When multinationals gathered at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) for the first major motorsports contest of the calendar year, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, none of the participants or fans were aware of COVID-19, the coronavirus that is taking over the globe with its feckless interference into daily lives.
Today it’s a different matter altogether. As both the NTT IndyCar Series and Formula One attempt to begin their 2020 campaigns this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla. and Melbourne, Australia, respectively, COVID-19 is affecting daily life for everyone. In fact, F1 has declined to allow fans entry to the second race of the year in Bahrain and the only way anyone will see that competition is through televised media.
Racers, of course, would continue to race if there were crickets in the stands. They are – we are – wired that way.
Italy has restricted ingress/egress from its northern areas, which include Modena, home of Ferrari and Milano, where Brembo brakes are constructed. There is a great deal of motorsports activity in northern Italy beyond those two participants. Drivers, team members are located in Italy and might not be able to travel inside or out of their home country.
Japan has put up barriers to travel as well, and one has to wonder whether 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will be able to compete in the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg this weekend. His coterie of media members, writers and photographers who follow Sato’s every move might be barred from entering the United States or, for that matter leaving this country.
NASCAR has already held four races this year; NHRA is about to contest its third, traditionally one of the largest gatherings in Gainesville, Fla. this week. Next week the WEC and IMSA share billing at Sebring International Raceway for SuperSebring, two endurance races for international competitors.
The 68th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, IMSA’s Saturday race that intends to follow the World Endurance Championships 1000 Miles of Sebring on Friday, is traditionally an exercise in excess for fans, who flock to central/south Florida to party hearty. It’s the one time each year hotels are overbooked and restaurants are packed. Will COVID-19 change the atmosphere or recharge it?
At this point, neither F1, INDYCAR, WEC and IMSA have made any statements about their upcoming races this weekend and next. One can only hope the Ferrari team and its ancillaries managed to escape lockdown in Italy before it was announced and will be on the Australian Grand Prix grid. Takuma Sato did make it out of Japan before the gates were closed, but did Honda’s F1 engineering group escape as well?
It’s unknown at this time how this pandemic will affect motorsports. Many involved with the sport, like me, are planning on keeping to their intended schedules and working or playing at the events upcoming. We’ll all be following the mantra to eat well, sleep well, get plenty of exercise, wash our hands regularly and completely, and not touch our faces. It’s all we can do.
See you at the races.