A picture is starting to emerge of MotoGP's immediate future, in a post-coronavirus lockdown world.

A proposal has been made to start the 2020 season with two consecutive races at the Jerez circuit, on July 19 and 24.

The Spanish Government still needs to give the green light, but Dorna hopes that a safety protocol - including 'closed doors' (no fans), essential team and paddock staff only plus frequent Covid-19 testing and social distancing - will convince the authorities.

If Spain agrees it will open up four potential MotoGP venues this season, while the same template will also be used to try and secure permission for races in other European countries such as Austria and the Czech Republic. To help make up the numbers, two races are now planned at most circuits.

"Our initial program is to start in Europe and race from the end of July until November and see... if [any] non-European races will be possible," said Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.

Overseas races present bigger difficulties due to the likelihood of enhanced entry requirements for EU arrivals (including possible quarantine) and added travel costs in a season of plummeting income.

Nonetheless, one or two non-European circuits would help provide credibility to a badly disrupted world championship season. Assuming Qatar remains cancelled, the overseas events most frequently rumoured for this year are Malaysia and/or Thailand.

Both are highly popular in terms of fan attendance, Buriram being the biggest round of 2019 with 226,655 weekend fans and Sepang frequently pulling in a sell-out crowd of over 100,000 race day fans.

But if either event is held in 2020, it seems doubtful fans would be allowed to attend.

Although both countries have only a fraction of the coronavirus cases and deaths recorded in Europe, some of their most significant outbreaks have been linked to mass gatherings; a religious festival in Malaysia and boxing match in Thailand.

As such, authorities will be extremely cautious when it comes to resuming big public events.

"Already there are talks in Malaysia from the Ministry of Health that once the lockdown is lifted, we are looking at a minimum of sixth months of no big events," Sepang team principal and former circuit CEO Razlan Razali told Crash.net. "But it's just a discussion at the moment."

Razali recently stepped down from his role at the Sepang circuit to focus on running the Petronas-backed grand prix teams, which celebrated a first victory last season with John McPhee in Moto3, while claiming podiums and pole positions with Fabio Quartararo during a spectacular debut MotoGP campaign.

If the Thai or Malaysian MotoGPs are to be held behind 'closed doors' then, just as for the events in Europe, their whole economic model will need to be redrawn.

"Speaking from my experience at the Sepang circuit and as a promoter I think we need to have a balance financially, because our grand prix sells out nearly every year," Razali said.

"We are highly dependent on the revenue from ticket sales, F&B [food & beverage], trade & vending, and so on. So that will materially impact us financially, if its closed doors.

"So yes, we know of the possibility of a closed-door event, but we will also I believe wait for Dorna to engage with us about it.

"The teams have already been given instructions to provide names for a skeleton staff to prepare for [closed-door MotoGP races], but I hope Dorna will also start a dialogue with the promoters as well, in the event that closed-door is a possibility."

'Time is still on our side'

And what does Razali feel are the chances of the Petronas teams being able to race in front of their home fans at Sepang this season?

"The advantage for us is that the Malaysian Grand Prix is near the end of the year [November 1]," he replied. "We were the penultimate race, although now you have potentially got Austin and Argentina between us and Valencia.

"Being so late in the year gives us time to see whether things will improve. Of course, we are hoping the situation will get better. However, there is a fine line between being too optimistic or pessimistic, because we just don’t know what's going to happen.

"But time is still on our side at the moment, being so long down the road, and it also depends on how other countries are doing as well."

Competing against the best of the best

After more than a decade running the Sepang Circuit, during which time its MotoGP spectator attendance has grown from 50,000 to over 170,0000, Razali felt the time was right to put everything into team management.

"I've been CEO for the track for nearly 12 years. Last year I played both roles, CEO and team principle. It got a little bit too hectic. Not able to fully focus on one or the other," he admitted. "So that's not good. And of course, being team principle is a new challenge.

"Competing in a world championship, you are just as aggressive as the riders, but off track. So that brings with it the competitive feeling, the fight, which is a totally different feeling from being CEO where you are concerned with maintaining the circuit, doing business and promoting events.

"As a team principle across three grand prix classes you are competing against the best of the best."

Latest 2020 MotoGP Calendar (including free weekends)

Round

Date

Race

Circuit

 

8 March

Qatar (MotoGP cancelled)

Losail

 

17 May

France (postponed)

Le Mans

 

31 May

Italy (postponed)

Mugello

 

7 June

Catalunya (postponed)

Barcelona

 

21 June

Germany (cancelled)

Sachsenring

 

28 June

Netherlands (cancelled)

Assen

 

12 July

Finland (cancelled)

KymiRing

1

19 July

Spain (proposed)

Jerez (rescheduled)

2

26 July

Andalusia (proposed)

Jerez

 

2 August

 

 

3

9 August

Czech Republic

Brno

4

16 August

Austria

Red Bull Ring

 

23 August

  

5

30 August

Great Britain

Silverstone

 

6 September

  

6

13 September

San Marino

Misano

 

20 September

  

7

27 September

Aragon

Aragon (rescheduled)

8

4 October

Thailand

Buriram (rescheduled)

 

11 October

  

9

18 October

Japan

Motegi

10

25 October

Australia

Phillip Island

11

1 November

Malaysia

Sepang

 

8 November

  

12

15 November

Americas

COTA (rescheduled)

13

22 November

Argentina

Termas de Rio Hondo (rescheduled)

14

29 November

Valencia

Ricardo Tormo (rescheduled)

November seen as cut-off for European races

 

6 December

 

 

 

13 December

 

Mid-December seen as cut-off for races outside Europe