Could MotoGP Race Behind Closed Doors with a Minimal Crew?

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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.

A leaked email, which started circulating on Wednesday, asked the teams to provide a list of the minimum required members of staff they would need to run a race.

The request explicitly excluded hospitality and PR staff, as the aim is to only allow team members who are essential to the task of racing.

Does this mean that Dorna believes this is the only way MotoGP and WorldSBK will be able to go racing again? Not at all.

When contacted by email, IRTA CEO Mike Trimby explained that the purpose of the email being sent was to be prepared for all possible situations in the future.

“Clearly, we are exploring all options but every one depends on what restrictions are removed on travel and mass gatherings. And such restrictions will vary from country to country,” Trimby said.

“The purpose of the survey sent to teams was to establish the minimum numbers of people that we would need to safely run an event behind closed doors,” Trimby explained.

“Having that information would enable us to move quickly to provide genuine information to promoters or governments if an opportunity was to arise.”

The option of racing behind closed doors was not the only one being investigated by Dorna, but it could be the best chance of racing again, at least in the short term, Trimby said.

Even holding races behind closed doors would be difficult, however. The minimum number of people required to just hold races in all three Grand Prix classes is somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500.

Those people have to travel from many different countries, the most important being Spain, Andorra, Italy, Japan, France, Austria, Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom, as the bases for most teams, manufacturers, tire suppliers, suspension makers, and of course IRTA themselves.

The riders themselves come from 19 different nations, though riders from South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Argentina have bases in Europe for a large part of the season anyway.

Those 1,000-1,500 people would all have to travel to any race being held, either by commercial flight, car, bus, or train, which would require international flights to start operating again and borders to open up again. They would also have to find somewhere to stay, which would require hotels to be open.

Most importantly of all, governments would have to believe that such events could be held without the risk of someone involved in the sport carrying the virus without knowing it and sparking another round of infections.

Preventing that might require all sorts of preventative measures, including testing and contact tracing.

Alongside this plan, Dorna continues to liaise with IRTA, the FIM, and the MSMA about other options. At the moment, all Dorna can do is draw up plans to deal with the many different scenarios they may face.

That includes racing behind closed doors, but also calendars starting in July, August, September, and October, and trying to work out with circuits when the series could race there at different points in the year.

Making plans for a world championship motorcycle racing season is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces missing.

It will get easier once we get a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 outbreak is developing, and as countries coordinate on strategies for containing and eventually eradicating the disease.

Below is the email sent by IRTA to all of the teams:

Dear All,

I hope that you, your staff and your families are keeping well during these difficult times.

You will have seen that, unfortunately, Dorna have already had to announce the postponement of several events and, with some, it has not been possible to confirm a new date for the events.

Dorna are working hard to secure new dates but are constrained by not being able to forecast when governments will reduce restrictions on travel or mass gatherings of people. Accordingly, one option being investigated by Dorna is the possibility of holding some events “behind closed doors”. This means no spectators and also no team guests, including sponsors with permanent passes.

To get government approval for such events it would be necessary to indicate to governments the number of people required to put on an event and, most likely, their nationalities and from which country they would be arriving.

We are attaching a form which I ask you to complete and return as an Email attachment as soon as possible. You should list on that form details of the very minimum staff that you would need at a closed-door event in Europe to safely run the races.

As only working trucks will be admitted you do not need to include hospitality staff or workers involved in their setting up. Other staff not deemed vital would include PR and media staff and perhaps some management personnel. Many of these could operate from their home bases whilst maintaining live links with staff at the circuit.

We have indicated on the forms that number of staff that we consider to be the absolute maximum for the class. That should not be taken as an “allowance” and you should enter your own, realistic figures.

We are obviously aware that in the Moto3 and Moto2 classes some teams operate with riders in both classes. Those teams should please complete a form for each class.

If you have any queries on this matter then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Mike Trimby

Photo: © 2015 Tony Goldsmith / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved