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COVID-19: Race schedule disrupted; races cancelled, postponed

COVID-19: Race schedule disrupted; races cancelled, postponed

Oakville, On, Mar 12/20 (GRW): As the world pandemic of the COVID-19 virus grows and in the wake of President Trump's closure of US borders to Europeans yesterday, a number of auto racing events have been cancelled, postponed or are in limbo.

First we heard of the cancellation of the WEC race at Sebring next Friday (March 20). The main reason for this cancellation was the fact that many of the drivers and other participants in that race are currently in Europe and will be unable to attend due to the travel restrictions imposed by the US government.

This was followed by word that the IMSA 12-hour Sebring race scheduled for the next day (Saturday, March 21) has been postponed until some time in the fall. Like with the WEC, a large number of the drivers and other race team personnel are based in Europe and would be prevented from attending by the current travel ban.

Rick Kriesman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, this morning announced that he was cancelling general admission attendance of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. But then he further clarified this statement to confirm that by 'general admission' he meant ALL paying spectators. This will mean that the race will be run without any on-site audience.

The Long Beach IndyCar race will not be held on its scheduled date next month (April 19) as per an announcement from the city's mayor Robert Garcia. Long Beach has ruled against any gatherings of more than 250 people in the city at least until the end of April. Whether this race might be rescheduled at a later date remains to be seen.

Earlier today, the news came that the McLaren F1 team had had a crew member test positive for the virus and that they had withdrawn from Sunday's F1 Australian Grand Prix. As I write this I can see a number of reports online which state that, while no official announcement had yet been made, it was expected that F1/FIA would soon make a join announcement that the Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled.

The 'Australian' newspaper is reporting that as of 10:00A local time Friday (7:00P EDT Thursday) the organizers of the Austalian GP issued a statement which read, in part, “At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately."

A few days ago we had heard that F1 plans to run the Bahrain GP next week with no spectators present. Earlier the Chinese GP at Singapore (May 19)had been postponed due to the pandemic (it is unlikely that an alternate date on the calendar can be found for this event. In addition, worries about the viabliltiy of the Viet Nam GP in Hanoi (April 5) are growing.

So far, NASCAR is planning to continue with the scheduled triple-header event at Atlanta this weekend: trucks and Xfinity on Saturday and Cup on Sunday. The only concession to the threat of the virus has been to plan for additional hand-washing stations 'in key places throughout the facility' and to distribute hand sanitizer to race fans as they arrive.

No fans at Atlanta or Homestead: In a release time dated as 1:32 PM (EDT) today, NASCAR said: “At this time, NASCAR will hold its race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway without fans in attendance. These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race."

I think you have to go back to 1955 and th fallout from the tragic Le Mans accident to find another situation in which the race calendar has been disrupted so much. Remember that the F1 season (and other race schedules) that year were significantly curtailed.

It is obvious that the plans for races in the next few days or weeks have to be in flux and that anyone who is planning to attend any race event anywhere should make sure that they have the most accurate and up-to-date info about the status of any event they plan to attend.

Right now, it is hard to know with any precision how this pandemic will play out and what effect it will have on the auto races planned anywhere in the world over the next few weeks or months.

Let's hope that this pandemic ends quickly and that we can all get back to out normal lives soon.

My thoughts are with all those who are being adversely affected by this pandemic.

GRW

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