A road paved with worries

Anxiety is running deep in the Malaysian motorsports community as they have no clue whether racing events will be allowed after the Movement Control Order (MCO) is lifted.

The Health Ministry recently indicated that they would prefer a ban on all events and mass gatherings for six months to a year after the MCO to control the spread of Covid-19.

The motorsports community, however, hope that if there are restrictions, racing events will still be allowed behind closed doors as the livelihoods of about 3,000 people in the industry could be affected.

They fear the industry would collapse if motorsport events are not resumed soon.

Safe Aim Mutual director Ron Hogg, whose company promotes the Malaysian Cub Prix Championship, Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF) series principal Adian Yein Khalid and former Formula One driver Alex Yoong held a joint virtual press conference to highlight the plight of the local motorsports industry recently.

Ron said allowing races to resume after the MCO will enable organisers and teams to fulfil their sponsorship obligations and help the support staff such as contract workers to make a living.

“Our concern is what will happen after the MCO. From what we understand, the Health Ministry has indicated that mass gatherings and events may not be allowed for a period of six to 12 months,” said Ron.

“The grassroots community does not get any direct financial support from the government as opposed to sports such as badminton and football.

“We rely on sponsors and if we are not able to fulfil our obligations to them, it will be difficult for us.

“At the moment, our sponsors are still with us, but this may not be the case if we are not allowed to race after the MCO.

“For Cub Prix, there are almost 3,000 people, whether directly or indirectly, who are involved.”

Adian said the motorsports community is only asking for a leeway to hold races, not financial aid from the government, and they would be happy to do the races behind closed doors.

If behind closed doors, up to 1,000 people will be involved in each race, comprising riders, team mechanics, officials, and race control marshals.

“Motorsports have often been seen as a rich man’s sport but that is not the case. Thousands of people are involved in the industry locally, and none are millionaires,” said Adian.

“It is a sport but there is also the manufacturing, technology and engineering that support it.

“We (local motorsports community) are not asking for money. We just want someone (the authorities) to look into motorsports specifically so that events can run behind closed doors and the industry can be sustained.

“There may be up to 1,000 people involved per race, but it is not like we are having the events in a small hall.

“For example, the Sepang Circuit, I believe, is about 200 acres (in size), so it is possible to practise social distancing.”

All local races, including national-level events such as the Cub Prix, Malaysia Superbike Championship, MSF and Malaysia Championship Series have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sepang International Circuit (SIC) will hold discussions with the Health Ministry if sporting events are banned for six months or more after the MCO.

SIC chief executive officer Azhan Shafriman Hanif said: “We are looking at several scenarios at the moment. If races cannot be held at SIC, we will have to look at other options.

“We will discuss with the Health Ministry on how we can do races behind closed doors. If this happens, fans can watch races via live streams.

“Or, we could also do smaller-scale events and put social distancing measures in place.

“For example, we could space out the spectators to ensure that we adhere to social distancing requirements.”

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