Teams facing up to prospect of no international racing in 2020

IRTA President Herve Poncharal reflects Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta by saying the 2020 MotoGP may not go ahead this season

Fabio Quartararo - Petronas SRT Yamaha [start]

President of the International Riders and Teams Association Herve Poncharal has conceded MotoGP teams will need to prepare for the 2020 season without any racing, saying it will be tough to hold any international events even if the coronavirus has passed.

Ponacharal, who also heads up the Tech 3 KTM team, suggests teams are coming around to the prospect that no meaningful track action will be able to take place this year due to the sheer complexity of forces ultimately out of its control.

His words follow on from comments made by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta that he was ‘not confident’ the 2020 MotoGP season will take place unless a vaccine for COVID-19 can be sought before the end of the year.

As it stands, the opening eight rounds of the season have either been cancelled (Qatar), rearranged (Thailand, Argentina, USA) or postponed indefinitely (Spain, France, Catalunya, Italy) to put the de facto season opener as Germany on 21 June.

However, few are expecting the season to begin imminently due to the complex nature of the force majeure measures being initiated around the world to curb the spread of the virus, which has now claimed the lives of more than 82,000 people globally since November.

Speaking to our sister publication, Poncharal says the ‘strength’ of MotoGP’s broad international nature is proving its major drawback here because it is more affected by the disparate level of measures in place in various nations.

"Our 'strength' is that we are a world championship with a lot of different nationalities, in terms of riders, motorcycle manufacturers, paddock staff etc. This is what makes MotoGP exciting and is one of our strong points.

"On the other hand, this same strong point can be a weak point because it means first, we need to travel. And when we will be allowed to travel again? When will the planes be flying again? When will the borders be fully open again?

"We can't answer that now. Also because some countries took measures at different times. For example, 
southern Europe was hit before northern Europe. So maybe southern Europe will be clear of the virus before the north.

"For sure when the lockdown ends, it won't be gone instantly but reduced in stages. Maybe you will be allowed to go outside, but you won't be able to travel abroad and still have to keep a certain distance from other people or wear a mask.

"But when you are working in a race team, for example as a mechanic or crew chief, you can't keep a two-metre distance to everybody else. It's impossible.

"So although we've been hit abruptly by this, to get out of it will take time."

“10 MotoGP races would be a dream”

While the MotoGP powers and team managers have turned their attentions to trying to get 10 races complete in 2020 – potentially through double headers and back to back events at the same venues – the reality is that this would be a difficult ‘best case scenario’.

Moreover, Poncharal warns the hangover of this pandemic could even greatly affect the 2021 schedule such is the scale of the issues facing the sport.

“As Carmelo said and I share that point of view, if we have ten races, we will be incredibly lucky. Seeing the situation as of today, if you told me ten races I would say, 'wow, like a dream' and we would celebrate. For me this is the best-case scenario.

“Nobody can talk about the 2021 calendar because who can say now which country, and which organiser, will be able to hold a race? It's very difficult. Let's try to see what we can do.”