After the MotoGP™ class had their QNB Grand Prix of Qatar cancelled and the 2020 calendar underwent changes to accommodate the postponed OR Thailand Grand Prix, Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta addressed the media ahead of the pre-event Press Conference at the Losail International Circuit.
“There have been many questions from many journalists, so we decided to have a press conference to make a statement about where we are and what’s happened up to now, and what we plan to do from now until the end of the season,” began Carmelo. “The collaboration with the Qatar authorities has really been very good. When this all started, the situation was changing day by day, we tried to accommodate ourselves with the agreement with everyone in the paddock to do all we can.
“Last Saturday we started to see some problems with some nationalities coming to Qatar. Then we started to consider that. We are lucky that Moto2 and Moto3 test was the week before, so everyone was here. This made it easy to have the two races we will have here. This is something that we decided from the beginning with the Losail International Circuit, the Qatari Federation and the government of Qatar to do the Moto2 and Moto3 races, with Asia Talent Cup, also. Later we were discussing day by day, and this was a large number of conversations between Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, we were discussing different possibilities, until Sunday morning everything was more or less okay, people from Italy were able to arrive in Doha during the day, then suddenly in the middle of the day, and because the situation in Europe changed, that changed the situation here.
“We heard that people from Italy or other countries would have to be quarantined here in Qatar, obviously this is difficult and we could not do it, so we started to think of other possibilities. One of these things was to organise a charter for all the people living in Italy, a flight, from France, to bring the minimum number of people needed to participate. Even talking with some people that if one team or manufacturer is obliged to have a maximum number, to agree with the other team to have the same maximum number with the other teams. On the Saturday afternoon we had that agreement.
“Then what we said was for everyone to act as soon as possible, but then on the early Sunday afternoon, a flight coming from Rome was forbidden to enter here, with the possibilities of going back to Rome or being quarantined here for 14 days. We were trying, then, to organise a flight from Nice to then organise some positions for the MotoGP community; mechanics, engineers or riders, to be allocated in one place, come for the race and go back. But we say that this on Sunday after was not possible. It’s important to say the collaboration with the Qatar authorities; I was talking with the minister of sport and the minister of health, we were trying - and Qatar also - to have the race. This is the situation right now.
“What will happen in the future? This is something we can’t prevent. The situation keeps changing around the world, every day. The only thing I can say is that we will try to do everything possible; postpone or whatever. Our aim today is to work together, as we’ve been doing all this time, to try to make the Championship. In the best possible conditions, but to try to maintain the championship with the maximum number of races we can. We are prepared to do that.
“This is the position. The next race? the United States. We don’t know anything. We are waiting to send all the material until the last moment. If the situation changes between now and that moment, we will make that decision. It’s true that we tried to move United States to the end of the year, changing for some of the Spanish races. It’s easy to say but to make those changes in the short time we have, to do these races at the end of March, it’s impossible for a circuit to organise a MotoGP race between now and the end of March. We announced today the change of the date of Thailand, thanks to the Aragon government to make the race a week early, and a week later we’ll have Thailand.
“We have a lot of possibilities as we are considering everything but the main aim of FIM, IRTA and Dorna is to maintain the Championship. Second, to all the MotoGP community, don’t pay attention to the rumours, please, because we are together. We are talking to all the people around the world. We will try to do the championship and we are strong enough to try to do it. The first article we have in any agreement with the promotors is we need to respect the laws of the country. If a law is in place, we can’t do anything. Until a law forbids us to go anywhere, we will continue. When the law says at that moment, we will think in the future.
“Our aim; FIM, IRTA and Dorna, is to maintain the Championship with the maximum number of races. The rest, we will take measures. There have been some put in place here with the Losail International Circuit regarding the spectators not being allowed into the paddock, regarding the possibilities if something happened in the MotoGP community if there is a case, we are prepared with special equipment to deal with that. And we’ve shared between the Moto2 and Moto3 teams some measure to ensure the situation gets better. We have the local authorities, the world health authorities all connected to try to do the maximum thing. We want to tell everybody that we want to do the Grands Prix and I am sure we can do it. Obviously it will not be a normal championship and we’ll change things, whatever, always maintaining that the sporting side is equal for everybody and to be accommodating to the situation.”
Carmelo was then asked about what would happen if both the Americas and Argentina GP would be postponed, due to the busy schedule we now face with Thailand being moved to later in the year.
“Today both are ok. But I’m not sure what is happening in the future, what I’m saying is we have enough opportunity to save the problems. After USA and Argentina, we will be in Europe. Then it depends on what the situation is in Europe. This is the most critical thing. The problem is the number of spectators together and the number of people in the paddock of nationalities who have been forbidden. We are thinking about solutions for both things. When any measure is coming we have some ideas to react.”
And what about the possibility of MotoGP™ races taking place in a behind closed doors environment? In other words, race in front of no fans: “Everything is possible. The most important thing for us to have a solution that covers everything. We say always that Dorna, with the agreement with FIM and IRTA, is a company who makes races. And this is our obligation despite any other things. For us the most important, more than economy or whatever, is to make races. I can assure you with all the people of IRTA and all the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 managers, we will try to do as many races as we can. I will not say now that I am optimistic but the only thing I can promise to you is we will work hard for whatever solution has happened, to make the races. The 19 remaining races.”
Carmelo also touched on WorldSBK’s visit to Qatar on the 13-15 April also being cancelled: “Qatar MotoGP race is cancelled, and this is clear. MotoGP race is cancelled because we didn’t have a chance. Qatar is committed to make it work for next year because they’ve already contracted the work. If at the end of the season, there’s a chance then we’ll see but today we’ll have Moto2 and Moto3 and in principle, MotoGP is cancelled but we’re considering all possibilities. When we publish the calendar and the rules it’s equal to everyone, any change we need to clarify with the teams, but everyone wants to do as many races as they can in the same conditions for everyone. The reason why WorldSBK is cancelled is it’s the same situation. With WorldSBK we’ll see if we can repeat it. We moved it from the end of the year to the beginning to permit the work for the future.”
The question was then raised as to what is the minimum number of GPs that need to be held for the World Championship to stand: “Contractually with the FIM, the minimum number for the World Championship is 13. Even in the worst case, with lots of cancellations, we have time. Maybe we will race in countries where it’s hot at Christmas but our duty is to make races and we’ll make races. Maybe they’ll need to postpone the FIM prize-giving ceremony but we’ll make races.”
However, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The cancellation of MotoGP™ this weekend puts added onus on two other vitally important parts to the MotoGP™ World Championship: Moto2™ and Moto3™.
“We are trying to promote Moto2 and Moto3 always, they are very important categories. We have always maintained that the MotoGP Championship is three categories, I think it’s one of our big assets. And the only thing is this weekend the focus will be on Moto2 and moto3 because MotoGP isn’t happening. Normally it’s the opposite. We are happy that the teams and riders of Moto2 and Moto3 were here and this permitted us to do that. I repeat, one of the cases of this coronavirus is everything changes everyday and we can’t think ‘what’s happening, we can prevent that’ but it is clear we are thinking from this and last weekend to have as much imagination for what we can do. I repeat: for us, it’s very important for us to maintain the calendar and second to make the maximum number of races, keeping the same possibilities for everybody.”
No one knows what is going to happen around the corner but one thing is for sure, Dorna, IRTA, the FIM and everyone else connected with MotoGP™ will be doing all they can to see the premier class race at the 19 scheduled rounds after Qatar, alongside their Moto2™ and Moto3™ counterparts. For now, we look forward to a fantastic weekend of racing in the intermediate and lightweight classes as Grand Prix racing in 2020 begins.