Last week, the world's motor sport governing body, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) issued an 81 page document entitled 'Return to Motor Sport', and by goad it's hard work. The French based organisation have a better understanding of the English language than I do!
Anyway, the document goes into great detail about what COVID-19 is, how it spreads and how people can best safeguard themselves generally. Then it goes into how it will affect motor sport.
Motor racing and speed events will be 'easier' to manage since there is generally only one person per car and events are staged at venues with permanent or fixed facilities. However, the word 'easier' is a relative term. The FIA goes into great detail about what will be needed for Officials, Marshals and competitors and their support/pit crews, and also spectator protection.
As you might expect, rallying is much more difficult. For a start there are two competitors inside each car and very little in the way of permanent facilities at events. For instance how will 'social distancing' be managed at Signing-On and Scrutineering, not to mention Service Areas with work being carried out on cars? And then of course there is the issue of managing spectators.
The FIA has therefore come up with set of proposals and recommendations for our sport which doesn't bode well for the immediate future. And if you are wondering why so many rally organisers are cancelling events now which were due to run much later in the year (the latest is the Cheviot which was to run on 27th Sept) then this document explains why. But until such times as there is an effective proven vaccine we have little choice.
These suggestions apply primarily to 'Closed Road' events but will also be applicable to forest rallies.
Issues which require to be addressed include limiting an event to one service park without remote tyre zones or remote refuelling and ensuring that competing crews stay completely separate and do not wander around, socialise or eat outside of their nominated team group. A further suggestion is that stages might be shortened and reduced in number with repeated usage to make up mileage.
Time recording should be done by electronic means with check sheets to avoid the need for any physical interaction between the competing crew and any Marshals. Only essential personnel can enter Time Controls and in particular media should be banned from stage stop controls!
Appropriate social distancing and PPE should be maintained in all areas of the competition and between competitors in service, refuelling, regroup, stage start, stage finish and Parc Fermé areas. And this all has to be achieved whilst providing a safe working environment for personnel to service the competition cars and ensure a safe, attractive and engaging area for spectators!
And then of course there is the whole issue of PPE and its cost, sourcing and supply.
Despite its detail there are still questions to be answered. While each competitor sharing a car should be 'tested' for the virus before an event, what about members of the service crew, and also what about all the officials at an event, let alone spectator provision? And who will supply all these testing kits?
Of course Motorsport UK has already issued its own interim guidance but no doubt will have to consider the FIA recommendations.
Still, this is just the beginning of July, things may yet change for the better in the next couple of months. Here's hoping, eh?