On the Pace
Diary of a Virus
28 February: The historic motor sport world is increasingly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, as more and more drastic measures are taken by governments to curb its spread.
Gatherings of 1000 people or more are banned in Switzerland, and The Ice event in St Moritz, due to run on February 29, is one of the first casualties, soon followed by the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show. It is a decision that clearly didn’t take into consideration the rule of unintended consequences. On the same weekend that the outdoor Ice concours was cancelled, those who would have been strolling on the frozen lake were instead packing themselves into crowded cable cabins and going up the mountain. A number of cars went out on the lake anyway.
March 5: Very sad news for Jeremy Welch and his daughter, Arabella, who arrived in Almeria Spain on March 5th to start the Panda raid to Morocco, an adventure they had been long looking forward to, only to be told that the Moroccan government had cancelled all sporting events for the month of March in Moroccan territory. The father-daughter team had to take the return flight home. The Sanremo Rally Storico (and the concurrent Coppa Fiori Regularity rally) is called off, as organisers try to schedule a later date. It was to be round two of the FIA Historic Rally Championship.
March 6: The Spanish Ministry of Health announced that it will allow the first round of the FIA Championship, the Rally Costa Brava, to go ahead on 13-14 March, but without its Italian entrants, who were asked to stay home. Shortly afterwards the Italians were put on lock down anyway.
March 9: HERO and the ERA rally organisations wrote to all participants to say that their insurance covers them for cancelled events and entrants need not worry about losing their entry fees should the worst happen. Tecno Classica Essen, the monster classic car show, is cancelled and along with it the RM and Coys auctions that were to take place there. There is talk of a summer date, anywhere from June to August, but nothing is confirmed.
March 8: It is announced that the Bahrain Grand Prix (20-22 March) will be run without spectators.
March 10: The first round of the Alfa Revival Cup series, which was due to run on 28-29 March, is cancelled (as are all sporting events in Italy). French organisers HVM wrote to all competitors to say that the Historic Tour at Albi is still scheduled to go ahead, as it will run on April 17, two days after the ban on gatherings in France is scheduled to be lifted.
March 11: HVM writes to competitors to say Albi is, after all, postponed until 17-19 July. The situation is fast moving. The Rally Clásico de Mallorca announced that the number of people in parc fermé will be limited to 700, meaning the usual crowds that come to see the cars will be restricted. Coys puts some of the cars it was to sell at Essen up for sale by private treaty, as sellers don’t want to wait - maybe something to do with the fact that the world’s stock markets are crashing.
March 12: Things speed up. All the social events surrounding the Rally de Mallorca are now cancelled. So the drivers’ briefing will be written and the starting ceremony will take place without spectators and of course there will be no prize giving ceremony, but trophies will be handed out as cars arrive in parc fermé. The sporting side of the rally that takes place on the road will run normally. Rally Costa Brava, with a record number of 165 entries from all around Europe, is cancelled after all, the day before it is due to start. The Australian Grand Prix is cancelled at the 11th hour. At 9pm the news came through from Peter Auto that the Tour Auto is postponed and will now take place on 31 August-5 September overlapping with the Historic GP Zandvoort weekend, and the Dix Mille Tour meeting, which was to take place on 3-5 April at Paul Ricard, is postponed until 24-26 July. The 26-29 March SVRA Speed Tour Meeting at Road Atlanta is to be run without spectators, and the popular pro-am Vintage Race of Champions is cancelled altogether. The British authorities announce that large gatherings and sporting events will not be curtailed in the UK, so there is still hope for the Goodwood Members’ Meeting. RM has changed their 20th March Palm Beach auction to online only. Many other auction houses have followed suit and have taken their auctions entirely online.
March 17: It’s official. Organisers could hold out no longer and the 78th Goodwood Members’ Meeting has been postponed, to when we don’t yet know.
March 18: Historic Motor Racing News goes to press as scheduled!
I started writing this on 28 February and that now seems like such a long time ago.
Since we went to press, the GP de Monaco Historique has been axed, along with all other race meetings and rallies in both hemispheres. Looks like the Rally de Mallorca, which we cover in our April issue, and which was cut short when a ban came in during its running, is the last motor sport event we will be able to report for some time. No one knows when it will all re-start. Keep yourselves safe. We will publish a revised calendar once the situation becomes a bit less fluid!