The prospect of real-life rallycross taking place in just five weeks’ time at Höljes for the famed “Magic Weekend” still requires a pinch in the arm for some. There will be relief when it happens, but also trepidation as Sweden sets about creating a model for other countries to get back to action.
Anybody who has even half-heartedly followed the news of late, will know that the Swedes have approached the COVID-19-induced lockdown in a rather different way to many other countries. And whatever the rights or wrongs of that decision, one outcome of it is that racing is able to restart promptly.
While international motorsport continues to mull over ways in which to safely return, the Magic Weekend has already given national championships some food for thought on how to kickstart their own seasons.
This is certainly the viewpoint of joint event coordinator and Olsbergs MSE team owner Andréas Eriksson, who believes the upcoming Höljes race meeting is a model for others to follow.
“The goal is to know how many people we would need from the teams and drivers to the media in order to hold a race,” Eriksson told DirtFish following his team’s RX ‘test event’ earlier this month.
“We need to understand how people work. So, the idea is to create something that will maybe be the way forward for everyone else, because the way we will work after all this will not be the same, that’s for sure.”
It’s an interesting point and an experiment worth carrying out, particularly in a country where social distancing measures have been less stringent than others.
In line with government guidelines, those attending the recent RX Quarantine Shootout at Höljes were separated in the paddock to avoid any unnecessary contact, but there were just six cars taking part. A far cry from the number of entries the Magic Weekend – and most national championships for that matter – are likely to attract.
It’s a moving target, and different countries may have different attitudes towards social distancing once lockdown is eased across the board.
Where Sweden can allow up to 500 people at a venue designated for work (and it needs to be stressed that no spectators will be allowed to attend the Magic Weekend), this number isn’t likely to be the same in other countries.
Nevertheless, the practices, Eriksson says, can be transferable and adapted to the situation, especially when it comes to putting on the show.
The RX Quarantine event attracted broadcasting giants NEP, who have orchestrated a sophisticated pay-per-view model for the Magic Weekend itself, to ensure maximum TV coverage for spectators watching from home.
With recent directives from motorsport authorities in the US and UK forecasting restrictions for media representatives at race meetings, the emphasis on producing quality output for fans is more pertinent than ever.
Eriksson says that for their part, NEP have installed the use of drones, robots and a remote studio in Stockholm to produce a comprehensive offering. “Showing the racing,” he reckons “is the easiest part, putting the racing on in the first place is the hard part.”
While desperately trying not to put the kibosh on the logistical nightmare of hosting international events when it seems each country is working to a vastly different timetable of lockdown-easing, Eriksson raises a valid point when it comes to getting cars at a track.
We don’t know what the regulations on mass gatherings will be by the time most championships are ready to restart and, on top of all that, travel restrictions and the number of borders open by that time may also vary wildly.
Speaking with key figures inside and outside of the rallycross bubble, they all have the same initial thoughts. Restarting national championships appears far safer and more predictable at present, and the Magic Weekend could well be the litmus test to gauge just how feasible a summer return will be.