After the MotoGP class had their Grand Prix of Qatar cancelled and the 2020 calendar underwent important changes to accommodate the postponed Thailand Grand Prix, there is a big concern in the MotoGP paddock about the regular running of the championship. What will happen next? How will the MotoGP caravan cope with the safety measures in place with the outbreak of the coronavirus?

With confirmed cases of coronavirus spiking in Japan and mostly in Italy (third country for number of infected cases after China and South Korea) —where most of the paddock’s teams are based—Dorna,FIM and IRTA implemented the negotiations with the Qatar local authorities to ensure traveling MotoGP personnel from those countries would be granted access to the country. However, on Sunday, March 1, the Qatari government decided to block the direct issuance of visas for citizens of Italian nationality with the obligation of a quarantine for a minimum of 14 days for all passengers arriving to Doha with a direct flight from Italy. For MotoGP it was game over.
“Italy is a vital part of championship, and we are not talking only of MotoGP. Racing without the Italians is not possible considered that only in MotoGP there are 6 Italian riders, and that the staff of Ducati, Aprilia, but also of Yamaha and Suzuki is mainly made of Italians” stated Loris Capirossi, former MotoGP rider and now part of the Race Direction. “The number of Italians is even more in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes”.

Even for Loris Capirossi it was very complicated to arrive in Qatar. “Unlike Franco Uncini, I finally managed to reach Mike Webb in Race Direction because I live in Monte Carlo, so I took the flight from Nice, in France. As an Italian citizen, I had to present a huge documentation, proving that I had not been in Italy in the past month”.

Was the cancellation of the GP for the MotoGP class an inevitable decision? “Dorna is in constant contacts with the local authorities of the different countries where we are racing. Dorna, FIM and IRTA’s goal is to maintain the championship, but the safety measures of a country in the end do not depend on us”.

What will happen in the future? “The situation keeps changing around the world, every day. Dorna will try to do everything possible; postpone or whatever. We have to continue to work together with the governments and local authorities”.

Many sports, like football matches are playing at closed doors, could this be a solution? “In a way, the Qatar GP in a way, was already like this, as only working passes had access to the paddock, while guests or VIP could assist from the grandstands. There were no grid passes, so it was a special situation. But our issue is different. Our problem is to enter the country. For this reason, Dorna had to cancel the MotoGP race in Qatar and the Thai GP was postponed to October 4th, with the Aragon GP moved to 27th September”.

The situation is critical not only for the first races, but for the regular running of the championship. “We don’t know at the moment where the boxes with all the materials will be shipped” continued Capirossi, “We are working on it, and we are waiting from a confirmation from the United States, the third round of the calendar scheduled for April 5th”.

As it happened for the Qatar GP, the situation is escalating day after day and what was a confirmation, has become a big incognita. Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, declared the state of calamity due to coronavirus, cancelling SXSW, one of the most important musical events in Texas, scheduled for 13th-22nd March. With the ban to organize events that gather more than 2,500 people, the news of the cancellation of the GP scheduled at Austin on April 5th, could arrive any moment.

“We are monitoring the situation hour by hour, it is possible that there may be other changes, our goal is always to go ahead all the events” concluded Loris Capirossi.

If the Austin GP is cancelled as it looks to be, to see the bikes on track again we will have to wait until the Argentine Grand Prix on April 19th, if not then we will have to wait until Jerez in the first week of May.