An on-line press conference was held earlier today with members of the media, Motorcycling Australia CEO Peter Doyle and ASBK Sporting Director Simon Maas, discussing the latest developments and challenges being negotiated in an effort to run a successful 2020 Mi-Bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Champioship.
Obviously a lot of the conversation surrounded the current difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures that will be in place in regards to numbers control etc. for the recommencement of ASBK with a two-day race meeting to be staged at Phillip Island with no spectators at the end of July.
Riders will be limited in regards to how many people will be able to work with them over the weekend. Superbike riders will be allowed four team personnel, Supersport three and some of the other categories will be limited to only two.
Pit garage entry will also have to be limited. If ten people are in a pit garage, and the garages at Phillip Island measure roughly 40 squre-metres, then one person will have to exit before another can enter to maintain protocol.
M.A. have advised the tyre services attending the round that they will have to give some thought to the way they set-up their tyre-changing areas and interact with customers.
M.A. will also reduce the numbers of their own personnel at the track working in race direction and will stage the traditional mandatory rider’s briefing by video link. Many other discussions over the weekend amongst M.A. personnel will also be conducted on-line.
I asked if the new outbreaks of community transmission in some areas of Melbourne had put the Phillip Island round of the championship in doubt at all.
M.A. indicated that they continue to monitor the situation in Victoria on a day-by-day basis but their latest advice from the Victorian Government, received this week, was that authorities are still comfortable with the event going ahead and that planning should continue for the event. M.A. indicated that a final call will be made by July 1st and also highlighted that Phillip Island is not one of the areas identified as a hot-spot.
I also asked if Queensland based riders would be required to self-isolate on arrival back in to QLD after the Phillip Island round and M.A. advised that after consulting with the Queensland Government, assuming they do not enter any of the officially recognised infection hot-spots in metropolitan Melbourne, they will not be required to enter any 14-day quarantine period when returning to QLD after the event. There is an existing exemption area around Tullamarine Airport thus Queenslanders will be free to fly in, pick up a rental car and drive directly to Phillip Island without breaching protocols.
ASBK is scheduled to go to Winton on the weekend of September 13th with the hope that spectators will be permitted at that event. A final decision on spectator attendance is to be made on September 1. The fact that Winton allows people to drive their cars to certain viewing spots, where they could potentially remain within their vehicles in a drive-in theatre style scenario, was highlighted along with the wide expanse of viewing areas that the circuit affords, that will in-turn help social-distancing protocols to be easily maintained.
M.A. also highlighted to some of the Central Victorian mainstream media participating in today’s conference the economic benefits that an ASBK round brings to the Benalla, Wangaratta and Shepparton regions. People coming from all over Australia to their area and staying in the locale for days, filling their pubs and restaurants and spending money at various retailers while attending the ASBK round.
Wakefield Park is then scheduled to host round four in mid-October while round five is still up in the air at the moment due to the extra restrictions in Queensland.
M.A. indicated that the smaller and more crowded pit areas at Morgan Park present a significant extra challenge in trying to meet social distancing protocols.
The pit areas at Morgan Park are all open without any walled pit garages. Unlike Phillip Island or Winton, where those physical barriers will help organisers create social distancing parameters and zones, the open lay-out of the Queensland circuit makes achieving the required social distance practices incredibly complicated. For now M.A. have been unable to reach a satisfactory solution that will meet those guide-lines.
Queensland Sport have told M.A. that those guidelines will change over the next few months as restrictions likely ease, but at the current moment it is just not practical to confirm the event there. M.A. indicated that if the situation comes about where Morgan Park can not prove viable, they do have alternative venues that can possibly host that fifth round of the ASBK Championship. This would likely involve one of the other circuits already scheduled on the calendar potentially hosting an extra round of the series.
The finale is slated for the weekend of November 22 at the expansive new Bend Motorsports Park in South Australia where all race categories will have their championships decided.
While personally I have no particular preference or barrow to push for a summer series, I did bring up the question of how seriously a switch to a summer schedule was considered when M.A. were going through the whole COVID-19 saga of shifting dates and trying to make a calendar work. And asked them what prevented them from making that leap to a summer series? I know riders are generally contracted to a certain date, but in reality there are only a few ‘contracted’ riders in our series, thus I asked if that really was much of a problem that people could not work around easily enough?
Both Peter Doyle and Simon Maas indicated that the rider contracts are one area that are an issue, the other issue is the commercial partners and the way those budgets are set in relation to their agreements with Motorcycling Australia and ASBK, and with their own race teams. They also indicated that while there is some support for a summer series concept, there is perhaps not as much support as most people might expect, and that some of the larger teams in particular were not at all receptive to the idea of a switch to a more summer oriented calendar.
Well there you have it boys and girls, an up to the minute situation report on how the troubled waters are currently being navigated. Unless we have some very serious escalations and developments in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, I think we can look forward to a very interesting 2020 season of the Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship.
2020 mi-bike ASBK Calendar
- Round One – Phillip Island, VIC – March 1
- Round Two – Phillip Island, VIC – July 25-26 (Two Days)
- Round Three – Winton, VIC – September 11-13
- Round Four – Wakefield Park, NSW – October 16-18
- Round Five – TBC
- Round Six – The Bend, SA – November 20-22
2020 mi-bike Australian Superbike Championship Points
- Wayne Maxwell 76
- Cru Halliday 60
- Josh Waters 51
- Bryan Staring 49
- Troy Herfoss 48
- Daniel Falzon 41
- Arthur Sissis 37
- Mike Jones 35
- Jed Metcher 33
- Glenn Allerton 31
- Linden Magee 25
- Matt Walters 24
- Max Croker 23
- Aiden Wagner 22
- Sloan Frost 21
- Beau Beaton 17
- Glenn Scott 16
- Brendan McIntyre 14
- Josh Hayes 11
- Matthew Tooley 5