Pre-season MotoGP Sepang test cancelled,  Qatar likely to take over

The pre-season 2021 MotoGP tests at Sepang have been cancelled due to the coronavirus to create the first potential headache of the year for Dorna

MotoGP start field

The traditional pre-season MotoGP World Championship tests in Sepang have been formally cancelled in response to Malaysia’s move to tighten local measures that control the spread of the coronavirus.

MotoGP usually descends on the south-east Asian nation - which offers guaranteed warm weather during the winter months - by way of preparation for the coming season with two four-day test sessions.

However, while MotoGP has announced a return to a full intentional schedule for 2021 after last year’s delayed, 14-round European-centric campaign, the first potential domino has already fallen a month before the tests were due to get underway.

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This is due to the Malaysian Government introducing new measures that would have had to prompt the FIM, IRTA and Dorna to seek special permission to get riders, personnel and equipment into the country.

For now, the third of the pre-season tests in Qatar is going ahead on March 10-12 and should they do so uninterrupted it is likely it will be extended to include another round of testing before staying in Losail for the scheduled season opener on March 26-28.

"The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and complications have obliged the cancellation of both events, which were set to take place at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia in February," read a statement from Dorna.

"The Qatar Test, currently set to take place at Losail International Circuit from the 10th to the 12th of March, continues to be confirmed and any further updates or changes will be provided as soon as available."

Either way it means the first meaningful track running for the 2021 bikes and riders - which include Valentino Rossi at Petronas SRT Yamaha and Pol Espargaro at Repsol Honda - won’t occur until March, which could prove beneficial for six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez in his pursuit to return to full fitness following his 2020-season defining arm injury.