This past weekend was one to remember. I was coaching an SRO America team at the St. Pete Grand Prix – or I was supposed to be coaching, at least. The event appeared to be getting off to a somewhat normal start, with all of the teams and transporters loading into the track and setting up for the street circuit venue.
With the latest threats of the Coronavirus, organizers were concerned about public safety, so the event was closed to the public, meaning no spectators would be allowed to attend. Not only was it odd not seeing fans in the stands, but the security checks getting into the track were also unusual. You had to show photo ID and complete a questionnaire about your medical history, and there was a doctor there to check your vitals. We had to do all of that just to get access to the circuit!
After all of the hoops we had to jump through to get into the track, our team got ready for the day’s first practice session. We had done a lot of prep the day before, including a track walk to take in the nuances of a street circuit, and our drivers were ready to get underway. On the walk we discussed considerations such as how the car would respond to the temporary curbs out in place, which ones to use and which ones to avoid, the nature of the varying surfaces, and how the surfaces would develop as they got rubbered in throughout the event.
The team cars were gridded up and ready to head out for their practice session, but there was an early checkered flag for the session before theirs. Shortly after, officials announced that they were cancelling the event completely as an additional cautionary measure.
It was one thing to see the grandstands empty, but it was a completely different feeling to take all of that excitement, anticipation and preparation, and then have it all be for nothing. It was a subdued afternoon of packing up cars and equipment, unlike anything I have experienced before. It was even a different feeling than when a car gets crunched and you’re packing up early! It was so sad to see all of the disappointment amongst the teams and organizers.
For now, it’s uncertain what the near future holds for professional sports, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to continue on with at least the hobby portion of driving as we wait for racing events to get back underway.