How Coronavirus is affecting motorcycling

Ben Purvis_BikeSocial
By Ben Purvis

Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.

Update: 3rd April

Maidstone Honda will supply 20 Honda PCX scooters to support NHS Volunteer Responders with pharmaceutical deliveries in the local community, answering the nation-wide call to help the NHS help us amidst the pandemic.

Update: 2nd April

KTM has joined BMW in deciding to call off its presence at this year’s major bike shows – and it’s going a step further by calling on the organisers of events like November’s EICMA show in Milan to cancel this year’s shows.

The firm’s announcement reads:

KTM AG have assessed their overall strategy for the rest of 2020 and have decided to make several key decisions in the wake of COVID-19 impacting public health, communities, the motorcycle industry and business on a global scale. In the best interest of their employees and customers, the company will withdraw from global trade shows for the rest of the year, including INTERMOT in Cologne, Germany and the EICMA exhibition in Milan, Italy.

The proper planning of such events is currently at risk due to the uncertainty surrounding public gathering restrictions in most countries. The annual success of these indoor shows also sees hundreds of thousands of visitors gathering in enclosed spaces for a period lasting days and even weeks. For these reasons, KTM AG have identified their exclusion as way to contribute towards a safe and strong return to normal activity.

In typical KTM style, the firm will push ahead with current and future projects in order to provide the motorcycling market with exciting and innovative models and look for the best ways to show-off these developments. The KTM AG board of directors wish to communicate that the coming months represent a small squeeze on the brake, but hands are very much poised on the throttle for the rest of 2020.

Hubert Trunkenpolz, KTM AG CMO: “Trade shows are key business milestones for the entire motorcycle industry but given the situation, public health and the welfare of our staff are higher priorities over the coming months. We have taken this course of action with a great deal of thought and, as a company, KTM AG would be pleased and interested if show promoters, EICMA in particular, would simply consider moving dates to 2021, where we hope and expect the situation to be settled and back to normal.”

 

Update: 1st April

BMW has decided to make the early call not to take part in this November’s two big motorcycle shows – EICMA in Milan and Intermot in Cologne – due to uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a huge step for such a significant company to take. EICMA and Intermot have long been the biggest shows in motorcycling and traditionally the platforms for all the following year’s new model launches. With BMW opting not to take part, it could spark similar decisions from other bike firms.

BMW has a strong tradition of April Fools jokes, but this 1st April press release is all too serious. Here’s what BMW said:

Due to the hardly foreseeable development of the corona pandemic and its effects, BMW Motorrad will not be participating in the two leading motorcycle shows Intermot in Cologne in October and EICMA in Milan in November in 2020.

This decision was made in order to counteract current planning uncertainty at an early stage, also for all our partners involved in BMW Motorrad motorshow appearances, in the interests of the greatest possible security, predictability and transparency.

BMW Motorrad will present the world premieres and product highlights planned for these motorcycle shows on alternative platforms in autumn 2020. In doing so, the company will increasingly rely on its own formats and digital communication channels.

 

Update: 27th March

Event cancellations are still coming thick and fast with BMW’s annual Motorrad Days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen the latest to fall by the wayside.

Originally due to be held from 3rd-5th July, the gathering normally attracts 40,000 BMW fans but has been called off for the safety of both staff and visitors.

Here’s what BMW said:

In light of current events and growing measures to contain the corona virus, not to mention our duty of care towards our guests and staff, it is with a heavy heart that the Organization Team of the BMW Motorrad Days has decided to cancel this year’s event.

The BMW Motorrad Days represent one of the largest and most international customer events of the BMW Group with a regular attendance of over 40.000 visitors from all over the world. Our aim is to always meet this aspiration. However, the current circumstances no longer allow this event to be planned as the necessary lead times involved are very long. This means that the BMW Motorrad Days cannot be carried out.

Our early cancellation will moreover make planning easier for our many overseas visitors, knowing they have longer lead times for logistics and travel arrangements.

 

Update 3: 24th March, 21:05

With a certain and unfortunate inevitability, the Bennetts British Superbike (BSB) series promoter organiser, MSVR have confirmed the postponement of Rounds Two and Three of the 2020 championship due to be held at Oulton Park (1st - 3rd May) and Donington Park (22nd - 24th May) respectively.

The decision was taken in light of the Government's announcement last night (23rd March) whereby the MCRCB and ACU have suspended all motorcycle circuit racing events until 31st May.

MSVR is "is continuing to work closely with teams, circuits, broadcasters and partners to evaluate the constantly-changing situation and will provide further updates when available."

 

Update 2: 24th March, 16:30

MV Agusta announces that, starting Thursday March 26 and until the production ban is lifted, all activities at its Schiranna plant will  be suspended, in compliance with the new, more restrictive measures for the prevention and the containment of the COVID-19 epidemic, announced last Sunday by Italy's Prime Minister.

 

Update: 24th March 

What about MOT tests during lockdown?

There’s been confusion since the UK lockdown announcement on Monday evening (23/3/2020) about whether getting vehicles MOT tested was still possible or required during the coming weeks. There’s been no announcement that MOTs are suspended, but many test stations are already closing and cancelling booked tests, leaving people – particularly those who need their vehicles or who park them on roads, where a valid MOT is a legal requirement – in a quandary.

We been in touch with the DVSA for an answer, and it turns out that while a valid MOT is still currently required, the situation is currently under urgent review.

The DVSA statement reads as follows:

“People should stay at home and avoid travel unless absolutely essential. The only reasons you should leave your house are set out in the government guidance.

“The Department for Transport is urgently looking at MOT testing for cars, motorcycles and light vans in light of the current situation and will provide an update shortly. Annual tests for lorries, buses and trailers have already been suspended for up to 3 months.”

We’ll update you if there’s a change.

 

Update: 23rd March, 21:00

Can I Still Ride My Motorbike?

Following the increased lockdown measures announced by Boris Johnson this evening it it is now effectively impossible to ride a motorcycle for pleasure in the UK until the restrictions are eased.

That’s not to say there’s an absolute ban on riding. The measures now in force still allow “shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible”, “any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person” and “travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.”

In theory any of the above could involve riding a bike, but for the vast majority of leisure riders there’s no valid excuse to be on the road. People are also allowed to leave their houses for “one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of [their] household” but it would be hard to squeeze motorcycling into that definition.

And that’s fair enough. While riders’ rights are important, the socially responsible thing to do now is to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary.

In case anyone is still minded to flout the rules, Boris Johnson has said that ‘police will have the powers to enforce men, including through fines.”

 

Update: 21st March

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is suspending driving tests in England, Scotland and Wales for up to 3 months from 21 March 2020. The decision has been made to help prevent the spread of coronavirus as tests lead to extended contact between candidates and examiners in vehicles. This applies for car, motorcycle, lorry, coach, bus and ADI.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, "We are having to take big decisions to protect the public in our national battle against COVID-19. Regrettably, we have had to suspend driver testing for up to 3 months to help tackle the spread of the virus. It is vital that those who need a test can get one so DVSA is offering tests to those who have a critical need, such as the NHS and drivers delivering goods across the UK. Those who have tests cancelled will have priority when testing resumes."

DVSA will contact everyone with a test booked during this time to let them know their test has been cancelled and that it will automatically re-book for them.

The same applies for MOT testing for lorries, buses and trailers, yet those for cars, motorcycles and light vans remain under review by the Department for transport.

 

Update 2: 20th March, 11:30

BMW’s only European motorcycle manufacturing facility, the Berlin Spandau factory, is closed from today until at least 19th April in response to the coronavirus, along with all the firm’s Europe-based car factories.

As well as protecting workers, the closure is understood to be in response to predicted supply problems with components coming from elsewhere and because motorcycle sales are expected to go into freefall for the duration of the pandemic.

BMW joins the likes of Harley-Davidson and Ducati in shutting down production facilities in response to the disease.

 

Update: 20th March, 10:04

There aren't many more events planned for the coming months that haven't been affected by way of cancellation or postponement but the latest one to be rearranged is BMW's annual get together in Northern Italy known as Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which traditionally sees a prototype bike being unveiled. This is their statement:

'In light of current events and growing measures to contain the coronavirus, not to mention our duty of care towards our guests and staff, it is with a heavy heart that the Organisation Team of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este has decided not to proceed with this year’s edition on the planned dates (22nd to 24th May, 2020). Instead, we plan to hold the event from October 16th to 18th, 2020.'

 

Update 4: 19th March, 16:35

Yamaha are the latest manufacturer to offer an update with their UK events and dealership status in line with government advice. The 65th Anniversary Demo Weekend planned for 4th - 5th April has been postponed, while the Supersport Pro Tour scheduled to take place at Silverstone on 13th April is cancelled. The Yamaha Racgin Experience events at Misano and Le Mans have also been cancelled. 

However, many of their dealers remain open for "test rides, apparel, parts and accessories and service requirements" and "test rides can be booked online to minimise contact."

Harley Davidson Factory

Above: Harley-Davidson production line

Update 3: 19th March, 11:20 

 

Harley-Davidson has suspended production at most of its US manufacturing facilities in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It intends to keep the three plants – one in Pennsylvania and two in Wisconsin – shut until at least 29th March.

US employees at the plants, which account for the majority of the firm’s US workers, will be on temporary layoff but retain medical benefits.

The firm’s announcement reads:

Since late January, Harley-Davidson, Inc. (“Harley-Davidson”) (NYSE:HOG) has been assessing the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and taking proactive measures in the interest of health and safety of its employees, dealers and consumers. Its most recent measures include temporarily suspending the majority of production at its U.S. manufacturing facilities beginning this evening, March 18, through March 29 to help support employee health and further bolster coronavirus containment efforts. Facilities temporarily suspending production are York Vehicle Operations in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin facilities Tomahawk Operations and Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations.

 “We recognize the unprecedented nature of this global crisis. In order to best support our employees and following the social distancing guidance issued by public health authorities, we are temporarily suspending the majority of production at our U.S. manufacturing facilities,” said Jochen Zeitz, acting CEO and president, Harley-Davidson. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take necessary steps to prioritize employee health and safety.”

Harley-Davidson will continue monitoring the situation closely and make additional adjustments as necessary in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The majority of its U.S. production employees will be on temporary layoff with medical benefits. The company will use this time to continue deep cleaning and disinfecting its production areas and common areas to further protect workers upon their return.

Harley-Davidson closed its Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility this afternoon after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus and is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building, per the company’s coronavirus response protocol.

On Monday, Harley-Davidson asked employees at its Milwaukee-area headquarters and Product Development Center, except those business-critical roles that must be done onsite, to work remotely through at least the end of March. Additionally, the company is proactively working with its dealers to assess individual impacts and its encouraging dealers to follow the public health guidelines in their communities for the safety of its consumers. In accordance with social distance guidelines, all Harley-Davidson sponsored events have been cancelled until mid-April.

 

The National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham also officially closed its doors to visitors today.

An announcement on the Museum’s official website reads:

The National Motorcycle Museum is closely monitoring the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As the situation continues to change rapidly, our top priority remains the health, safety, and wellbeing of our staff and visitors. Therefore, like many similar institutions, we have taken decisive, informed action to limit the spread of COVID-19 by temporally closing the museum to visitors with effect from Thursday 19/03/20.

At the moment the Museum’s conference centre business is remaining open, albeit with reduced staffing, and it is still accepting bookings for conferences and weddings. The Museum’s web shop is also still open.

Elsewhere, the government has postponed driving tests and theory tests in England, Scotland and Wales that were due to take place today (19th March) and tomorrow (20th March).

The Manchester Bike Show, originally due to take place at the Event City Exhibition Centre on the 28-29 March has also been postponed until the 27/28 March 2021. A statement on the show’s website reads:

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.

If you have purchased tickets to the show, please keep an eye out for an email from the box office service Ticketline. The email will explain what to do next.

At the moment, most track days in the UK still appear to be running as usual despite the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Update 2: 19th March, 09:45

Ducati UK has moved to remind customers that dealerships remain open for test rides, apparel, accessories, parts and servicing. For now.

 

Update: 19th March, 08:45

While it's a fair assumption that all motorcycle events have been affected, one of the first to rearrange with a confirmed new date is the Le Mans 24hr round of the FIM Endurance World Championship which had originally been rescheduled for 5th - 6th September but now the official new date is 29th - 30th August.

  

Update 4: 17th March, 15:30

Inevitably, the 2020 Bennetts British Superbike Championship was to follow suit and in a statement released by the series owners and promoters MSVR, it was confirmed that all UK motorsport is to be suspended until at least the end of April. 

The statement reads: 

"Following the MCRCB and the ACU’s suspension of all motorcycle circuit racing events until at least the end of April, a decision which will be kept under review as the situation progresses, MSVR can confirm that the forthcoming official test (1/2 April) at Silverstone is cancelled, and the opening round of the 2020 Bennetts British Superbike Championship also at Silverstone (10-12 April), will be postponed until later in the year."

 

Update 3: 17th March, 12:30

The North West 200 is the latest motorcycle racing event to have been affected, and while the TT was cancelled yesterday, the organisers of the NW200 have decided to 'postpone'. Here's the full statement:

Given the current concerns and restrictions around the Coronavirus public health crisis, the organisers of the 2020 fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 will postpone the May 10-16 Race Week. 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.

 

Update 2: 17th March, 10:00 

Oliver's Mount Spring Cup postponed, and here's their official statement: 

Due to Government advice regarding the avoidance of mass gatherings, slowing the spread of the virus and not tying up essential NHS resource during the current situation, we have taken the unavoidable decision to postpone the Spring Cup from 18th / 19th April and we will be seeking approval from The ACU and Scarborough Borough Council to run the event as The Summer Cup over the weekend of the 15th / 16th August 2020.

At present, the Oliver's Mount Festival, Barry Sheene Classic and Gold Cup events remain in the calendar as planned, but will be subject to further review as the situation progresses.

 

Update: 17th March, 8:30

Yamaha has added its name to the list of companies closing production facilities in response to coronavirus.

The firm has closed its Motori Minarelli engine plant in Italy and the MBK factory in France in response to the disease. It intends to keep both locations closed until at least the 22nd March, but the closures could go on longer than that.

Here’s what Yamaha said about it:

"Yamaha Motor Europe today announced that production at two facilities in Italy and France has been temporarily suspended in response to the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.Production at the Motori Minarelli engine factory in Calderara di Reno, Italy, and the MBK Industrie assembly plant in Saint-Quentin, France will be halted with immediate effect. Both facilities will remain closed until 22nd March, after which the situation will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

"The decision to temporarily close the two facilities was made for the wellbeing and peace of mind of the workforce in Italy and France, both countries where social distancing is a key component of the government's strategy to combat the spread of coronavirus. Yamaha Motor Europe is working following authorities' directives in Italy and France to ensure that employees at both facilities are not disadvantaged financially as a result of the temporary closures.

"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."

Update 4: 16th March

The Isle of Man TT 2020 has been cancelled. Unsurprising, unfortunate but realistic. Here's the full story including an official statement from the Manx Government.

 

Update 3: 16th March 

Ducati, which had already closed its factory for the start of this week, has decided to extend its closed-down period until 25th March to comply with the latest rules issued by the Italian government but says customers support services and the supply of spare parts won’t be impacted.

In a press release issued this afternoon, the firm said: 

"Since the beginning of the health emergency in Italy, on Monday 24 February, Ducati has adopted an important series of measures to limit the probability of the virus spreading at its plant in Borgo Panigale, in a very timely manner and in advance of later arrangements. The most important were the measurement of the temperature at each person entering the plant, trips limited to the strictly necessary, a strong impulse to smart working, meetings with reduction of participants and distance between them, canteen with special procedures and revision of shifts to reduce close contact between people.

"Despite all this, Ducati had already decided to suspend production from Friday 13 March to Wednesday 18 March included, in order to implement a series of works and actions on the production lines, to further increase the safety level of workers and to introduce a multi-shift work programme to halve the number of people on the assembly line at the same time.The postponement of the reopening to 25 March was necessary to ensure full compliance with the new guidelines (shared protocol, issued on 14 March), which will require a few more days of work and modifications to the structures.On the other hand, all activities related to the development of new products and market support continue, in compliance with the rules of conduct against the spread of the virus, making extensive use of smart working technology.

“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.”

 

Update 2: 16th March

Despite a Facebook posting on Friday announcing that production would be suspended from today (Monday 16th March), MV Agusta now says that its factory remains open, albeit with limited staffing.

This morning the firm said:

MV Agusta has decided, in agreement with workers’ representatives and in full compliance with the urgent provisions contained in the Prime Minister’s 11/03 decree and with the guidelines issued by Confindustria Lombardia, to keep its Schiranna plant, in Northern Italy, open. This in order to guarantee production continuity, yet with reduced personnel.Measures to reduce the presence of staff within the premises have immediately been adopted, such as the closure of non essential departments, “smart working”, unused holiday allowances and CIG (Cassa Integrazione) once the official decision will be announced.

For those employees who will continue coming to work, the company has introduced a number of measures to prevent and contain the spreading of the Covid-19 epidemic, such as the supply of face masks, gloves, sanitising gel and detergents for the sanitation of work spaces and surfaces in addition to limiting access to common areas.Precise rules of conduct, by which every employee is required to abide, have been posted in every department (Covid-19 information circular on “rules of conduct and safety provisions”). Safety distances between workers are being respected in all areas of the plant, also thanks to the temporary reduction of the number of personnel on site.

Up to the present moment, the company has no evidence of employees with symptoms connected to Covid-19. Normal production activity will therefore continue, yet with all due precautions, except for new Government provisions.

Timur Sardarov, MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. CEO, commented: “We believe it is our duty not to give up in this crisis situation, so that the economy of this community can recover once the emergency is over. We took this decision with a great sense of responsibility, towards our employees in the first place, but also towards our local community, which cannot afford a breakdown of its production capability, and towards all the related industries on which so many workers and their families depend. The company has implemented all the information, prevention and containment measures required by the circumstances. We are determined to continue doing our best to support this community, fully respecting the rules and with maximum safety.”

 

Update: 16th March, 10:00

Ducati and MV Agusta are among the firms to have closed their factories in response to the coronavirus emergency in Italy.

Ducati shut its plant at the end of last week and intends to reopen it in stages over a period of days. MV Agusta, which last week intended to keep production going but with reduced staffing levels, has decided instead to close its factory in Varese for two weeks, starting today.

Posting on Facebook, MV Agusta said:

Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the most responsible choice to protect our employees so we may offer reliable aftersales service nor lose the sight of our future goals has resulted in the decision of MV Agusta Motor to suspend the production of our motorcycles for two weeks since Monday 16th.

The Company doesn't stop. The delivery of ready-produced bikes will continue in the next week. Our customer care and delivery of spare parts to any of our customers worldwide will be up and running. All of our workers and partners are safe and no cases of Covid-19 were discovered until today.

The whole Italian society is keeping strong and responsible to keep the spread of the disease under control and end this crisis. Our message to all of our loyal customers and those who follow MV Agusta is to do the same. Be responsible, follow health authorities instructions and reduce social contact if cases are spotted near you.

MV Agusta is looking to support actions towards the local community of Varese and to get back with full production in a safe environment accordingly with Italian government instructions.

Moto Morini has also suspended production due to the virus.

Outside Italy, KTM’s parent firm - Pierer Mobility – has announced that it will be closing the factory for two weeks from 30th March until 10th April. The firm said that the closure is due to parts supply problems from Italy, saying:

From March 30, Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in Mattighofen will respond to the current situation with an interruption in operation and production until April 10.

This measure is triggered by a possible impending interruption in the supply chain from northern Italy. Many suppliers are located in this region, which is badly affected by the Corona virus. With this measure, KTM avoids a possible uncontrolled business interruption and anticipates parts of the company vacation in the summer to stabilize the supply chain in the long term. Not affected by these measurements is the worldwide distribution and the supply of spare parts.

The availability of all models is guaranteed for the upcoming start of the season in the worldwide dealer network.

The current development of the Corona crisis requires a daily reassessment of the situation. The published guidance for the financial year 2020 is thus cancelled.

Italian parts suppliers hit by Coronavirus closures include brake firm Brembo, which said on Friday that it would be closing its four Italian factories from today (Monday 16th March) until Sunday for the sake of its workers’ health and safety. Tyre firm Pirelli has also scaled down Italian production.

 

Update: 12th March, 10:00 

If you’re trying to keep a diary of this year’s big races, let’s hope you’re using a pencil as there’s been yet another shake-up in the MotoGP schedule just a day after the Austin, Texas race was postponed.

This time it’s Argentina that’s being moved. For a few hours it was set to be the season’s opening race for the big bike class – with Moto2 and Moto3 having run in Qatar last weekend – but it’s now been pushed back to November.

Originally scheduled for 19th April, the Argentinian round will now happen on 22nd November. That date, in turn, means that the Valencia round that was due to take place then has been moved back by a week and is now scheduled for 29th November.

That means that the earliest chance for the MotoGP season to start in earnest is now the round at Jerez in Spain, due to take place on 3rd May – nearly two months after the racing was originally intended to have got underway.

The Thai GP, originally planned for 22nd March, has already been postponed until 4th October, with the Aragon round in Spain moving forward one week to 27th September to make way for it.

As of today, the race schedule is:

3 May: Jerez, Spain

17 May: Le  Mans, France

31 May: Mugello, Italy

7 June: Catalunya, Spain

21 June: Sachsenring, Germany

28 June: Assen, Netherlands

12 July: KymiRing, Finland

9 August: Brno, Czech Republic

16 August: Red Bull Ring, Austria

30 August: Silverstone, GB

13 September: Misano, Italy

27 September: Aragon, Spain

4 October: Chang International Circuit, Thailand

18 October: Twin Ring Motegi, Japan

25 October: Phillip Island, Australia

1 November: Sepang, Malaysia

15 November: Circuit of the Americas, USA

22 November: Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina

29 November: Valencia, Spain

However, on the evidence of the last few days, the chances of that schedule happening as planned seem increasingly slim.

 

Update: 11th March, 15:35 

Further rescheduling has taken place in the World Superbike Championship with the forthcoming Spanish and French rounds affected. Here's how they now look:

  • Pirelli Spanish Round (previously 27th – 29th March) rescheduled for 23rd – 25th October.
  • Pirelli French Round (previously 25th – 27th September) rescheduled 2nd – 4th October.

 

Update: 11th March, 10:30

Another big race fixture has been delayed in response to COVID-19 with the ACO announcing that the Le Mans 24 Hour race for bikes – scheduled for 18-19 April – has been moved to September.

The race is now due to happen on 5-6 September as the closing round of the FIM Endurance World Championship. All existing tickets will be valid for the new date.

The pre-race test, due to have taken place on 31 March and 1 April, has been cancelled.

Also, an update from the Isle of Man: “The Isle of Man is not currently taking action to cancel public events (including the TT which attracts visitors from many countries). However, this is a rapidly changing situation which is being monitored across government to ensure that appropriate action is taken as and when indicated.”

 

Update: 11th March, 8:00 

The dominoes keep falling in the world of motorsport as travel restrictions around the world come into play.

With the first two rounds of the premier MotoGP season already cancelled (Qatar) or postponed (Thailand), the third race at Austin, Texas was due to open the season on 5th April. Not anymore, though, as the race has been rescheduled, moving to 15th November. The season-ending race at Valencia that was due to take place that weekend has been postponed to 22nd November.

The Circuit of Americas is classed as an annex of Austin, so falls under the same rules and regulations as the city. A ‘state of disaster’ has been announced in Austin, a move that saw the cancellation of the SXSW festival and has effectively made it impossible to stage the MotoGP in April.

The season is now officially scheduled to start on 19th April in Argentina.

Dorna says that it’s still hoping to have a 19-race season, but admits that its contract with the FIM means that figure can drop as low as 13 races if necessary.

 

Update: 4th March, 17:00

It appears that even 007 himself, James Bond, isn't immune to the coronavirus. The official Twitter page announced the new unfortunately-titled film 'No Time To Die' which was originally due to be released on 3rd April has been delayed by seven months and is due for release on 12th November. This news is of course relevant to partners of the film, including Triumph Motorcycles.

 

Update: 4th March, 16:49 

Two more of the big early-year motorcycle shows – the Tokyo Motorcycle Show due to be held from the 27th to 29th March and the Osaka Motorcycle Show scheduled for the 20th to 22nd March – have been cancelled as Japan’s coronavirus lockdown widens.

The nation has already closed schools and the government is trying to prevent large gatherings of people.

A notice on the website of the Osaka Motorcycle Show reads (translated) “We have been preparing for 2020, but the government has requested self-restraint due to the spread of the new coronavirus, and it is not possible to predict the future of effective therapeutic agents and countermeasures, As a result of putting the health and safety aspects of each person first, it was determined that avoiding the risk of infection spread was the most important.

“We are very sorry that we were unable to meet the expectations of all those who have been looking forward to attending, exhibitors, tickets sold in advance, etc. for the event. We look forward to your understanding. In addition, all advance tickets purchased will be refunded.”

The Tokyo Motorcycle Show’s site says (translated): “The 47th Tokyo Motorcycle Show has been cancelled due to the government's self-restraint policy for the spread of new coronavirus infections and the safety of visitors, exhibitors and staff.

“We are very sorry to all the motorbike enthusiasts who have been looking forward to the exhibition, the exhibitors who have prepared, and the related parties and organizations who have cooperated, but we appreciate your understanding. Thank you.

“Refunds will be given to those who have purchased advance tickets.”

 

Update: 3rd March 

The Dortmund motorcycle show - Motorräder Dortmund – could become the next victim of the coronavirus. Due to start in just a couple of days on 5th March and run through until the 8th March, it hasn’t been cancelled but major exhibitors have started to pull out.

The German press reports that Suzuki and accessory firm Wunderlich are leading the exodus, cancelling their plans to display at the show. Both explained that they don’t want to do anything that increases the risks to their employees and customers.

Leading German publisher Motor Presse Stuttgart, which operates Motorrad magazine, Europe’s biggest motorcycle print publication, has also decided to withdraw from the event. Motorrad reports on its website that its editorial team’s planned visit to the event has been cancelled.

 

ORIGINAL STORY - Monday 2nd March

COVID-19 – or the coronavirus as it’s become widely known – is starting to impact many aspects of life all over the planet and motorcycling hasn’t escaped.

Although outbreaks are appearing all over the globe, areas that are vital in motorcycle and bike component production including Japan, Italy and China are among the most severely impacted both by coronavirus cases and restrictions on movement.

On Sunday 1st March the FIM announced that the headline event at the opening round of the MotoGP championship in Qatar – the MotoGP race itself – has been cancelled. It was due to take place on 8th March. The Moto2 and Moto3 races are still scheduled to take place, since teams are already in Qatar for testing, but a mandatory 14-day quarantine period being applied by Qatari authorities to visitors from Italy means it’s impossible for many of the MotoGP teams’ personnel to be at the event.

Just hours later the Thai government announced that it was postponing its MotoGP event, which was due to run on 22nd March, although it’s currently in the hands of the FIM, IRTA and Dorna as to whether a date can be found to run the event later in the year.

That means the series is now not due to start until the race in Austin on 5th April. However, the USA is already on high alert and over the same weekend imposed a ‘do not travel’ warning regarding some parts of the world including virus-hit parts of Italy, so the Texan round of the series will depend on what happens over the coming days and weeks.

 

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: Michael Mann
Races cancelled, museums closed and travel impacted as virus spreads

 

How is Coronavirus affecting bike production?

Although production hasn’t been impacted the heart of Italy’s motorcycle industry lies in the north of the country, where there have been more cases of coronavirus than anywhere else in Europe.

Government restrictions in the area mean that attractions including factory visits and activities have been closed, including the Ducati, Piaggio, Moto Guzzi and Agusta museums.

Many European companies also have factories supplying bikes or components in the Far East, where the situation is more serious, but at the moment there don’t appear to be any direct impacts on production.

Many Chinese factories were closed in the wake of the disease, including plants operated by Honda and Suzuki, but some have since been reopened.

Inevitably, with stock markets dropping all over the world, motorcycle firms are also suffering decreasing values. Piaggio’s share price has dropped from €2.86 on 13th January to €2.11 on 2nd March. BMW’s shares have declined from over $27 in January to under $22 by the end of February. Shares in Pierer Mobility, the parent of KTM and Husqvarna, have dropped by around 15% since January.

In Japan, production is also continuing as normal but sporting events including the incredibly popular ‘Auto Race’ speedway-style series are being run without any spectators allowed into the events. Gambling, a key component of the sport, is only operating via the internet and telephone. At the moment, the Japan Keirin Autorace Foundation that runs the sport has not set a timescale for reopening the events to the public.

As travel restrictions and concerns increase, bike firms have started to cancel planned launches where journalists from all over the world would have been flown out to ride their new bikes. The 2020 Benelli 752S and Honda SH125 test launches have already been dropped, and more are likely to follow.

Although the major motorcycle shows aren’t scheduled until much later this year, in the car world the huge Geneva show – due to be held in March – has been cancelled. The first huge motorcycling gathering of the year, Daytona Bike Week in Florida, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and starts on 6th March, is going ahead but there are reports that surgical face masks have sold out in the area, suggesting that locals aren’t entirely relaxed about the idea of an influx of visitors.

 

Races cancelled, museums closed and travel impacted as virus spreads

 

Is Coronavirus covered by my travel insurance?

There’s a pretty strong chance that you’re planning this year’s holidays around now and whether you’re looking at a motorcycle tour of Europe or a week on the beach, COVID-19 is a concern.

The Financial Times reported a 277% rise in travel insurance policy sales last week, representing a 159% increase compared to the same period last year. At the same time British Airways and EasyJet have unsurprisingly reported a drop in demand for flights to coronavirus-affected areas. 

If you’re making plans to go abroad and paying for flights, ferries or accommodation, it’s clear that it’s sensible to insure against losing that investment should travel restrictions or warnings come into force.

Generally-speaking, you may be able to to get money back if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel to the area or country you had arranged to visit. However, if you simply change your mind due to fears over the virus, that’s not likely to give you leeway to make a claim. As ever, the best advice is to read the small print when booking to see what the terms and conditions are.

There’s also the question of what will be covered if you end up trapped in quarantine, unable to take your pre-booked flights or ferries. Again, this will depend on the fine print – it’s definitely worth double-checking with your travel insurance provider to make sure you’ll be covered.

Bennetts Travel Insurance stipulates the following:

Under Section A – Cancelling your trip - we will pay up to the amount shown in the table of benefits for:

  • travel and accommodation expenses which you have paid or have agreed to pay under a contract and which you cannot get back; 
  • the cost of excursions, tours and activities which you have paid for and which you cannot get back; and 
  • the cost of visas which you have paid for and which you cannot get back.

 If after the time you booked your trip or purchased your policy, whichever is later, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all (but essential) travel to your intended destination.

Additionally:

In the event that you become unwell whilst abroad and require medical assistance, cover will be provided under the Medical and other expenses outside of the United Kingdom section of your policy.

 In the event that you require in-patient hospital treatment and/or evacuation /repatriation, it is imperative that the Medical Emergency Assistance Company is contacted and authorisation obtained prior to such treatment and/or evacuation/repatriation taking place.

 

For a Bennetts Travel Insurance quote, click here.

 

Races cancelled, museums closed and travel impacted as virus spreads
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