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The 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship calendar has been revealed, yet again. COVID-19 has forced Infront Moto Racing to unveil another amended version of that schedule and, truthfully, this is not the end. The fact that there are three TBA events at the end of the calendar should confirm that. What is the current state of play in MXGP?
July is off the table completely now, which means that the first weekend in August is the date that everyone has their sights set on. The Grand Prix of Belgium at Lommel would typically occupy that date and signalises the beginning of the end of the term, but instead it will effectively be round one. Crazy! Russia will kick the season off on that date, and some would like to see that one either move to later on in the year or disappear completely. The fact that it has held strong through the last couple of revisions indicates that it is not going anywhere though.
This could all change though, and it is known that alternatives have been assessed behind the scenes. David Luongo has admitted that double headers have been looked at and, although no venues have been officially mentioned, both Lommel and Uddevalla are rumoured to be possibilities. There isn’t a free weekend near either of those events though, so room would have to be made in order for that to become a possibility. Double headers were the talk of the town at this point last week – one week on and they are already an afterthought. Things are changing so quickly.
Two things came to light in an email to team managers last week – one of those is straightforward and the other is a minefield. It is highly likely that the MXGP and MX2 classes will run a single-day programme for the rest of the year and therefore include a single timed session on Sunday morning that encompasses both practice and qualifying. Think of how the Grand Prix of Americas was run in 2016, as that is the most recent example of this. It does work and, hey, most guys would argue that they spend too much time on track in the current format anyway.
From a selfish point of view, there could be good things that come of this. A lot of MXGP and MX2 guys will still be at the track on Saturday, one would presume anyway, so this could open the door for some different content ideas that could expose the personalities of the Grand Prix riders a little more – a factor that needs desperate attention. The other side of that coin would be that the EMX guys could benefit from more attention, with both media coverage and hits on MXGP-TV. It would truly not be surprising if a lot of teams and riders demand this format in the future.
The much larger change at play here is that the Motocross of Nations could count for Grand Prix points for the first time in history, meaning that there would be a lot happening at Ernee in September. The traditional race between countries will still be in action, but now there will be more incentive for the riders to race hard. Those who are not picked to race for their nation would be thrown into the mix under the title of a wildcard, so wouldn’t miss out on points. Those guys could end up stealing points from their own country, in a strange twist.
This fixes a lot of the issues that would come with running the MXoN in the middle of the season, but there are questions that need to be addressed here. How will gate pick work? Would the 450F and 250F guys be scored separately now? Would the Open guys, who typically have an easier class, benefit when it comes to Grand Prix points compared to the MXGP riders? The three-race format would have to be altered, it seems, and maybe even the idea of having three classes. The mind boggles when thinking about everything going on here.
There is actually another interesting point to consider. There is typically some back and forth between the federations and teams on who should pay for what at the MXoN, as there is no clear answer. The sponsor-logo drama has also been a by-product of that. The debate would become more of a talking point now, as it is still an inter-country competition yet the teams need their riders there for Grand Prix points. How does that play out? One would think it is just going to operate as a Grand Prix, with that in mind, but this is uncharted territory.
Although it is a tough pill to swallow that the Motocross of Nations will not be the race that everyone is in love with this time around, this is undoubtedly the best option. It at least ensures that riders will be pushing hard and have a reason to be there. Team USA is an exception to that rule, of course, as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series is set to run until the first weekend of October. There is a fairly high chance there will be an outdoor race on the same weekend as the MXoN, so the American riders will obviously not travel to France. It sucks, but what can you do?
2020 is quickly becoming about salvaging something for people in all walks of life, and that is exactly what the powers that be are attempting to do with the aforementioned changes. Will it work? It has to, because the various constraints that have come with COVID-19 really leave us no other choice. Take comfort in the fact that normality will be restored in 2021 though.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer