In the past few days, the general staff of MotoGP and the MSMA, the manufacturers' association, have been meeting several times in video-conference to discuss the current state of the coronavirus pandemic and see how and whether to deploy their troops in the battle campaign called 'world championship'.
The problems on the table are many and they are not only technical and economic, but also logistical.
The first to be resolved were the technical ones with the freezing of engine and aerodynamic development probably beyond 2021. There is already an agreement between the manufacturers on this matter.
The economic ones were more difficult to deal with, given that the MotoGP circus survives with three economic sources, represented by sponsors, TV and of course the sale of motorcycles.
It’s vital to 'save' TV income, everything else comes later
The debate is still open on this issue, but the trend at the moment is to privilege the main source of income for the championship – TV - because it is thanks to television that agreements with sponsors can be saved, albeit partially.
The third point, logistics – i.e. how to move the MotoGP circus around the world – is the most complex one, because it is completely outside the control of both the manufacturers and the organizers of the world championship, who can only fall in line with the indications laid down by each individual sovereign state, sometimes even conflicting with each other.
Tomorrow in a video-conference meeting the MSMA will look for a common line
During the week, probably already tomorrow, there will be a further video-conference meeting between the representatives of the manufacturers. The intention is to entrust the ‘commander-in-chief’ (Carmelo Ezpeleta) with a shared agenda of possible solutions for restarting the world championship. A series of proposals, that is, that Dorna can present to the various states to gain access to the individual countries.
The minimum number of travelling staff is currently being discussed in order to reduce - from 3,000 to at least 2,000 or even less - the people involved in the on-site organization of the Grands Prix.
There is therefore talk of a significant reduction, which may also include the number of mechanics, but which will certainly also involve those responsible for communication, therefore journalists included.
Restrictions on personnel and mandatory swab: there was already HIV testing in the Paris-Dakar for Libya
To obtain entry into certain countries, testing swabs that certify immunity to Covid-19 for all staff are being considered. In our opinion, this seems to be a correct precaution which is not a new thing: when in 1990 the Paris-Dakar landed in Libya (because the route involved crossing Libya from Tripoli to Ghadames, from Ghat to Sabha then finishing in Tumu, before resuming the usual routes of Niger, along Lake Chad, Agadez, the Teneré tree, Niamey, Gao, Timbuctoo and so on until the finish of the Pink Lake of Dakar), Muhammar Gaddafi required and obtained that all participants underwent the test for HIV.
The MSMA is also willing to organize the movements of the participants, 'confining' them all to selected hotels and limiting movements only to the paddock and back.
Consecutive Grands Prix in the same country, even on the same circuit
Among the proposals there is also one of having two Grand Prix races in the same country, but on different Sundays. This is because it would allow TVs to honour their advertising commitments with sponsors, which would not be possible with two races - Superbike style - on the same weekend.
This would confirm the indiscretions about a Mugello-Misano back-to-back in two consecutive weeks, but clearly only Italy and Spain have more than one circuit approved for MotoGP, therefore we could also have Sepang 1 and Sepang 2, for example.
With such a solution, the teams would stay in the same country for two weeks, with lower costs and logistics problems.
As you can see, these are unusual solutions but perfectly in line with a completely unexpected and unpredictable event such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
From everything that has come before, it can be inferred that we have moved on to 'phase 2'. As you may remember, Ezpeleta in the Losail conference had said that he would try to race all the Grands Prix on the calendar. Today we have moved onto try and race some Grands Prix. We have now arrived at the phase of trying to salvage what can be saved...
That’s a better solution than 'every man for himself'. The alternative of a collapse of the world championship system, which includes the bankruptcy of the teams and the layoff and loss of thousands of jobs, is not good for anyone.