There is a desire for certainty in these uncertain times. Everyone involved in motorcycle racing is wondering what happens next, and when we will be able to start racing again. News websites are filled with countless interviews, news articles, and opinion pieces full of theories as to what the next race may be.
If there is one person in a position what the race might be, it is Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, and the man who heads the organization which runs both the MotoGP and WorldSBK championships. Spanish sports daily AS.com spoke to Ezpeleta to find out where motorcycle racing stands in 2020.
The bad, if completely unsurprising news is that Ezpeleta has as little idea of when we might start racing again as anyone else does. Dorna, like everyone else at the moment, is dependent on how the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop and spread, whether its spread can be contained, and how long local, regional, national, and international bodies continue to impose restrictions on travel and on events.
That, Ezpeleta told AS.com‘s Mela Chercoles, is why the race in Jerez was postponed without a new date being set for it. “We can’t reschedule it until we know when we can start,” the Dorna CEO said.
“It would be risky to set a date now. If the situation doesn’t change, then what we will do is move races gradually.” Dorna is already in talks with Le Mans, and after that, will talk to Mugello, and Barcelona.
Instead, the calendar will be rescheduled once there is clarity on when racing is possible again. “The main thing now is to recover and to see how things develop. Then, when we know we can start racing again, to adjust the season in the best way possible,” Ezpeleta said.
Everything depends on when it will be practically possible to race again, Ezpeleta explained. Though FIM President Jorge Viegas recently revealed that the FIM’s contract with Dorna requires them to hold at least 13 races during a MotoGP season, Ezpeleta said it was better to focus on what was actually possible. “We will do the races we can, without putting too much strain on the end of the season, which is already very busy,” he said.
To that end, Dorna was not inclined to run too late into the end of the year. The 2020 season would not be allowed to compromise the 2021 season. Better to cut their losses in 2020, and focus on making a success of next season, and having as full a season as possible. “We will do a shorter season this year so that we can do as much as possible next year,” Ezpeleta explained.
That, in itself, will be difficult enough. “We will have to see what will be possible for the next few seasons, because the world won’t be the same after this,” Ezpeleta said. The economic and psychological effects of the coronavirus pandemic will linger for a long time, and have effects in all sorts of aspects, as we laid out in an article last week.
To that end, Dorna is already offering financial assistance to the teams, at least in the Grand Prix paddock. Ezpeleta told AS.com that Dorna was already paying the Moto2 and Moto3 teams €25,000 a rider to cover costs, paid through IRTA, the teams association inside of the Grand Prix paddock.
Separate measures were being put in place for the independent MotoGP teams, though that was still under negotiation. The objective, though, was to offer financial support for at least the next three months.
This is a logical step for Dorna. The lesson of the 800cc era in MotoGP was that the Grand Prix paddock relied on the teams, not the factories, to exist. Without the teams, there can be no MotoGP, and so Dorna’s priority is to ensure that enough teams can survive to ensure the championship can continue once racing is possible again.
That was the underlying message of Carmelo Ezpeleta in the interview. The 2020 MotoGP season has not been written off, but it is clear that we are rapidly approaching the point where a full season is no longer possible.
The priority for Dorna is to ensure that the teams can survive through 2020, and that preparation can begin as early as possible for 2021. That, Dorna hopes, will see some kind of return to normality.
When racing does resume, whenever that might be, there will at least be a test before the first race. KTM Racing boss Pit Beirer told Motorsport.com‘s Gerald Dirnbeck that the MotoGP teams would get to test before racing resumes.
That was necessary to help the riders get back up to speed, Beirer said. By the time racing resumes, the MotoGP riders won’t have been on a bike for the best part of three months, at the very least.