Motor racing: IndyCar calls off first four races over coronavirus pandemic

(AFP) – IndyCar reversed course on Friday (March 13) and called off its first four races of the 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The move came a day after the series had decided to stage the IndyCar Grand Prix of St Petersburg on the streets without spectators after city officials banned mass gatherings.

Five-time IndyCar season champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand said drivers wanted to race after making the trek with teams and equipment, but series officials finally said no.

“After careful consideration, including regular communication with our event promoters, health officials, and the city administrations in our respective race markets regarding Covid-19, we have made the decision to cancel all IndyCar Series events through April,” IndyCar said in a statement.

Not only was this weekend’s event cancelled but so were planned races next month at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, the streets of Long Beach, California and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

It added: “Although we are disappointed to delay the start to this season… the safety of our fans, participants, staff, partners, and media will always remain our top priority.”

The first race on the schedule is now the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May on the street course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the signature Indianapolis 500 oval classic is now the second race of the season.

The 104th running of the Indy 500 remains set for May 24.

Just hours earlier, Dixon said race teams were tense over the coronavirus but the 39-year-old New Zealander and his fellow drivers wanted to race.

“Everybody is a little tense and trying to understand the situation a little more,” he said. “It’s about the unknowns.

“We’re all here. We want to race. We’re all racers.”

US stock car racing series Nascar, the closed-cockpit brand that is the most popular form of American motor racing, also called off events in Atlanta and Miami after having planned to run them without spectators as well.

The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, golf’s PGA Tour, the ATP men’s tennis tour and college basketball shut down events on Thursday while Major League Baseball halted preseason contests and postponed its season openers, originally scheduled for March 26.

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