The 2021 MotoGP world championship calendar is already facing changes only days after the 2020 season has finished.
A number of events are believed to be set to be cancelled or rescheduled, particularly in the early months of next year.
The first event that is looking unlikely to happen is the championship’s traditional pre-season test at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit in late February.
The Race’s sources in the MotoGP paddock believe that it will be cancelled as early as this week, as Malaysia tightens up travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave.
That will leave the series kicking off at Qatar’s Losail circuit, where it is already due to hold its other winter test as well as the opening round of the season.
That schedule could expand, with a second test there potentially being added if Sepang is lost.
There could even be two rounds of the series in Qatar, with the American Grand Prix at Austin looking increasingly unlikely to happen as the USA continues to be hit hard by COVID-19. It is currently due to be the third round in mid-April.
If the Texas race is cancelled, it’s highly likely that the preceding Argentinian Grand Prix will also fall by the wayside.
The Termas de Rio Hondo race is scheduled for one week before Austin, but the logistical cost of sending MotoGP’s four 747s of freight to the Americas for a single event is likely to be seen as prohibitive, meaning Argentina is only likely to happen if the US race does too.
Should both be called off, another stand-in event is likely to be added in late April at the venue of last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix – Portimao.
The first event at the Algarve track (pictured above) was an incredible success, with riders falling in love with the undulating circuit.
As it’s only 220 miles from Jerez – which is scheduled to host the first European round of the year on the first weekend of May, it would be easy to link up the two as back-to-back races.
The good news is that once the championship reaches Europe, the remaining 17 rounds of the series should be able to proceed as planned.
That’s thanks to the imminent prospect of a COVID vaccine – something that is likely to become mandatory for paddock staff as soon as it is widely available.
The only remaining question mark on the calendar is the Czech Grand Prix.
It’s planned for August but with the Brno circuit in desperate need of resurfacing, an impasse appears to have developed between the track, local government and the race promoters over who should cover the cost of the €10million of upgrades needed to retain Brno’s FIM class A track homologation.
MotoGP has planned for any eventuality by adding the Igora Drive circuit in Russia to the schedule as a reserve track.
As it’s located only 150 miles from the previous round at Finland’s new KymiRing, Igora Drive gives an option for MotoGP to maintain the current number of races if it cannot use Brno.
Image courtesy of Geobrugg
Indonesia’s new Mandalika Circuit (pictured above) on the island of Lombok has also been added to the calendar as a reserve circuit, although the chances of MotoGP heading there in 2021 are looking increasingly slim.
Originally supposed to be added to the calendar for next year, it has run into legal issues as Indonesian authorities attempt to clear villages on the site of the planned track in order to make way for MotoGP.
That means that construction on the track is barely underway. As there’s less than a year until any potential slot it could take on the 2021 calendar, the chances of it hosting a race next season are slim.
Likely 2021 calendar
28 March Qatar – Losail
? Qatar 2 OR Argentina – Termas de Rio Hondo
? Americas – Austin OR Portugal – Portimao
2 May – Spain – Jerez
16 May France – Le Mans
30 May Italy – Mugello
6 June Catalunya – Barcelona
20 June Germany – Sachsenring
27 June Netherlands – Assen
11 July Finland – KymiRing
? Czech Republic – Brno OR Russia – Igora Drive
15 August Austria – Red Bull Ring
29 August Great Britain – Silverstone
12 September Aragon
19 September San Marino – Misano
3 October Japan – Motegi
10 October Thailand – Chang International
24 October Australia – Phillip Island
31 October Malaysia – Sepang
14 November Valencia