UK rallying goes solo amid Covid-19

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

It’s frustrating to be continually banging on about the COVID-19 pandemic and its affect on motorsport as we know it, but unfortunately that’s the world we’re living in.

New Zealand has already taken the dramatic decision to cancel the national rally championship for the 2020 season, but over in the United Kingdom, they’ve taken even more drastic action.

For the foreseeable future, co-drivers in rallies have been banned, in order for any events due to run to adhere to strict social distances regulations.

“It is unlikely that vehicle sharing, passengers or co-drivers will be permitted while social distancing is to be respected,” a Motorsport UK document titled ‘Getting Back On Track’ explained.

Of course, the UK have been in much more trouble than New Zealand in terms of the number of Coronavirus cases and deaths, so the ban is not surprising.

In Australia, co-drivers will be allowed, enabling rallies to be up and running again, it is planned, in early July.

“Where a co-driver is required, we will ensure event organisers put in place various risk mitigation strategies, which will include temperature checks and of course ensuring that if anyone has any symptoms they are not to attend an event,” Motorsport Australia’s Michael Smith, Director of Motorsport & Commercial Operations, said.

“Based on the expert medical advice we have received, and given the low number of cases in Australia, the risk of transmission of the virus between a driver and co-driver is very low.”

Closer to home, Motorsport New Zealand is still working on their ‘Restarting Motorsport’ plan, which is hoped to be available in the coming days.

The plan will include a toolkit for event organisers to ensure events will be compliant with government regulations, and include items such as signage, venue plans, emergency response plans, checklists and general health guidelines.

How that affects rallying across the country remains to be seen, although common sense would dictate that New Zealand’s regulations would be similar to those in Australia.

Already there are a number of events planned in the South Island in the second half of 2020, and momentum is gathering on the North Island, particularly around an alternative rally championship run under the auspices of the Australian Auto Sport Alliance (AASA).

That championship is believed to well into the planning stages, and could feature four events, including qualifying rounds on the first and last day of the Silver Fern Rally in November.

So, despite the continued doom and gloom surrounding us, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just how long the tunnel is that we don’t yet know the answer to.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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