With Pandemic measures still in place around the world, the restart of the 2020 AMA Supercross season has been an insight into how motorcycle competition will face the challenges ahead.
It was good to see the organisers take the measure of testing all participants and crew for Covid-19 in the days ahead of the first event, and similarly imposing social distancing through solutions like Zoom meetings for rider conferences.
With all remaining seven rounds being hosted at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah it’ll be interesting to see if the series can maintain our interest. The first round on Sunday had all the looks of an arenacross event, so short was the lap, and with an at times processional 450 Main it wasn’t SX as we know it. However, this is the new environment and most likely it’ll take a while to adjust. We’re just thankful we have some racing to watch again!
That said, with seven rounds at the same venue going back-to-back with Sunday and Wednesday race days it’s certainly a new twist on the championship. One thing’s for sure, with such a rapid fire schedule no rider can afford a crash injury.
So after this Sunday’s event the Honda HRC’s post-event briefing notes gave a good idea of how the new protocols are working…
- Leading into the Salt Lake City race, as the break from racing neared its end, the teams and riders had varying means of regrouping. In the case of Team Honda HRC, Justin Brayton flew to Southern California on Wednesday, May 20, whereas Ken Roczen made the trip on Saturday, May 23. Both riders were able to get in several days of riding at Honda’s test track in Corona.
- When it was time to head to Salt Lake City, the Team Honda HRC crew opted to make the trip by automobile, a 10+ hour trip that they completed on the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, May 26, departing from the test track after one last morning session. Meanwhile, Roczen and Brayton got in one more sleep in Southern California before taking a chartered flight to Utah.
- Both team trucks arrived in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, and mechanics began working out of them in a parking lot adjacent to the stadium until Friday, when they moved to the stadium to be positioned, with setup happening Saturday. The trucks will be in the same location until the final round.
- Including the riders, mechanics, management and PR personnel, Team Honda HRC has a 14-person staff on hand in Salt Lake City. All are expected to remain for the duration.
- The State of Utah required that everyone attending the event be tested for COVID-19. Tests were conducted at a drive-through station outside Rice-Eccles Stadium, and Team Honda HRC personnel underwent their tests on Wednesday, May 27, followed by a 48-hour window to receive results. Though no further testing will be required for those who remain in Utah, everyone will need to pass a health screening prior to entering the event grounds for each round.
- Event rules also dictate use of face masks at all times, and Team Honda HRC had some special branded masks made up for the occasion.
- To ensure riders have the opportunity to practice and test, Team Honda HRC reserved time at Flying Iron Horse Ranch, a private test track located about 40 minutes from the stadium, near Park City. Prior to round 11, the team spent Friday morning at the track.
- While most of the Team Honda HRC staff is lodging in hotels in Salt Lake City as usual, the riders and their families are staying in short-term rental homes near the private test track.
- On Friday afternoon, Roczen and Brayton both participated in a Feld-organized pre-race press conference that took place via Zoom. As a podium finisher, Roczen also took part in a similar post-race press conference.
- The riders meeting for Round 11 took place Saturday evening, again by Zoom, and was recorded for subsequent posting on YouTube. This procedure will continue for the remaining rounds.
- In order to allow social distancing, rules regarding rider assistance were different in Salt Lake City, and were updated during the day. In the end, only one person per rider was allowed on the floor, and mechanics were permitted to use pit boards from an assigned individual location, determined according to the rider’s staging order.
- With the first post-shutdown race now in the books, the riders and teams won’t have much time to prepare for round 12, which takes place on Wednesday at the same facility (though with a modified track layout). The process will then repeat the following Sunday, and so on until round 17 is in the books.