Nightmare for teams as virus sends MotoGP into chaos

PETALING JAYA: A logistical nightmare awaits for the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (SRT) with the opening rounds of the MotoGP world championship thrown into chaos by the Covid-19 outbreak.

This weekend’s event in Qatar will now take place without the premier class race after the country introduced harsh entry restrictions for recent visitors to Italy. Moto2 and Moto3 will still go ahead as teams and riders are already present in the country following their final pre-season test at the Losail track.

Round two in Thailand later this month has also been postponed as the country seeks to limit the spread of the virus by cancelling “big events with large numbers of spectators”.

The race in Buriram could be moved to later in the season.

This means the first MotoGP race of the year is now set for Austin, Texas, in the United States from April 3-5 unless new restrictions are applied by the US government.

“It is a logistical nightmare for us and all the teams. Because of the travel restrictions, all Italian crew members will not travel to pack up all the MotoGP equipment, bikes and stuff.

“We will need the support of Yamaha Motor Corporation staff who are already there and our Moto2 and Moto3 crew to help, ” said team principal Datuk Razlan Razali.

SRT rider Franco Morbidelli is one of the six Italian MotoGP riders affected because of the new restrictions by the Qatar government.

The Moto2 and Moto3 classes were spared because the riders and crew members are already in Qatar for the official pre-season testing last weekend.

Organisers Dorna chief executive officer Carmelo Ezpeleta insists there will “absolutely be a 2020 MotoGP season” and our wish is to run all the races.

“We were in close contact with the authorities in Qatar to understand exactly what we could do.

“Then during the weekend, the situation changed. On Sunday, we received indication from the authorities in Qatar that due to the situation in Italy and around the world, everyone of Italian nationality or residents of Italy arriving from there needs to be sure they haven’t been in Italy during the last 14 days.

“It’s not that entrance to Qatar is forbidden, but anyone who has been in Italy in the last 14 days will be quarantined for 14 days in Qatar.

“Obviously that’s not possible for us, and this was what led us to cancel the MotoGP category in Qatar.

“We have been speaking to the authorities in Thailand all weekend and they advised us that early on Monday, there will be a meeting to decide which events can happen in Thailand.

“They have decided to cancel big events with large numbers of spectators, so we decided to postpone the Thailand Grand Prix and try to find a date at the end of the year for the GP.

“There will absolutely be a 2020 MotoGP season. We will try to continue with everything and stay aware of the situation because it’s changing day by day, but our wish is to do all the races in the 2020 season.”

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