MotoGP had its first virtual race on March 28th due to COVID-19 and #StayAtHomeGP and featured ten riders from the 2020 MotoGP paddock. It also had a rookie win the race. The coronavirus is taking a toll on commerce and the fallout is bringing things to a halt, all the while the motorcycle industry is bracing itself for the impact. AMERiders brings you information on these two stories.
Rookie Wins First MotoGP Virtual Race
To race at the top level of your sport, you have to live it. That can be a challenge during a global pandemic, because like everyone else, you’re staying at home. A lot of professional racers have been getting outdoors on dirt bikes, which is great for physical and mental health as well as social distancing. Still, it isn’t the same as a race bike at a track.
Then again, neither is the #StayAtHomeGP, which was MotoGP’s first-ever Virtual Grand Prix. It took place on March 28, 2020, and featured ten riders from the 2020 MotoGP paddock. Marc Márquez, Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia, Alex Márquez, Iker Lecuona, Aleix Espargaro, Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, and Alex Rins all took center stage as they raced on PS4 from the safety of their homes.
First came a short qualifying round to determine the grid, as you do. At the end of qualifying, Fabio Quartararo emerged as pole-sitter, followed by Bagnaia and Viñales to round out the front row. Then, the virtual race began in earnest.
As you might expect, there was quite a bit of crashing. Getting a feel for your bike can be difficult when you’re actually on your bike, but getting a feel through your controller is a different matter entirely. Luckily, in the video game, it’s not hard to get back into the race after a crash. Since all of us watching this GP at home had the opportunity to watch these racers as they played, seeing Joan Mir still leaning with his body to tell his bike where he wanted it to go put a smile on my face. Once a racer, always a racer. (also reminded me of how some of my gaming sessions go when I play and want a character or car to go in a certain direction)
Also entertaining was the live commentary for the duration of the race from Jack Appleyard, who also guided some post-race interview questions with the grid for this season kickoff race at Mugello. It was also fun to see a small glimpse of these racers just hanging out at home, with Alex Rins’ dog jumping into his lap and other people in the house wandering in and out of frame behind several of the racers. Fabio Quartararo looked a bit like a team manager, and famed motorcycle artist Steve Whyman also noted that Maverick Viñales had one of his paintings hanging on his wall as he played. Chalk that up under ‘things you wouldn’t get out of a normal MotoGP round.’
According to MotoGP, a different roster of racers will take to the virtual track for the next round, sometime in the next few weeks. It’s a definite change, but it seems like a great way to keep everyone’s spirits up, both racers and fans alike.
If you would like to see the virtual race we have it for you below.
As the economy slows to a halt the motorcycle industry braces for it.
It’s not a good time for anyone in the world right now thanks to COVID-19, and the motorcycle industry is no exception. The extreme level of lockdown in some parts of the world means that people aren’t building motorcycles, selling motorcycles, or riding motorcycles, which could be catastrophic to the industry as a whole.
Italy, the home of several major motorcycle manufacturers, is being hit particularly hard. Ducati’s factory is shut down. While MV Agusta and the Piaggio Group (including Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, and Vespa) have attempted to keep their factories open despite drastic quarantine measures, itself a questionable move, they have now idled their factories after stricter government orders.
While Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries by COVID-19, the worldwide motorcycle market is being affected as well. BMW and Yamaha have also shut down factories. China, where the virus started, not only has numerous motorcycle manufacturers, but also many parts manufacturers that other companies rely on to continue building their bikes. Though Vietnam started 2020 with an 11 percent industry growth, that will more than disappear due to the economic effects of the virus. Thailand is expected to lose 20 percent of its sales from 2019, despite a rapidly growing motorcycle industry there.
The United States recently surpassed China as the country with the most COVID-19 cases, and our motorcycle industry is similarly affected. An employee at Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee plant tested positive for the virus, causing that factory as well as their Pennsylvania plant to be shut down at least through the end of March. Although Indian has not confirmed that any of their employees have been infected, they still shut down their factories in late March as a precaution.
While many of the ever-increasing numbers of states issuing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders do consider the transportation industry to be essential businesses that are allowed to stay open, few people are considering buying a new motorcycle right now, especially while their personal economic situations may be precarious or disastrous. Even if motorcycle dealers are open, business is bound to be slow, quite possibly with reduced hours and staffing. Even worse, the beginning of spring is one of the hottest times to buy a motorcycle, and dealers are completely missing that opportunity.
There are those in the government that want to blast through these shutdowns as quickly as possible, then return to business as usual. Obviously shutdowns like this are extremely bad for business. The health and welfare of workers and consumers are even more critical, however. As bad as the economy may get with extended stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, the alternative is bound to be worse. If nothing else, people can’t build, buy, and sell if they’re sick, or worse.
We here at AMERiders say please stay at home if you are able and if your work allows you to. If you are doctors and nurses and such that are working to quell this outbreak and/or keep it contained. We thank you. Everyone else please follow the guidelines, don’t go out unless you have to, if you are able order your groceries and food online (I do) It helps. Please don’t hoard. It makes it rough on the rest of us. Think before you do something, would you want someone to do that to you?
~And as always…
~Live Free Ride Hard~
Let AMERiders keep you up to date with information on the Virtual Race Results and the Motorcycle Industry Braces for Impact.
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