Increasing travel restrictions and fluctuating quarantine procedures in the European Union have cast doubt over the state of the 2020 MXGP calendar. The series is due to visit five countries for a further eleven events after the three-race stop in Latvia. Promoters Infront Motor Racing are remaining optimistic however after claiming the Grands Prix of Latvia, Riga and Kegums in seven days at the Kegums circuit was an “example” of how the FIM World Championship could function.
The Latvian dates were made possible thanks to a protocol that demanded every entrant to the MXGP paddock present a negative COVID-19 PCR test three days before travelling to the country and then a second test within twenty-four hours if arriving from Latvia’s ‘red’ and ‘orange’ list of contagious territories that is updated on a weekly basis. A third PCR between five-seven days of passing the border was also required.
IMR were able to work directly with the Latvian Federation and the government to install the policy on the proviso that the protocol was followed to the letter, and social distancing and masks were used in the paddock. A capacity of 3000 people was admitted to Kegums for each of the three races with the MXGP and EMX teams taking almost a third of that allocation and with the paddock off limits to the public.
“We had to work very hard to make this happen and it was very important to secure these three races and start a long and decent calendar,” said IMR CEO David Luongo. “It’s important to have that, so a championship feels deserved by the rider and the places we go to benefit from the visit of the world championship. We are keen to keep it alive and to keep developing it.”
“This event is the best example to show that this is a professional way for the paddock to exist and the public to attend,” Luongo added, underlining that some form of spectator attendance is key for clubs and circuits to recoup some of the costs of staging a Grand Prix. “MXGP can be professional and these big events can be hosted.”
“Without the support of the federations and organisations what we are talking about would only be theoretical,” said FIM CMS President Antonio Alia Portela who then also appealed to Grand Prix teams to exercise caution. “The protocol will warranty that the series can continue but a single mistake can put us in the gutter. We ask you to cooperate.”
Despite rumours of COVID-19 cases being found among several individuals connected to the EMX series’ no infections were confirmed by Infront in Latvia. Latvian Motorcycling Federation President Martins Lazdovskis highlighted the difficulty of the changing landscape when it comes to permissions and access. “The most challenging thing was implementation of the safety protocol because it is changing week by week and with the government every Friday,” he said before adding “almost all European Union was on the white list but then entered the red and orange.” The struggle for MXGP being based at the same circuit for the better part of 12-13 days was the government policies of other countries altering around them, with principal airline AirBaltic already cancelling many flights out of Riga as week drew on.
Doubt remained over the long trip to Turkey for round six in September but Luongo was keeping optimistic about other fixtures in Italy, Belgium and Spain with Argentina also yet to be cancelled or postponed. “We hope to finish the calendar [and go] until November,” he said.
The Grand Prix riders found the Latvian triple arduous but were keen to complete as many races as possible to classify a championship before the threat of another ‘halt’ comes to the fore. “You don’t know what is going to happen,” said Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings. “We raced at Valkenswaard and suddenly the whole championship got delayed until August. It is a weird world right now and I will take any point I can get because you just don’t know. There is no guarantee that we will finish this championship.”
“I don’t plan anything more than Sunday night now,” admitted Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer. “You need to take the very best of every day. Once we go home from Latvia, we don’t know what is left.”
By Adam Wheeler @OntrackOffroad
Photos by JP Acevedo @jpacevedophoto