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Why calendar reshuffle could just be the start of WorldSBK's problems

The 2020 WorldSBK could run to fewer events than originally planned due to the coronavirus... but will all teams make it out the other side unscathed?

Acott Redding leads at the start of the 2020 WorldSBK round at Phillip Island

The 2020 WorldSBK Championship could run to fewer than the 13 events than planned as a consequence of the ongoing motorsport hiatus prompted by the spread of the coronavirus.

Unlike most series’, the 2020 WorldSBK season did get underway this year with the curtain raiser at Phillip Island taking place just before motorsport was put on lockdown in the global fight against the coronavirus.

Since then the calendar has been thrown into some disarray with rounds two, three and four at Losail, Jerez and Assen all being postponed, with the latter two rescheduled for later in the year.

However, they are unlikely to be the last events to be shuffled in the calendar deck with round five in Imola (9-10 May), round six in Aragon (23-24 May) and round seven Misano (13-14 June) looking precarious not least for the fact both Italy and Spain are now considered the two most serious epicentres of the virus globally.

As such, Donington Park on 4-5 July could be viewed as the more likely WorldSBK second round, though with UK motorsport on hold until the end of May as it stands, it too isn’t necessarily safe.

For now, Jerez and Assen have new dates – helped in part by WorldSBK filling in the gap of its long summer break – but Qatar remains dateless as it stands.

In an interview with KRT, series director Gregorio Lavilla says Dorna and the FIM is doing all it can to ensure a season goes ahead.

“We have a difficult situation here worldwide so once we realized our normal activity was on hold we designed a plan (even if plans currently can be modified fast). We worked out what could be the worst scenario and minimize all side effects to everyone not only teams as this situation affect all us.

“Unfortunately there is no winner in this situation and my hope and biggest desire now is everyone is safe and with good health. After this, to come back to our normal activity as soon as possible, to see our paddock family and continue to give a great show for the public as we witnessed in Australia.”

Looking hypothetically, Lavilla admits ‘one or two rounds’ could be sacrificed but rules out the prospect of putting on more than three races over the remaining weekends.

“It all depends on when we start, but even if we need to lose 1 or 2 rounds (though it’s not the plan) I think especially for SBK it should be not necessary in my opinion to add many more races as the amount of points in play is huge.

“In any case these things can be discussed later. The most important thing in racing terms is to pick up the season once more – whenever that may be.”

Calendar headache just start of WorldSBK problems?

Though there is never a good time for something as unprecedented the coronavirus, this comes at a particularly precarious time for a WorldSBK Championship already struggling for grid numbers.

While the five manufacturers bring gravitas – and money – to the top line of the series, WorldSBK relies heavily on its privateer entrants too, which have been dwindled in recent years as the gap between the haves and have nots gets larger.

It’s reasonable to imagine not every team that lined up in Australia will be able to survive this lengthy break because given Dorna is likely to be more preoccupied with ensuring business as usual for MotoGP, some of the smaller WorldSBK teams could find themselves expendable.

Indeed, Lavilla is even asked whether Dorna will step in to help out financially for those in need, but the Spaniard rather tellingly doesn’t answer that directly.

What complicates matters is WorldSBK has previously attempted to avoid direct calendar clashes with MotoGP but this now won’t be possible, putting the series at risk of being slotted in where it can.

Given Kawasaki and BMW can’t simply fall back on MotoGP exposure if they end up going head-to-head, there may be some questions being asked about whether it is wise to have one commercial rights holder in charge of the world’s leading motorcycle series’ if – as Carmelo Ezpeleta has previously professed – it is made to look very ‘second division’ in comparison.

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