Courtesy of the ongoing global pandemic, the MotoGP calendar has evolved throughout the 2021 season. In June, 2021, race organizers canceled the Japanese Grand Prix due to the “travel complications and logistical restrictions” posed by COVID-19. That shift forced organizers to reschedule the Thailand round to October 15-17, 2021. Now, similar circumstances in the Land of Smiles are calling the Buriram Round into question.
Thailand is currently reporting a record number of coronavirus infections with a seven-day average of 10,000 new cases. The resulting travel restrictions and lagging vaccination efforts are forcing local authorities and Dorna officials to reassess the viability of the 2021 race. Plans to reopen provinces such as Phuket, Phangnga, and Buriram to fully vaccinated foreigners have stalled as a result.
In 2019, the last year MotoGP held the Thailand Grand Prix, 226,655 piled into the stands. The Buriram race weekend easily set the highest attendance in the season with nearly 60,000 spectators classified as foreign visitors. With the race weekend accounting for ฿3.45 billion ($105 million) in local commerce, losing the event would certainly hurt the Thai economy.
If MotoGP does cancel the 2021 Thailand GP, the series will likely return to a previously-visited circuit or turn an upcoming Grand Prix into a double-header. If officials cancel the Buriram round, however, it may also take the Malaysian Grand Prix with it. With the Australian and Japanese rounds already struck from the 2021 calendar, a return to the Pacific may not be in the cards unless race organizers add a second race to the Sepang visit.
However, Malaysia is also experiencing similar rates of contraction (to Thailand). While MotoGP hasn’t issued an official cancelation, it has various options on the table. We’ll have to wait and see how the 2021 MotoGP calendar evolves yet again, and we wouldn’t be surprised if COVID-19 continues to impact the championship in the second half of the season.