One year ago, with the Coronavirus pandemic in full swing, was the start of one of the most atypical 2020 MotoGP World Championship in history. No one could suspect, however, that COVID would continue hitting the sport, and humanity as a whole, for a second consecutive season.
The latest casualty of the virus has been the Thailand GP. The news was released by Dorna Sports this Wednesday. The company organizing the event was forced to make the decision following the increase in the number of infections in Buri Ram, the province where the MotoGP circuit is located.
The resolution, however, did not come as a surprise. The possibility of cancelling the event had been on the table for several days. Given the low vaccination rate in that community, around 21%, there were also talks of contesting the race behind closed doors, but this option was finally rejected as it would have been unaffordable for local promoters.
The country’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, had already warned earlier this week, about the possibility of cancelling the Thailand MotoGP.
In the end, the complex public health situation coupled with the subsequent social contact restrictions, have forced the Asian authorities together with Dorna and the International Motorcycling Federation to cancel their round of the MotoGP World Championship for the second consecutive year.
This is a particularly hard blow for Thailand which, with its millions of motorbike users, has a very large MotoGP following.
Alternatives that were ruled out: USA or Malasia
A number of alternative rounds were considered to replace the Thailand GP. One of them was to dispute two consecutive GP at the Sepang Circuit, home of the Malaysian GP, which is scheduled for October 22 to 24.
The vaccination rate there, however, is even lower than in Thailand, about 15%, and so the idea was quickly rejected. Some sources are even beginning to put into question the viability of the original Malaysian GP itself.
With Malasia out of the picture, all eyes turned to the United States. The GP of the Americas is due to take place from October 1 to 3, and the idea was to schedule another round for the following week at the same venue: the Austin Circuit.
But organisers quickly realised an insurmountable obstacle: the proximity of the Formula 1 race, which is to be held at that very circuit between October 22 and 24.
Italy and Portugal are on the table
Come to this point it seemed extremely difficult for Dorna to fulfil its 19-appointment calendar. The company directed by the Spaniard Carmelo Ezpeleta, however, does not like to give up so easily and is currently considering doubling up on the different European circuits available.
The Misano Circuit, which is to host the San Marino MotoGP from September 17 to 19, could perhaps come to the rescue. The strategy of adding an extra round to an existing appointment has, of course, already been adopted this season.
Portimao, for instance, was home to the third round of the year and will again host the penultimate race of the World Championship from November 5 to 7.
We will have to wait and see if any of these plans come to fruition but, in any case, the current calendar has already suffered four casualties. Australia, Japan, Finland and now Thailand have succumbed to the wave of cancellations that has infected MotoGP.
Images of Thailand GP: MotoGP.