Motor Sport - plans for 2020
Tuesday 26 May 2020
- Both Prescott meetings will be cancelled as competitive events.
- Track days will replace both, on their original dates.
- Mallory Park subject to expressions of interest from competitors, other formats will be considered if insufficient entries expected.
- Loton Park to run as normal, subject to government, owners and MSUK guidelines.
- Shelsley and Castle Combe to be the subject of decisions by their respective organisers.
- Welsh Trial cancelled.
If you are an active competitor you will have seen that MSUK have recently unveiled their plans to partially lift restrictions on the types of motor sport they manage. These have been compiled to enable motor sport to resume from 1st July by amending basic operating procedures (including signing on, scrutineering, marshalling) to accommodate government guidelines. Since these were published we have been through a thorough process of consultation with many groups and individuals within the Club to ensure that we have a clear picture of the views, hopes and concerns of competitors and volunteers. These discussions have enabled the Committee to formulate a plan which we believe represents the majority view, and gives members the chance to use their cars as intended whilst ensuing they do so safely and with the good name of the Club protected.
This time of the year brings with it some iconic VSCC events, notably Prescott, and so our starting point was to find a way of working within the guidelines to enable us to run our events as closely as possible to the format we all know and love. However, it became clear that this would not be possible. Due to the rules of social distancing, entry numbers would have to be curtailed in order to leave sufficient space around cars in the paddock. Whilst nothing specific was detailed in the plans, it has to be assumed that spectators would not be permitted, a major detriment to the unique atmosphere of events such as Prescott. We also considered how vintage cars turning up in large numbers would play to the general public and particularly to those who live near the venue. However, the major stumbling block concerned marshalling.
The MSUK plans go into some detail with regards to marshalling, and these would cause us some difficulties. Only 2 marshals are permitted per post, they are required to be equipped with full PPE in line with government advice, and they should maintain a safe distance from the cars, certainly not to touch them. When we discussed this with the Marshals’ and Volunteers’ Sub-Committee it was clear that they were unhappy with these terms as they would not guarantee our normal safety standards. Also, many of our marshals are in the “at risk” category, and consequently some are unwilling to offer their services because of the risks associated with coming into contact with many people during the course of the event.
We also consulted with the Chair of the Speed Sub-Committee who also voiced concerns over an early return to full competition, and I have received direct feedback from several competitors were unwilling to compete due to their own personal concerns.
Without the support of both of these vital parties it became clear that Prescott could not operate as a competitive event. Furthermore, due to the arrangements we enjoy with BOC, which require a sizeable gate receipt, the financial viability we need to justify an event was not possible. We are all keen to return to motor sport, and Prescott is the highlight of our vintage year, but not if it comes at a financial loss to the Club.
However, we note the appetite among many members to exercise their cars, and so we will be running a track day on Prescott short course on 1st August. Normal track day rules will apply, so no signing on or scrutineering, and members can enter any road-going car they wish. The advantage to us is that this event can run with fewer marshals (provided by Prescott), and minimum medical support (a major cost for our events). No spectators will be permitted but entries can bring a guest with them. It is not expected that catering or hospitality facilities will be available. We are still negotiating with BOC, but we expect to be able to offer unlimited drives for a fixed fee.
We are also intending to run a track day on the long course on 26th September, to the identical format, although, if rules are further loosened sufficiently in the meantime, we make take the chance to re-visit that day’s format.
Finally on hill climbs, we are hoping that we might be able to run 2 conventional, competitive events at Loton Park on 12th & 13th September. Unlike Prescott, Loton does not attract spectators in large numbers but crucially is on a larger footprint, enabling everyone to keep a respectful distance from one another, be they competitors in the paddock, spectators on the hill, or campers around the site. We cannot make any firm commitment on this yet, as the Hagley & District Light Car Club who operate the hill, are still considering the guidance before making any decisions. But, if we get a green light from them, we will attempt to run Loton in as normal a format as possible.
Next, circuit racing. Sadly, there is just one event left in the calendar, Mallory Park on 23rd August. Obviously, we have taken soundings from the Race Sub-Committee, whose early feedback indicated lukewarm interest from competitors. Further consultation is taking place and we are in discussion with the circuit. If a conventional race meeting is not possible, we will explore the options of using the track in a different format, e.g. track day.
There is one other iconic event that takes place in 2020, one that always attracts a full entry, numerous spectators, requires a huge number of marshals, and is characterised by large groups of people coming together in close proximity to create a unique social occasion. The Welsh Trial. We have spoken to the Trials Sub-Committee and importantly to the local organisers who are in contact with the town council, and have made the regrettable decision to cancel this event. More than any other type of competition, the rules for Trials marshals are the most challenging for us (how can you run a hill if marshals are not allowed to touch cars?), and the uncertainty of the rules with regard to multiple numbers of people in cars from different households has also not been clarified. Add to this, our reliance on numerous local families to welcome competitors and marshals into their homes, and regrettably it became clear that the event unviable.
In addition to our own events, many members would have planned to compete at Shelsley, and also Castle Combe. We are in contact with the organisers of both of these events, and await their advice on how they will respond to the guidelines.
I realise that this will be disappointing news to our committed racers. We’re not trying to stop people having fun by being over-cautious, but neither will we take risks with members’ well-being, the Club’s finances, or its reputation. Our competition programme is a source of fun for us all, competitors, volunteers and spectators, and my concern was that this was at severe risk if we run events as soon as we are able without taking all considerations into account. We should not be running compromised events, let alone ones that cause anxiety or generate risk among those attending. By choosing to wait, we can return to running the type of event we all love without uncertainty.
I am very grateful to those from all sides of the argument for sharing their thoughts with me. If any of you wish to comment on these details, please get in touch with me direct.