After last week's announcements that the Silverstone and Phillip Island MotoGP rounds were canceled, today, the Japanese round of MotoGP joined the list of cancellations. The race at Motegi has been called off, and will not take place this year, despite the importance of the race to the Japanese manufacturers.
Today's announcement was the last step in a general clearing out of the schedule to allow for a calendar of races which could feasibly be held for 2020. The plan, as Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta pointed out in the press release, is to do as many races in Europe as possible, and only heading overseas after that, if international travel is still possible. "For this reason, the FIM and Dorna, in consultation with IRTA and MSMA, have decided that, until mid-November, MotoGP will remain in Europe to do as many European MotoGP events as we are able to. Therefore, overseas events, if at all possible, should be scheduled after mid-November – which would be too late in the year for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan to be held," Ezpeleta is quoted as saying.
As I explained on Friday, the plan is to run calendar as pairs of races on back-to-back weekends at the same circuits. The series is due to kick off at Jerez, on July 19th, with another race at the Spanish circuit the following weekend, July 26th. One race will be named the Spanish Grand Prix, the next the Grand Prix of Andalusia. Then one race at Brno, two races in Austria, and races in Barcelona, Misano, Aragon, and Valencia. There is a chance that Le Mans could feature on the calendar, with French Grand Prix promoter Claude Michy working towards a race in the first half of October.
By September/October, it should be clear whether it will be possible to travel overseas for races in late November/early December. The date limits the options to the tropics or the southern hemisphere. Although the race in Austin has still not officially been canceled, it seems unlikely the race can be held in 2020. That would leave Buriram, Sepang, and Argentina, though Carmelo Ezpeleta has already made it clear that these races will only go ahead if fans can attend. A decision on that is still some way off.
There are still obstacles in the way of any calendar. The latest issue is that the Spanish Minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism has said that visitors from the UK will not be excluded from quarantine rules on tourists which Spain is due to lift on July 1st, unless the UK improves its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. A sizable number of paddock staff, including mechanics, engineers, and riders, are resident in Britain and could be forced to leave early, and self-isolate for 14 days ahead of the races in Spain. Other countries may also suffer a similar fate.
We will have more clarity on a potential calender later in the week, when an initial calendar is due to be released. That calendar, like most things at the moment, will be provisional until the last race has finished.
Below is the press release from Dorna announcing the cancellation of Motegi:
Motul Grand Prix of Japan cancelled
Monday, 01 June 2020
The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has obliged the cancellation of the event, which was set to take place from the 16th to the 18th of October at the Twin Ring Motegi.
The home of MotoGP™ manufacturers Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, Japan is vital to the global presence and success of MotoGP™.
The iconic Twin Ring Motegi has been on the calendar since 1999 and the FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports very much look forward to returning to race at the venue in 2021, in front of some of the most dedicated and loyal fans in the world.
Kaoru Tanaka, President, Mobilityland Corporation: “Mobilityland has been preparing for this year’s MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix, however the situations in Japan and Europe are unpredictable and the extension of the international travel ban is expected. As a result of our discussions with Dorna, the managerial body of the series, we agreed that we have no choice but to cancel the Japanese GP in order to complete the season.
“We understand that this is a great disappointment for fans and all related parties. We thank you for your understanding.”
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports: “It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at the very unique Motegi circuit, meaning we will not have a Japanese Grand Prix on the calendar for the first time since 1986.
“The MotoGP family is working very hard to be able to re-start the racing season and hold as many events as possible, and in the safest way possible. For this reason, the FIM and Dorna, in consultation with IRTA and MSMA, have decided that, until mid-November, MotoGP will remain in Europe to do as many European MotoGP events as we are able to. Therefore, overseas events, if at all possible, should be scheduled after mid-November – which would be too late in the year for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan to be held.
“For this reason it has been decided, in consultation with Mobilityland, that the Motul Grand Prix of Japan cannot be held in 2020. I very much thank Mobilityland for the support given to MotoGP.
“On behalf of Dorna, I would also 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 Motegi next year.”