It’s official: The Macau GP is going ahead later this month. That’s good news, but there’s bad news, too. Organizers say there will be no motorcycle class at this year’s race.
That’s a tough pill to swallow, for those interested in real roadracing—as in, racing on closed-down public roads. The Macau GP runs through the streets of Macau, on a super-sketchy course with basically zero run-off in most places. As it’s based in China, the Macau GP has never had the same cachet in North America as the Isle of Man TT or the Irish street race circuit. To the top racers of the IOMTT, it’s a different story. The fastest guys at Macau are usually public road racers from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or the UK, as they see it as another place to earn prestige, and maybe some money, with their high-stakes hijinks.
Now, that’s not happening for 2020. Organizers announced a shorter Macau GP, and motorcycle racing isn’t on the schedule, just car races.
It’s not a really big surprise, as the 2019 motorcycle race was a total debacle. Peter Hickman appeared poised to handily win on his BMW, but a two-man crash on Lap 3 brought out the red flag for a re-start. Michael Rutter took off on the re-start, but Hickman reeled him in and looked ready to once again show dominance. Then, the red flag came out again, with a horrifying six-rider crash clogging the grid. In the aftermath, through the intricacies of the rulebook, Rutter was awarded the win. A true sportsman, Rutter tried to give credit for the win to Hickman, but the organizers had their minds made up.
The Macau GP’s press release didn’t mention any of that mess, mind you. It said, “The Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix will not take place this year. Having successfully contained the COVID-19 outbreak in Macao, many riders subsequently reconsidered their willingness to compete in view of the prevailing prevention regulations, making running the Far East classic this year unworkable.” It didn’t say the motorcycle race was canceled for good, thankfully.
However, its future has got to be in doubt, just like any other public roads race. The Isle of Man TT canceled for 2020, and there’s talk it may cancel for 2021. The North West 200 and other events were also canceled due to COVID-19. In North America, even before COVID-19 came along, the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb had banned motorcycle competition, after 2019 saw top racer Carlin Dunne killed in sight of the finish line.
Some of these events will no doubt return to normal, but remember that for every public road racing fan, there’s also an anti-fan, someone who hates the danger and death at these events, or someone who just hates to have their normal roadway privileges interrupted. Also remember that these races typically shy away from insurance risks, which certainly includes motorcycle racing, and some races (Pikes Peak, Macau) want to cram more-lucrative car racing into the schedule before bikes. In our increasingly risk-averse world, no doubt it will be hard to get some of these races back.