As the province of Ontario fumbles around “third wave” pandemic management…..our drag racing community awaits….

It is a microcosm of what is happening pretty much across Canada – but Ontario’s example is a relevant representative snapshot.

For drag racing, planning for the 2021 season and broadcasting that to the public remains obviously difficult.   Since the province of Ontario, out of necessity, shifted into its most recent and highest level ever “lockdown” mode – the sport of drag racing, including fans, competitors and facilities are forced to wait it out – yet again.

One thing that has become and remains apparent is how low of a priority the needs or concerns of the motorsports community are within the grand scheme of things for Ontario/Canada – which has much bigger fish to fry at the moment.

We caught up with Grand Bend Motorplex and St. Thomas Dragway track owner Paul Spriet who helped to paint a picture of the current reality which his track management (and thus by association others) are facing at this point.  

Paul Spriet

“We’re part of a group (provincial wide for all motorsports) that have sent many letters and voiced our concerns to MP’s and Ontario health officials,” confirmed Paul Spriet.  “We’re seeking any kind of a response — to help us develop a time line for when — but right now — no answers are coming back.”

As things currently stand — any initial plans to start the drag racing season on time at any drag strip located in Ontario are at best doubtful.  

“Right now our hands are tied because of the severe province wide restrictions (household only) which exist.” Paul continued.  “At present everything appears to be dependent on what the number of cases will be in mid May (once the current lockdown is scheduled to end).  If Ontario’s aggressive rollout for vaccines continues and the case count subsides — we’re hopeful that could present us with an opportunity to get started.”

And it’s that illusive “tipping point” which remains hard to predict for Spriet as well as all other track owners in the province.

“We are monitoring everything but the trend down in numbers is certainly not there yet,” he added. “ So it’s hard to schedule anything really firm because we do need some real lead time.  I do understand the frustration out there about the “hot spot” problem areas (mostly in Toronto) being allowed to affect the whole province.  For example, the two counties for our drag strips are in South Huron and Elgin — our colour codes are lower.  But we also understand both the “gathering” and the “inbound flocking”  aspect – which is inherent for any drag racing event — and why that is a direct consideration.”  

As of right now the first two major feature races for 2021 scheduled within Ontario are the Victoria Day Weekend (May 21-23 – at Cayuga) followed by the Stratford Day at Grand Bend Motorplex (June 4-6).  For those two events (which to be successful are spectator dependent) — one is probably highly doubtful — while the other is a maybe at best.   Both are likely candidates to be deferred for sometime later.

The current lockdown within Ontario is up for review/reconsideration on May 20th – so there probably won’t be any chance for clarity for drag racing (and all motorsports) within the province until some days after that.   

Stay tuned…..we are.

Posted by Bruce Biegler