MotoGP Season Opener Canceled as Coronavirus Wrecks 2020 Racing Calendar

And there are several more on the chopping block.

byJames Gilboy|
Racing photo

Formula 1 and Formula E have already canceled or postponed races in response to the rapid international spread of coronavirus, and on Monday, MotoGP joined their ranks by canceling its season opener in Qatar and postponing the Thailand event thereafter.

Originally scheduled to kick off the 2020 MotoGP season this coming weekend, the Qatar round was removed entirely from the series' calendar after the Qatari government imposed restrictions on travelers who have recently visited Italy and Japan. Italy has more than 1,600 confirmed cases according to CNBC, making it Europe's most coronavirus-stricken country. Because Moto2 and Moto3 ran their respective pre-season tests in Qatar over the weekend, however, the two feeder categories are still scheduled to compete at Losail International Circuit on Sunday.

Thailand's government confirmed in late February that it planned to snub its local outbreak, and move forward with its own MotoGP event, scheduled for March 22. Since then, however, confirmed coronavirus cases have swelled to 11 according to Autosport, and more than 1,200 suspected infections are being monitored. As such, Thailand's government and MotoGP officially agreed Monday morning to "postpone" the event, with the intent of hosting it later in 2020 if public health improves.

“We have been speaking to the authorities in Thailand all weekend and they advised us that early on Monday, Thailand time, there would be a meeting to decide which events can happen in Thailand," said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, commercial rights holder for MotoGP. "It's not related to Italians or anyone of any other nationality going to Thailand, it's that they have decided to cancel big events with large numbers of spectators.

"It's different to the situation with Qatar, so we decided to postpone the Thailand Grand Prix and try to locate a date at the end of the year to make the GP possible."

Qatar's cancellation and Thailand's postponement means MotoGP's first race in 2020 will be held on April 5, at Circuit of the Americas outside Austin, Texas. Hopefully, the track's recent resurfacing will address riders' complaints of a bumpy racing surface, thought to be caused by high-downforce racing series that also compete at COTA, such as F1.

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