MotoGP’s first race in Qatar canceled, next week in Thailand postponed

The season-opening MotoGP race in Qatar next weekend at the Losail circuit has been canceled because of travel restrictions on passengers from Italy and elsewhere due to the coronavirus epidemic. The following week’s race in Thailand has been put on indefinite hold.

In a joint statement by MotoGP, the governing FIM and teams’ association IRTA, it was explained that all passengers arriving in Doha, the capital and most populous city in Qatar, on direct flights from Italy, or who had been in Italy in the past two weeks, faced a minimum of 14 days in quarantine.

“Italy clearly plays a vital role in the championship and in the MotoGP class — both on track and off — and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition,” it said.

The Moto2 and Moto3 categories will still race due to those teams and riders already being in Qatar for three days of testing last week.

Italian Andrea Dovizioso won last year’s Qatar Grand Prix for Ducati. The 22-strong MotoGP grid features six Italian riders, with Italian engineers and mechanics spread across the paddock and a large media contingent in attendance.

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen to 34, the Civil Protection Agency said on Sunday, with the cumulative number of confirmed cases totaling some 1,694 in the worst such contagion in Europe.

As for the second race’s postponement, Thailand has reported 43 cases since January and recorded its first fatality on Sunday. Rumors had been circling that the race would be canceled or postponed ahead of the official announcement.

“The Thai government has communicated that it won’t be possible to hold the Thailand Grand Prix on its original date,” MotoGP said in a statement here with governing body FIM and teams’ association IRTA.

Formula One, whose season starts in Australia on March 15, has already cancelled its Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for Shanghai on April 19.

(Reuters contributed to this report)

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