The 2020 Season - a few not-so-random thoughts


As we all hunker down and wistfully remember the days of going out to eat, shaking hands, and not worrying about our toilet paper supply, I'm sure racing, and the potential lack of it, is also rattling around in all of our heads. As I think about how we conduct our sport, and we all continue to learn and experience what this COVID-19 pandemic is and isn't, a few observations can be made:
  1. It is ramping up at different rates in different regions, seemingly based on population density, cultural norms, and the response-rate/effectiveness of policy makers. Presumably, the virus will ramp down at different rates as well.
  2. The West coast states jumped into action rather early, and it seems to have made a positive difference.
  3. "Droplet" transmission seems to be the way this thing jumps, and more often than not, through contact and transfer to facial membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). Doctors in NYC have said that it takes a lot of *concentrated* unprotected exposure in a small closed space for this thing to jump through the air and get transmitted through nothing more than breathing.
  4. 65+, and those with underlying health conditions, are at the highest risk.
  5. Due to the nature of our sport, in the paddock, natural distancing boundaries are created in a well-ventilated outdoor environment between groups, caused by equipment (trailers, tow vehicles) and event schedule.
  6. In the race-car, everyone is suited-up, covered-up, and isolated. It's hard to touch your face with a helmet on.
  7. In the paddock working on cars, hand-cleaners and washing of hands is almost continuous. Teams (formal or informal) typically include a bunch of people that otherwise interact anyway. Some teams are family groups that live together. Team-to-team interaction could be limited - depending on the driver(s), that's probably a good idea anyway :)
  8. Public food concessions are a problem, when everyone is sitting down and eating together.
  9. Public restrooms are a problem, as individual hygiene can be a weak link (e.g. at least 20-seconds of hand washing)
  10. End of day barbecues are a problem
  11. Driver meetings are a potential problem (perhaps virtual driver meetings; enforced distancing during meetings; etc., can mitigate the risk)
  12. Venue operators will have varying policies in-place (e.g. PIR is a park, and subject to any orders instituted by governmental authorities; ORP is privately owned, and located in a very sparsely populated area of the state, but still subject to state/county orders)
Is it possible to imagine a 2020 race season? I think so. Obviously, #12 is a big gate-keeper. If it's against the law to hold an "event" at a particular venue, that's a show-stopper (and a good idea). But, what if a full lock-down order gets lifted, in Washington/Oregon, by the end of April? Can we make a few changes in how we undertake a race weekend, to mitigate enough risk? If you're ordering take-out *now*, there are risks when you get that food, or it's delivered. When you go to the grocery store, there are plenty of people milling around, touching the same stuff you are. I would guess that by the end of April, all of us will have the necessarily good habits instilled as second-nature:
  • Wash/sanitize hands immediately after touching surfaces/objects of unknown (assumed contaminated) status
  • Keep your hands off your face
  • Keep 6-feet away from others
A year from now, we'll all still be doing those three things without giving it much of a thought. Get used to it.

All good points Bruce. Let me add a couple of considerations:
  • Physical distancing is harder in a turn station or timing and scoring or a safety truck or in race control than in the paddock or in the cockpit of a race car. But perhaps not impossible. Our volunteers, many of them in the more vulnerable demographic, will have to figure out if they can do things differently enough to be comfortable.
  • For as long as the US-Canada border remains closed to non-essential traffic, I believe Conference racing is non-viable. Without cross-border entries, clubs will be down enough on entries to turn their races into big money losers. In addition, for IRDC and NWMS at least, the Canadian volunteer contingent showing up is crucial to the ability to put cars on track.
I was right with ya, Bruce, until Bob came and (accurately) pooped all over it. <sigh> This is all very depressing... after too many years away, I NEED my racing fix.

I tell ya, COVID-19 is gonna have to get some sort of honorable mention in iRacing's annual report...
Bob - agree on the border. BC also seems to be doing a rather good job of mitigating COVID-19, so perhaps the border will open up in the same time-frame. Current projected peak for WA is 4/24.
4/24 is optimistic. The BC border closure is key for IRDC, plus group size requirements. No open border no race no matter group size requirements. IRDC is of the opinion that the May race is not going to happen. We also have several open positions in the organization that are needed to put together a race weekend.

Optimistic about July, but only time will tell. It is IRDC's 50th year of operation.
FYI. Mission Raceway is totally shut down for all April events. Decision will be made soon re May. BC clamped down hard and fast as soon as the first few cases appeared in our seniors homes. Hopefully the quick action taken by both BC and Washington State officials will blunt the full impact and we might be able to get back to a semblance of normality sooner rather than later, and Seattle or Vancouver does not get the NY city experience. Looking at the demographics of our organization, most of our group fall into the higher risk category and while we may miss our friends as competitors, I would miss them more as lost friends. Stay safe and stay healthy so we can all meet again at the green flag.
4/24 is optimistic...

Based on what? At the time of my original post, this was the projected *peak* date for hospital resources, which is the top of the curve, determined by the folks at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). These guys are a premier health research center at UW Medicine, and their projections are being used by the CDC (and our regional hospital administrators). Their main goal is to provide capacity planning for critical hospital resources (beds, ICU beds, ventilators), using a data-driven stochastic modeling approach. Data gets pulled every day, and the models are re-run. As of the time of this reply, the peak is now projected on 4/11. You can find these projections HERE.
At a press conference today, the Canadian PM said the border closure has been extended for at least another 30 days.
Sounds like Trudeau is thinking the same way as another Politician where "Authority is Total".

Quebec and Ontario are a long way from BC in distance, and how well they have handled this Pandemic.
Hopefully, these decisions will be made Regionally where people have acted responsibly and thoughtfully.

As Bob already mentioned, It's our Volunteers that are most at risk and the "what ifs" of racing.

I'm hoping that we can travel South sooner than later to see our fellow ICSCC racers and friends.
And now IRDC has canceled their mid-May race. I heard that NWMS had canceled their June race, too, so... Father's Day in Portland? Maybe?
The GM of Pacific Raceways just posted a message about how they're planning to reopen for events while still following various guidelines for keeping everyone uninfected. A few of the more interesting specifics, from a purely "how's THAT gonna work" perspective (IMO) were:
  • A minimum of four pit parking stalls between racers
  • Tech line separation a minimum of three car lengths
  • [snip]; road course driver’s meeting to be outside with appropriate distancing and all drivers wearing mask
Here's the full message from John Ramsey
Just saw a Reuters article that the US/Canada are close to confirming a 30-day extension to the border closure, which would put it at June 21st.
Looks like Jay put out additional info that may apply to our situation. Time will tell.


  • GOV May 14th.pdf
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That sounds an awful lot like the variance that Pacific Raceways said they were waiting for in order to reopen for selected events, such as the SCCA/SOVREN event next week-end that so many Conference members are signed up for.

Edit: Well, maybe? The phrase "They conduct only those activities that are allowed under their county’s phase status" makes it sound like these things maybe wouldn't apply until King County moves to Phase 2.

Edit 2: Yes, this is the variance and, yes, racing is now on in Washington.
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