MotoGP wants to start up again and is thinking about how and when to do it. While the riders and motorcycles are currently out of action, the work is continuing hectically behind the scenes in the organization. Right now, they are considering all the solutions to start and save a championship that the coronavirus has brought to its knees. Hervé Poncharal, owner of the Tech3 team and president of IRTA (the team association) is on the front line.
On the table there are a number of proposals, together with the doubts that (hopefully) time will help to dissolve. For sure, the world championship will have a different aspect when it starts up again but now the priority is to keep all the teams afloat, without losing anyone along the way.
"I think MotoGP is a small mirror of the world” explained Poncharal. “The European nations are unable to economically deal with this situation and the ECB helps them by giving them money, in our world the countries are the teams and the ECB is the Dorna and Bridgepoint. If we can help the teams to survive, then we can start again as soon as possible. For this reason, we are working together to help the teams in the best possible way, so that they can keep their staff, otherwise the recovery time will be longer. Carmelo understood this from day one and is working on it. He is the first fireman who is trying to put out this fire and also the only one who has enough water to do it."
"The championship will not start without Moto2 and Moto3, the priority is to save the teams"
What role is IRTA playing in all this?
“I cannot say that I have forgotten that I am a team owner, but the priority right now is to represent all the teams and to work closely with Ezpeleta to find solutions. Resources are limited right now, but I think that the advantage we have is unity: Dorna, IRTA, MSMA, FIM are working together. In the past there was friction, but now we are all going in the same direction. I believe that union can give us strength and the sponsors and the media, with whom I have spoken, are realizing it. I think the world championship is giving a good image of itself, we are looking for solutions and trying to keep alive all the teams participating in the championship ".
Funding has already been made available for the MotoGP satellite teams, will the same be done with those of Moto2 and Moto3?
“I want to be clear: the championship is made up of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. I have heard some people say that only MotoGP might be held, and I am completely and absolutely against it. We must always understand and remember that the strength of our championship comes from all three classes and Carmelo is the first to say this. The Qatar race, without MotoGP, was an exception caused by outside circumstances."
So, the possibility that only MotoGP can race is to be completely ruled out?
“I'm not the boss, but I can say that Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP will be held in every race of the championship. This is my position, and Carmelo totally agrees with me. "
"In a few days we will have some news on financial help to the Moto2 and Moto3 teams"
We were talking about aid to teams…
“All the teams are actually companies and those of MotoGP are larger, for logical reasons, than those of the other classes. The first help that all Moto2 and Moto3 teams received was from IRTA and came immediately after the Qatar race. We are the team association, so our money belongs to them, we simply returned it to them. Then Dorna, in agreement with Bridgepoint, decided to finance the MotoGP satellite teams from April to June to support them. In June we will then have a meeting to understand how and when we can start again. "
And what about the other classes?
“We know that they also need help and I can say that the Moto2 and Moto3 teams will also have help similar to that received by the MotoGP teams. The figure will be lower, but I am confident that it will arrive soon, I hope there are certainties in the coming days. I know how much the Moto2 and Moto3 teams are struggling and we want to help them. I can assure you that Dorna is not acting like Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of everything, but is working day and night to find a solution. I know it will never be enough, but we want to show everyone that nobody will be left behind, and we will make sure that the championship is made up of all three classes. It is not possible to start again with only MotoGP ".
"The Red Bull Ring is an interesting idea to start again, but 99% we will do it without spectators"
The question is when it can begin. Formula 1 is thinking of the Red Bull Ring in July…
“At the moment, clearly, everyone is eager to start again, and we all want to do it, it is our business and our passion. But there are many things to understand, we do not know what travel restrictions there will be, for example, we are talking about things that unfortunately we cannot control. The priority is to find a place available to host MotoGP, which means many people of different nationalities. At the moment there are many question marks and to date it is not possible to find an answer at all. MotoGP and F1 have exactly the same business and their problems are identical; we are brothers in this sense. Let us talk about Austria: it is one of the first European nations to have reduced restrictions to return to normal step by step. We know that the circuit belongs to Red Bull and that the Austrian government is eager to help the economy recover. It is interesting for us that Formula 1 plans to race a month before us, because if they manage to manage the situation, then I don't see why we won't be able to do it a month later. "
Assuming you can race, what restrictions should you adopt?
“I think that even if nobody likes it, we will have to do it 99% without spectators. I cannot see any nation that wants to take the risk of having thousands of people gathered in the same place and it would be a mistake to do so. We are following very closely what Formula 1 is doing and we are constantly in contact with them, exchanging information ".
"The aim is to limit staff to 1,000 for a Grand Prix"
IRTA also sent an email to the teams to find out what the minimum number of staff needed to run is.
“First of all, we are trying to make the teams survive, then we are preparing for different possible scenarios. As I said, we are thinking of racing behind closed doors, but it is also important for local governments to minimize the number of people involved: more people mean more dangers. The key therefore is to have the minimum number of people that will allow you to race without problems and guarantee the same show as before. We don't want to have worse races, on this we won't accept compromises, the organization can be compressed but the show must remain the same ".
What would be an acceptable number of people?
“We are trying to arrive at 1,000, 1,200 people, a number around these figures. This is the aim. "
"Our viewers must have the best information possible; I will fight to have journalists at the races"
Will journalists be included in this number?
"I am the president of IRTA, so my priority is to take care of the teams and I don't deal with the media, but I can give you my personal opinion. I believe that, especially in this period of confinement, it is clear that the media represent our connection with the world, if they do not talk about what happens then nobody does, and this also applies to MotoGP. The problem for us is to decrease the number of people as much as possible and therefore I know that there is a possibility that journalists will be excluded, as I know that technology could be used to find a solution, for example with video-conferences ".
It would not be the same…
“No, I know how important the human component is, when you talk to a rider at the end of a race, you also feel emotions and other aspects. At this time, we cannot decide who can and who cannot come, a nation might impose a limit on the number of people. For me, journalists have priority over any guests and sponsors, because they are the ones who can give visibility. I can say that first of all the teams and the riders come first, then the media and I will fight for this, even if it is not my direct responsibility. We have to respect our fans and the first way is to give them the best possible information and you cannot have it only through official communication. Fans like to know what is going on, even small curiosities outside things that are politically correct. We must not forget that without spectators we could not exist, and we must give them what they like ".
"More than one Grand Prix in the same circuit: a proposal to be studied in depth"
There is also talk of running two Grands Prix in the same circuit, is it a viable idea?
“We know that travelling will be difficult, and it will also be difficult to find a country with an approved circuit that will allow you to race. So, if we manage to do so and if we can organize more than one race on the same track, I do not know if two or even three, we will support this proposal. I am sure that we need to race, I cannot say a number, but I can say as many races as possible, we need MotoGP to be broadcast on TV and the media to talk about it. I support, and I’m not the only one, this idea of doing more than one race in the same circuit".
Would that be an acceptable compromise?
“Maybe it would not be the ideal situation, but right now we have to be pragmatic: if we found 4 circuits where we could race, it would mean being able to organize 8 or 12 races. Riders often say they would like to get their revenge after a race, and it would be possible (laughs). It is an idea that we are considering. It would also have another advantage: we will probably have to travel less, and this fact could help us obtain permits to race from the local authorities. I think it is a proposal to be studied in depth ".
"MotoE is not the priority right now"
We have not talked about MotoE, could the championship reserved for electric motorcycles be cancelled?
“Right now, we are focused on Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, they are our priority, our main activity. We will have to think about what decision to make for MotoE. Personally, I would like it to continue, but the problem right now is the number of people present at the Grands Prix and if there was MotoE it would mean adding at least a hundred people. We are in an emergency, we have invested in MotoE, we would like it to be there, but it is not the priority at the moment. This doesn't mean we don't care, but we need to focus on what's most important for our survival. "
"No to one bike per rider: it would damage the show and not save money"
So far, we have talked about 2020, but what awaits MotoGP in the not too distant future?
“We will have to prepare for emergency measures, we will probably have travel restrictions and a decrease in spectators; I think 2021 will be a difficult year and we know it. The economic situation will also change, and we must prepare for that. The first decision, taken unanimously by all parties, was to freeze development for all classes. This means that the teams will be able to use the same bikes for two years and this means dividing costs by two, but it is also an aid for the manufacturers, who will be able to save money in development ".
Dall'Igna had proposed to race with only one bike per rider in MotoGP. Is that a useful solution?
“I am completely opposed to this proposal because it would damage the show and the format will have to be completely revised. FP4 could not be done a few minutes after qualifying, because if a rider damaged his bike, he would not be able to take part. The same would apply to the flag-to-flag, the races would have to be stopped and restarted with a single bike. I also don't think it would lead to any kind of saving. "