Motor Sport in the Time of Covid-19
by Armando L. Eduque
AAP Trustee and Chairman, AAP Motor Sport Committee
In September 2019, rumors began to circulate about a viral outbreak in China. In the ensuing three months, the rumors became reality. Wuhan was identified as the source of a new virus, named Covid-19, which then began to spread rapidly to the four corners of the planet. The Philippines was not spared. In January 2020, the first cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in the country, multiplying thereafter by leaps and bounds. The government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) responded by placing the country under lockdown. Hitherto normal activity ceased, including sports events, among them motorsport.
In March, with the National Capital Region (NCR) under the strictest lockdown classification (ECQ), AAP advised its accredited motor sport organizers to suspend all previously calendared events until further notice. The same thing was happening to all motor sport events worldwide under the FIA umbrella. In the absence of physical motor sport events, the FIA urged its ASNs, including AAP, to promote digital motorsport as a possible temporary substitute.
In early June, AAP received a compilation of guidelines, mitigation and risk planning issued by the FIA titled “Return to Motorsports”, which the FIA had created as a guide for its ASNs on how to conduct motor sport events under Covid-19 pandemic conditions to ensure safety for all participants. Using the guidelines suggested by FIA, AAP wrote to the IATF on June 8, requesting their permission to resume the holding of motor sport events in the country, emphasizing that motor sport is a non-contact sport held outdoors and therefore a low-risk sport infection-wise. We also attached our own suggested Covid-19 safety protocol, modified to suit local sporting events, drawing largely from FIA’s Return to Motor Sports, which the FIA was also beginning to implement for its own resumption of Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship.
Shortly thereafter, on June 13, AAP informed its organizers of AAP’s plan to resume motor sport in order to acquaint and forewarn them of the safe practices AAP would require them to impose on their events when these would finally be allowed to resume by the IATF. These included, among others, the wearing of face masks and shields, social distancing, no spectators during events, and possible Covid-19 virus testing. In addition, an AAP-appointed Covid-19 observer would be required in every event to ensure compliance with AAP’s protocol.
In September, GAB-PSC-DOH published a joint JAO on the holding of sports events in the country under lockdown conditions, which banned the holding of non-professional sporting events, including motor sport, for the duration of the lockdown. In keeping with this, AAP informed its organizers in November that AAP would not sanction any events until this ban was lifted. In a letter dated December 11, GAB-PSC-DOH replied to AAP’s letter to IATF to reiterate that their policy earlier contained in their September JAO had not changed. AAP has since been urging its organizers and competitors to strictly comply with this policy of not holding competitive events so that motor sport can be seen always in support of government’s efforts to defeat Covid-19.
(Published at the AAP Supplement in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 12, 2021)