Professional Motorsports vs Grassroots Motorsports

In March, the Ontario government pulled the ’emergency brake’ forcing many businesses and recreational activities to suspend operations to arrest the spread of ‘the virus‘. The regulations required “motorsports” to close during the shutdown, along with amusement parks and zoos. Preventing spectators from packing the bleachers at the Saturday night stock car race might prevent community spread. But shutting down motor racing while allowing snowmobilers on trails and cyclists on BMX tracks doesn’t make sense.

In April, when Premier Ford issued a ‘stay-at-home’ order, recreational facilities from golf courses to baseball diamonds were closed too. But in a couple of weeks, the restrictions will end and Ontario regions will return to the province’s confusing “colour-coded” public health zones. What will be open, closed, and where do ‘motorsports’ fit in?

Pinnacle Advanced Driving Academy has launched an online petition, asking the province to differentiate between ‘professional‘ and ‘grassroots‘ motorsports, hoping the events that most amateur racers take part in will be permitted this summer.

Pinnacle president Colin Caissie speculates:

The term “Motorsports” is used as a blanket statement with no clear guidance as to what is actually defined as motorsports.  Motorsports, as a whole, comes in many different forms ranging from professional motorsports with large crews to grassroots motorsports where an individual shows up with their own car at a local outdoor venue.  We are petitioning as the latter.

Professional motorsports definition:

– Drivers and teams participate in motorsports with it being their primary source of income.
– Large sums of income are earned from winning events, salaries and bonuses paid by team owners and sponsor contracts.
– Professionals participate in motorsports as a career and a way to earn income.

Grassroots motorsports definition:

– Drivers and teams operate at a financial loss and have to fund their own activities out of pocket.
– Participants can source assistance from sponsors to help offset some of their personal costs to participate in motorsports events.
– Grassroots participants utilize motorsports as a hobby and social outlet. 

Pinnacle’s point is that grassroots motorsports activities are held at large outdoor spaces making social distancing very easy, and the number of participants can be capped at a low number. Since the majority of the time at the track is spent alone in a vehicle, the only time people have to gather in a group is for the driver’s meeting. These can be held outside, where drivers continue to practice social distancing and are required to wear PPE.

Colin Cassie makes a lot of sense. Pinnacle’s petition on change.org theorizes that regulations will soon allow “outdoor recreational amenities” to be open so long as a distance at least 2m between participants can be maintained, and since motorsports can easily accommodate these regulations, therefore, grassroots motorsports should be included as “outdoor recreational amenity” by nature of the similarities in the events and venues.

In the coming days and weeks, decisions will be made about whether the Formula 1 race in Montreal, and the IndyCar race in Toronto, will go ahead as planned. It will be very interesting to see if regulations treat ‘professional motorsports‘ and ‘grassroots motorsports‘ differently.

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