MotoGP season opener to be confirmed this month

MotoGP

Dorna hopes 2020 championship will start in Spain in July, with strict medical protocols and quarantine rules in place

MotoGP Jerez 2019

MotoGP 2020 may get underway at Jerez, but without the crowds

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MotoGP rights-holder Dorna hopes to announce the start of the 2020 MotoGP world championship in the next few weeks. The Spanish-based company is aiming to get the racing underway in Spain in July, with ten or 11 races in Europe, possibly followed by several more outside Europe.

Currently, these races are expected to be viewed only on TV, with no trackside fans allowed, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

“Two weeks ago our plan was to start in August at the Red Bull Ring,” said Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, speaking to the MotoGP Roundtable podcast yesterday. “We still have the dates for Brno [August 9] and Austria [August 16], so we will do those races if we can, but if we can start earlier in Spain then we will. We need two or three more weeks to decide definitively. We think we can propose the calendar more clearly in the third or fourth week of May.

“In principal the first scenario is to start at the end of July and concentrate on making races in Europe, moving around a maximum of five countries, with ten to 11 races. At some circuits we will have one race, at others we will have two races on consecutive weekends. Then we will stop for one week and then change circuits.”

Most likely the 2020 MotoGP championship will start with races at Jerez, Aragon and Barcelona, because crossing borders is likely to be the biggest problem in making the season happen.

“We are trying to understand what is possible by being in contact with all the governments, trying to understand the situation for the dates we propose to have each GP,” added Ezpeleta.

The foundation of Dorna’s plans is a detailed medical protocol, currently being finalised with various sporting and government bodies.

“We are working on a protocol to show to the authorities of each country that we can be safe,” explained Ezpeleta. “In Spain we are talking with the government, the ministry of transport and the ministry of health. The Spanish ministry of sport has created a body for this situation, so we are there with the Spanish federation, discussing the protocol. In Italy we are working with the Italian Olympic committee and the national federation, trying to arrive at a protocol. Then we will join the protocols from Spain and Italy to give us the best possibility.

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“In the Czech Republic we are talking with the government, the South Moravian government and the city of Brno. In Austria this is handled by the promoters, because they are also doing Formula 1, which will have a similar protocol. So we are talking to Spain, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic, but we still need to talk with Silverstone.”

The logistics of putting these protocols into effect are immense.

“We have some people in the paddock who don’t live in Europe, so we are working on that. They will have to come to Europe at least 14 days before we start with the first race.

“We are working to test the 1300 people working in the paddock four days before they come to the country where we will have the race, then when they arrive at the circuit we will test them again, even if the result of their test from four days before was negative.

“Also, everybody coming into the paddock will have their temperature checked every day. This is the protocol we will submit to each country.

“We will have measures in the paddock to isolate teams, riders and so on from the circuit’s permanent staff and marshals. The riders won’t be in connection with the marshals except in the case of an accident, but even then the riders wear helmet, leathers and gloves, so normally there won’t be physical contact. We will have a big medical team at the track organising this situation.”

Ezpeleta is confident that his plan will take shape, because people want to see some light at the end of the tunnel during this crisis.

“The majority of countries are happy to have races to show that their country is coming back to normality.”

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Dorna still has contracts for the traditional end-of-season out-of-Europe rounds in Japan, Australia Malaysia, plus contracts for the postponed Thai, American and Argentine races. But these events pose greater problems, partly due to cost. If the circuits cannot attract paying fans they most likely won’t be able to pay Dorna the normal event-hosting fee, which Dorna needs to cover the costs of flying freight and staff around the world.

“We are talking with these circuits to see if they can have races or not,” said Ezpeleta. “We can wait a while. What we will propose is that at the beginning of September we will tell the teams and everyone if we will have any races outside Europe. If we can race outside Europe then maybe we can have a total of 14 races.”

Dorna is also working to continue the 2020 World Superbike championship and to get the CEV Junior championship underway, using the same medical protocols.

“We have an obligation to run both the MotoGP and World Superbike championships. Most of the tracks that run one or two MotoGP races will then run a World Superbike round. Our idea is to have a minimum of six or seven more rounds. And we will try to do the same with the CEV.”

The financial fallout of the COVID-19 crisis is likely to be a huge global problem in the coming months and years, but Ezpeleta is confident about MotoGP’s future.

“Next year we have contracts for 20 races and all the promoters are happy to continue. The more races the better, because this means more money coming in, which will help the championship. And the interest from other countries to have a MotoGP race isn’t decreasing; in fact during this period we have received two more requests to have races in the future.

“Of course we need to try to reduce costs, but not the necessary costs to go racing, because we need to keep the sporting side – the racing – the same as it is or make it even better. But maybe there will be less advertising and marketing money, so somehow we will need to continue giving money to the paddock to compensate any possible losses from sponsors. The most important thing is to keep the sport and the racing as it is.”

The irony for Ezpeleta is that if he does make MotoGP happen in the middle of a pandemic he may not be there to see it.

“I am in my seventies, so it’s possible that I won’t be allowed to travel. I’ve been at every race since 1992 – the situation is very strange. This is the most difficult time we’ve had since Dorna started with MotoGP in 1992.”

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