Six members of Yamaha MotoGP personnel including M1 project leader Takahiro Sumi will watch this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans not from the track but from quarantine, after a member of the Japanese engineering group tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
Many of MotoGP’s Japanese staff have been using the Principality of Andorra as a base between European races, with the country’s non-EU status offering them a chance to break up their stays in Europe into smaller chunks to meet visa rules limiting trips to no longer than 90 days.
After they travelled together there from the last round of the series at Barcelona, one member of the team tested positive for the virus on Monday despite showing no symptoms.
Subsequently confirming his positive test a day later with a second test, both he and the five other team members he has been in close proximity with have all been quarantined by Andorran authorities.
They will remain there until they are cleared to leave, forcing them to miss this weekend’s race at Le Mans and likely next weekend’s at Aragon too.
Yamaha has downplayed the situation, stressing that its new and improved communications systems within the garage mean that it is not going to be hugely impacted.
It was one of the first teams to start conducting rider debriefs via radio link to increase social distancing within the garage, and this has the secondary effect of allowing people not on-site to also hear the riders’ immediate feedback.
“Thanks to this technical solution, the self-isolating engineers will still be able to share their expertise and offer their best support to the staff present in Le Mans,” said a Yamaha statement confirming the positive tests.
The team is also planning on flying in additional staff to assist, although whether that can happen in time for this weekend’s race given European travel restrictions remains to be seen.
The news is another example of positive coronavirus cases being detected before people carrying the virus were able to enter the MotoGP paddock.
Moto2 title contender Jorge Martin is the most high-profile figure to so far miss out on races after testing positive ahead of the back-to-back grands prix at Misano, effectively ending his title charge.
However, the exact number of tests conducted and positive cases detected remains uncertain, with MotoGP failing to follow the lead of most sports in publishing precise figures.