will help us to improve and grow in 2020,” said Dovizioso.
“Last year we finished as runner-up for the third consecutive time behind Marc, a rider that for sure made the difference last year, but we also did our best managing well our potential.
“Every year has its own story, and it is not easy to predict what will happen in 2020. Our goal is clear; we want to challenge for the title again. Both Ducati and I are working hard to be back stronger than ever before.
“Compared to last year, I expect to find more competitive rivals, but we have also grown a lot, and I am confident that we will be able to continue with our positive trend.”
Critically, Ducati has constructed a new chassis for the new season, but questions remain over whether a solution has been found to the ongoing turning and corner speed woes.
Still, Dovizioso – who turns 34 a fortnight after the Qatar season opener in March – understands the rider plays the most pivotal role, and conceded he needs to do better if he is the one to unseat Marquez.
Importantly, Dovizioso must first curb his qualifying struggles – in 2019, he qualified seventh or lower 10 times, and managed just three front row starts.
“It’s impossible to know now how the championship will be, but for sure the guy to beat is Marc, who did something incredible last year,” said Dovizioso, who will be on track in his new colours at the Sepang test across February 7-9 ahead of the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on March 10.
“But I think that on paper we are five to six riders able to win the championship, not just the races … for sure on paper Marc is Marc and has won all the time, this is the reality. But I believe no one is unbeatable and we have to start the season with this mentality and try.
“So it’s really important to be in front at the beginning of the race, which means it’s really important to start a bit more forward than we did last year.
“There are a few things where we can be better, and where I can better, together with the team. Because most of the time it’s a mix from my side, the team and the characteristic of the bike …. last year we improved the set-up and my feeling to be strong in the race, but in qualifying I was struggling a lot.
“We need have to try our best to find what we can do about that because in qualifying it’s important to be in the first two rows normally.”
Ducati has retained its line-up year on year, with Danilo Petrucci staying with the works team despite a late-2019 slide following a maiden MotoGP on home soil at Mugello.
Where Dovizioso finished runner-up, Petrucci failed to claim a podium in the remaining 12 rounds of the year following his win and subsequent one-year contract extension.
According to Ducati general manager Gigi Dall’Igna, the fight for the 2020 title will be tougher than ever as Yamaha looks to build off its own late-2019 resurgence – but the GP20’s cornering weaknesses aren’t yet cured.
“We developed a completely new chassis. We tested it for the first time in Valencia, and the riders’ comment there was quite good,” explained Dall’Igna to motogp.com.
“For sure, the problem is not fixed. We have to develop something more.
“It will be a tough year because it will not only be Marc, but in the last part of the last season, there are some other riders who improved quite a lot.
“The fight for the world title will be more difficult this year than in the past.”
This weekend’s 2020 event, which will be broadcast live and ad-break free on Fox Sports, also features 23 drivers who will brave the Daytona-Bathurst double, with the famous Florida circuit hosting the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona last weekend.
Among them will be Supercars ace Chaz Mostert, who broke through for BMW for a stunning class victory in the daylong epic.
Mostert will drive with Brazilian Augusto Farfus and Dutchman Nicky Catsburg in a Walkenhorst BMW M6GT3 for the 12 Hour, and with Daytona victory in tow, will be full of confidence to attack a race half the length.
Mostert and Farfus, who combined for Sunday’s win, drove to fifth in last year’s 12 Hour, which was thrust into the minds of race fans thanks to Aussie young gun Matt Campbell’s late-race wizardry.
Porsche gun Campbell was behind countryman Mostert on the Daytona podium, but has Bathurst momentum on his side following his staggering triumph 12 months ago.
Campbell is one of nine former 12 Hour winners who will tackle this weekend’s race, with a combined 11 victories.
Among will be Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team Supercars stablemates to drive a Triple Eight-prepared Mercedes AMG GT3 with German driver Maximilian Gotz.
There will be 16 Supercars drivers on the grid who took part in the 2019 season: Mostert, van Gisbergen, Whincup, Kelly, Craig Lowndes, David Reynolds, Anton De Pasquale, Garth Tander, Tim Slade, Nick Percat, Lee Holdsworth, Tony D’Alberto, Dean Fiore, Jake Kostecki, Warren Luff and Dean Canto.
Qualifying at 12.40pm AEDT on Saturday, followed by the Pirelli Shootout at 5.05pm, will be live and exclusive on Fox Sports.
Chris Stubbs and Neil Crompton will host Fox Sports’ 12 Hour coverage with live race commentary from Radio Le Mans experts John Hindhaugh and Richard Craill.
Ferrari young gun Charles Leclerc believes is aiming as high as possible in 2020, a season he believes will be a “very important year” for the team ahead of the regulation overhaul from 2021.
A significant rules shake-up may shift the tide in the sport following Mercedes’ domination of the V6 hybrid era since 2014, with the Silver Arrows claiming six drivers’-constructors’ doubles on the trot.
Ferrari, meanwhile, hasn’t won a drivers’ championship since 2007, and is without a constructors’ crown since 2008.
The team has suffered before – prior to a run of six straight constructors’ titles between 1999 and 2004, Ferrari toiled through a 16-year spell without a team title, while also going on a barren run without a drivers’ championship from 1980 to 1999.
The Maranello squad has finished second in the constructors’ standings four times (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019) behind Mercedes since 2014, while Sebastian Vettel’s runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018 are the team’s best drivers’ performance.
Closing the gap to Mercedes remains the priority, but Leclerc – who is heading into his second season in red – suggested teams will be spending big this season ahead of a big crack at the 2021 rules overhaul.
“I hope in 2020 I can win the title, but I am happy to wait until 2021 if I have the title for sure,” Leclerc said at the Autosport International earlier this month.
“It is going to be very difficult and I think 2020 will be a very important year when teams are going to invest a lot because the budget cap is coming in from 2021.
“I will try to be as ready as possible for 2021 as I think it will be a big year and hopefully we will be working properly as a team to build the right car to be able to win the championship.”
Critically, 2020 also looms as a defining season for both Leclerc and Vettel, with the duo’s sometime fractious on-track relationship spoiled any momentum the team found in 2019.
While 22-year-old Leclerc has shored up his future with the team, Vettel is off-contract after 2020 – and the German, who arrived at Ferrari tasked with bringing the title back to Italy, has now assumed a secondary position at the team which has stuck by him for five seasons.
However, only last month, Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto said the four-time world champion is “central to our project” and a “key driver of us” despite lingering rumours of a high-profile Lewis Hamilton defection, with Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo also mooted for a move to the Italian squad.
Leclerc won two races and claimed a season-high seven pole positions en route to fourth in the standings, with Vettel fifth.
The Monegasque has set a very high bar for 2020, but understands the job is down to the driver – despite German publication Auto Bild reports suggesting the 2020 Ferrari car’s initial simulator and wind tunnel data ‘didn’t impress engineers’.
“The goal is always to target the highest possible so in case I fail to get there I only go a little bit below,” said Leclerc.
“Basically, it is to be world champion which is very, very optimistic but I will always target very high.
“This is it and I will try to give everything to try to win. In the end I am driving, for me, the best team and I just want to give them what they deserve so it is up to me to do the job on the track.”