MOTOR sport is going to take a while to get going this season, with Coronavirus wreaking havoc in all facets of daily life. Although we all need escapism, holding sports events has rightly been put on hold, with foreign travel mostly impossible and the chance of spreading the virus between fans extremely high.
With the lockdown well underway, however, and talk of some sports action returning in the near future without spectators at the events, it’s worth knowing if and when you’re going to be able to watch your favourite motor sport. Here’s the latest (as of June 2).
After months of uncertainty, with race after race (justifiably) cancelled due to coronavirus, F1 has finalised the first eight Grands Prix of a revised season.
With all eight confirmed races taking place in Europe, the season will kick off with a double header at The Red Bull Ring in Austria on July 3-5, with a second Austrian Grand Prix (being called the Steiermark Grand Prix) taking place the weekend after. The sport will then move about 250 miles to the Hungaroring in Hungary the week immediately after that.
After drivers take a well deserved week off, they will head to Silverstone for a second double header of the season, with the first British Grand Prix taking place on the weekend of July 31—August 2. The second, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, will take place the weekend after.
The season will then travel to Spain and Belgium, before the last currently scheduled race takes place in Monza (Italy) on the first weekend of September.
F1 has confirmed, as most predicted, that at least the first few races will take place without spectators, and we already know that there will be no fan attendance at either race at Silverstone.
Chase Carey, F1 CEO said that F1 would err on the side of caution, but that he hoped fans could return as soon as safe to do so: “While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do, but we know the return of Formula 1 will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”
It has been confirmed that all races will be supported by F2 and F3. F1 organisers are finalising the calendar after September but they reportedly hope for 15-18 races to take place before the end of the season in December.
Carey had previously said: “September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races.”
In the meantime, there are still virtual F1 races taking place. The last race, which took place on the virtual streets of Monaco, was won by Williams driver George Russell, while the next takes place in a simulated version of Azerbaijan this Sunday.
Le Mans 24 Hours
The Le Mans 24 Hours 2020 has been postponed. Automobile Club de L’Ouest, which organises the legendary event, has confirmed the 88th running, initially scheduled for June 13-14, is delayed until September 19-20, 2020.
This was inevitable as France is currently still in lockdown and travel restrictions are in place around the world to curb the spread of Covid-19. The ACO has decided, in conjunction with the Féderation Internationale Automobile (FIA) and the World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC), made the decision together.
The WEC has revealed a revised calendar, with the Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, August 15. The 1,000 miles of Sebring has been cancelled, and replaced with 8 Hours of Bahrain on November 21, closing the WEC season. The WEC has noted that the number of events in the season has remained the same to guarantee fairness, as the season had already begun before the outbreak of coronavirus.
Gérard Neveu, CEO of the WEC, said: “The evolution of this global health crisis has left us with little choice. It is today impossible to consider organising an international motor sport event before the summer, so we have rearranged the calendar accordingly while keeping the same number of events on the schedule.
“However, we must be prepared for some big changes for next season because we will have to incorporate many parameters, starting with the inevitable economic difficulties that are to come.
“For the time being our overriding concern is for everyone’s good health, and we hope that everyone will take good care of themselves and their loved ones in the weeks to come.”
Le Mans will also undergo the virtual treatment, with a simulated race taking place on June 13, organised by the FIA, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (the organiser of the 24 hours of Le Mans) and Motorsport Games. The grid will be made up of no more than 50 cars, which is a slight reduction on the amount that took place in the real event last year, and drivers cannot sit at the screen for more than seven hours during the race. Like with F1’s virtual Grands Prix, it will be presented from a real studio.
The Formula E season is already well underway, with races having taken place in Saudi Arabia, Chile, Mexico and Marrakesh. In the light of the seriousness of the pandemic, the FIA made the decision to temporarily halt races by two months, meaning that E-Prix in Rome, Paris, Seoul and Jakarta were postponed.
A further update put red flags over the months of May and June, meaning that the Berlin race planned for June 21 has also been postponed. Organisers have given July a yellow flag, meaning that races could go ahead pending government advice. The current schedule says that the first race will be in New York on July 11.
Alejandro Agag, the Founder and Chairman of Formula E, as well as its forthcoming sister sport Extreme E, said: “Right now is the time to take responsible actions and this is why we have decided to temporarily suspend the season and move forward with introducing measures to freeze races.”
In an interview with Driving.co.uk, Agag said that there would be no way that E-Prix could take place on their usual city circuits due to the dangers of crowds gathering and social distancing measures being subsequently broken.
“It has to be race tracks,” he said. “It wouldn’t be wise and it wouldn’t be respectful to race and provoke a crowd, because then there is contagion and so on. We need to race in places we can lock up and broadcast on TV.”
He also said that organisers were not ruling out the possibility of running multiple events in the same location, as F1 is doing with Austria and Silverstone.
Formula E is also hosting virtual E-Prix (e-E-Prix?) as part of a fundraising partnership with UNICEF. Unlike Formula 1, all of the 24 drivers that take place in the real-world races take place, as well as a host of gamers. Winning gamers earn the prize of driving a real Gen2 car on a race weekend once the season resumes.
The new, bigger, eight-race W Series was due to begin at the end of May. The beginning of the season, in St. Petersburg, has now been postponed until Autumn. Organisers said: “W Series has not yet made any announcement as to when or where its next on-track races will be staged, since the situation surrounding the global COVID-19 crisis is still so fluid.”
For W Series fans, however, there is another virtual option. There will be 10 simulated races, and like Formula E it will involve all racers that were due to take place in the real thing. Virtual venues include Monza, Silverstone and the Nurburgring. Like other motorsports there will be a real commentary team involved in the virtual races, with ex-F1 racer David Coulthard involved as co-commentator.
Catherine Bond Muir, CEO of W Series, said: “We are in uncharted territory, in a situation beyond our control. The need for social distancing, together with restricted travel, is tough for many businesses, including motor sport. We send support and love to all our drivers, staff, partners, fans and media in these difficult times.”
British Touring Car Championship
BTCC organiser Toca has published a revised calendar for the 2020 season, which now comprises nine events and 27 races. The new (and obviously provisional) schedule has the season kicking off on the first weekend of August at Leicestershire’s Donington Park, and finishing as planned at Brand’s Hatch, but on the later date of November 14-15.
The season has been densely packed to fit as much racing in as possible, with four events taking place in the first five weeks of the season. A planned race on Silverstone’s International Circuit unfortunately couldn’t be worked into the amended plans, however.
Toca has noted that the new schedule could be amended further dependent on future government advice.
Alan Gow, BTCC chief executive, said: “These are incredibly challenging times for the whole nation. Through it all, we have seen the importance of being both adaptable and pragmatic… and the BTCC is no different. So it’s entirely logical to draft plans and lock-in our provisional dates, with the ability to amend those if circumstances dictate.
“Obviously this calendar presents a hectic four months, with three separate back-to-back events and four events in the first five weeks alone. But our teams and drivers are fully up for the challenge – there’s such enormous energy, enthusiasm and passion for the BTCC that everyone will want to just roll up their sleeves and get the action underway when the time comes to go racing.
He continued: “However, the over-arching element will always be to ensure we have the correct procedures and protocols in place, in order to provide a safe environment. But before that time comes the most important thing we can all do is to please stay safe and also protect the health of others.”
You can find the amended BTCC calendar here, and if all goes well you’ll be able to watch it on ITV from August.
World Rally Championship
The World Rally Championship season has already started, with events in Monte Carlo and Sweden going ahead in January and February respectively. A third rally in Mexico went ahead on the weekend of March 12, but was finished a day early at around 75% completion. Even the winner of the race, Sebastian Ogier, said that the race should not have gone ahead.
“Of course a win is a win,” said Ogier. “But respect for human life should be placed above all other things, and if we put our fans in danger, then a victory is worthless.”
The WRC has now postponed or cancelled four races, with events in Portugal and Kenya completely cancelled. Organisers in Finland, where a championship round is due to take place at the beginning of August, are expected to decide the fate of their race sometime this week or next week.
Organisers of September’s Rally New Zealand were supposed to make a decision at the end of May, but so far we have only had a holding statement. It read: “Over the coming weeks we will continue to liaise closely with local and central government agencies as well as the WRC Promoter and international governing body (FIA).
“Our goal is to now continue to monitor as best as we can with the evolving situation around the pandemic and the Government restrictions.
“No decisions on event dates will be made before updates on the respective emergency status are available. There is a duty of care to all stakeholders including fans, drivers, teams, media, suppliers and others to protect not only ourselves but also the wider community, and this remains our key focus.”
Coronavirus is affecting all motor sports, of course, no matter the number of wheels. It has been announced that the Japanese GP in Motul will be cancelled, meaning it will not take place for the first time in over three decades.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at the very unique Motegi circuit, meaning we will not have a Japanese Grand Prix on the calendar for the first time since 1986,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports. “The MotoGP family is working very hard to be able to restart the racing season and hold as many events as possible, and in the safest way possible.”
British MotoGP fans are also complaining about the cancellation of the race at Silverstone, despite the fact that a brace of races are taking place there as part of the F1 season a month earlier.
Organisers are hoping to host a season located primarily in Europe until later in the year, when races on other continents will become more possible due to loosened travel restrictions. Fans hope that the championship will restart at the Red Bull Ring (like in F1) in mid-August.
Isle of Man TT
The Isle of Man TT made the decision to cancel its annual event back in mid-March, which seemed a bold decision considering it was not scheduled to take place until the end of May. At the time, many other motor sports were hoping to have operations back up and running by then. If only we knew then what we know now. Its decision now seems very sensible, with most series not looking to get going until July.
Reports have noted that the cancellation of the TT could have a devastating effect on the residents of the Isle of Man, who rely on the tourism that it attracts every year. However, the event’s organisers are hoping the albeit less popular Classic GP can still take place in August.
Laurence Skelly MHK, Minister for Enterprise, commented: “The decision to cancel has not been taken lightly and all options including postponement and delaying the decision have been considered in detail. Representatives from the Isle of Man government will now discuss the implications with all relevant businesses, stakeholders and individuals affected by this cancellation, which it recognises will be significant.”