A new normal (to look forward to) after the current ‘new normal’

So, how was your first week ‘self-isolating’ under the ‘new-normal’ of the Government’s (in any other time or circumstance) draconian stay-at-home anti-COVID-19 (Coronavirus) legislation?

Odd? Scary? Confusing? Or a weird kind of combination of all three?

A lot – an incredible lot if you stop and think about it – has actually happened in the past two weeks. It was only 14 days ago, after-all, that I wrote about how pissed off I was about COVID-19 putting the kybosh on my plan to travel to Japan. And only seven days since I was telling you how I was quite happy taking the risk of heading down to Hampton Downs to report on the (since postponed) Legends of Speed meeting.

If nothing else these 14 days – but in particular the past 7 – have taught me how quickly a ‘situation’ – and how I look at it/deal with it – can change.

With the number of people both catching – including politicians like British PM Boris Johnson,  and even the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles – and dying (on Monday morning as I wrote this the global death toll was 33,900 from a total confirmed number of cases of over 720,000 in 199 countries, the shit, as they say, has got real.

Which is why – right now – I’m actually quite happy self-isolating; for as long as it takes, too.

Because?

Because you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to cotton on to the fact that here as well as around the world ‘things’ are 1) going to get worse before they get better, and 2) if our self-isolating strategy is to have any real effect in ‘flattening the curve’ it is going to have to go on (a lot?) longer than another three weeks.

That means – and please I’m only guessing here – at least another two to four weeks (on top of the current four) in total lock-down mode.

This, obviously, continues to mean our borders,  but also our ‘stay-at-home-and-isolate’ yourself Level 4 state of emergency whereby schools, unis and all major public gatherings are all closed/postponed/cancelled and/or otherwise off-limits and there are strict limits on socialising outside your immediate family circle (or ‘bubble’).

All unprecedented in my time here on Planet Earth, though bar the usual whining/bitching/moaning on social media most of us seem to have accepted what after-all is an incredible attack on our rights as individuals for ‘the greater good.’

One of the main reasons for this, I think, is the sheer humanity displayed by our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Like her of loath her – or her party – you can’t deny (OK you can if you want to be obtuse) that she has handled the role of ‘leader-in-the-time-of-crisis’ so well you’d think it was her destiny.

Compare her assured performance on TV every day and night with that of US leader Donald Trump, and, well, is it any wonder all these billionaires are – apparently – eyeing up moving here?

But that’s (more than) enough of my musings on the state of politics here and around the world in this time of COVET-19.

Because I am still nominally working (from my own little bubble at home) I am not exactly short of things to occupy my time. However, I have already found myself daydreaming about what life will be like once a vaccine has been found/produced/distributed, and we can all get back to some sort of semblance of the lives we led before.

Of course, racing – and specifically the local scene – is never far from my thoughts so this is how I would like to see things ‘shake-out’ in a post-COVID-19 world!

1/ We desperately need a high-profile, multi-round ‘national motor racing championship’ which lasts the best part of six months and can be promoted as our premium national series. For the sake of clarity, we will call it the Castrol Toyota Gazoo NZ Super Series.

2/ This Super Series should be just that, the pinnacle series for our best – categories, teams, drivers etc – to aspire to. Only professionally managed and run categories would get a place on the programme with the mix carefully curated to guarantee big fields of closely-running, fast and exciting cars driven by a mix of lean, hungry kids fresh out of karts, established stars at the height of their powers, plus the odd vet class competitor who either has the ability of a Shane Van Gisbergen or financial backing of a Tony Quinn!

3/ Class-wise our NZ Super Series MUST have a single-seater category at its pinnacle. Why? It just does OK! What that pinnacle class does NOT have to be, however, is petrol-powered! Sure, the way I see it there would be room within the Super Series’ calendar for a five-week ‘high-summer’ international component to allow the Castrol Toyota Gazoo Racing Series to do what it has done best for the past 10-12 years; which is provide a pressure cooker environment for the world’s best young drivers to either get a taste for, or hone their fledgling skills in equal cars on circuits most have never seen before.

4/ That however doesn’t stop Toyota using it to prototype a new all-electric or hydrogen (or whatever) powered car (FT-80?). Or us kicking off our Castrol Toyota Gazoo Super Series (over Labour Weekend, say) with our own ‘mixed-race’ Toyota Signature Approved Used Cars ‘Rising Star’ series using the older FT-50, FT-40 and – looking ahead a couple of years perhaps – FT-60 ‘petrol’ or ‘E85’ models.

5/ There must be at least 40 or 50 of these knocking round NZ right now and ready to be hauled back onto grids to act as a ‘taster’ for – and main support class at – some of the 5 or 6 rounds of the high-summer ‘international’ series-within-a-series.

6/ Each round of the full Castrol Toyota Gazoo Super Series – of course – needs a full complement of not only crowd-pleasing but crowd-thrilling support classes.

7/ Put THAT WAY none of our recent cluster of budget-based driver or car-builder-focused formulae are going to cut the mustard are they…Oh no. To get paying fans back through the gates we need a lead support category (I’m thinking tin-tops here) that is sketchy in the extreme. Either scary fast, scary loose, or just plain scary!

8/ If you scratch around there are plenty of options too…. it’s just they are currently operating across several different county, series and/or classes!

9/ Which is either a problem, or an opportunity. Because I’m still in day-dream mode I’ll choose to think of it as the latter and create a special – let’s call it an – Invitation Class; with sponsorship from the BNZ (because the ANZ sponsors every other bloody sport, and because the BNZ could do with the business of motor racing big wigs like Tony Quinn, Mike Pero, etc.

Earl Bamber (NZ), Mathieu Jaminet (F), Laurens Vanthoor (B), Daytona 2020

10/ To make this Invitation class special, let’s go international and invite Toyota and Red Bull to fly in one of their special new-gen Supras for ‘Young Nick’ Cassidy to drive. Porsche and one of its fastest rising young satellite teams, Earl Bamber Motorsport, would also get an invite to fly in one of their special GTLM ‘911s’ (or whatever it is they are called these days) for Earl or young bro’ Willie to drive. Finally, I’d also get on the phone to Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing to release our own Indianapolis 500 winner and multi-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon to drive a sprint-modded version of the company’s own current GT3 model, the – er – Ford GT.

11/ That’s not a bad line-up to start with, is it? And you could flesh it out so easily by also inviting the likes of the Collins’ family and their Roush-engined Ford Mustang, Simon Evans in the family’s hot-rodded Super Tourer and Nick Chester in his full-bodied and older-gen but equally brutally quick Holden Commodore. Hell, I’d even fire off an email to rally ace Haydon Paddon and invite him to join the fun with a hotted-up Hyundai TCR car. As I would to the likes of Chris van der Drift (now back living in NZ but still with excellent ties to the Carrera Cup Porsche and GT3 scenes in Asia), Tony and Klark Quinn, and young Tom (son of Stig) Blomqvist to see if he could convince BMW NZ to buy him a new DTM-spec M4 for use ‘at home’ in the 2020/21 European ‘off-season.’

12/ So that’s your stars ‘n cars sorted out. What about a ‘meat n’ potatoes’ tin-top class to take over the role of the late, (and at the time very well thought out) NZV8s category. As someone who used to lament the waste of talent from our karting ranks when the kids who could drive like angels but had neither the ambition or backing to head off overseas simply stopped racing and got jobs I’ve always thought we needed a kind of semi-professional category in which talented young blokes like Tim Edgell, and bloke-esses like Chelsea Herbert could establish home-based driving careers while still holding down some sort of ‘proper job’ for the other six months of the year. This is where I see that category fitting, the only question now, do we go with slick, modern turbocharged FWD hatchbacks (TCR), or the ‘better (I suppose) late-than-never TA2 V8s?

13/ My vote, in this case, would be to go with the TCR 2 litres. Not because I have any sort of vested financial interest, or because I ‘hate V8s.’ Both issues I’m sure will be raised by those who disagree with me. No. I base it on a gut feeling. For a start the ‘kids’ today are buying used Import VW Golfs and BMW 1 Series cars from Japan. Not dirty old V8s from the US of A. Also, If motorsport in the general sense of the sport is ever going to break out of its (in a lot of cases, self-made and self-perpetuating) media ghetto and into the ‘real-world’ of snap quotes and sound bites from media-savvy ‘athletes’ we are going to need a field of at least ‘part-time’ professionals who are available at short notice to be used as ‘talking heads’ by everyone from your local intern or cadet on the West County Bugle to Seven Sharp. If – for instance – we had Brendon Leitch and Jordan Michels in Invercargill, Damon Leitch and Andrew Waite in Queenstown/Cromwell, Jack Milligan and someone like the vastly experienced Matthew Hamilton in Christchurch, John McIntyre in Nelson plus others of their ilk across the North Island all ready and able for the six months from Labour Weekend to Easter to ‘Talk Motorsport’ I’m fairly sure some suitably aggressive PR person could double – triple even – the amount of print, radio and TV news time our sport gets at the moment……which is going to help rebuild faith amongst the fans and convince existing sponsors to stay, and new ones to join the show.

14/ Sure, at the end of the day if there was no such class as TCR, and if the BTCC was a shadow of its current self, you could do the same sort of thing with the TA2 class. But – again, my gut feeling, is the horse (or in the case of the Mustang, the Pony Car!!!!) has bolted.

15/ It’s not as if we are in some kind of Muscle Car desert down here at the bottom of the world either. Our own Enzed Central Muscle Car Series is if not a global at least an Australasian success story with the Mobil1 Mainland Muscle Car Series, the Auckland-based Marley Production Muscle Car Racing series and combined Historic Muscle Cars/Historic Saloon Cars series filling in any holes in car/driver/fan interest.

Angus Fogg action from Bathurst 2019

But that’s enough from me this week. Next Tuesday I’m going to lay out a cunning plan to give all the other classes a worthwhile incentive to sort their shit out and ‘adapt or die!’

In  the meantime, stay safe and stay strong.

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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