The COVID-19 Corona virus has decimated economies and killed thousands of people globally. It’s changed the way we, as a society, will go about many aspects of life.
In Australia, we’ve been very fortunate to have a relatively small death toll compared to other countries. Let’s hope and work towards keeping it that way.
Like everywhere, however, karting has been put on hold. Here’s a quick summary of how we got to this point, the current situation, and where we’re going, as karters start to warm up those engines for a return to the track.
A note to our international readers – karting in this country is governed by several sanctioning bodies. Karting Australia is the body with the FIA affiliation. Our Federal Government creates laws and guidelines for the nation, however individual State Governments can also create their own. As such, kart clubs can be guided by their (karting) governing body, but ultimately it’s the state laws that will determine what they can and can’t do. For example, as at the date this is written, you could have a small group of people at an outdoor venue without issue in one state, but step over the border and you’ll be facing thousands of dollars of fines.
Early March, and particularly the week leading up to the Australian Grand Prix, is when Corona virus mania really gained momentum.
13 March – The AGP was cancelled and team members of McLaren tested positive for COVID-19. The opening round of the Rotax Pro Tour was set to go ahead in Melbourne the following weekend.
16 March – IKD announced the Pro Tour opener would not go ahead. With drivers entered from overseas, some interstate teams expressing a reluctance to travel to Victoria, and the uncertainty surrounding potential lockdowns, the event became unworkable.
17 March – Karting Victoria cancels all racing in the state. A couple of other states follow suit in the following days.
20 March – AIDKA announce all its events are cancelled, all the way through to May 18.
25 March – Karting Australia pull all event permits. KA clubs had the power to determine use of their venue (ie, private practice) based on their state’s government regulations. Several non-KA circuits continued to operate.
28 March – All karting venues are closed based on Federal and State Government lockdown rules.
Industry – the karting industry has suffered a major setback. A number of kart shops are still officially trading, but usually on reduced hours or on specific days, or by appointment only. A couple even diversified for a short time into building and selling sim racing equipment! While retailing of consumables has been sluggish, karters using the downtime to rebuild karts, upgrade equipment or just doing race prep for when they can get back on track has at least enabled a small amount of trade.
Clubs – With no events, there’s no income from entry fees or canteen takings. It’s now become pretty much standard fare that competitor licences and club memberships have been extended by 3 months. Despite the closures, limited numbers are permitted on-site for maintenance and some clubs (eg, Oakleigh) have used the downtime for more significant works.
Sim Racing – a lot of karters already raced online, but sim racing has boomed in the past few months. eSeries are on offer everywhere, from local kart club level to the Rotax Sim Challenge. Unlike real racing, location is not a barrier; karters are now racing other karters who reside in other states and countries that they would previously have never encountered. However, boys and girls, keep in mind, it’s not real :p
The Organising Bodies – They’ve been kept busy drafting documentation and guidelines for clubs and their members to follow when they’re allowed back at the track. The opportunity has also been taken to recruit, train and upskill officials to be ready to go when events recommence. An on-going task is the scheduling of events for the back half of the year and balancing what the industry wants with what karters can physically do – from a time frame, travel and money perspective.
Getting Back to Racing
Karting Australia has a 5-stage plan (summarized below. More on that plan HERE):
- Small scale social karting (May)
- Larger scale social (June)
- Club level competition (July)
- Zonal/state level (Aug)
- National/interstate level (Sep).
KA has lots of protocols in place for clubs and participants to follow regarding registering travel & attendance to track social contact, social distancing, personal hygiene etc
State by State
National Cabinet is set to meet today, so this could become out of date very quickly:
- NT – Set to re-open and go back racing after May 15
- VIC – Current stage 3 lockdown remains. No gatherings, so no karting.
- NSW/ACT – Some restrictions lifted on May 1 allowing limited numbers of people to meet but tracks still closed. (KNSW guidelines HERE)
- SA – allowed to have 10 people in a gathering (social distancing must be respected) and motorsport is specifically permitted. Go Kart Club of SA had a small number of drivers on track last weekend at Monarto and Superkarts have been running at The Bend. Pre-entry is available for some events on KA’s CMS.
- WA – From 27 April non-work gatherings of up to 10 people are ok. No sharing of equipment. Pre-entry is available for some events on KA’s CMS.
- QLD – end of April, private coaching sessions at Ipswich for locals. May 2, Queenslanders allowed to travel up to 50km radius from home, outings limited to members of the same household +1 (have heard of a rental kart centre that, while not open to the public, are taking bookings for when it’s just members of the same family at the venue).
- TAS – all karting/practice still ceased. No racing until at least June 30
** this is a fluid situation; errors & omissions possible