Racers react to COVID-19 shutdownFriday, April 10, 2020
By Rory Daley
THIS year's motorsports season as been suspended until May 31 by local governing body, Jamaica Millennium Motoring Club, due to efforts to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine reached out to four drivers: Douglas Gore; Lee Vaz; Kyle Gregg; and Christopher McFarlane, to find out how they were dealing with the unceremonious break.
For Gregg, the season was off to a good start securing driver's championship points in the Drivers Rallysport Club's Sprint one in Clarendon on March 8, and purchasing a new car for circuit racing.
“I was looking forward to the season debuting with the new car and I'm sure the fans were too. We had even rushed the car to get it here, so I could have sufficient practice time before the start of the season,” Gregg said.
His new car, a Radical RXC Spyder, replaces his Radical RXC.
“The car is the same set-up as the last Radical, but lighter and better aerodynamics.”
Gregg is working with his team to do whatever they can within the current limitations to ensure that when they hit the track they'll be fast and reliable. He hopes the season restarts in July, but until then he's been delving into the virtual world to keep his skills sharp.
“For now, I'm just keeping fit. In terms of keeping my skills sharp, I have purchased a sim-racing set-up so I can practice at home,” Gregg explained.
He plans to use the sim games, Dirt Rally and iRacing, and may even enter many of the professional online leagues that have popped up during this worldwide motorsports hiatus.
Dexterity & Rally driver
The year 2020 began strong for Lee Vaz. His last event was the Drivers Rallysport Club's Sprint one in Clarendon on March 8, in which he secured maximum championship points.
Having secured a new rally car mid-2019, he's been trying to get as much seat time as possible to keep up with his rallying rivals. Of course, COVID-19 stalled his plans.
“Our plans were to test and dial in some of the equipment. We are not feeling super comfortable with current settings. We wanted to rewrap the car, but due to COVID-19, we are not currently doing anything on the car.”
Plans outside the car were affected too.
“COVID-19 has really shaken up things. Especially with sponsors or potential sponsors. That has affected our plans and temporary growth. Everything is on pause,” Vaz explained.
Still he's optimistic about the 2020 season.
“That itch to drive is always there. I'm sure lots of drivers are eager to get back in their cars.”
To scratch that itch and stay within the social distancing requirements, Vaz has turned to two wheels.
“Right now I'm trying to stay fit, exercising up and down my driveway. I do a little trial riding in the hills when possible.”
He hasn't jumped into the virtual world as yet.
“I had a driving simulator, but it broke. I think it's dead, so I'll have to invest in a new one,” Vaz laughed.
He's also been encouraging everyone to stay safe, healthy and clean through social media and other methods of communication.
This year was supposed to be a landmark year for Doug Gore, the 53-year-old racing legend expected to celebrate 25 years of continuous involvement in motorsports. However, the current moratorium and potential cancellation of the local motorsports season, threatens that milestone.
More importantly, he had significant plans which have been both helped and hindered by the break. Last year, he sent the Kia Rio race car to Sweden to be sorted out by Europe's top Rallycross team, OMSE.
“Actually, the situation hasn't been too bad, really, as it's given me more time with the car,” said Gore.
The car received major fixes and upgrades while away and is due back in the island on April 10.
“We should have the car cleared next week and then we are going to do our social distancing testing,” Gore joked.
His expectations are high should the circuit racing season restart. In the meantime, Gore has been keeping sharp and working with son, Tommi, who made his circuit racing debut last year.
“I think a lot about the track, watch old videos. We will all be at a small disadvantage come the first meet, but we also will have lots of time to practice too. So we should be Ok,” he said.
As for Tommi.
“Yes we have done lots of testing with Tommi and continue to do more. We are very happy with the way he has transitioned into circuit racing and I think he is going to be an absolute force to be reckoned with,” said the proud father.
2019 Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Autocross champion
McFarlane may not race in Jamaica anymore, but that hasn't stopped his winning ways as in 2019, he secured his fifth-successive BRC Autocross championship title. He was making the transition to the faster Rallysport genres in the regional BimmerCup Championship when his season was halted.
“After a great start to the year in February with three amazing weekend on track, karting here in Barbados, Antigua in the BimmerCup Caribbean RallySprint & RallyCross Championship, and a great opening round defence of the Barbados AutoCross Championship, I had plenty racing recently to keep me going for another couple weeks,” McFarlane said.
While McFarlane was happy for the downtime, motorsports hasn't left his blood yet.
“The downtime is good to recharge with family, but for the mental prep I've been editing a full-feature video on the Antigua weekend and the Autocross here, and just reviewing tape. I'm already seconds faster, as I'm picking up where I can make small changes in my style and car set-up which would be worth seconds on the track,” he explained.
He's also been doing plenty busy during the quarantine dealing with the BimmerCup, his own BRC car and keeping an eye on his rivals like Geoffrey Ullyett.
“I am working remotely to improve the car I drove in Antigua, a rented BMW, with the upgrades the others had. Despite being 4th-6th fastest as a rookie over both days, it is still 4th-6th fastest, meaning not fastest. Suspension upgrade, rear diff, and rear ratio are on the cards, plus some TLC. Would love to be there, so will fly up for a weekend once this pandemic passes. My Evolution X just needs to be washed and gassed, she is always ready,” he said.
Sitting fifth in the BimmerCup Championship, McFarlane doesn't want 2020 to be junked as the next round was scheduled for St Vincent later in the year.
“I am hoping the season continues as I can better these results in the remaining rounds and the series allows one dropped event, so if dropping this event is an option. I'm hoping for it. The season needs to come back on time.”
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