Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has warned he is ‘not confident’ the 2020 MotoGP World Championship will go ahead as he believes its resumption will hinge on whether a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus can be discovered.
The stark claim from MotoGP’s most senior figure is the clearest indication yet that the sport may need to turn its attentions to preparing for a full year of no racing action taking place.
In an interview with Speedweek, Ezpeleta says MotoGP can only feasibly go ahead once bans on travel and large gatherings are eased. However, he believes this will only be possible with the discovery of a vaccine, which scientists predict will only be widely available next year.
The coronavirus crisis has placed an indefinite pause on motorsport as the world grapples with attempting to slow the spread of the virus with numerous national lockdown measures having been introduced around the globe.
While Dorna has repeatedly expressed confidence it can reschedule events, the tone appears to now be shifting to making plans for the possibility there will be no MotoGP World Championship in 2020.
“[Without a vaccine] even if life should normalise a bit again, the travel bans will remain in place in all countries. So it will not be possible for a large number of people to watch a football match or attend a MotoGP event.”
With this in mind, Ezpeleta has for the first admitted he is ‘not confident’ the 2020 MotoGP World Championship – and by extension the remainder of the 2020 WorldSBK Championship – can go ahead this year.
“I am not very confident that we will be able to run the 2020 GP season. Even if we continue to work hard on it. We consider all possible solutions.
“It is important that the safety and health of everyone involved is guaranteed. If someone gets infected at one of our events, we will be blamed forever.
“We can also survive if we have to completely cancel the 2020 season. If we have to accept this ‘worst case’ scenario, we will prepare for the 2021 season in a timely and conscientious manner.”
MotoGP is ready to go if it is allowed to begin
Nonetheless, Ezpeleta does offer some hope by saying the season can start straight away if it is allowed to do so, even if it has to complete races without spectators or run with a much reduced schedule.
“Frankly, if we get the chance to restart the world championship, we will do it. It doesn’t matter how many races.
“We have more than five months until September. If we could start in September, we could still handle more than four or five grand prix.
“We could then turn the calendar upside down: Maybe run a few races in Europe and then travel to Asia if the travel bans are relaxed there by then.
“It depends on how the situation develops worldwide.
“As soon as we see a green light, we can react. We will organise every race that we can manage this season.”
MotoGP faces up to reality of coronavirus impact
Having maintained a fairly upbeat tone in various statements since the MotoGP opener in Qatar was cancelled, these words – through a third party – represent an ominous change of tact for Dorna’s leading man.
Though Ezpeleta continues to say MotoGP is ready to go in 2020 once it gets the green light, this is the first time he has admitted he doesn’t expect to get one.
While governments around the world are confident they can flatten the curve of new cases and reduce the daily death tolls, even if Stay At Home measures are eased in the coming weeks and months, it doesn’t mean society will return to enough of a normality so long as the coronavirus is still broadly present.
In short, if the coronavirus remains present to pose a risk to just one person as a result of travelling or attending a mass gathering, force majeure will be enacted to stop them from happening.
That means it will take a widely available vaccine to realistically allow MotoGP – and presumably any large sporting event – to go ahead. And it seems we’re way off that right now.