Recipe for Reopening Racing

Last year, avid racers Daniel Demaras and Jake Cowden were fortunate enough to take part in the NSM NASCAR test day at Shannonville Motorsports Park. At the racetrack that day was Cowden’s mom, Kerri Thompson (facing the car, below). Provincial restrictions due to the pandemic have prevented her son from racing this year. So Thompson took action by writing the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, and her effort was the subject of a recent Toronto Star article.

Her goal is to make sure that when outdoor amenities re-open, racing isn’t ignored. She believes that the science is clear: that playing sports, specifically outdoor sports, does not spread ‘the virus‘. Representatives of every sport believe that they can effectively protect competitors through social distancing and limiting the number of participants. But picking and choosing which activities are allowed and which are not is going to enrage many. So, Thompson’s recipe for safe reopening of sport (particularly motorsport) when the stay-at-home order is lifted does not pit golfers against racers.

  1. Open up sports, including practices and competition (games, races, tournaments) with no spectators.
  2. Include motorsports with all outdoor, individual, non-contact sports.
  3. Remove motorsport from the “Businesses not allowed to open” category.
  4. Determine a return to spectator protocol after participants, employees and related officials return to sports safely.

That third point, about certain businesses not been allowed to open during the pandemic, includes zoos, amusement parks, and movie theatres. These are places where large groups gather, without the ability to distance from one another. It might seem odd that racing would be included in this category, but the province is likely picturing spectators at the Honda Indy Toronto not the local go-kart track. Thompson wants that changed.

Similarly, a petition was organized by Pinnacle Advanced Driving Academy that asked the province to differentiate between grassroots motorsports and professional motorsports. The idea is simple; amateur or grassroots motorsports have small crews and spectators are not integral.

Today, the provincial government will present it’s latest ‘Re-Opening Ontario’ plan. Premier Ford has come under incredible pressure from Ontario voters and political opponents. It will be interesting to see if a logical, methodical approach will be implemented, or whether well funded lobby groups like the golf industry are allowed to open, while uncouth activities like racing are left on the back burner.

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