Whatever the FIM and BSI/IMG thought 2020 had in store, nothing prepared them for what they got! GP Race Director Phil Morris talks PETER OAKES through a strange season...
WELVE months ago nobody knew what was going to happen, how bad it was going to be. Everything was up in the air.” This is Phil Morris, Speedway Grand Prix Race Director since December 5, 2014, talking a year to the day since Great Britain entered its first experience of Covid-19 lockdown.
He now knows what to expect but, if we are being truthful, none of us yet know exactly how bad it is going to be.
But one thing is certain: the Speedway Grand Prix Commission is prepared for it and far more prepared than it possibly could have been 12 months ago.
In London, there was a committee room waiting for its occupants to arrive. Phil came up from his home in Wales; Armando Castagna, Director of the FIM Track Racing Commission travelled across from Italy; and Jean-Paul Gombeaud, FIM Sports Director, flew in from the world governing body’s HQ in Geneva, Switzerland. They were meeting up at the offices of rights-holders BSI/IMG whose managing director Paul Bellamy was there to greet his visitors.
That was the last time that the members of the SGPC met in person to look ahead to the 2020 season of top-level competition.
Since then every other meeting has had be held over Zoom but, the Speedway Grand Prix did go ahead and so did the Speedway of Nations, the only team event on the FIM calendar to be completed because of the worldwide repercussions of the spread of the coronavirus.
And any thoughts that this dreadful pandemic is over are brought crashing into reality with the news, as recently as last Monday, that for speedway supporters in Britain, it will be unlawful to travel to any of this year’s first three scheduled Grand Prix rounds in Germany, the Czech Republic and
Into the the yet to be confirmed meeting on June 19. The first round, at Terenzano, Italy, has, of course, already been cancelled, yet another victim of the menace of the world in which we now live.
Anyone trying to leave this country to go to any of those meetings other than for their work, now risks a punitive £5,000 fine with dire warnings that ‘all of Europe might be added to the UK’s ‘red list’ because of the threat of a third Covid wave of infection.
Poland-centric competition, but surely better that than doing what so many other sports were forced to do and wipe a blue riband tournament from the entire calendar.
Speedway achieved what so many other sports failed to do and ran its principal competition and while future record books will probably have an asterisk alongside the 2020 Grand Prix series, it produced a more than worthy World Champion in Bartosz Zmarzlik.
Morris looks back over the 12 months from hell: “I remember we had our last face-to-face meeting in March in London, and we made the decision of what would do and how we would do it.
“You have to respect what Poland did as a country last year. I’d say a lot of it was down to speedway being such a popular sport and their government linking it with football and saying football can do this. It would never happen in Britain because speedway is nowhere near on a par with football. In Poland it might be a bit below but it’s another major sport. They managed to get the season running. From an FIM perspective, it’s a world championship so you want it in as many countries as possible, the last thing we wanted was to have all events in Poland.”
“It worked well,” insists Morris. “We could utilise what the Poles were doing and we got eight GPs in a season like that and to get a team event
(Speedway of Nations), I think it was the only team event in the FIM calendar that got run last year. We did very, very well to get it done, and respect to all the riders, teams, officials and clubs.”
There were some near things: the Speedway of Nations squeaked in just in time as lockdown
With the exception of the Grand Prix Challenge in Croatia and the back-to-back third and fourth rounds of the Grand Prix in the Czech Republic, it was a
4 speedway star March 27, 2021