On the day that practice was supposed to get underway for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, we are still a very long way from any racing happening.
Instead of riders warming up for the fifth race of the season, they are preparing for the third eSports race of 2020, to be played on the brand new MotoGP 20 computer game. It is also the first Virtual Grand Prix, featuring riders from all three classes, instead of just MotoGP.
It’s something, for many fans, but it’s not the same. Seeing bikes battle it out for an hour so in a computer game, and enjoying the banter between the riders, is entertaining, but it misses the visceral pleasure of real racing. Three days of practice, the roar of engines, the squeal of rubber, the scraping of kneepads over asphalt, the smell of hot oil.
So far, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the 2020 MotoGP season has been to delay everything. But today, we had the first cancelations.
The races at the Sachsenring in Germany, Assen in the Netherlands, and the Kymiring in Finland have all been canceled for 2020.
On Tuesday, the Dutch government announced it was extending the ban on public events until September 1st, putting an end to hopes of racing in June. And now yesterday, the Finnish government have ended any hope of MotoGP racing in July.
At a press conference on Wednesday evening, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced that all gatherings of over 500 people are to remain banned until July 31st.
That would make it impossible to hold the Finnish Grand Prix, due to be held on July 12th at the new Kymiring circuit, 130 km northeast of Helsinki.
The 2020 world championship motorcycle racing calendars continue to slide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday evening, it became apparent that there will be no racing in either MotoGP or WorldSBK before the end of June.
After last Wednesday’s announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that large-scale events would be banned in Germany through August 31st, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended the ban on large-scale events in The Netherlands to September 1st.
These two announcements have a direct bearing on the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars.
In a welcomed diversion from the ongoing onslaught of COVID-19-related news, the Suzuki Ecstar team has announced that it has signed Alex Rins for a further two seasons, meaning that the Spaniard will be riding for the team in the 2021 and 2022 MotoGP seasons, such as they may be.
With the COVID-19 outbreak wreaking havoc on the 2020 motorcycle racing season and the global economy, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, has announced a raft of measures aimed at cutting costs.
The most significant change, already widely trailed, is that development of engines and aerodynamics is to be frozen for the rest of this year.
What that means in practice is that all six MotoGP factories (Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha) will have to race in 2020 with the engines they submitted for homologation in March of this year.
While the COVID-19 pandemic holds the world firmly in its grip, Dorna continues to examine options for returning to racing once that becomes possible.
Although any decision on when racing is possible is entirely out of Dorna’s hands, they are still drawing up plans for a range of options for when the current round of global lockdowns and travel restrictions end.
One option Dorna is considering is holding races behind closed doors, with an absolute minimum of staff present.
Humans have a deep-seated need for certainty. Though the human experience runs the full gamut from an excess of spontaneity to rigid and unbending routine, a need for some kind of certainty, some handholds to grasp on to as we make our way through the world. Motorcycle racing fans, as humans, are no different.
So it is unsurprising that people – fans, journalists, team managers, mechanics, etc – have responded to every piece of news about the COVID-19 outbreak by making more or less bold predictions about when racing might resume.
The latest news – that Germany has extended its ban on large-scale events until August 31st, meaning that the MotoGP round at the Sachsenring set for June 21st, and the WorldSBK round at Oschersleben, due to take place on the weekend of August 2nd will both have to be either rescheduled or canceled – has been no different.
Everyone seems keen to make bold predictions of exactly what will happen next.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first forced Dorna to start moving races, they postponed them to later in the year. First Thailand, then Austin, and finally Argentina were moved to new slots in October and November.
But, when it became clear that Jerez and Le Mans could not take place on their planned dates, those races were postponed indefinitely, with no new date given for when they might be held. Now, the first signs of races being canceled are appearing.
The next wave of rolling race postponements due to the current COVID-19 pandemic has hit. Today, the FIM announced that the next three rounds of WorldSBK, at Imola, Aragon, and Misano, have been either moved or canceled.
The WorldSBK grid is now due to assemble again at the UK round of WorldSBK, at Donington Park, from July 3rd to 5th.