At a time when the world of sports is reeling from delays and disruption of events because of the COVID-19 situation around the globe, Qatar has stepped in to provide a much-needed relief to the MotoGP family.
Qatar’s iconic Losial International Circuit yesterday concluded the second round of the MotoGP World Championship, just weeks after the same venue hosted riders and backroom staff for pre-season testing for teams of all three classes in March.
Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta yesterday was a relieved man.
“We are very happy that the races went well in Qatar,” Ezpeleta said.
“The MotoGP family will never forget that we could start the season here with two races. In general, it is not an issue to race here. We have been working together since 2004. We started the first night race. They have improved the lighting also. Better than ever. Everything is very nice,” he added.
“We had been talking with the Qatari authorities - QMMF and the Sports Ministry. As soon as we realised it was also not possible to travel to the United States and Argentina (for MotoGP rounds), we decided to contact QMMF President Mr Abdulrahman Al Mannai and he proposed we conduct everything here - the testing and the two races,” he said.
“We saw the situation around the world and we decided to continue with SOPs. We knew it was important to continue (racing). We created protocols that have been working very well. These protocols will also help in the future.
“We have accepted the possibility of doing races with less people. Now we have experience of protocols we put to use during 14 races last year. We go from hotel to circuit and come back. There is no complaint. Everybody knows we are going to hold races and everyone knows we are here in Qatar to do that with protocols,” Ezpeleta said.
“We hope to continue with protocols. And that this will continue for all the races (this season). We are hoping this year will be less complicated. Thanks to the Qatar authorities, the two races were fantastic. We are proud of the people in the paddocks who make it a success.
“We hope to do all (2021 calendar) races in principle. If the situation is not good, we may do it without fans. We will see about races at the end of the year - Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Thailand - we are optimistic about those races - but we will know exactly at the end of July. We will know more at the time of the summer break,” Ezpeleta said.
The Dorna chief said he feels amazed looking at the infrastructure development in Qatar.
“I am not surprised, I have been coming here since 2004. I remember when we were here for the first time and there was Ritz Carlton only (smiles). When we see from the window now, all of Qatar has changed. What we see now is incredible,” Ezpeleta said.
“I think Qatar 2022 will be an incredible success. The soccer fans will enjoy it,” he added in reference to the 2022 FIFA World Cup set to be held here next year.
In reply to a question, Ezpeleta said Qatar’s young riding talent impresses him.
“The Qatar Motor Academy (QMA) is one of Qatar’s priorities. We think this year, for the first time, three Qatari riders participated in the Asian Talent Cup and if I may say so they are doing very well because this is the first time for them competing against Japanese or Malaysian riders who are people with more experience,” Ezpeleta said.
“We think this is one of the things we need to focus more on in the future. I am sure one day Qatar can have good riders competing in the elite class. We are talking with them. Whatever is necessary we tell them and we see what they are doing.
“You have something here, which is incredible - the Aspire Academy. Having the Aspire Academy for kids is an incredible benefit because the people who started here also have the chance to complete their education. This is very important,” the Dorna chief said. “Motor sport is a challenge and the important thing is to accommodate young people to try to improve while learning. The facilities in Qatar are just amazing. Most federations have championships for 10-year-olds and the good riders, we bring them to Europe. We try to make them understand more. We need to be patient. We need to wait for the results,” he added.