For the last 12 months, this coronavirus has refused to loosen its vice-like grip on the world’s population, surpassing worst-case scenario after worst-case scenario. As the death toll rises and PPE-deprived health services struggle to cope with the influx, we aim to answer the question on everyone’s lips; racing after COVID-19, what will it look like?
Remember when COVID-19 reared its ugly head back in early 2020? I don’t think many of us westerners took it too seriously, did we? We all thought it was going to be another one of those brief illnesses. The kind of thing that killed a few people, but doesn’t really affect us much. Not us over here in the super-sanitised, immunised-to-fuck, first world. For years, epidemiologists have been constantly banging on about the dangers of SARS, Ebola, the Zika virus, and Christ knows what else; none of which really managed to get a stranglehold on the globe in the way that they warned.
Our friend COVID-19 is a whole new kettle of fish though. Oh yes. Not only has it ripped the world apart health-wise, but economically too. Because of it, countless motorcycle events have already been delayed indefinitely, or just cancelled altogether. And now there’s a new strain of the deadly virus coursing through the veins of more and more people. The future of everyday life is about to change. Motorsport is about to change. Bike racing after COVID-19 is going to be almost unrecognisable.
Back in the late Middle Ages, the Bubonic Plague (or the Black Death, as it’s affectionately known) ravaged the world. It killed a third of the human population of Europe. But judging by the way things are currently going, C19 might be way worst. With that in mind, expect to see 40% to 50% of the human population wiped out, by the time the world has got its shit together and put a stop to the virus. That’s up to 50% of everyone; not just racers, but timekeepers, marshals, medics, mechanics and truck drivers. Not to mention grid girls who, thanks to their notorious inability to keep their hands to themselves, may well suffer the worst. Grids will suddenly be half empty. The racers that do survive the pandemic will have to retrain as truck drivers and mechanics if they want to continue racing after COVID-19.
And they’ll have to be ever so careful when actually racing because. With marshals and medics only manning half of the corners, they could be waiting for hours, or even days to be collected after a crash. And it may not take very long to succumb to your injuries. Imagine laying in the gravel with no assistance, unable to eat and drink. Before you know it, you might just find yourself adding to the COVID-19 statistics.
With the global economy in full scale melt-down, race team funding (as well as personal sponsorship deals) will be even harder to come by. Anyone lucky enough to be alive, but unlucky enough to follow any pro racers on any of their social media platforms, will be pummelled non-stop with even more shite than they are now, as they try and ram their sponsors logos down your throat to safeguard their one and only source of income. The internet will be on the verge of breakdown thanks to GoFundMe pages.
The lack of funding will also take its toll on the reliability of the bikes. And you’ll have a right job trying to find parts to repair any crash damage. Come the end of the season, it will likely resemble a Demolition Derby, rather than a professional motorcycle race. Worn foot pegs. Snapped levers. Bits of taped-up bodywork hanging off. That’ll be the new normal for bike racing after COVID-19. That’s if the grid has any bikes left on it. But it’s not a fashion show, is it?
One of the biggest concerns for most people will be what humans, and specifically motorcycle racers, are going to look like once the population has been ravished by a mutated version of the virus. At the minute, you might expect a loss of taste, a high temperature and a bit of a cough. But by the time C19’s mutated a handful off times, there is no telling what the symptoms will be.
I’ve watched enough zombie movies to know that the possibilities are endless. What starts out as a loss of taste could quickly escalate to an unquenchable thirst for warm, human blood. Perhaps we can harness this bloodlust. Perhaps we can use it to help keep us sharp. Focussing the body and mind in ways that we never thought possible; enabling top riders to lap quicker than ever before. Or perhaps it will lead to nothing but blood orgies on the starting grid, with only those that are yet to be infected able to concentrate fully on racing a bike. Only time will tell.
What is absolutely certain, is that whatever happens to our bodies, our countries and our economies, as long as we have the use of our right wrists, we’ll will find a way to compete on motorbikes. The human race is a resilient bunch and in over four hundred thousand years, we’ve survived countless plagues. That’s not to mention global warming, hundreds of wars, natural disasters and you name it. But we still manage to drag our bikes out of the garage on a weekend and go for a ride. This pandemic might be a massive pain in the arse right now, and things will undoubtedly change when we come out the arse end of it, but it won’t stop us, as human beings, doing what we love. Doing what hundreds of thousands of years’ worth of evolution has made us perfect for; racing motorcycles.