What next for motorsport if the 2020 MotoGP season is cancelled?

The reasons why Dorna isn't confident the 2020 MotoGP season can get underway... but why not all hope for racing this season is lost

Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta’s admission the 2020 MotoGP World Championship may not be able to take place this season may not seem terribly surprising in this new world order of self-isolation and lockdown measures, but taking a step back for a moment, it really is quite an extraordinary thing to say.

With time seeming to move fairly slowly right now as we hunker down and adapt to staying largely within our own four walls, it’s easy to forget it was only a month ago we were heading full steam towards the season opener without a relative care in the world.

To then admit – in April - the 2020 season may not get underway at all is a sobering reflection of the situation we all face. It’s also a major shift in tone for Dorna, which has remained relatively positive we will get some sort of season going.

At this stage it’s important to say that sport, in the grander scheme of things, just doesn’t register on the overall picture. The coronavirus is a serious test for all of us embarking on everyday activities and holding a sporting event just isn’t on the scale of what’s really important right now.

However, that’s not to say the impact is felt any less.

There is definitely a sense of ‘prepare for the worst, hope for the best’ in Ezpeleta’s words which seem to reflect the fact higher powers ultimately hold the key to whether the 2020 season can take place.

While no-one expects the current strict lockdown measures around the world to necessarily remain in place until 2021, it is less clear whether restrictions on the factors needed for MotoGP to realistically take place – international travel and large gatherings – will be eased in a prudent enough time. 

Indeed, while the priority remains to ‘flatten the curve’ of cases and greatly reduce daily death tolls – which seems possible based on more recent figures coming from the outbreak origin of China - so long as the COVID-19 coronavirus is still present in the wider society, it’s plausible to assume force majeure will remain in place for a lot longer.

It’s why Ezpeleta says it may take a vaccine that eradicates the virus for life to go back to an unrestricted sense of normality. Unfortunately, while scientists are working around the clock, it is largely accepted we won’t see anything widely available until the end of the year, more likely 2021, at the earliest.

What now for MotoGP?

MotoGP 2020 (and by extension WorldSBK) could still potentially take place as long as lockdown measures that allow the international travel to take place are eased. 

While there was some debate initially as to whether holding events without spectators was in the spirit of the sport, such a scenario may be seen as a welcome blessing if it means some racing takes place this year – not just for fans around the world, but for a sport bracing for a severe financial strike.

Ezpeleta says MotoGP can kick off immediately the moment it gets the green light to do so, but with a rearranged calendar that could potentially stretch into 2021. It could include back-to-back events at the same venue or double headers to get the season up to the 13 races it needs to be classified as a proper World Championship.

In short, unprecedented times will call for unprecedented measures.

Behind the scenes, Dorna is set to announce a freeze on regulations which would see 2020 bikes continue to be raced into 2021 in an effort to reduce costs for teams, while it has already confirmed it will provide financial assistance for privateer teams during this period.

It remains to be seen what happens to rider contracts if 2020 is null and void, with Petronas SRT Yamaha boss Razlan Razali saying he’d expect to keep hold of Fabio Quartararo for 2021 instead of him moving on to the Yamaha Factory team as originally planned.

Will we see any motorsport action take place in 2020?

Hopefully but it’s perhaps more likely we’ll see national competitions get up and running instead first.

While international movement could begin again, it could still only be eased on the premise you quarantine yourself for a set amount of time, creating a headache for MotoGP.

As such, depending on whether mass gatherings would be allowed, championships like British Superbikes could feasibly be less complicated to get going again first. Even then, it could potentially run without crowds depending on whether MSVR would want this to happen.

Given the number of races already taking place in Spain, could the 2020 MotoGP season be condensed into just holding multiple events in Jerez, Catalunya, Valencia and Aragon?

However, this will always likely hinge on whether there remains a realistic risk of the virus spreading - or worse - among the people needed to make an event happen. Taking that high price into account, surely it isn't really wortht just to get the season going? As Ezpeleta says, he doesn't to be responsible for someone dying because they held a race. 

Suffice to say, whatever form the 2020 motorsport season ultimately takes, the coronavirus crisis won’t just mark a generational shift for society, it’s very likely the change the sport we love for years to come.