Argentina MotoGP Round Set To Be Canceled?
Even before the Argentinian round of MotoGP had been officially added to the calendar, the race has been in doubt. The race, provisionally scheduled to take place on April 14th next year at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, has been caught in the crossfire between the Argentinian government and Repsol, over the former nationalizing Repsol YPF, the Argentinian arm of the Spanish petroleum giant.
Now, it looks as if the race is about to be canceled officially. According to Damià Aguilar, MotoGP reporter for Catalunya Radio, the Argentinian GP is to taken off the calendar, with an official announcement due to be made on Friday. The cancellation of the race will leave a large gap between the first race of the season at Qatar, scheduled for March 31st, and the second race at Austin, Texas, booked three weeks later on April 21st. To close up that gap, Qatar will be moved up a week and be held on April 7th instead, leaving just two weeks between the first two races.
The Argentinian race has been surrounded by controversy from the start. Even at the official presentation back in June, the tourism minister for the Santiago del Estero province had to offer reassurances that it would be safe for Repsol staff to visit the track. "The only danger to them is if they go too fast in the corners and crash," the minister joked, but Repsol staff have not been reassured. Dorna was forced to turn to the Spanish ministry of foreign affairs to ask for official advice, and so far, the Spanish government's advice on travel to Argentina for Repsol staff has been negative. Dorna and FIM staff visited the track this week, commenting positively on the progress made at the circuit, but it appears that the state of the track will not be the final determining factor.
Though no official statement has been made on the situation, it seems almost inevitable that the race is not to go ahead. It is a tragedy for motorcycle racing that the Argentinian MotoGP round should be a victim of a political battle about something almost entirely unrelated to the sport. Given that the circuit has an agreement to host a race for three years, it must be hoped that the situation can be resolved sufficiently for MotoGP to visit the Argentina. Dorna is acutely aware of the need to expand out of Europe and into South America and Southeast Asia, and having its first foray into South America canceled due to politics is a sensitive blow.