Dorna has been forthcoming about how it plans to get the 2020 MotoGP World Championship back underway in recent weeks, but somewhat less is known about where its other series, the WorldSBK Championship, factors into its plans.

So far, and perhaps understandably, MotoGP commands the lion’s share of Dorna’s attention and forms the basis of its statements when it comes to ensuring a new calendar is being drawn up and the safeguards against coronavirus it will take as and when it does begin.

However, to date WorldSBK has been something of a footnote to these communications with a few lines simply along the lines of ‘we’ll do as many rounds as we can’.

The latest information from Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta suggests it is aiming for at least six more rounds this year, to go with the Phillip Island opener that has already happened. That would be seven in total, almost half of the 13 originally planned.

At the heart of this is a plan for WorldSBK to trace the movements of MotoGP so that its revised calendar – however extensive that may be – looks similar to that of the premier class.

This has been borne from the original idea of running MotoGP and WorldSBK on the same weekends, but Dorna pointed out the differing series’ sponsors and TV distribution deals makes this impossible. In short, they won’t be changing all the trackside advertising boards every session.

Instead, WorldSBK would take place a weekend later once MotoGP has vacated having either completed one event or done two events at the same circuit back-to-back.

There is a logistical logic to this idea. Dorna will need to set up a ‘safe haven’ inside the paddock with regular testing and restricted movement amongst the team members and officials, which would make it easier to apply to WorldSBK if it happened in the same place.

How could the 2020 WorldSBK calendar look?

However, it means the 2020 WorldSBK calendar could end up looking very different to the one we expected. To date, rounds two to six have either been re-arranged with a new date (Jerez, Assen, Misano, Aragon), postponed with no date (Qatar) or cancelled altogether (Imola).

That leaves Donington Park as the next listed round in July, but with the UK still a little behind in flattening the curve compared with mainland Europe in terms of getting a grip on coronavirus – plus the fact it isn’t in the Schengen free movement zone – makes it difficult to see how that will continue on that date.

After that there is Oschersleben and the re-arranged Assen, but with Germany and Netherlands enforcing strict rules on mass gatherings until the end of the summer, it’s likely they will go the way of their MotoGP counterparts in being scrapped altogether. The same could go for Magny-Cours due to France’s similarly strict measures, though it’s October date may means it still features for now.

As for the flyaways, despite their end of season dates, Argentina and Qatar look very precarious given the logistical headache they’d create.

Instead, MotoGP looks keen on starting its season at one of the four Spanish venues it visits over the course of the year, which could also then apply to WorldSBK.

GPOne reported that the start of the WorldSBK season could be focused entirely on the Iberian peninsula taking in Jerez, Aragon and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, plus also Portimao in neighbouring Portugal to take the pressure off crossing borders with large numbers of people.

If it was then to trace MotoGP’s steps, Brno and Red Bull Ring could feasibly find themselves hosting WorldSBK too.

The implications of a MotoGP-focused schedule

While teams will want to be flexible to ensure some WorldSBK action takes place this year, it will still demand a lot of compromise for some.

Kawasaki and BMW don’t have MotoGP teams to fall back on in terms of publicity and could take exception to the fact WorldSBK looks like something of an afterthought in the grand scheme of things, not least if they find themselves in competition for TV time with MotoGP when rounds – already devoid of spectators - inevitably clash.

There has also been no word on whether Dorna will extend its financial handouts to WorldSBK, as it has done for the independent teams in MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.

The WorldSBK grid was already suffering in terms of grid numbers – albeit rich in manufacturer backing – and it is feared the same teams that started the season will be able to return.

While MotoGP correctly is the priority over WorldSBK, it will be interesting to see how it handles its other series to ensure it too can recover as quickly.

 

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