After the music had died down, and the last of the revellers had left the party that had just a few hours earlier welcomed in a new decade, little thought was given to life much beyond the next day or perhaps the next week, at best. And yet here we are, barely two months into the new year, and it seems that the whole world is in lockdown over the outbreak of a microscopic virus that few, if any, had even heard of before.
To call it by its full name, Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and it was first detected in China back in December 2019. In just three months, this virus has brought most countries and economies to its knees, and put the fear up many people causing panic buying in the supermarkets which has in turn led to shortages of a number of key products.
Every day now, we wake to new developments on this front, new statistics, and more negative stories about how we are going to have to change the way we live. ‘Uncertainty’ is the new normal. Major public events, sporting events and more are daily becoming victims to the continuing spread of this virus. The worldwide motorsport industry has not escaped the ravages of this virus, and with this in mind, we ask what is going to happen to motorsport in 2020?
Those who were around in 1974/75 will remember when the oil producing countries, led by OPEC, decided to hold the world to ransom by quadrupling oil prices overnight. The short-term result was job losses, the stock market crashed, a jump in inflation, much higher prices for fuel. There were time restrictions on when you could buy fuel during the day and not at all on weekends, and you were prohibited from storing fuel at your home. Motorways in Germany were closed and reduced speed limits were imposed elsewhere around the world to reduce fuel consumption.
Leisure sports such as boating on the weekends and motorsport became easy targets for pressure groups, pointing to the ‘waste’ of fuel in the pursuit of such unnecessary sports. But what folk didn’t consider at the time was that motorsport contributed to the improvement of fuel consumption. Motor racing is by definition, the pursuit of getting from the start line to the finish line in the quickest time possible, while carrying the least amount of unnecessary weight (which includes fuel). The race is then won by the team who produced and prepared their car to run the distance in the most efficient manner possible, assuming that they stayed out of trouble and drove sensibly. It makes sense really…
Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsport Industry Association explained to the author many years ago, and his comment is as applicable today as it was back then. “At the heart of motorsport, since its early days, is the efficient use of a given amount of energy which, in most cases, is a fuel tank of gasoline. This focus on gaining maximum efficiency from that energy allocation is the absolute opposite of the general perception. As the weight penalty associated with carrying fuel/energy is so high, race engineers have become expert at delivering maximum power and efficiency from the engine using minimum fuel/weight.”
While we are not facing the same fuel crisis today that we did back in the mid-1970s, the effect of the coronavirus is threatening the livelihood of motorsport, and the thousands of folks who rely on it for their income and enjoyment. When you see a racing car at the track, the number of people required to get it to that point is immense, many times the number of crew that you just see in the pit garage. You can add to the crew count, truck drivers, catering and hospitality staff, sponsors, medical staff, marketing, public relations, media and others. Then there is the plethora of support companies who have provided components and manufacturing services, hotels and transport, so the eventual number involved in just one race team is many multiples of those you see in the pit garage.
So, what are we saying through all of this? The COVID-19 coronavirus is a reality, it is here and it has already affected many events, teams, support staff and players mentioned above. But it will end, and that is the situation we now all have to plan for and work towards. Whether your passion is for current racing or for historic racing, the situation is much the same, and we all have to get through this difficult period.
We will be monitoring the current state of affairs and we will keep our readers informed as best we can, bearing in mind that the situation is changing daily. It seems likely that many top events scheduled for the first half of the year are going to be postponed and organisers are going to try and fit them in later in the year. The trouble with that development is that the latter part of the year is already planned out and the calendar is full, so to now try and add those events that got pulled from the first half of the year to an already full calendar towards the end of the year – well, there is going to be some severe congestion. It is rather like three racing cars all trying to hit the same apex on the same corner at the same time – it is going to end unhappily! So, it is likely that some events will just become casualties this year, and it is a case of trying again next year. It’s not perfect, but that is just the way it is.
To date, the following news can be confirmed:
Tuesday 24 March, Brands Test Day: to go ahead as planned
Portimao 17-19 April: it will not be possible to run this event on the planned date. We are currently working on a postponement date with the circuit and will advise you further as soon as we have more information
Monza ELMS Support Race 8-10 May: we received news from ELMS on Friday that they were postponing this event to a later date – we have not been advised of the new date as yet
With the situation constantly evolving, and the news that the UK Government plan to restrict mass gatherings later this week; the safety and wellbeing of our customers is our highest priority. As such, we regret to inform you that the 78th Members’ Meeting, which was due to take place on March 28-29, has been postponed. We are currently exploring potential alternative dates with all relevant parties and I would like to reassure you that your ticket will remain valid for the new date.
With the above in mind, PORSCHE ROAD & RACE has a stash of superb features lined up, and we are using this period to dive into our archive of interviews with drivers and race car histories, and we will be bringing you a variety of great stories to get your teeth into. So, forget the queues at the supermarket and all the panic buying, settle back and enjoy the feast of motoring and motorsport that we have got planned for you.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale