The latest lockdown will have serious repercussions for practice track operators heading into the off-season, traditionally one of the most lucrative times of the year for the industry.
Martin Craven, who runs FatCat Motoparc – one of the UK’s premier practice facilities – has shut the South Yorkshire track from today and is not looking forward to the next four weeks.
“I’m going to have no income for a month and it’s a big machine to feed with a lot of bills to pay,” he said, “but I’m just going to have to keep my head down for four weekends and see where we are come December.
“We had our last day yesterday. I think everyone must have thought ‘lockdown, I’m going out for a last ride’ so we had a nice, busy day.
“Ordinarily, we start getting really busy in November because the race season is finished. Normally the weather can be bad but at the moment it happens to be okay, there are no race meetings at all and people aren’t going abroad so it’s a shame that we’ve had to shut because we’re on a 50-acre site and we park everyone 10 metres apart.”
The new lockdown hasn’t specified that practice tracks must close but Martin feels COVID-19 legislation will impact so heavily on his business it’s not worth incurring the running costs to stay open.
“We haven’t been told to shut. What affects us is the ban on travel for leisure activities. If one family from Doncaster wanted to rent the track and ride their bikes that would be okay but, obviously, that’s not viable for anybody.”
During the first lockdown, one of the major topics of debate was the need to support the NHS by not putting extra pressure on its resources and Martin says this is another factor in his decision to close.
“Morally, I don’t like the idea of me opening and three people breaking their legs and getting rushed to Doncaster Hospital and every bed is full of COVID-19 patients. I’m not saying that’s going to happen but there’s a possibility – I’ve got to think of the bigger picture.
“But I can’t keep closed for ever because I’m not getting any help. It’s rubbish but when we do reopen people will want to ride their bikes and then we’ll probably be busy come December, weather permitting.”