With Kellie Atkins- Speedway Sedans Victoria State Secretary
2020 has a been year like no other in modern history, with every part of life in Australia and the world effected in some way since the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March.
Unfortunately Speedway Sedans Australia’s affiliated clubs, tracks and its competitors have had to experience the biggest upheaval seen in the sport’s history.
As life begins to make the slow steps back to some form of normality, we thought it was the time to check in with our seven state & territory branches that make up Speedway Sedans Australia as we look forward to the future of our sport.
One of the biggest states by competitor numbers Victoria, has unfortunately had to deal with the worst of the pandemic so appropriately for part one of the “State of the States” series we decided to catch up with State Secretary Kellie Atkins.
SSA- Kellie thanks for taking the time to have a quick chat with us, if you could sum up 2020 in one sentence from a Speedway perspective what would it say?
KA- This pandemic has been devastating for our sport but it is also an opportunity for us to evolve out of necessity.
SSA- Victoria has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic more than any other state, with regards to Speedway Sedans Victoria give us a snapshot as to what effect it has had on the organisation?
KA- When restrictions were initiated back in March it meant that Victoria lost the back end of our season which included our two biggest State Titles the SSA Street Stocks that was being held at Hamilton and the SSA Junior Sedans at the burgeoning Junior “Mecca” of Alexandra. These titles were tentatively rescheduled for the start of the 2020/2021 season but have obviously had to be cancelled completely. We have probably been reasonably fortunate in one way as Victoria usually has a shorter race season than most States which has meant that we are only starting to see events held from early October onwards. This has meant that the worst of the lockdown environment has been endured during the off season. We have mostly been in a caretaker mode until now waiting to see what restrictions will lift and how soon. Currently we have no option than to be reactive to the changing situation versus pro-active as we are not in control of how this pandemic is going to play out and what Government restrictions will be enforced.
SSA- With the easing of some restrictions, particularly in regional Victoria what does the season look like for SSA competitors and affiliated venues in the state?
KA- It looks like the next few months will be an assortment of Practice Events, Test and Tune days with a few clubs having already conducted some of these. It is all that is possible economically for the Tracks to host whilst Regional Victoria is in the Third Step for recovery which enables Drivers to compete but unfortunately has no allowance for Spectators at this stage. Our metropolitan counterparts had the 25km radius rule lifted last Sunday and have now come into line with regional areas. Victorians have been advised that our face masks look like staying for the majority of the summer and most of us are now used to these. If things keep improving then we would be hopeful that after Christmas we will have the ability to have events conducted in Victoria with limited spectators respecting the density quotients and Clubs following their Covid Safety Plans. It will depend on each venue as to what their spectator break even point is as to how soon they will be able to stage various events. We would also be anticipating that the host tracks will be able to conduct the Victorian State Titles successfully in the new year.
SSA- As we all know gathering restrictions and the like have played a part in everyday life since March, how hard has that made things from a training of officials and daylighting vehicles for the new season?
KA- Our Scrutineers always have a general training day all together once a year as well as our State Technical Director getting out to individual complexes when they are running Registration and Daylight events. Our Stewards also have regular Meetings to discuss rules and their implementation. These are an extremely beneficial line of communication that is very hard to replicate. This has not occurred this year and is unlikely to happen. Daylighting of competitor’s vehicles has not been allowed to happen prior to a few weeks ago as we were under the embargo of “Only leave home for study or work, care giving or food/supplies”. Scrutineers are now starting to process cars under a new landscape as many of them are being done at the complexes in a controlled outdoor environment at appointed times to minimise the exposure of the Officials and the Drivers. Registration paperwork has started coming in from competitors around that state over the past couple of weeks so the positivity is slowing returning to the sport in Victoria.
SSA- With racing returning in most states in recent months, that must give some level of optimism for everyone in Victoria?
KA-There is great optimism in watching the other States return to racing. Victoria is watching this happen through the many media streams and Track Operators are watching avidly to see how the Interstate tracks are dealing with the new regulations, how they are regulating crowds, how they are holding Drivers Talks, how they are setting up their respective areas to accommodate the public and the pits. We have the benefit of watching the other Interstate tracks go before us and hopefully we can watch and learn a great deal before our turn comes. The Drivers are certainly enthusiastic to start racing again and even though last season was only slightly shorter it feels like forever for some of them.
SSA- What future initiatives for Speedway Sedans Victoria are on the horizon?
KA- As I previously said, we are having to be reactive rather than proactive at the moment and dealing with whatever comes. The angst that comes with having to change or postpone plans outweighs implementing initiatives that may fail at this stage and it is definitely a time to act with a bit of restraint. We will be looking at conducting some Officials training probably via the Zoom environment and we may also be investigating the viability of assisting tracks with live streaming more events as we feel it is very important that we showcase whatever major events are held in Victoria this season and particularly if some of the hard border closures remain in force. With the postponement of the National Titles it will be important to make the State Titles a showcase for each class and we will be working on how to do this in the coming months.
SSA- Finally, I bet your boys Todd and Brock along with their Dad Greg are itching to go racing again?
KA- The boys have weathered it quite well and been working on their cars on and off and are really looking forward to getting back to it as soon as they can.
Speedway Sedans Australia wishes all competitors across our six National Classes the very best for this season as we embark on these unprecedented times together.