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.