MotoGP cancels races but still hopes for July start


LONDON (Reuters) – MotoGP’s German, Dutch and Finnish Grands Prix in June and July have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the sport still hopes to start the season during the European summer, CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said on Wednesday.

The cancellation of the Dutch TT at Assen ends that circuit’s unbroken and unique record of featuring on every world championship since the first in 1949.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of these three important Grands Prix on the MotoGP calendar,” said Ezpeleta, who runs commercial rights holders Dorna, in a statement.

Ezpeleta had said last week he was optimistic of putting on races from July and he explained that was still the plan but at circuits where they could be held easily without spectators.

“Any of these grands prix without spectators is very difficult to do. It’s for that reason that we’ve decided with the three local promoters to pass onto next year…instead of putting them on a new date,” he said.

The Netherlands and Germany have banned mass events until the end of August.

“Our idea right now is to start at the end of July. Where and when are still to be decided,” said Ezpeleta.

“We’re sure our initial program is to start in Europe and race from the end of July until November and see what’s happening, and if the non-European races will be possible after November.”

Ezpeleta, a Spaniard, said that if travel outside Europe was not possible then MotoGP still hoped to have a championship of 10-12 races.

The current calendar includes four races in Spain and two in Italy along with rounds in Britain, the Czech Republic, France and Austria.

Ezpeleta said some circuits might host two races on successive weekends.

The boss said 10,000 coronavirus tests had been bought to ensure anyone involved could be tested before leaving home, at the track and on their return.

He expected an average of 1,600 people at closed-door races, with the manufacturer teams limited to 40 while independent MotoGP teams would have to manage with 25. Those in Moto2, one rung down, would be allowed 20 and Moto3 a maximum of 15.

The current plan was to have no media on site, other than some photographers.

MotoGP’s first 11 races have been affected by the virus, with the usual floodlit opener in Qatar cancelled in March.

The next race on the original calendar is the Czech Grand Prix in Brno on Aug. 9 but the calendar is likely to be redrawn.

Formula One, which has also yet to start its season, is planning to get going in Austria in July with a double-header behind closed doors.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond