‘State of disaster’ now puts Austin MotoGP opener under threat

A 'state of disaster' being declared in Austin means MotoGP could be forced to cancel its third event in succession due to the coronavirus spread

Marc Marquez, COTA

The rearranged opening round of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship may now not be able to go ahead either after the city of Austin introduced a ‘local state of disaster’ to allow for greater controls on large gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.

With the opening MotoGP race in Qatar cancelled and the second round in Thailand postponed until October, the sport is now looking towards the original round three at the Circuit of The Americas on April 3-5 as the 2020 curtain raiser.

However, in what is becoming an increasingly fast changing situation, Austin – which has no recorded cases of coronavirus – has introduced preventative measures on gatherings of more than 2,500 people to stem any potential spread.

As such, the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) festival has already been cancelled and there is a growing expectation the US race will follow suit. Last year’s the race attracted 120,000 people over the course of the weekend, compared with 75,000 for SXSW.

However, local authorities say each event decision will be made case-by-case.

“Events with 2,500 or more people are prohibited unless organizers are able to assure Austin Public Health that mitigation plans for infectious diseases are in place. Each event will be evaluated case-by-case,” read a statement.

What next for 2020 MotoGP season?

A cancellation would be another blow for the beleaguered Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta having said the US race would go ahead only 3 days ago. It came after he insisted Qatar and Thailand were safe too, only for them to be scrapped as well.

For now the US GP will take place on April 3-5 as it stands, but a decision will likely need to come soon as teams, riders and personnel begin making plans to transfer and potentially be quarantined if they have passed through greatly affected areas recently, namely Italy.

Should the US race be cancelled too, the opening round would likely shift to the original round four in Argentina. The Termas Rio Hondo venue has been at pains to insist its race will go ahead as planned on April 17-19 but most decisions concerning coronavirus have been initiated by greater powers that those running events or MotoGP.

After that the season heads into European leg, starting with ‘Round 5’ in Jerez. However, as it stands the following French and Italian MotoGP races cannot go ahead due to various restrictions in place.