Coronavirus has had a huge effect on off-road motorcycle sport across the globe in the last seven days with major championships and one-off events being cancelled amid growing health fears.
With the opening round of the ACU British Motocross Championship at Little Silver cancelled last weekend due to bad weather, rounds two and three – at Hawkstone Park on March 29 and Lyng on April 12 – have both been cancelled because of the pandemic. As a result it’s now hoped the series will get under way on May 3 at Foxhill.
The Michelin MX Nationals has also pulled the plug on its opening round, scheduled to be held at FatCat Motoparc this weekend, after it became clear that medical back-up would not be available.
Dave Thorpe, boss of the Buildbase Honda team, feels that we need to follow official guidelines.
“My take on it is we’ve just got to follow whatever the Government guidelines are at the end of the day and just roll with it [but] we’re out in the fresh air, we’re not on one another’s toes like being in a bar or pub,” he said. “I think the ACU will probably say no events, no permits and then what that will do? It will drive everyone to practice tracks and if they’re open then you’ve got a choice whether you go or not.”
Chambers Racing Husqvarna boss Tim Chambers is taking a more old-school stance.
“It will ruin the sport this year, definitely,” he said. “I hope they don’t panic but I think they already have. We’re all sheep in this country and if someone says ‘let’s quit’ we’ll all quit and if someone says ‘let’s go and do it’ maybe we all will do it but we’re more likely to give up than have a go.
“I remember as a kid, if someone within two miles of us had mumps, measles or chickenpox they’d have a party and all the kids went and they’d be over it in a couple of weeks and we’d all crack on.”
Following advice from the Scottish Government, the SACU has cancelled all its events north of the border until the end of May which means the SSDT is cancelled and international events have also been badly hit.
The MXGP schedule has been reworked with Maggiora in Italy now scheduled to host round three on May 17 with the German GP at Teutschenthal the following weekend. The MXGP of France – originally due to take place on May 10 – will be staged on June 28 at St Jean d’Angely and the MXGP of Indonesia will move from June to November 1, to be followed a week later by the MXGP of Asia at a venue still to be announced.
The series will conclude at the MXGP of Patagonia Argentina on November 8, eight weeks after the Motocross of Nations at Ernee in France on September 27. With the majority of riders’ contracts ending at the start of November this could throw up a number of problems.
Veteran Irish racer Martin Barr is urging caution after looking at the bigger picture.
“At the end of the day it is our jobs but my parents mean a lot more to me than racing a motorbike,” he said. “It could be a lot harder on the elderly – I don’t want to be carrying it around to other people, especially my parents at home. Everyone wants to go race motorbikes at the weekend but I think it’s a bit more serious than first thought.
“It’s a tough one. The last couple of weeks I haven’t been thinking too much about it – everyone’s out panic-buying and I’ve got absolutely nothing in the house – but it’s starting to get a little bit more surreal.”
Martin Craven, who operates FatCat Motoparc, isn’t convinced that the threat of coronavirus will disrupt practice tracks.
“I’ve been chatting about this quite a lot over the last couple of days,” he said. “We’re as good as anything because we’re that open and if we have a mega day practice wise there can be 300 people and they’re that spread out. I can’t see them banning outdoor activities and limiting it to 100 people because it’s impossible. How are they going to police that?
“I don’t think it will affect us unless they bring the country to a complete lockdown and if they do that I don’t know what the implications are. We do not need this after that winter. We’re just hoping that things do calm down and we get hold of the situation.”
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