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MotoGP Silly Season Stirs Into Life: Pramac Expect Jack Miller To Take Factory Ducati Seat

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, the gears of the motorcycle world are starting to grind again. Riders are training once again, and their thoughts are turning to the future.

It is also clear that riders, teams, and factories are starting to think about 2021. This summer had promised to unleash a Silly Season of unrivaled scale, with all riders bar Tito Rabat out of contract at the end of 2020. January and February threw a wet blanket over the wilder speculation, as Maverick Viñales extend his contract with the factory Yamaha squad, Fabio Quartararo was promoted to the factory Yamaha team, and Valentino Rossi was promised a factory-supported Yamaha should he decide to continue for 2021.

After the Sepang test, HRC damped down the fire even further, signing Marc Marquez to an unprecedented four-year contract, which will see him race for Repsol Honda team until the end of 2024. Then in April and May, Suzuki did their part to remove any room for speculation by signing Alex Rins and Joan Mir to two-year contracts. And with racing out of the question during the lockdown, Silly Season went quiet.

But with racing now on the horizon again, albeit distantly and with some uncertainty, Silly Season is inching back into the limelight. In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Pramac Ducati boss Francesco Guidotti said that the Ducati are close to a deal with Jack Miller to ride for the factory team in 2021.

Pramac has always played a role as a junior team for Ducati, and a conduit for talent - the fact that Danilo Petrucci is currently in the factory squad after stepping up from Pramac is proof of that, as is the fact that Ducati signed a contract with Pecco Bagnaia for 2019 at the start of the 2018 season, when the Italian was still in Moto2. But that relationship and role has been made more explicit recently, Guidotti explained.

They used to be free to sign whoever they felt best suited the team, the Pramac team manager explained, but under the terms of a new deal, Ducati took over the reins where finding young talent was concerned. "Now the first approach is done by Ducati because they wanted to make a plan in the medium to long term with young riders and they asked us if it was possible," Guidotti said. As part of that process, Ducati were talking to Miller about stepping up to the factory team. "As far as I know, it’s not done yet. But, of course, from both parties there is the intention to do the deal. I think it’s close," Guidotti told MotoGP.com.

If a deal with Miller is close, whose place will he be taking in the factory squad? The chances are that it is Danilo Petrucci who will have to make way for the Australian. That swap almost happened at Valencia last year, when Ducati tried to find a spot for Johann Zarco in the Pramac team, which would have seen Miller bumped up to the factory team and Petrucci demoted to Avintia. In the end, it was Zarco who went to Avintia, after promises of strong factory support from Ducati boss Gigi Dall'Igna.

Petrucci is a stronger candidate for replacement than Andrea Dovizioso. Despite a trouble relationship with Gigi Dall'Igna, Dovizioso has been instrumental to the development of the Ducati Desmosedici since arriving at the factory in 2013. In recent weeks, Dovizioso's manager Simone Battistella has been carefully neutral in his comments about Dovizioso's future. He has held open the option of moving elsewhere, although the options appear to be limited. The best choice for both Dovizioso and Ducati could be to stick together for at least another season.

The question of who takes Miller's place at Pramac is open to question. Jorge Martin is the hot favorite at the moment, the Red Bull KTM Moto2 rider keen to make the jump to MotoGP, but with few options with KTM. KTM bosses have made clear they are happy with their current rider line up, and the only slot available would be at the Tech3 team, if either Miguel Oliveira or Iker Lecuona were to choose to leave at the end of 2020.

Martin is just one of a host of young riders who are also keen to make the jump from Moto2. Lorenzo Baldassarri, Remy Gardner, Jorge Navarro, Xavi Vierge, Luca Marini; perhaps even Enea Bastianini, Joe Roberts, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Tetsuta Nagashima. But with no racing since the Qatar season opener for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, team bosses will have little data on which to base a choice.

Beyond Ducati, the situation surrounding Valentino Rossi and the Petronas Yamaha team remains delicate. Rossi and Petronas team boss Razlan Razali are engaged in a careful courtship dance in what seems like an inevitable relationship for 2021. As Razali told Tammy Gorali in an interview for MotoMatters.com, the goal of Petronas is to invest in young talent for the longer term. In response, Rossi told the MotoGP.com website that if he joined them, it would not be for a farewell tour, but to race to win a title.

At the moment, talks are happening through the intermediary of Yamaha. Both Rossi and Petronas are discussing options with Yamaha, and as Yamaha will have a major role to play in putting together any team for Rossi, they are the first port of call for clearing away obstacles.

The link up feels inevitable, however. Rossi looks determined to continue for 2021, and Yamaha have promised him a bike, and in the cash-strapped post-COVID-19 era, having Yamaha bear some of the financial burden should be attractive, even to a well-funded team like Petronas. Speaking to MotoGP.com, Rossi admitted his options were either race with Petronas next year or retire. Right now, Rossi does not look anywhere near ready to retire.

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Grand Prix Commission Confirms No Wildcards, Extends Engine Development For KTM, Aprilia

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated motorcycle racing in many different ways, some quite unexpected. To address some of those complications, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rulemaking body, agreed a number of exceptions to the rules for the 2020 season, concerning wildcards, concerning concession points, and concerning engine development.

Engine development had already been frozen in response to the coronavirus crisis. In part as a cost-cutting measure, and in part because the European manufacturers had had their factories closed, all six MSMA members agreed to halt engine development and use the engines they were due to homologate for the 2020 season for the start of the 2021 season.

That was a good move for most factories, but it put Aprilia, who had just designed and built a brand new 90°V engine, in a difficult situation. After such a major redesign, Aprilia were left with a lot of unknowns with the RS-GP engine, not least reliability. At the Sepang and Qatar tests, there were signs that the still young engine was still suffering a number of teething problems.

Consequently, the MSMA and the GPC agreed to allow the factories with concessions - factories which have not scored sufficient podiums in the past two seasons - continue developing their engines until June 29th of this year. That will allow KTM and Aprilia to continue to work on their engines for another two months.

This is particularly important for Aprilia, who wanted to run reliability tests on the dyno, to address the issues which arose during the MotoGP tests in February and March this year.

The system of concessions is an added headache during the pandemic. The system, which allows less successful factories to change and develop their engines during the season, and to do unlimited testing, is based on results achieved in the past two seasons. If a factory with concessions scores six concession points (accrued by scoring podiums), then they lose those concessions, and lose the right to testing and engine development.

However, the rules also say that if a manufacturer scores no concession points (i.e. is not on the podium) for an entire season, then they are given the right to concessions. In a normal, 19- or 20-race season, that is a good measure of where a manufacturer stands. But in 2020, with a shortened season and currently an unknown number of races on the calendar, it could be possible for an otherwise successful factory to be granted concessions with a couple of poor performances.

If, for example, there is another spike in COVID-19 cases after the two races to be held at Jerez, and racing becomes possible once again, then those results could determine who gets concessions. If no Ducati were to end up on the podium in either race, then Ducati would get concessions, despite the fact that Andrea Dovizioso has finished second in the championship for the past three seasons. Even more absurdly, if Yamaha were to take a clean sweep of the podium in both Jerez races, then the other five factories would all be granted concessions, while Yamaha would be stuck with limited testing and an engine freeze in 2021.

To address this potential anomaly, no manufacturers will be granted concessions at the end of the 2020 season. It will be possible to accumulate concession points which will carry over for the next two seasons by scoring podiums in 2020, but if a factory does not get on the podium in 2020, they will not be given concessions.

The final announcement made concerned wildcards. News of this had been circulating for a few days, but with any racing this year almost certain to be done completely behind closed doors, with no fans, media, guests, or VIPs present, then allowing in extra engineers and mechanics, along with riders as wildcards, was deemed to pose an unnecessary risk and an unnecessary complication. It could also complicate negotiations with local and national health authorities over the safety of holding events.

The dropping of wildcards means that Jorge Lorenzo will not race for Yamaha at Barcelona, as he had originally planned. It also means that test riders such as Sylvain Guintoli, Stefan Bradl, Michele Pirro, and Mika Kallio will not race as wildcards for their respective factories.

Whether Bradley Smith races in 2020 remains to be seen, as the Englishman is still due to step up to take the place of Andrea Iannone, should the Italian still be suspended when racing resumes. If Iannone's appeal to the CAS is successful, and he is allowed to race in 2020, then Smith will not be allowed to race for Aprilia as a wildcard.

The FIM press release from the Grand Prix Commission appears below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in electronic meetings held on 30 April and 7 May 2020, made the following decisions which are all consequent on the impact of the coronavirus epidemic:

CONCESSION POINTS – MotoGP CLASS MANUFACTURERS

One consequence of the reduced number of events in 2020 meant it was possible for a non-concession manufacturer to gain concessions for 2021 based on results in just a few races. To address this issue the Commission agreed the following change to the regulations:

During the 2020 season concessions can only be lost, but not gained.

Current regulations apply to the timing of the loss of concessions.

All concession points gained during the 2020 by concession manufacturers will continue to have a 2-year validity.

ENGINE HOMOLOGATION – MotoGP CLASS MANUFACTURERS WITH CONCESSIONS

The GPC has decided that homologation of 2020/21 engine specifications for MotoGP class manufactures who benefit from concessions can be postponed. This means that KTM and Aprilia are now required to supply sample engines to the Technical Director by the deadline of 29th. June 2020.

WILD CARD ENTRIES – ALL CLASSES

The likelihood of any events in 2020 needing to be held behind closed doors means that it is necessary to keep participant numbers to the absolute minimum. It is also important to allow optimum utilisation of pit box space by the contracted teams.

The Commission have therefore decided that wild card entries, in all classes, will be suspended for the 2020 season. This decision was also in line with cost reduction policies for MotoGP Class manufacturers. There is every intention to restore wild card entries in 2021 but this decision will be reviewed prior to the 2021 season.

A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/grand-prix/

Source: 

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Oschersleben WorldSBK Round Officially Canceled, Jerez Rescheduled

The German round of WorldSBK at Oschersleben has now officially been canceled. With Germany still imposing restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and large-scale events being banned in the country until August 31st, it was clear that the race would have to be postponed at the very least. When postponement proved not to be possible, cancellation was the only option which remained.

In its place, Dorna is planning to hold a round of WorldSBK in Jerez. Today, Dorna, the regional government of Andalusia, and the city council of Jerez submitted a proposal to the Spanish government to stage two MotoGP races and a round of WorldSBK at the Jerez circuit, to bring a return to world championship motorcycle racing. The MotoGP races would be held on the weekends of July 19th and 26th, while the WorldSBK round would take place on the weekend of August 2nd. All races would happen with a much-reduced paddock, and without fans present.

That proposal must now be approved by several Spanish ministries, including the ministry of health and the ministry for transport. Once they give the go ahead, the MotoGP and WorldSBK rounds can go ahead.

At the moment, the WorldSBK calendar is due to resume at Donington Park on the weekend of July 5th. However, it is unclear whether that can go ahead as planned.

Below is the press release from Dorna:


Proposal in place for rescheduled Spanish Round at Jerez, Oschersleben cancelled

The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship set for further changes in order to resume racing

A teleconferencing meeting was held this morning between Juan Antonio Marín, Vice President of the Andalusian Government, Mamen Sánchez Díaz, Mayor of Jerez de la Frontera, and Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports. Following the meeting, the three parties have agreed to propose to the Government of Spain that the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s Spanish Round at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto will take place from the 31st of July to 2nd August. This would follow two consecutive MotoGP™ World Championship events at the circuit.

Once the authorization of the Spanish Government has been received, then the Spanish Round will have a new date. However, the first test would be the Spanish Grand Prix, which will open the season in the MotoGP™ category, and the second will be called the Andalusian Grand Prix.

Regrettably, after many scenarios being examined and evaluated and due to the extension of the German government's ban on large gatherings, the German Round has been cancelled. All parties are working on a suitable solution for the German Round that meets the interests of everyone for 2021. With the health and safety of all concerned at the forefront of the proposal, the proposal process regarding the Spanish Round is underway and updates will be communicated accordingly.

Source: 

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Another Step Closer: Dorna, Andalusia, Jerez Agree Conditions For MotoGP And WorldSBK Races At Jerez

The return of World Championship racing took a big step towards reality on Thursday morning. At a teleconference, Dorna, the regional government of Andalusia, and the city council of Jerez agreed on conditions to hold two MotoGP races and a WorldSBK round at the Jerez circuit. The conditions would included a vastly reduced paddock, and holding the races behind closed doors, with no fans present. Those conditions have been turned into a proposal and submitted to the Spanish government for consideration.

If approved, the agreement would see MotoGP race at Jerez on consecutive weekends, on the 19th and 26th of July, and WorldSBK race in Jerez a week later, on the weekend of August 2nd. Those rounds would be added to the existing and revised provisional MotoGP and WorldSBK calendars, pending the approval of the FIM. The FIM is expected to nod through those changes.

How firm those calendars are is open to question. At the moment, the two Jerez races - if they happen - would be the first races on the MotoGP calendar, followed by the Brno and Austria rounds, both of which have a chance of going ahead. Czech TV reported yesterday that the organizers are hopeful of being able to hold the race behind closed doors, and the Red Bull Ring is in talks with the Austrian government to allow F1 to kick off its 2020 season at the circuit in July, followed by MotoGP in August.

The WorldSBK season is still scheduled to resume at Donington Park in the UK on the weekend of July 5th. No announcement has been made on that race, but given that the UK is still struggling with the disease where other countries are further along the road to recovery, the chances of it being held look slim.

Though the news of the Jerez MotoGP rounds is positive, it still faces significant obstacles. Dorna have sent the Spanish government a proposal, with no guarantee that the health ministry will approve them. But Dorna has been in extensive talks with the Spanish government on the subject of organizing races for a very long time, and must have indications that the government would look favorably on it.

With tourism a key industry for the Andalusia autonomous region, the regional government is keen to have races there. Despite the fact that no fans will be allowed to attend, the race will once again showcase the area as a destination once tourism returns.

The press release from Dorna appears below:


Agreement to make a proposal to the Spanish government to hold two Grands Prix and a WorldSBK round at Jerez

Thursday, 07 May 2020

The Regional Government of Andalusia, the City Council of Jerez de la Frontera and Dorna Sports have agreed to make a proposal to the Spanish government that, if approved, would see the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto hold two MotoGP™ Grands Prix and one WorldSBK round at the end of July and the start of August.

After an electronic meeting this morning between Juan Antonio Marín, Vice President of the Regional Government of Andalusia; Mamen Sánchez Díaz, Mayor of Jerez de la Frontera; and Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports; the three parties have agreed to make a proposal to the Spanish government to organise two FIM MotoGP™ World Championship Grands Prix at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto on the weekends of the 19th and 26th of July, respectively.

Also proposed is a MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship round at the venue, to be held on the 2nd of August.

Once authorisation from the Spanish government has been given, the three events will be proposed to the FIM for inclusion on their respective calendars. The first MotoGP™ event would be the Grand Prix of Spain, becoming the season opener for the MotoGP™ class, and the second would be the Grand Prix of Andalusia.

Source: 

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A Ray Of Hope? Plans Being Made For Jerez Double Header To Kick Off MotoGP Season On July 19th

There are signs of hope that the start of the 2020 MotoGP season is drawing near. According to reports in the Diario de Jerez, the journal of record for the city of Jerez and surrounding regions, Dorna is set to hold a virtual meeting with the city council of Jerez and the regional government of Andalusia to discuss plans to start the MotoGP season at the Jerez circuit, with two races to be held on consecutive weekends, on July 19th and 26th.

There are still a lot of hurdles to be crossed before the racing can happen, but the hope is that with the COVID-19 outbreak starting to ease off in Spain, with the number of daily new cases at about a third of the level it was at the peak of the pandemic, and daily deaths a quarter of what they once were, the health authorities will start to ease the severe restrictions in Spain. If the current pace of improvement continues, the situation could look much more positive in two months' time.

If the races can be organized, then they will almost certainly be held behind closed doors, and with a highly restricted paddock. As Mat Oxley set out in his blog this week, Dorna are trying to put together a massive testing program to help alleviate concerns of regional and national authorities. Dorna have been working closely with various authorities in Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic, while the Red Bull Ring is handling discussions with the Austrian government, as they are trying to organize races for F1 and for MotoGP.

The chances of being able to hold the Brno round on the scheduled date is also looking better. Today, Brno regional TV reported that plans to hold the race at the Czech circuit behind closed doors are also at an advanced stage.

If racing can resume, and the season kicks off again at Jerez in July, then it is likely that the calendar will be rejigged to schedule racing in Europe first of all. There are plans to hold multiple races at the same circuit to get to the ten or eleven races Dorna feels is necessary to have something resembling a full season.

That would also give the series time to see how the COVID-19 pandemic develops, and how international air travel resumes. Once international - and more particularly, intercontinental - air travel is possible, then Dorna can consider whether the races planned for the Americas and Asia are feasible.

Significant obstacles remain, of course, not least the matter of arranging for marshals to attend the races. But it appears that the plans Dorna has been making and continually updating are starting to look as if they might actually be put into practice.

All around Europe, governments are starting to ease restrictions. The German government announced that the Bundesliga professional soccer league will restart with games to be played behind closed doors, with the date for the first games to be decided on Thursday. Restrictions on groups and restaurants are to be eased in The Netherlands, and Spain and Belgium have also announced an easing of the lockdown.

We may be moving out of the stage described by Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura as "optimistic pessimism" and into the next stage, of "pessimistic optimism". 6 weeks ago, the possibility of there being no racing at all in 2020 looked very real. Now, the question is when and where, barring a new spike in cases in Europe.

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Suzuki Ecstar Extend With Joan Mir Through 2022

Another piece has slotted into place for the 2021 MotoGP season, and like the last announcement - Alex Rins at Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP - it is far from a surprise. Today, Suzuki announced it has extended its deal with Joan Mir for another two years, for the 2021 and the 2022 seasons.

The deal had been long coming. Talks had been ongoing for a while, to such an extent that Joan Mir dropped a very heavy hint that the deal was done in an Instagram Live question and answer session, saying that he "wasn't allowed to say anything" but that he would have news soon.

Mir's signing makes it two factory teams which are full up, Suzuki joining the Monster Energy Yamaha team. Two more riders are signed for the future: Tito Rabat has another year on his deal at Avintia, and will be riding in 2021. And Marc Marquez is locked in at Repsol Honda for four more seasons after this, and will race for them through 2024.

The next moves on the MotoGP rider market are likely to take some more time. Valentino Rossi has been told that there will be a factory bike with factory support from Yamaha if he decides to race in 2021, which is looking increasingly likely as the start of the season is delayed further, giving him fewer races to base a decision on. KTM is likely to stick with their current riders, and Aprilia looks likely to retain Aleix Espargaro, though the second rider is in question.

The Ducati seats seem to be open, with an abundance of candidates. Ducati have made clear they want so see some racing before making a decision, and are in no rush to make their minds up.

Current MotoGP rider line up for the 2021 season:

Rider Bike Contract until
Monster Energy Yamaha
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2022
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2022
     
     
Repsol Honda
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2024
     
     
Suzuki Ecstar
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
     
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati 2021

Press release from Suzuki announcing Joan Mir has extended his contract:


SUZUKI CONFIRMS THE RENEWAL OF JOAN MIR FOR 2021 AND 2022

Team Suzuki Press Office – May 2.

Team Suzuki Ecstar and Suzuki Racing Company are pleased to announce that Joan Mir will remain in blue colours for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The news of the renewal of his contract comes shortly after that of Alex Rins, who will also be with the team until 2022. The pairing provide a solid and competitive unit for Suzuki as they look towards the future and aim high in terms of results.

Joan Mir made his MotoGP debut with Team Suzuki Ecstar in 2019, following a highly successful Moto3 season in 2017 which saw him crowned champion. The 22 year old who hails from Palma de Mallorca came quickly through the ranks early in his career and proved to be a fast learner when making his ‘top class’ debut too. Gelling well with his new team, he secured 8th place in his inaugural race in Suzuki colours, going on to score another nine Top 10 finishes in 2019 despite an injury hit mid-season.

Once fully recovered, Joan was able to pick up an impressive 5th place finish at Phillip Island last season, and in the 2020 pre-season tests he was showing fantastic form and pace with the latest generation GSX-RR.

The current situation surrounding the Covid-19 crisis makes for a strange environment for both the team and the rider at the moment, with so much uncertainty in the air. However, this latest announcement ensures a firm eye is kept on the future and proves the confidence which Team Suzuki Ecstar have in their young rider.

Shinichi Sahara - Project Leader:

“We are proud to have reached an agreement with Mir alongside Rins and maintain the current lineup. This will give us a continuity that will be very helpful for the development from a technical point of view. The consistency of keeping the same riders is very important, because it helps us keep track of the progress made and means we stay on the right path. Beside this, Joan is a talented rider, he has already shown strong skills last year and we believe he could harvest some important successes with our team as soon as his experience grows.”

Davide Brivio:

“We are very happy to have reached an agreement with Joan Mir and have him complete our lineup for the next two years. We consider Joan a very talented rider and it is important to continue together to take full advantage of the experience that we have built so far and trying to improve even more. We are also happy to have a young team with two very strong riders such as Alex and Joan, which has always been our real target. This allows us to look to the future with confidence.

“I would like to thank Joan for trusting us with his future and also the whole Suzuki Motor Corporation who supports us. Being able to extend the agreements with both Alex Rins and Joan Mir during such an extraordinary and strange moment in history is a sign that give us high hopes for the future, and encouragement to all the fans to look ahead with positivity and optimism, with the hope of being able to get back on track as soon as possible.”

Joan Mir:

“I’m extremely happy to sign with Suzuki for another two years - renewing is the best thing that could happen and it’s a dream come true again! It’s really important for me to continue because now I have more time to learn and more time to show my potential. Two years can go by quickly, but I am ready to arrive at a higher level, and we are working every day to make that happen. I am also so pleased on a personal level because I have a really good team and crew around me. I really want to thank everyone at Suzuki for their confidence in me, and let’s see if I can get the results that we’re capable of.”

#SuzukiStaySafe #WeWillReunite #RidersAtHome #StayAtHome

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First COVID-19 Cancellations: Sachsenring, Assen, And Kymiring MotoGP Rounds Scrapped For 2020

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 cancellations. The races at the Sachsenring in Germany, Assen in the Netherlands, and the Kymiring in Finland have all been canceled for 2020.

Canceling the remaining three races due to be held before the summer break gives Dorna and the FIM some room to see how the outbreak of the coronavirus plays out, as countries start to gently ease restrictions. There was too much uncertainty surrounding the three rounds in late June and early July to know under what conditions they would have been able to go ahead.

As three of the four most northerly races (Silverstone being the fourth), the Sachsenring, Assen, and the Kymiring had the most limited window for rescheduling, with the weather being a factor much earlier on than races in southern Europe. In addition, the Sachsenring and Assen both have a limited number of noise days, during which they can exceed normally much stricter noise limits.

The cancellation comes as a blow for the TT Circuit in Assen. This is only the second time in it's 95-year history the race has been canceled. The last time the Dutch TT at Assen was not held was between 1940 and 1945, after Nazi Germany invaded The Netherlands during the Second World War. It has featured unbroken on the Grand Prix calendar since the World Championship started in 1949.

It is also a grave financial blow. In normal years, the TT Circuit generates half its annual income from the Dutch TT, and the loss of all activity at the circuit is forcing it to dig into its financial reserves. The 2020 race was due to be the 90th edition of the Dutch TT, with a range of special events planned. That will now have to wait until next year.

The cancellation of the remaining races before the summer break point to the strategy to be pursued by Dorna, as I understand it was Dorna who made the decision to pull the plug on the German, Dutch, and Finnish rounds. With the first half of the season lost, resuming the schedule more or less as planned after the summer break is the simplest strategy it seems. Though the rounds at Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, and Barcelona have only been postponed so far, there is some room to fit at least some of them into the season in the second half of the year.

There are obstacles, of course: Brno looks impossible, given the current situation in the Czech Republic, which would mean a start at Austria. There is also the possibility of a test being held beforehand, with Jerez being the rumored location.

But there is still a long way to go before any racing can resume, and we are still in a very fast-moving situation. Less than 9 weeks ago, the 2020 season looks to have been going ahead as normal. Since then, the world has gone from full lockdown to the start of easing restrictions. It is hard to say what the world will look like in another 9 weeks time.

The press release from Dorna and the FIM appears below:


HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, Motul TT Assen and Grand Prix of Finland cancelled

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, the Motul TT Assen and the Grand Prix of Finland. The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has obliged the cancellation of all three events.

The HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland was set to take place at the Sachsenring from the 19th to the 21st of June, the Motul TT Assen at the TT Circuit Assen from the 26th to the 28th of June, and the Grand Prix of Finland was set to see the new KymiRing make its debut on the MotoGP™ calendar from the 10th to the 12th of July.

The cancellation of these events also obliges the cancellation of the corresponding FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, Northern Talent Cup and FIM Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup track activity at the same events.

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: “It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of these three important Grands Prix on the MotoGP calendar. The German GP is raced on a truly unique track with an incredible history, and the KymiRing is an exciting new venue set to welcome Grand Prix motorcycle racing back to Finland for the first time since 1982. And the iconic TT Circuit Assen had the unique honour of being the only venue to have held a round of the motorcycle racing Grand Prix World Championship every year, uninterrupted, since the Championship began in 1949.

“On behalf of Dorna I would like to thank all the fans for their understanding and patience as we wait for the situation to improve. We very much look forward to returning to the Sachsenring and the TT Circuit Assen in 2021, and eagerly await the Grand Prix debut of the new KymiRing next season.”

Any and all updates regarding the affected calendars of the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, the FIM Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and the Northern Talent Cup will be provided as soon as available.

Source: 

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Organizer Officially Announces Postponement Of Finland MotoGP Round

It was already apparent on Wednesday that the Finnish round of MotoGP would have to be postponed. Today, we have confirmation. Lahti Events, the promoter of the Finnish MotoGP round, announced on its website that the race, due to be held on July 12th, has been postponed.

The Kymiring circuit was still due to be homologated, but clement weather during a mild winter had allowed the contractors to make good progress on construction of the facilities at the track.

It is the third race in a row where the promoter or circuit has announced that the race has been postponed, rather than Dorna or the FIM. Yesterday, the TT Circuit Assen posted an update on its website to say that the Dutch round of MotoGP had been postponed, and the ADAC, promoter of the German round at the Sachsenring, announced on April 16th that the German Grand Prix has been postponed without a date.

No new dates have been given for the race, as none can be given at the moment. There are still too many external dependencies to be able to plan for the future. Restrictions are slowly starting to be lifted in Europe, but there is still a long way to go before a realistic calendar can be posted.

The text of the announcement is below:


The decision to postpone the Finnish MotoGP race is made by Dorna Sports, which owns rights of the competition

The Finnish government has recommended that events for more than 500 people not be held before August due to a coronavirus pandemic. Decision of postpone of MotoGP Finland competition is made by Dorna Sports and race track owner KymiRing in accordance with the instructions of the Finnish Government.

Dorna Sport has promised to announce the future of MotoGP Finland as soon as possible.

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Another Domino Falls: Finland Extends Ban On Large Events Until July 31

Yesterday, the Dutch government announced it was extending the ban on public events until September 1st, putting an end to hopes of racing in June. Today, 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. Although no announcements have been made officially, the race in Finland was the first race left on the calendar after announcements in Germany and The Netherlands made it impossible for the races at the Sachsenring and Assen to be held.

Postponing the Finnish round of MotoGP would not come as a surprise, as the circuit was still not homologated for MotoGP. Given the track's location, the options for rescheduling it in 2020 are very limited. Cancellation is a more likely option, though nothing official has been announced yet.

The presumable loss of Finland means the first possible race could be Brno on August 9th, but the Czech Republic is also tending towards keeping the borders closed beyond the summer of 2020.

Austria is a more likely candidate for the season to start. Both F1 and MotoGP are examining the option of racing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg behind closed doors, F1 in July, MotoGP in August. However, for that to happen, a lot of international restrictions on travel will need to be lifted. The countries in the Schengen Area in the EU currently have bans in place on non-EU nationals entering.

There are the first signs of hope, however. Austria and parts of Italy have started opening some shops, Spain is due to start allowing children to go outside again, and in a press conference today, Ernst Kuipers, head of the Dutch National Acute Care Network, said he believed that pressure on hospitals in The Netherlands had eased enough to start to think about ending some restrictions earlier than the May 31st date currently given by the Dutch government.

The COVID-19 outbreak appears to be past its peak in many European countries. Dr. Jason Oke, a medical statistician at the University of Oxford, told the BBC radio program More Or Less that his calculations showed that coronavirus deaths had reached a peak in the UK on April 8th, and the disease is now in a slow decline. This decline in cases and deaths could prompt an easing of restrictions sooner rather than later, though governments in Europe are erring on the side of caution, fearing a resurgence of the disease.

If there is not a second spike in cases as restrictions are eased, then some form of racing could resume in the second half of 2020. How, when, and where is still up in the air, but there is reason for cautious optimism that there will be at least some semblance of a MotoGP and WorldSBK season in 2020.

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No MotoGP In June? Germany And The Netherlands Announce Bans On Events Through End Of August

The 2020 world championship motorcycle racing calendar continues 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. Officially, the next two MotoGP races are at the Sachsenring on June 21st, and Assen on June 28th. Those races will now have to be either postponed or rescheduled until after August 31st.

The announcements also mean that the WorldSBK races will have to be rescheduled. The German round was due to be held at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben from July 31st to August 2nd. The Dutch round of World Superbikes had already been rescheduled from mid-April to August 21st to 23rd.

That round will now have to be rescheduled once again, though finding a slot in an increasingly crowded calendar will be difficult. The Assen circuit has the German DTM touring car championship scheduled for the first weekend of September, then the British Superbike championship weekend set for the weekend of September 20th.

The track has its two other biggest events - the Truckstar Festival and the Gamma Racing Day, both of which draw crowds in the tens of thousands - set for July and August. The Truckstar Festival has already been canceled, but if the Gamma Racing Day is rescheduled, that would put pressure on an already packed program.

Motorcycle racing is possible at Assen through October, given the climate. Racing at the Sachsenring or Oschersleben would be better done in September than in October, with the risk of a cold snap making it too cold to hold practice safely.

Dorna is making plans to hold events behind closed doors, if conditions permit. These events would see a skeleton crew of between 1,000 and 1,200 people in the paddock to run the event, including riders, the minimum number of team staff, and the bare minimum of race officials and Dorna organizational and TV staff. But such a set up would not be allowed in The Netherlands, at least, as current measures put in place to counter the coronavirus outbreak prohibit any gatherings of people outside of essential services.

So far, the FIM and Dorna have yet to make an official announcement about the postponement or rescheduling of the races in Germany and The Netherlands. That announcement is likely to come at the end of this week, once they have had time to discuss with the circuits in question.

With the Sachsenring and Assen canceled, the next world championship event on the calendar is WorldSBK at Donington Park, due to be held from July 3rd-5th. Currently, restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus will last until at least the first week in May, but the UK government has made it clear they expect to have to extend that period beyond that.

For MotoGP, the next officially scheduled race would be at the Kymiring in Finland. But that circuit has still not officially been homologated, a process which is being hampered by the fact that FIM safety officer Franco Uncini is in Italy, and unable to leave.

The earliest racing might reasonably be expected is August. The Czech MotoGP round at Brno would be the obvious place to start, but the Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency and banned all travel into the country. That ban will be in place until the state of emergency ends, but the current expectation is it could last well through the summer.

That would put Austria as the likely candidate for the first MotoGP race. Austria is starting to slowly lift the restrictions it placed to counter the COVID-19 outbreak. An event behind closed doors might be possible in mid-August, something which the F1 series is also contemplating in July.

However, huge obstacles remain. The Schengen Area inside the EU - which contains most of the European countries which are due to host MotoGP and WorldSBK - remains closed to non-EU citizens until May 15th at the earliest. Given the large number of non-EU nationals working in MotoGP - including a significant number of riders - any race would be impossible until that ban is lifted, at least.

In the end, it is still too early to say when the first MotoGP or WorldSBK event might take place. At this moment in time, too much depends on a whole range of national, regional, and international governments and authorities. Until restrictions start to be lifted on an international scale, the obstacles to a return to racing will remain insurmountable.

 

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