The ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has forced yet another change to the MotoGP calendar for 2020. Due to the restrictions on movement imposed in Italy, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the US round of MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has been postponed until November.
The MotoGP paddock will gather in Austin on November 15th, instead of April 5th. November 15th was originally the date planned for the final round of MotoGP in Valencia, but to make way for Austin, Valencia has been pushed back a week, and will now be held on the weekend of November 22nd.
That means that as of today, March 10th, the MotoGP class will kick off their season at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina on April 19th, with the paddock returning to Europe two weeks later for Jerez.
However, even that is far from certain. Argentina has had its first cases of novel coronavirus, and based on experiences in every other country with the virus, those numbers will quickly grow. The restrictions in Italy are due to remain in place until April 3rd, but there is no guarantee that they will be lifted after that period.
Furthermore, restrictions are being put in place on events in Spain, with all soccer matches to be played behind closed doors for the time being, and no certainty that the authorities will not place further bans on travel. The Jerez round of WorldSBK, due to take place on the weekend of March 29th, also looks all but certain to be canceled.
The new calendar makes for packed end of season. Of the eleven rounds to be held after the summer break, only two - Silverstone and Misano - are standalone events, with a free weekend either side. The Brno round is followed by Austria, then Aragon and Thailand back to back (a major logistical challenge in itself), then the traditional triple header of Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang, and finally Austin and Valencia. And to cap it all off, a test in Jerez three days after the final round in Valencia.
That is a punishing schedule by any stretch of the imagination. There is no more room to fit extra events in, without resorting to radical measures, such as 'racing on Christmas Day', as Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta put it in the press conference in Qatar. He was not entirely serious, but it is looking less and less of a joke.
The updated calendar issued by Dorna is the second change in six days. The speed of those changes reflects the speed at which the situation is developing. On Saturday, sources told me that they expected to make a decision on Austin by the end of the week. By Sunday, before the season opener in Qatar, with Moto2 and Moto3 in the starring roles, that had changed to today, Tuesday 10th March.
The likelihood that this is the last change to the calendar is slim. As Ezpeleta made clear at Qatar, they are determined to put on as many races as possible this year. Radical solutions could be on the table, such as racing into December, and shifting early races which they have to postpone to the end of the year. The outbreak of the virus is still in its early stages, but in six months time, the situation should at least be more predictable, and perhaps more manageable. More changes are likely.
The press release and updated calendar appear below:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
2020 Calendar, 10 March
Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Americas GP has been postponed
The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the postponement of the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, which was set to take place from the 3rd to the 5th of April 2020. Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the event has been rescheduled for later in the season and will now take place from the 13th to the 15th of November.
The Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana will therefore be held from the 20th to 22nd of November 2020.
|08 March||Qatar*||Losail International Circuit|
|19 April||Republica Argentina||Termas de Rio Hondo|
|03 May||Spain||Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto|
|17 May||France||Le Mans|
|31 May||Italy||Autodromo del Mugello|
|07 June||Catalunya||Barcelona - Catalunya|
|28 June||Netherlands||TT Circuit Assen|
|09 August||Czech Republic||Automotodrom Brno|
|16 August||Austria||Red Bull Ring-Spielberg|
|30 August||Great Britain||Silverstone|
|13 September||San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini||Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli|
|27 September||Aragón||MotorLand Aragón|
|04 October||Thailand||Chang International Circuit|
|18 October||Japan||Twin Ring Motegi|
|25 October||Australia||Philip Island|
|01 November||Malaysia||Sepang International Circuit|
|15 November||Americas||Circuit of the Americas|
|22 November||Comunitat Valenciana||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
* Evening - Moto2 and Moto3 only
** Subject to FIM Homologation