FMSCI National Racing Championships: Tough task but a job well done

The organisers of the first round of the 23rd FMSCI National Racing Championships for four-wheelers at the Kari Motor Speedway in Chettipalayam, Coimbatore, went home pleased as punch having spread happiness and cheer to all involved in the sport.

The pits being sanitised at the 23rd JK Tyre National Racing Championships at the Kari Motor Speedway.   -  Special Arrangement

Even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten the world, JK Tyre took a big risk in organising the first round of the 23rd FMSCI (Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India) National Racing Championships for four-wheelers at the Kari Motor Speedway in Chettipalayam, Coimbatore, on the second weekend of December, but went home pleased as punch having spread happiness and cheer to all involved in the sport.

For the organisers, the challenges of hosting the three-day show were many. They not only had to deal with the Covid-19 situation to make it a safe and secure event, but also had to instil confidence in the drivers as they were all returning to the circuit after a one-year hiatus.

The participants had to follow standard operating procedures from the time they entered the venue: their temperature and oxygen levels were checked, and branded masks, specially designed by JK Tyre, were distributed to all. The pits were regularly sanitised, separate dining areas were provided for each team, and Covid officers kept a constant check to see if things were in order. It was not comfortable, but all involved had to abide by the regulations for the sake of the sport. As many drivers pointed out later, this is the new normal and they quickly adjusted to it.

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JK Tyre has hosted several championships across the country, but this one in Coimbatore was very different, as evidenced by the closed doors and careful planning. Was it worth the risk? “We had been discussing whether to do an event this year given the pandemic threat. After lots of discussions, we came to the conclusion that things are opening up in many places,” said Hari Singh, head of operations at JK Tyre Motorsport.

“Formula One was happening under very strict guidelines, but that’s at a different level altogether. What we have in India is a different kind of a scenario with not only things kind of opening up in places, but other events happening as well. We had an event in Chennai and people were quite receptive and wanted to do something,” Singh added.

“The drivers themselves wanted to go ahead. Taking all this into consideration and keeping safety in mind, we sat down to talk about how we could run a safe event. Everybody advised us to stay at home, but sometimes we need to take the risk. And we are pleased now as we were under total control all the way home.

The participants were seen keeping their masks on right through the weekend. Of course, they didn’t have the option of not doing so — which would have attracted a fine of ₹1,000 — except for when they were eating and drinking.

The participants were seen keeping their masks on right through the weekend. Of course, they didn’t have the option of not doing so — which would have attracted a fine of Rs1,000 — except for when they were eating and drinking.   -  Special Arrangement

 

There were many more rules — from travel to stay — that the participants had to follow strictly. They and the officials were advised not to travel with three people in a car and given single-occupancy rooms.

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The organisers dealt with the hotels directly even before they finalised the event, and they ensured the protocols were adhered to and the safety measures were in place. Once they checked in, we told them not to call for too much room service and housekeeping. These are some of the things that we did to try and ensure that they were in a safe environment,” said Singh, adding that the 100-odd marshals — both local and from outstation — had separate entry points and were checked for Covid.

While JK Tyre events usually draw large gatherings, this year the drivers and officials were asked not to invite spectators, and only the parents of young racers were allowed. The organised understood well the degree of caution required and provided a dedicated viewing gallery above the garages.

All this was possible because of solid planning, enabled by video and conference calls over a period of months. “Racing is one part, but today Covid-19 is more problematic because if one of us tests positive, the entire event could be in jeopardy,” said Singh, who had a reason to smile after the show concluded without a hitch and raised fresh hope for other sporting associations to go ahead with their plans.