OK, this bloody COVID-19 thing is now personal!

No, I don’t mean I’ve contracted the so-called Coronavirus.

What I do mean is that this was the year I was finally going to get to the spiritual home of drifting, the Ebisu in northern Japan. Yet with the rapidly escalating seriousness of the situation both here at home and in Japan I’ve reluctantly had to put my travel plans on hold.

I had been squirrelling away the odd dollar here and odd dollar there for the past – what? – five years. Plus I had also put in an elaborate plan re my ‘proper job’ (editing NZ4WD magazine) to jemmy open a 10-day ‘window-of-opportunity’ in April (after Easter and the week before the Virgin Australia Supercar championship round at Hampton Downs) where I, 1) would not be missed, and 2) could keep up with all the last minute minutiae an editor always seems to have to make ‘life or death’ calls on, via the new remote access package the magazine’s publisher, Cathy Parker has had us using for the past six months.

In theory I was going to tag along on one of local drift entrepreneur Sky Zhou’s Drift Academy Japan trips – and up until, say, just shy of three weeks ago, all I had to do was find another $2.5K plus about $1K-and-a-bit for the airfare Auckland-Tokyo return and I was going to be on my way.

Then, one morning, my wife Delia looked up from ‘The Herald’ newspaper she was reading and asked; ‘When are you supposed to be going to Japan?

“Mid-April,” I said, before realising how close that had suddenly become.

“Where exactly in Japan?” was her next question……before we both sort of looked at each other and something unspoken passed between us.

“I think you better talk to Sky,” she said before her nose – and with it her attention – returned to whatever she had been reading….

Of course, I can re-book and do the trip later in the year or even the same time next year.

I raise it here though, because, as I say in the headline, like many of you – those for instance who crossed the Tasman for the Aussie GP meeting last weekend, and got to wander around downtown Melbourne instead for a couple of days before returning home – the Covid-19 virus is now no longer someone else’s problem, it’s personal, because its spread has had a direct effect on me…

The sheer speed with which ‘things’ are changing is also mind-boggling, the situation evolving literally in front of our eyes.

It was only last Thursday, for instance, that I flicked the TV on, caught up with the latest SkySpeed show then watched the first of what I thought was going to be a full weekend of Supercars action from the annual Aussie F1 GP meeting from Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.

Come Friday morning, however, and friends on Facebook alerted me to the fact that first the GP then the Supercars (and as it turned out) all the other support races I was keen on watching (the new S5000 single seaters, and TCR series in particular) looked like being – then subsequently were – cancelled…….

Since Friday, of course, the trickle had become a flood. Not only has Formula 1 canned the season-opener in Melbourne, they have also postponed the next three F1 races (in Bahrain, Vietnam and China) and stated that the 2020 season will now start with the revived Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix at the classic (but now thoroughly upgraded Zandvoort circuit) over the May 02-03 weekend.

In theory the Virgin Australia Supercars series will continue in Tasmania in early April, then here at Hampton Downs later in the month (April 24-26) however in light of the actions of sports administrators across the world over the weekend a question mark must now hang over both.

Like F1, IndyCar not only canned its scheduled race meeting (at St Petersburg in Florida) this past weekend, it also summarily cancelled the next three (the GP of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, the Streets of Long Beach one in Los Angeles and the AutoNation one at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas) stating that the season will now kick off with the annual road course event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 09.

The Formula Drift series was also forced to cancel its upcoming opening 2020 series round (as well as the popular Invitational event the weekend after which Kiwi Carl Thompson had shipped a car over for) at Long Beach over the April 10-11 weekend when the city’s mayor announced that it was going to ban all gatherings of more than 250 people across the city through until the end of April.

This sort of unilateral reaction has been typical of politicians and elected civic leaders – and you have, I guess, to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Put yourself in their shoes, for instance, and would your decision be any different?

That said, some of the decisions across sports beggar belief; like that of the US’s National Basketball League to ‘suspend all games for at least 30 days’ because two players from one of the 30 teams tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

You have to feel for New Zealand’s NRL team, the Warriors, too, who – rather than having to work their way through or around the New Zealand and Australian Governments’ latest blanket 14-day self-isolation requirement for travellers entering either country – will base themselves on the Gold Coast for the next month at least.

While I – guess – I fully support the NZ Government’s decisions re limiting access at our borders while the numbers of those with ‘full-blown’ Coronavirus are so low (just 8 as of Monday morning) the cynic in me says that the numbers simply don’t stack up.

Again, as of Monday afternoon The NZ Herald website reported that though 6474 people had already died after contracting the virus, out of 167,907 cases reported 77,200 people had recovered.

That’s right…. Recovered, a word I have hardly heard mentioned in any reports in either the mass or social media.

But then I suppose words like ‘recovered,’ ‘got better’ and ‘gone back to work’ don’t have the same frisson of ‘click-bait’ appeal as ‘pandemic’ and ‘multiple deaths.’

The Drift Academy at Ebisu

Despite that the fact that close to half the people who have already contracted the Covid-19 virus have recovered from it BEFORE a dedicated antidote has been developed and fast-tracked into use tells me that…………..if we all act responsibly, limit our close physical contact with each other and generally ramp up our personal hygiene regimes (which sounds silly but I know I’m now sneezing into the crook of my arm not my hand, plus I am washing my hands a hell of a lot more than I did even a week ago) we can actually work our way through this whole scary bloody situation and come out the other side.

And believe me, when we do, I’ll be on the next flight to Tokyo then Bullet Train north to Ebisu!

Ross MacKay

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines a day job editing NZ4WD magazine with contract media work, weekend Mountain Bike missions and towing his 1989 Nissan Skyline drifter to grassroots meetings around the North Island.

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