Features 2 Apr 2020

Input: The COVID-19 impact

A mixture of industry professionals assess the effects of coronavirus.

Words: Simon Makker

We were supposed to go racing this weekend with the MXstore MX Nationals, but the current coronavirus pandemic has knocked all those plans for six. All corners of the industry are feeling the effects of the restrictions and lockdowns that have been put in place and, as of right now, there are no clear indications of when the situation will ease. MotoOnline.com.au contacted people from a cross-section of the dirt bike industry to find out how the situation is affecting them and how they’re handling things so far.

Image: Foremost Media.

Craig Dack (CDR Monster Energy Yamaha):
We’ve been busy in a different way trying to wrap our heads around what’s going on. We’re supposed to be racing this weekend and now that’s not happening until the end of June. To be honest though, I’m dubious that will happen and dubious that we’ll be racing at all this year. The prime minister said recently he’s putting together a $140-billion package to keep people in jobs for six months, so it’s clear nothing’s expected to change over that time. That takes us through to September and only leaves three months to run the supercross and motocross championships. We’re communicating with a lot with our partners and sponsors, as we’re all in it together, and planning for both a best-case and worst-case scenario. We’re fortunate that Kirk Gibbs was able to lock up the New Zealand championship in a nick of time, as that gave our partners some good exposure. It was close though, since the government announced the 14-day lockdown on the Sunday evening that Kirk won the title, he got home on Monday and has been in self isolation until this week.

Kevin Williams (Williams Event Management):
From our point of view we’re ready to do racing – we just can’t go out the driveway! We have every intention of delivering a full series, even if it means we have to start in July or August and do some back-to-back weekends we’ll look into it. We’re working closely with Motorcycling Australia and as soon as the government gives direction on the mass gatherings rulings – and I think outdoor events will be permitted before indoor ones – we’ll be good to go. We’re 110 percent committed to providing a championship once government restrictions are lifted. We’re considering a whole range of options, whether we race motocross and supercross on alternate weekends as has been done in the past, and this year we really need to be adaptive. All sports are in the same boat, but out of adversity comes opportunity and hope. We’re still intending to deliver a full nine-round championship and finish 2020 on the highest note possible.

Matt Reilly (Suzuki Motorcycles Australia):
As a company we’re now operating under a work from home arrangement for the majority of our staff. Fortunately the transition was quite smooth and painless thanks to the IT systems we have in place – we were able to respond and implement this quickly as the COVID-19 situation developed. It was imperative we transition to this new arrangement while maintaining the same level of service to our dealers and customers, which we have achieved. It’s important to note that our dealers are still trading. Many have adopted order/collect and pick-up/delivery strategies, so I strongly encourage people to get in touch with their local dealer and support them wherever possible. Use the time to give your bike and/or gearbag a freshen-up, so you’re ready to go when the situation improves. As far as bike sales go, March was actually pretty good for us and we were only nine units shy when compared to March 2019. Our rural and regional areas performed strongly all month, but unfortunately towards the end of the month, we did see a decline in metro areas as a direct result of the newly-introduced and subsequently increased social distancing measures.

Image: Supplied.

Kyle Webster (Penrite Honda Racing):
We had a great pre-season racing in New Zealand and were ready to go, so to have the MX Nationals postponed felt like such an anticlimax. It feels a selfish to be down in the dumps when there are so many people affected, but there’s not a lot going on at the moment. All the ride parks and gyms are closed, but the workshop has a little gym 30 minutes from home, so I’ve been using that. I’m keeping up my training with mountain biking and running, but it’s hard to maintain motivation up when we have no idea when we’ll be back racing. It feels like we’re in the middle of the off-season and I can’t wait to get back racing and get back into a routine.

Alex Gobert (Foremost Media):
It’s evident that the industry is reacting to the pandemic and being extremely cautious at this moment, exactly as you’d expect in these uncertain times. One thing that’s really apparent to me already is that without racing taking place both here in Australia and internationally, we as enthusiasts and also fans of the sport genuinely miss having that chance to follow professional riders and teams using top-level equipment competing for championships each weekend. Creative-type content is flowing from media, promoters, teams and riders in an attempt to fill the void, but without the same substance in my opinion, and in a lot of ways it probably highlights just how vital competition is for everybody associated. It’s not everything though and there are far more serious matters in the world, of course, however, there’s no doubt that racing is as relevant as it’s ever been when it comes to showcasing dirt bikes or road bikes in this digital age. We cannot wait for things to settle, however long that takes, and then further appreciate even more so what we’re fortunate enough to be involved in from a sporting perspective.