OPINION | ‘Yes, we can!’ – How South African motorsport can survive after the coronavirus crisis

In brief, the 2020 South African motorsport season so far might be described as observe: “Lights out, right here we go… Lockdown!” 

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted chaos around the globe. In a matter of weeks, it has gone from a virus that primarily introduced Wuhan in China to a standstill, to one thing that has unfold by way of Europe like wildfire, and now has greater than 1 / 4 of the worldwide inhabitants in lockdown.

A number of great occasions for the 12 months have been suspended with the remaining ones additionally discovering themselves in a state of limbo. Vital factories and companies have suspended operations indefinitely (Let that final phrase sink in shortly) whereas each important financial system has change into a rollercoaster.

A couple of worldwide motorsport championships managed to get their opening spherical in, however at current, all of the indicators are studying “Bye Bye, see you in July once more… Perhaps.” 

READ: OPINION | Automotive shopping for won’t ever be the identical once more

This was felt in South Africa as properly. Motorsport South Africa swiftly adopted up with calendar suspensions whereas metropolis councils revoked occasion permits. With groups locking up store even earlier than they may wash off the mud from the earlier weekend’s first nationwide spherical, this left a number of stakeholders income-less at very brief discover, and for a interval that’s as but not outlined. 

Motorsport is by nature one of the costly sporting codes round. But it’s also the game that has seen the least quantity of company funding over the past decade. So far although, the game has discovered itself in a fairly robust place in South Africa, particularly in comparison with the remainder of the continent whereas fielding two top-class saloon automotive championships.

Lately we now have additionally seen the nation making its means again onto the worldwide calendar with World RallyCross, Kyalami 9 Hour, and a scheduled spherical of the World Endurance Championship. However the financial image is quickly altering because of the pandemic,and the latest Moody’s downgrade may additionally not have come at a worse time.

Michael van Rooyen

Michael Van Rooyen – Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

A beacon of hope

The image is, nevertheless, not all doom-and-gloom from our conversations with two of South Africa’s main opponents.

Michael van Rooyen competes within the International Touring Automobiles Championship and spearheaded Toyota’s 2019 South African circuit racing return. He’s properly conscious of the strain that he finds himself in to satisfy the success targets set out by the model and the way tough this shall be in 2020. 

“There’s lots of strain on me, significantly to maintain the momentum of our stellar 2019 season going within the 12 months forward,” says Van Rooyen.

“The secret is to stay constructive regardless of the uncertainty we face at current. We all know that we must hit the bottom operating. We do discover ourselves in a little bit of a catch 22, particularly with the information that we’ll have to cut back spending however nonetheless take care of our present personnel. Nothing is unimaginable, although, and we’ll have to rise to the problem forward of us.” 

Whereas it’s but unsure how public gatherings shall be affected as soon as lockdown is over, Van Rooyen additionally sees the potential for additional innovation to advertise the game.

He says: “We do not know if the top of the lockdown will imply that we will soar straight into internet hosting huge occasions once more both. Maybe this can even see on-line streaming turning into a vital a part of the best way ahead.” 

chris shorter

Chris Shoter – Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

Chris Shorter is among the most skilled Oettinger Polo Cup opponents and is the one former series-champion within the present discipline. He competes for the Signature Motorsport outfit, a workforce representing six of the largest manufacturers in South Africa.   

“The significance of Volkswagen’s involvement in motorsport will definitely be highlighted once we begin once more; particularly with the arrogance that the model has put into this collection each from an area and worldwide perspective,” says Shorter.

“These are unsure instances for all of us, however particularly now that alternatives are restricted. That is the time to indicate your sponsors what you’re worthwhile find modern methods to advertise them.” 

Shorter is actually main by instance on this regard whereas he competes in on-line racing throughout this forced-break. All his “races” are being streamed on-line and have overlays of the manufacturers that he represents when driving his actual race automotive as properly. 

On the opposite finish of the spectrum, there are the regional and membership racers. Usually not having the backing loved by nationwide opponents, these guys nonetheless handle to placed on fairly a superb present.

Bernard de Gouveia is one among these drivers and likewise heads up BMW Automotive Membership Gauteng’s racing collection.This has change into one of the spectacular regional championships in South Africa; additionally having fun with title-support from tyre producer Bridgestone. 

“All our guys are desperate to get again on observe, it solely is a query of when that shall be,” says De Gouveia.

“Even earlier than Covid-19, our members have all the time saved a wholesome steadiness between enterprise and pleasure. Every part is predicated on the financial system now, satisfying current sponsors whereas remaining a profitable possibility for potential new ones shall be extra essential now than ever earlier than.” 

Bridgestone BMW Club Racing Series - Photograph by

Picture: Paul Blackburn

Robust management is what shall be wanted on this state of affairs, and MSA Chief Government Officer Adrian Scholtz is in help of the actions taken by President Ramaphosa. 4 days earlier than the lockdown announcement, MSA suspended all occasions till the beginning of Might. 

“As South Africans, the motorsport group have to act as accountable residents throughout this time, subsequently suspending our calendar was the one viable possibility,” says Scholtz.

“The well being and security of the motorsport group at giant is, and stays MSA’s major concern.” 

Schotz is the primary to acknowledge that will probably be a tough process forward with much more challenges than what the game has confronted in already making an attempt circumstances, however believes that the eagerness of these concerned shall be of the utmost significance when life begins returning to regular.

When this time comes, MSA might want to implement a dynamic and out-of-the-box strategy to place collectively significant championship seasons for the complete vary of classes competing below its flag. Concepts like double-header occasions and seasons extending into 2021 are simply a number of the concepts being evaluated.

On the similar time, Scholtz would additionally wish to reaffirm that MSA is open to all constructive concepts from the related stakeholders. 

Scholtz says: “A lesson that we have already discovered from that is that a database is required of every motorsport producer’s capabilities. We’re lucky to have a number of very extremely expert individuals working on this sport and in a disaster like what we face at current, these abilities may, for instance, be utilized within the building of infrastructure for non permanent medical amenities.” 

It’s an unsure time that lies forward for the game, each in South Africa and globally. The final time that sport as a complete was impacted in such a fashion, it concerned a world struggle. To say that it is a new state of affairs for any of us might be the largest understatement I’ve ever made.

I would wish to share the view expressed by Scholtz as we pave the best way ahead: “The one certainty that we now have is that the world won’t ever be the identical once more. The financial influence of this pandemic shall be felt for years to come back and could have a extreme impact on the leisure and leisure business.”  

“Nevertheless, from a spectator perspective, native motorsport has all the time supplied good worth for cash. Actually a constructive strategy goes to be extraordinarily useful as everybody adjusts to life post-Coronavirus. 

“The South African motorsport group has proven itself to be remarkably resilient previously and can little question proceed to take action sooner or later. The eagerness for the game shall be undimmed following the upheavals of the pandemic and this ardour will must be harnessed successfully, with all motorsport stakeholders hopefully pulling in the identical path to revive the game to a place of power.

“The ‘Stronger Collectively’ adage won’t ever be extra essential than when South Africa, and the world, transfer on after this unprecedented disaster.”   

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