Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 18th March 2020
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Updated: 17 March 2020 – 4.30pm

The British Superbike Championship (BSB) has now been officially suspended until at least the end of April, in line with the ACU’s earlier decision to suspend all motorcycle circuit racing events for that period.

That means that the BSB test due to be held at Silverstone on 2 April has been cancelled, while the opening round – to be held at the same circuit – has been postponed until later in the year, at a date to be confirmed.

Currently that means that the Oulton Park round on 1-3 May is the opener as things stand, although the situation remains under review.

In their statement, series organisers MSVR said: “Series promoter and organiser MSVR is continuing to work closely with teams, circuits, broadcasters and partners to evaluate the constantly-changing situation and will provide further updates when available.”

Another event that won’t be going ahead as planned is Triumph’s TFEST, a series of national dealer open days scheduled for this Saturday (21 March).

The British manufacturer says that it will look to reschedule the event for later in the year.

Updated: 17 March 2020 – 2.30pm

Britain’s leading classic motorcycle show, the Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Show in Stafford is the latest casualty of Coronavirus.

Originally scheduled for the weekend of 25-26 April, organisers are hoping to get the go ahead to open the doors on their 40th anniversary event on the weekend of 12-13 June.

In a statement, the organisers said: “The safety and well-being of our visitors, exhibitors, partners, contractors and staff is the most important factor and the key reason for postponing the event. The events team have been continually monitoring the latest public health and Government guidelines regarding the evolving COVID-19 situation and acting in accordance with their advice.

“We have secured new dates for the show at the Stafford County Show Ground which will now take place on Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13, 2020. All ticket and trade bookings will be honoured for this new date.”

Other high profile casualties include Northern Ireland’s biggest sporting event, the North West 200 road races. Officially these have been postponed rather than cancelled, but no proposed alternative to the original 10-16 May race week has currently been suggested.

In a statement, race organisers said: “Over the past two weeks we have been in constant contact with government and public health officials, representatives of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, and the sport’s governing body, the MCUI (UC).

“Today’s decision has been based upon the advice and guidance received. Our paramount desire is to act responsibly and do all we can to protect everyone from the threat posed by the virus.“We enjoy the full support of loyal sponsors and stakeholders in making this decision but apologise for any inconvenience it has caused to them, our competitors, volunteers and race fans.”

The ACU, which licences all racing in the UK, has suspended all club racing in the UK for six weeks although the British superbike championship has yet to announce any cancellations or changes to its calendar.  The British Touring Car Championship (which is run by the same MSVR organisation) announced the postponement of its first three rounds, running through to the end of April, despite going ahead with its official test day at Silverstone as planned today, and with the ACU licencing BSB events, it is hard to see any of the first three rounds of that series taking place either.

Also today, British speedway announced that it was suspending its season with immediate effect. Only one race meeting has taken place this year, at Scunthorpe last Saturday, and the situation will be reviewed on 15 April.

Updated: 17 March 2020 – 9am

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to cause disruption around the world, so there was further impact on the world of motorcycling yesterday, with production sites being closed in Italy and news that the Isle of Man TT races would be cancelled for the first time since 2001, when an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease saw the event called off.

In a statement released shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the British nation and advised them to avoid large gatherings, Laurence Skelly, the Isle of Man’s 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.

“With the visitor restriction in place for the foreseeable future we wanted to make the decision now to give businesses, visitors and all involved stakeholders time to manage the impact going forward. The Isle of Man, and the Isle of Man TT, are faced with unique challenges regarding COVID-19 and making this decision will provide certainty to teams, competitors, sponsors and stakeholders of the event and to visitors across the globe.

The decision also aims to provide reassurance for our residents and healthcare professionals that the health and well-being of the Isle of Man’s residents is the single biggest priority and focus of this Government.”

Elsewhere, Ducati announced that it would be closing its Bologna production line for a week. The assembly line was scheduled to be closed until tomorrow but is now expected to reopen next Wednesday (25th) when modifications to their production practices will have been put in place, allowing for split shifts that will see half the number of workers on site at any given time.

“I am proud of how Ducati’s workers are facing this difficult moment for our country,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding “My thanks go to all those who, on a daily basis and even in a difficult situation like this, are confirming the great value of a united, cohesive but also sensitive and attentive workforce. For them, for their safety and for their security, measures and choices like the ones we are making are necessary and owed. However, all the support services for our customers are guaranteed, first and foremost the supply of spare parts. We want to reassure Ducatisti and our dealers all over the world: we are organising ourselves to be ready for the restart and, even in this period of downtime we will not fail to provide support.”

Despite the production line being closed, and many staff members working from home, Ducati confirmed that a skeleton staff is in place to allow operations such as global spare parts delivery can continue.

Shortly after Ducati’s announcement, Yamaha issued a statement saying that it was closing its two European production facilities as a result of the outbreak.The MBK factory in Saint-Quentin, France, which assembles a large number of scooters and motorcycles and the Motori Minarelli engine factory in Calderara di Reno, Italy have both been shut down until Sunday (22 March) although the company has said that it will review the situation weekly, while confirming that all employees will be paid during the closure.

“The health of our employees and our social responsibility are our priorities at this stage, which is why we took the decision to suspend production at these two facilities in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” explained Eric de Seynes, President, Chief Executive Officer of Yamaha Motor Europe. “We also value highly the skills and commitment of a workforce that has shown tremendous loyalty to Yamaha, but now faces an unprecedented situation outside of the workplace. For their peace of mind, we are working to ensure that no employee will lose out financially between now and the return to a stable situation both in Italy and France.”

Other events to be cancelled are Scottish ACU races, Oliver’s Mount road races and British motocross rounds.

 

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Original article: 12 March 2020

It’s almost impossible to have escaped news of COVID-19, the so-called Coronavirus, which is at the centre of a global pandemic.

While the pandemic is a constantly evolving situation, with advice changing on a regular basis as the authorities aim to manage the spread of the virus, we already know that this will have an impact on the motorcycle industry. Here’s what we know so far…

Racing

Motorcycle racing is the most obviously affected sector of our industry. Like all major sports international bike racing has found activities postponed as governments aim to stop the virus crossing borders and spreading to the general population.

All major international series have been affected, including Motocross Grand Prix and world endurance racing. World superbikes completed their opening round in Australia prior to the escalation of the outbreak but has since seen rounds two and three (in Qatar and Jerez) postponed until the end of the season.

MotoGP saw its opening round go ahead only with the Moto2 and Moto3 support classes, as they were already at the venue for an earlier test. Since then, the rounds in Thailand, Argentina and the United States have been moved back to October and November. At the time of writing, Jerez is now due to host the first round of the championship on the first weekend of May but given that the Spanish circuit has moved its world superbike round (which was due to be held on the last weekend of March) to late October, as well as cancelling all testing activity at the circuit, it looks likely that this could be affected too.

MotoGP supremo Carmelo Ezpeleta says that he is working closely with local authorities and is committed to running a full championship, even if means staging some rounds behind closed doors. He said: “Since the coronavirus problem began, we’ve been following the instructions of each government, we have been in close contact with the promoters in Austin and Argentina and when the authorities said it wasn’t possible to do it now, we talked to other Grands Prix to try and accommodate… and we were able to.”

Despite top level football choosing to suspend activities for the next few weeks, the British government has currently not chosen to ban mass gatherings meaning that the British superbike championship is currently free to go ahead on the weekend of 11-12 April as planned – although that may change as the government moves through the various stages of it’s plan. Nick Read from Silverstone, who are due to host the opening round, told Insidebikes that they are “closely monitoring this developing situation and taking advice directly from the government in relation to large scale sporting events” while British superbike series director Stuart Higgs added that “events are planned to go ahead in line with current UKGOV advice.” The Scottish government have banned large scale events, but with the Knockhill round scheduled for July, the hope will be that the pandemic has passed its peak by that time.

Organisers of May’s Isle of Man TT races are forging ahead with their plans, adding: “While the threat to the public in the Isle of Man remains low, a number of future contingency scenarios are being considered. This is usual practice and is in line with the WHO (World Health Organisation) advice for preparations in case of a pandemic. The risk is low and preparations for this year’s TT remain on schedule. Work will continue as usual in order to ensure another successful TT.”

Organisers of Northern Ireland’s North West 200 added that their event is currently going ahead, adding: “We will continue to seek advice and monitor the situation on an ongoing basis as we prepare for 2020 Race Week on May 10-16.”

The postponements may well have implications for many of the staff working in bike racing, who work on a self-employed basis. With no racing taking place, many will likely be seeking alternative employment to make ends meet.

Shows

March’s Carole Nash MCN Scottish Motorcycle Show went ahead just as the pandemic was starting to enter the public consciousness, albeit with some reports of a lower than expected attendance.

The Manchester Motorcycle Show, due to take place at the end of this month, has been cancelled by the organisers, who said: “We have had no choice but to postpone the Manchester Bike Show due to the coronavirus outbreak. Right up to the start of this week we thought we would be able to run the event, albeit with a reduced attendance of exhibitors and visitors. However in the last few days national and international events have moved on so quickly that in the end this decision became inevitable. The show was really shaping up to be the best one yet and we are devastated at having to postpone.

“Rather than booking a date in May or June this year and risk having to postpone the event again we have decided to come back on 27-28 March 2021.”

Currently all other motorcycle shows scheduled for 2020 look to be going ahead, however it would be no surprise to see at least some go by the wayside, even if the government does not elect to ban large scale events.

Sales

It’s hard to say what impact Coronavirus will have on motorcycle and scooter sales, but there’s little to suggest that it will be positive.

Experts agree that the economy will suffer due to the pandemic, with many people not earning as they stay at home sick or choosing to stay at home rather than going out to events, meaning that many businesses will suffer from a drop in footfall.

With motorcycles being a discretionary spend for many riders, it’s easy to see how bikes will be a low priority for families having to tighten their belts. Production is also likely to be affected too, either due to local authority ‘lockdowns’ or staff sickness. KTM have already announced that they are bringing their summer shutdown forward, citing supply chain issues due to many of its component suppliers from northern Italy being under ‘lockdown’.  With production lines requiring a full complement of operators to man them, an outbreak among staff could bring production lines to a halt.

So far though there is no ban on actually riding motorcycles, although some Spanish circuits have stopped track days and Italians are reportedly being discouraged from riding for leisure as even though the risk of riders being injured is small authorities want to reduce pressures on public services.