In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, series organiser GTA released a revised calendar in early April kicking off with a trip to Okayama on July 11-12, and postponing the championship’s overseas races in Thailand and Malaysia until the winter.
However, it’s unlikely that the Okayama race would be open to spectators, and there are growing doubts over whether the former Pacific Grand Prix venue would be willing to host a race without ticket revenue and other associated income streams.
Instead, talks are being held to establish whether Fuji could potentially host the season opener on July 19 without fans present. Currently, the Toyota-owned track occupies the second slot on the revised calendar and is due to hold its race on August 8-9.
This would involve a condensed schedule, potentially including a shorter race distance than the currently-planned 500km, and strict limits on the number of personnel each team would be allowed to have on-site. Some media would be permitted to attend.
The Okayama race would then be delayed until later in the year, increasing the likelihood it could take place with at least some spectators in attendance.
After experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases in late March and April, Japan has now lifted its state of emergency in all but five prefectures as the rate of infection has slowed. The country has just over 16,500 confirmed cases, an increase of about 4,000 in the last month.
While other Japanese sports leagues are now contemplating resuming competition as soon as June, it is unlikely spectators will be able to attend for some time to come.
Japan’s other major championship Super Formula has yet to reveal a revised 2020 calendar, having postponed the first four rounds on its original schedule.
The first date that remains in place for now is the Motegi race on August 29-30, although it remains possible that the single-seater series could begin sooner than that.