Could MotoGP be forced into a rethink over Coronavirus fears?

Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta insists the upcoming MotoGP rounds in Qatar and Thailand will go ahead despite growing fears over the spread of a coronavirus

MotoGP start Jerez

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has reiterated MotoGP’s upcoming opening rounds in Qatar and Thailand are to go ahead despite the growing concern over the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The virus, which originated in China, causes a respiratory illness that has claimed the lives of almost 3,000 of the 84,000 people that have been infected so far. The outbreak of the virus has now been confirmed in more than 50 countries, with the worst affected outside of China thought to be Iran and Italy, plus other Asian nations.

The spread of the virus has begun to have ramifications for large events now with a number of football and rugby matches – including the upcoming Italy v Ireland Six Nations tie – being cancelled amid fears of it spreading among large groups.

In unprecedented move, today also saw the Geneva Motor Show – the most important annual event in the motoring calendar – cancelled due to a ban by the Swiss government on large events.

As it stands, Ezpeleta insists the opening round of MotoGP and second round of WorldSBK in Qatar will go ahead despite the first cases being reported in nearby in Saudi Arabia, while Thailand also has the green light. He admits though that it is a moving target of sorts and they will react to what are fast moving developments.

Indeed, such is the concern in Italy especially, as of today, it is unlikely the Mugello race would be permitted to take place as the government clamps down on allowing mass-attended events. With this in mind, while Dorna has plans to go ahead with its events, force majeure could be enforced by local governments to take the decision out of their hands.

Looking longer-term, it could have a large effect on ticket sales as people take necessary precautions.

Indeed, amid a global economic slowdown brought on by growing number of cases globally, the motorcycle industry has seen the supply chain affected due to the number of parts that originate from China. Several firms – including Honda – that have factories in China have also been shutting down in an effort to contain the spread locally.

However, manufacturers are already bracing for a slide in sales in what is a crucial market for the likes of Honda, Yamaha, KTM and Suzuki.

In its 2019 financial report, the Piaggio Group even made reference to the virus, saying ‘despite a probable impact on the world economy from the Covid-19 virus (also known as Coronavirus), at least in the first part of the year, the Group is managing the effects on its supply chain'.