MotoGP Comes To Finland In 2020

First day of testing at KymiRing, a new addition to the MotoGP calendar.

Mika Kallio rides a MotoGP bike.
Finnish rider Mika Kallio rides a MotoGP bike on home soil for the first time.MotoGP

This week marked the return of Grand Prix motorcycles to Finland, as MotoGP riders tested out the new KymiRing circuit about 70 miles northwest of capital Helsinki.

The 2.9-mile (4.6 kilometers) track will be part of the 2020 MotoGP season in an agreement signed by Dorna for five years. It’ll be 39 years since the premier GP class last raced in Finland, won in 1981 by Suzuki’s Marco Lucchinelli at the Imatra circuit. (Oddly, a GP was also held in 1982 but didn’t include the 500cc class, only the 125s, 250s and 350s.)

Finnish rider Mika Kallio fittingly was the first MotoGP rider on course during today's session, riding the latest iteration of KTM's RC16 with a new frame, but ultimate speeds were limited by wet track conditions.

“I was the first guy out with the MotoGP machine today,” Kallio remarked, “so that’s cool to be the first to make those laps. Some parts of the track are quite slow at the moment, and especially in these conditions and new tarmac, with water… It was quite slippery all the time. But hopefully tomorrow it’ll be dry and we’ll get more impression how the racetrack is.”

Aprilia’s Bradley Smith riding on the KymiRing in wet conditions.
Aprilia’s Bradley Smith navigating the KymiRing in the wet conditions.MotoGP

Bradley Smith aboard his Aprilia became the first rider to post a sub-2-minute lap of the tight and technical circuit.

‘This is a different track,” Smith said, “very different to anything we’ve seen before, quite tight and twisty and a little bit slow in places. It’s not just for MotoGP, and I think smaller bikes will really fit this racetrack. Let’s see tomorrow. There are a lot of off-camber corners here which makes it difficult for the riders, it’s a technical challenge.”

Stefan Bradl rides a MotoGP bike at the new KymiRing.
Honda rider Stefan Bradl ignominiously became the first rider to crash a MotoGP bike at the new KymiRing. He was unhurt and will return for tomorrow’s second day of testing.MotoGP

Four other MotoGP riders took to the track today. Stefan Bradl rode a Honda with a new generation of its carbon-reinforced chassis, unfortunately earning the title of first MotoGP rider to crash at the KymiRing. He was uninjured.

Michele Pirro logged laps aboard his Ducati, while Suzuki’s Sylvain Guintoli and Yamaha’s Jonas Folger were the last to try out the KymiRing later in the day. Better weather conditions are forecast for the second day of testing tomorrow.

“It’s a really nice track,” Pirro commented. “It’s been difficult to understand in wet conditions! I think the first part, it’s fast and really nice, the second part is slow but interesting and I like it. I hope tomorrow we can do some laps in the dry, but it’s a great track for MotoGP.”

Ducati’s  Michele Pirro rides at the KymiRing.
Ducati’s rider at the KymiRing was Michele Pirro, who says he’s looking forward to riding the track when it’s dry.MotoGP

“We continue the work on infrastructure,” admitted Timo Pohjola, KymiRing circuit director. “We don’t have green on the circuit at the moment so we’ll raise the standard of the facility. A lot of work needs to be done; we have one year to do everything but the most important thing is that for safety reasons, especially, that we can have the test here. Because after that we know exactly where we will have everything like the curbs. So that’s important for us but also for the teams; that’s the meaning of testing. But overall I’m very happy, it’s been a long journey.”

Then, in a reference to a famous quote from Finnish F1 racer Kimi Räikkönen, Pohjola quipped: “‘Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!’”

One stakeholder who likely won’t leave Pohjola alone is Carlos Ezpeleta, senior sporting director at Dorna Sports.

“I visited for the first time with Franco Uncini a few years ago,” Ezpeleta commented, “and honestly, it’s a great place and I have to congratulate everyone for the work they’ve done because it’s very impressive that we have bikes on track today. I know these past months have been hard for them and I must congratulate them because the job they’ve done is of a high standard.

“We’re very happy to have Finland back on the calendar,” Ezpeleta added. “It’s one of the countries with a lot of history in motorsport, and we know that the requirements for a MotoGP track are very high, both on track and off, and the plan is to accommodate all of them so we’re very happy.”