Three of SA's favourite motorcycle racers chat motorsport beyond Covid-19
• Sfiso Themba, Clint Seller and Dino Iozzo share their views
• No spectators for the rest of 2020
• What does the future hold for SA motorsport
The Covid-19 outbreak, and the lockdown it forced on us, had a disruptive effect on both our social and work lives and on the economy as well. Motorsport is one of the sectors that felt the disruption, with races initially postponed, and later held spectator-free.
We chatted with three local motorcycle racers, Sfiso Themba, Clint Seller and Dino Iozzo from the King Price-owned KP Xtreme Team, about what their experience was and how they saw the future of motorsport.
One of the big questions around racing is what the future will hold for the sport, especially in terms of the possibility of spectatorless races. Dino says that racing won't be the same without fans around the track, but he is upbeat that this won't be the case beyond 2020 if the restrictions on public events can be lifted.
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Sfiso Themba. Image: King Price
A strange experience
Sfiso is also positive, saying: "It will be strange to have such races; however, it will be up to us racers to give a greater effort, so those who are watching enjoy it even more. But," he adds, "there's no substitute for the grandstands being full and seeing everyone celebrate, clapping hands enjoy being in the race circuit. If we get the cure for Covid-19, that would be great to have a better 2021 and beyond."
Clint believes that racing will remain spectatorless races for 2020. "It is sad, but I don't see a way around it." He says that the effects of Covid-19 will definitely hurt the fields and number of riders on the grid. However, on a positive note, he adds: "I believe people will be hungry for racing and be very keen to watch our races and motorsport in general."
On the question of there being any benefit to broadcasting spectatorless races, Dino says: "Real spectators are my preference, but I do think there's a benefit in broadcasting the races for the time being, as this will allow our fans and supporters to keep supporting us during social distancing."
Dino Iozzo. Image: King Price
But while the racers can't race, what do they do? All three say they used the time to keep in shape. Dino and Clint mention being busy with their day jobs, while Sfiso used the time to push his 63nation brand – 63 being his race number. They also agree that not being able to get onto a track to practice is their greatest frustration.
On the long-term effect of the pandemic on motorsport both locally and internationally, Sfiso says: "Racing requires lots of money, and with many people losing jobs it's hard to think how will racing be – considering that racing with no spectators is also a hard reality. I can't wait to see how international racing will be – I think it's going to be tough and difficult. Our own international racer, Brad Binder, faces the challenge of getting to Europe and the many restrictions that make racing very difficult. I am hoping he makes it to the other side."
We asked about their views on what the 'new normal' for South African motorsport will be. Clint believes the norm will be people watching racing on live stream or apps, while Sfiso hopes to see mask-wearing spectators in numbers. Dino says: "The new normal would probably be everyone wanting things to go back to how they were. It would also mean that race tracks and racing series would need to start again, but it's tough, as social distancing has to be observed."
Clint Seller. Image: King Price
Looking at motorsport events in general, Siyamthanda Williams, King Price's brand development manager, says: "Getting people to attend events will be a greater challenge, but only from an engagement perspective. While I think that people will emerge from this with a hunger to attend events, the post-pandemic spectator will have learned to entertain themselves, and to survive an actual pandemic.
"For that reason, it won't be easy to entertain spectators if your event doesn't offer an experience that's worth their time – which is now more valuable than ever. That's why events co-ordinators and sponsors need to use this time to strategise on new ways to make events engaging and worth each spectator's time, and money."
Asked what would be the first they'd do when the lockdown is lifted, it came as no surprise that the three riders three cited getting out on the track. "It been ages since I last rode, and I can't wait to throw my leg around my bike and do as many laps as I can possibly do," says Dino.
The final word goes to Clint, who's message to the fans echoes his team members' sentiments: "Stay safe and let's get everyone's lives back on track. And thank you for your support."
Dino Iozzo. Image: King Price