BANGKOK (Reuters) - The second MotoGP race of the season, scheduled for Thailand on March 22, has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus epidemic, MotoGP said on Monday.
The decision to postpone the event in the northeastern province of Buriram came a day after this weekend’s season-opening race in Qatar was also cancelled due to travel curbs on participants from Italy and elsewhere.
Six riders in the championship’s 22-strong grid come from Italy, which has Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
"The Thai government has communicated that it won't be possible to hold the Thailand Grand Prix on its original date," MotoGP said in a statement here with governing body FIM and teams' association IRTA.
An alternative date would be considered this season, it added in the statement. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also health minister and chairman of the event’s organising committee, had announced the cancellation earlier.
Seven-times world champion and Yamaha’s Italian great Valentino Rossi said it was a pity they could not begin the season this month, with the next race scheduled for April 6 in Texas.
“After a winter spent training, we were ready to start the season, both physically and psychologically,” Rossi said in a statement. “After the test in Qatar I really wanted to start with the first race.
“The MotoGP class cancellation for Qatar is difficult news to take... because now we do not know how long we will have to wait before we can start racing.
“It’s certainly a long time, considering the next GP in Thailand has been postponed for all classes. I hope everything will get better in the next weeks.”
The race is the latest in a long line of international sporting events affected by the flu-like virus that originated in China late last year and has killed more than 3,000 people and infected over 86,500 globally.
Thailand has reported 43 cases since January and recorded its first fatality on Sunday.
The MotoGP championship now moves to the United States with next month’s Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Formula One, whose season starts in Australia on March 15, has already cancelled its Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for Shanghai on April 19.
Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok; Writing by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Richard Pullin, Andrew Cawthorne and Pritha Sarkar