Racing Behind Closed Doors With A Skeleton Crew – One Option For Resuming Racing

While the COVID-19 pandemic holds the world firmly in its grip, Dorna continues to examine options for returning to racing once that becomes possible. Although any decision on when racing is possible is entirely out of Dorna's hands, they are still drawing up plans for a range of options for when the current round of global lockdowns and travel restrictions end.

One option Dorna is considering is holding races behind closed doors, with an absolute minimum of staff present. A leaked email, which started circulating on Wednesday, asked the teams to provide a list of the minimum required members of staff they would need to run a race. The request explicitly excluded hospitality and PR staff, as the aim is to only allow team members who are essential to the task of racing.

Does this mean that Dorna believe this is the only way MotoGP and WorldSBK will be able to go racing again? Not at all. When contacted by email, IRTA CEO Mike Trimby explained that the purpose of the email being sent was to be prepared for all possible situations in the future.

"Clearly, we are exploring all options but every one depends on what restrictions are removed on travel and mass gatherings. And such restrictions will vary from country to country," Trimby said.

"The purpose of the survey sent to teams was to establish the minimum numbers of people that we would need to safely run an event behind closed doors," Trimby explained. "Having that information would enable us to move quickly to provide genuine information to promoters or governments if an opportunity was to arise." The option of racing behind closed doors was not the only one being investigated by Dorna, but it could be the best chance of racing again, at least in the short term, Trimby said.

Even holding races behind closed doors would be difficult, however. The minimum number of people required to just hold races in all three Grand Prix classes is somewhere between 1000 and 1500. Those people have to travel from many different countries, the most important being Spain, Andorra, Italy, Japan, France, Austria, Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom, as the bases for most teams, manufacturers, tire suppliers, suspension makers, and of course IRTA themselves. The riders themselves come from 19 different nations, though riders from South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Argentina have bases in Europe for a large part of the season anyway.

Those 1000-1500 people would all have to travel to any race being held, either by commercial flight, car, bus, or train, which would require international flights to start operating again and borders to open up again. They would also have to find somewhere to stay, which would require hotels to be open.

Most importantly of all, governments would have to believe that such events could be held without the risk of someone involved in the sport carrying the virus without knowing it and sparking another round of infections. Preventing that might require all sorts of preventative measures, including testing and contact tracing.

Alongside this plan, Dorna continues to liaise with IRTA, the FIM, and the MSMA about other options. At the moment, all Dorna can do is draw up plans to deal with the many different scenarios they may face. That includes racing behind closed doors, but also calendars starting in July, August, September, and October, and trying to work out with circuits when the series could race there at different points in the year.

Making plans for a world championship motorcycle racing season is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces missing. It will get easier once we get a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 outbreak is developing, and as countries coordinate on strategies for containing and eventually eradicating the disease.

Below is the email sent by IRTA to all of the teams:

Dear All,

I hope that you, your staff and your families are keeping well during these difficult times.

You will have seen that, unfortunately, Dorna have already had to announce the postponement of several events and, with some, it has not been possible to confirm a new date for the events.

Dorna are working hard to secure new dates but are constrained by not being able to forecast when governments will reduce restrictions on travel or mass gatherings of people. Accordingly, one option being investigated by Dorna is the possibility of holding some events “behind closed doors”. This means no spectators and also no team guests, including sponsors with permanent passes.

To get government approval for such events it would be necessary to indicate to governments the number of people required to put on an event and, most likely, their nationalities and from which country they would be arriving.

We are attaching a form which I ask you to complete and return as an Email attachment as soon as possible. You should list on that form details of the very minimum staff that you would need at a closed-door event in Europe to safely run the races.

As only working trucks will be admitted you do not need to include hospitality staff or workers involved in their setting up. Other staff not deemed vital would include PR and media staff and perhaps some management personnel. Many of these could operate from their home bases whilst maintaining live links with staff at the circuit.

We have indicated on the forms that number of staff that we consider to be the absolute maximum for the class. That should not be taken as an “allowance” and you should enter your own, realistic figures.

We are obviously aware that in the Moto3 and Moto2 classes some teams operate with riders in both classes. Those teams should please complete a form for each class.

If you have any queries on this matter then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Mike Trimby

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Frankly, I see this as the only way to race soon. The racing is the reason, not the hospitality's, not the tv viewer impressions, not the ad space on the sides of the bikes. Hold a race, open the rules, allow superbikes, you will fill a grid. Yes, the racing will no longer be 15 bikes within 6 seconds at the end of the race. No worse than the first 30 years of GP. 

Very interesting article,especially the email from Mike Trimby.In his email he mentions listing the minimum staff required to hold an event in Europe.Can we assume from this that if racing is to happen this year it will only be held at european circuits?

Major League Baseball is considering having all teams play all their games in the greater Phoenix area of AZ. It is home to half of the leagues Spring Training games. There are seven stadiums here plus the big one. They are thinking 7 inning triple headers every day to catch up on the games lost. Maybe MogoGP can select 4 tracks in close proximity and do something similar? It still doesn't address where to put all the people required to have the proposed games, though.

Quite a different kettle of fish given how far and wide around the globe the MotoGP people are. It just won't be possible to get people from everywhere but Greenland to that area. A National series could. (Which, btw, begs the question - why call the American Nat'l finale "The World Series?")

Btw, it would be fun to have the good old days of sleeping in the paddock. No fans? Oh look, pull your caravan in all around the track. It would be like club racing! Everyone can fit, no need for hotels, plenty of food vending available. Sounds preferable in some senses.

Ok, enough fun. One can sincerely wonder which national or regional series starts racing again first. I bet up in Ireland, something like the NW 200. Anyone else have a better guess?

The idea of a pared back series as 'shrink mentions, holds enormous appeal for me.  A return to the Continental Circus, lets call it "MotoGP Heritage Edition".

The bikes don't need to be faster, we don't need cold war levels of secrecy around seamless gearboxes, we don't need pneumatic valves or missile guidance-spec electronics (even in neutered form) that have no place in the real world.  Nor do we need the Royal cortege of hangers on to extract maximum benefit from all this stuff we don't need.

If only Carmelo had the stones to call a video conference: "People, here are your Mercedes Sprinter vans courtesy of the Heritage Edition sponsor, (camera pans to row of vans in team colours).  You may choose one crew member only to accompany the rider.  The rider and crew member will sleep in the tents supplied by another of our naming rights sponsors. The only spares/support equipment allowed must fit into the van, should extra spares be required mid-series the rider and crew member must drive to their home base to retrieve said spares between rounds.  The 6 round Heritage edition series will be conducted in the UK/Europe only.  You have 2 weeks to prepare your bikes/spares for the commencement of the Heritage Edition series."

The bikes would, by necessity, be simpler, easier to work on and maintain, something that does have a real world benefit. They could still be brutally fast but the side effect would be a massive cost reduction for all concerned.

Not to mention the off-track drama would make for viewing nearly as good as the racing.

Aaaaand, then I wake up.....but it was a nice dream while it lasted.

Until they sort out the vaccine (although the reports of Oxford scientist getting something by the end of the year sounds hopeful) as everyone says it’s getting all the staff from different countries with travel permits will be the problem. Hopefully we will see at least some national racing this year.  Maybe we will see like the past, guest superstars competing in the national races until they get back to 'normal'

I am sure the politicians know that the masses need the opium of sport to distract us from the real world soon

With regard to the comment about why the Americans call the baseball a world series I believe that came about because

The Origin of the Name 'the World Series'

For many years, it was believed that the name came from the fact that the original series was sponsored by the New York World Telegram newspaper, thus becoming known as the ‘World’s Series’. However, popular as this explanation may be, it’s not actually true and although the newspaper did report the results of the games, it had nothing to do with the naming of the competition.

The real reason behind the name is thanks to Barney Dreyfuss who was the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1903, he wrote to the owner of the Boston Red Sox challenging them to a ‘World’s Championship Series’. The Pirates were the best team in the National League and the Red Sox were the best in the American League.

The games went ahead and Boston won the series five games to three. Over time, the 'World’s Championship Series' name has been shortened to the World Series and has been played every year apart from 1904 and 1994.