It wasn’t the dreaded Coronavirus that forced the opening round of the British championship to be axed but the weather. A muddy paddock packed filled with youth riders’ trucks, safety fears over getting ambulances in and out and potential further damage to the land were the main reasons the event was cancelled on the eve of the Little Silver round in Devon.
British motocross rolled the dice again with the weather so early in the season. The Hawkstone Park International and British GP ploughed on against weather warnings and got away with it. But it wasn’t third time lucky for the Gareth Hockey-organised even in Devon, despite the track being in perfect condition on the Friday before the event. Overnight rain on Friday night turned the paddock – served by an uphill dirt access road – into an almost impossible place to get all the vehicles into and out of.
Hockey’s gamble was to try to run an event on a hard pack track with limited grass paddock access, on a hillside in March rather than, say, on a sand track with a hard standing paddock like FaCats. Sometimes March is dry and warm, sometimes not.
Like last year’s season finale at Landrake, Hockey’s plan for the event saw Saturday host a round of the British youth championship. Then these riders were joined by the main British championship on Sunday.
But the wet conditions at Little Silver, which saw the track altered several times on Saturday so the youths could get around, was worse in the paddock. Most of the vehicles were laboriously towed in. So when the main adult teams started to arrive on Saturday, some claimed they were faced with an up to five hour delay while they awaiting being towed in.
By Saturday afternoon, many of the vehicles still weren’t in, there was virtually no accessible places in the paddock and the proposed spectator parking was a very long walk away as race vehicles were being held in the space allocated for overflow spectator parking. Some of the paramedics’ 4×4 vehicles were getting stuck. And the forecast was rain on Saturday night all through Sunday morning, which would have made everything even worse.
The organisers were faced with safety concerns from first aid staff, the landowner was rightly concerned over more damage to his land, and the potential was that many trucks would be stuck on the venue for a very long time as everyone tried to leave at the same time on Sunday if the event went ahead.
A meeting of team managers and organisers was called on Saturday afternoon, where a majority decision was taken to cancel the event.
Former British champ Shaun Simpson was at the meeting and said: “The paddock is the main concern. As far as the racing, we could have raced but of course mud is always a lottery. Some of the teams thought it was better to cancel now then start the season properly when the better weather and virus is more sorted.”
There was a social media backlash following the announcement, as expected. Many saying the event should have run as most of the teams were already there, many saying it should have been cancelled earlier, some saying it was just poor organisation of the paddock when trying to run two big championships together, on a hard pack track with limited paddock access so early in the year. Gareth Hockey has yet to make an official comment as the team are still on site. But with the Coronavirus looking like it will mean many large events are likely to be cancelled imminently, it seems like the British motocross championship may be not run for a while.