The global COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on every single industry in one way or another, motorcycling included. During April, UK motorcycle sales fell by 83% compared to the same period 12 months earlier, but as restrictions begin to lift in the UK, there’s hope that the industry can begin to return to some form of ‘normal’ in line with the rest of the country.
Inevitably though, there will be some necessary changes made to areas of the industry to help get it get back on its feet again in the safest and best way possible. They call it the ‘new normal’ and we’ll have to get used to things being different to how they were, for a while at least.
Motorcycle dealerships have been severely impacted by the pandemic, forcing temporary closures and unfortunately some permanent closures too, although many played a vital part in keeping the country and key workers moving throughout lockdown by offering emergency motorcycle repairs and servicing.
Since June 1 dealerships have been allowed to reopen, having been closed for all but essential services since March 24. Although dealers have re-opened, there are strict and specific measures in place to ensure customer and staff safety, so the experience won’t be quite what any of us are used to. As well as social distancing, expect hand sanitiser and restrictions on what you’re allowed to touch or, sit on and try on in the case of helmets, clothing and accessories when visiting your local dealer.
When the countrywide lockdown was first put into place in March, it was extremely hard to imagine that a competitive wheel would be turned this year. Although fans around the globe have been deprived of racing action so far this year – barring the opening World Superbike and Moto2 and Moto3 rounds – thankfully, revised 2020 racing calendars have been released for MotoGP, World Superbikes and British Superbikes.
MotoGP will be the first championship back on our screens, with the opening round of the reduced thirteen round-series taking place at Jerez in Spain on July 19, with round two at the same circuit one week later. There won’t be a British Grand Prix this year, but four flyaway races outside of Europe are still yet to be confirmed, so we could still potentially see seventeen Grand Prix races in 2020.
Other than a hugely disrupted calendar of events, MotoGP chief Carmelo Ezpeleta has also said that teams will have reduced personnel at each round as well. MotoGP factory teams will be allowed 40 crew members, 25 for satellite or independent teams, 20 for Moto2 and 15 for Moto3.
The World Superbike paddock will then arrive at Jerez for round two on July 31 to restart their season, moving on to Portugal a week later for round three. British Superbikes will feature six triple-header events during an 18 round championship in 2020. The series gets going at the Donington Park National circuit on August 7-9 before moving to Snetterton two weeks’ later.
As it stands, no spectators will be allowed track side to watch MotoGP and World Superbikes, while BSB bosses have yet to declare their hand as they wait for the latest government guidelines in England. But the series’ and circuit organisers are hopeful that fans will be able to attend races at some point this season and will continue to monitor the situation.
Like the racing season, usually by this time of year the track day season would be well and truly underway at circuits all over the country as well as European venues. But due to coronavirus, track days have only been available to attend again for riders as of May 26 with strict rules in place, aligning with the government guidelines on social distancing.
Registration and rider briefings have all been moved online with riders needing to complete them in advance to eliminate the need for group gatherings at the circuits. Access to the garages has also been restricted, with a maximum of three bikes and three people allowed in each single garage while staying two meters apart, with front and back doors staying open at all times. There’s still plenty of space in the paddock areas though if you can’t get into a garage.
It’s important to note that currently, only track day participants and essential helpers can attend. General spectators including friends and family are not allowed to turn up, again to minimise the amount of people at the circuit.
Shows and events
Due to the entire nature of motorcycle events with lots of people gathering in a single place, often indoors, unfortunately they have been one of the most affected areas of the industry which could see a negative, long-lasting impact. Considering the government’s social distancing rules, all notable motorcycle shows, gatherings and events have been either cancelled or postponed this year, the biggest casualty of which, in Britain, has been the annual Motorcycle Live event at the National Exhibition Centre. The big two European shows, INTERMOT in Cologne and EICMA in Milan, typically dwarf Motorcycle Live but have been canned for 2020 too.
This raises serious questions about the future of motorcycle events as we know them. Shows like Motorcycle Live are hugely expensive to attend for manufacturers, it’s one of the biggest yearly costs they face when you consider the logistics of transporting the bikes to and from the venue, designing and building stands, exhibitor’s fees, staff accommodation and food. And will people’s views and behaviours around large gatherings have changed post-coronavirus, and will they want to attend a busy, indoor events? It will be interesting to see how manufacturers and people respond in 2021.
New bike launches
Manufacturers would usually unveil their 2021 wares at INTERMOT or EICMA, so they’ll need to think of some new ways to reveal their new metal this autumn.
Or will they? With R&D departments furloughed, supply chains disrupted, production lines closed for months on end and showrooms rammed with 2020 stock, the usually ‘just-in-time’ approach to getting new machines out has also been thrown into chaos.
There’s every chance that some of the new models planned for 2021 launches could be pushed back a year, or at least deferred to next spring, when the world has hopefully gotten through the worst of the pandemic and production capacity is back up to speed.