While the Isle of Man is leading the world in its control of Covid 19 - none or very few new cases being reported - there is still concern about the TT, the Classic and other races in 2021.
The assumption that everything will be back to normal in 12 months is not one held by everyone and certainly not by every member of parliament.
And to add to the difficulties being faced by the Isle of Man government with regard to speed in general and motorcycle racing in particular these stories have been making headlines in the Manx media.
TT CRASH VICTIMS CLAIM DAMAGES and CYCLISTS CALL FOR 20MPH LIMIT IN ALL URBAN AREAS
The first referred to the accident seven years ago when Barnsley rider Jonathan Howarth crashed at Bray Hill in the Senior race, injuring ten spectators watching at the bottom.
Two of them, Shaun and Helen Williams, are pursuing a claim for damages against the ACU which last month reached a civil court in the Isle of Man, a process described by the Deputy High Bailiff Chris Arrowsmith as ‘not swift moving’. The case continues.
The ACU also remain involved in a legal wrangle, which could equally be described as ‘not swift moving’, over the Steve Mercer accident of two years ago when the race was red-flagged and riders returning to the start in the opposite direction were hit by a course car speeding to a fatal accident involving Dan Kneen. Case also continuing.
The second headline refers to the Isle of Man Cycling Association calling for a 20mph limit in towns and villages, and 30mph on ‘narrow, rural roads’. This follows an overall speed limit of 40mph introduced in March in a bid to reduce demand for emergency services during the lockdown period. It has now been returned to normal.
In a letter to members of the House of Keys (the IoM government), former professional cyclist Rob Holden called for speed limits to be restored on the basis that ‘road harm remains the most likely cause of death under the age of 40 in the Isle of Man’ and the cost of injury collisions in 2015/16 had been £8.5m. No mention was made of limits being imposed during TT week or, indeed, whether they would apply to the Mountain Circuit.
The response from Chief Minister Howard Quayle was that a debate was needed on the 20mph speed limits recommended by the World Health Organisation. He also revealed that fewer than five serious crashes had occurred during the lockdown period compared to an average of 30 in normal times.
Cycling’s appeal as a clean, healthy, inoffensive and safe form of transport obviously lives large in the minds of politicians in the UK and the Isle of Man. And it has been helped in no small measure that in sporting terms we have become quite good at it with the successes of Mark Cavendish - himself a Manxman - and Bradley Wiggins to name but a few.
But as a tourist attraction, while having had some success in England, it has never quite worked on the Isle of Man. And if tourism remains important to the Manx economy then the TT, with 40,000 visitors, is very important.
The recent hit to the economy and the debt which the Manx Government has had to take on to support its own people has changed the game. Plus the doubt that even when/if all restrictions are lifted the fear of contracting this dreadful disease may remain with an audience which is largely fifties plus. And will therefore be a big setback to the growth of the TT and potentially threaten other races including the Classic.
The upside is that a major piece of research is being conducted by TT Business Development Manager Paul Phillips who, with a small but talented and energetic Motorsport team, has been responsible for the recent growth of the TT and the invention of the Classic.
They have been looking at every aspect of what works and what doesn’t including accommodation and travel. And, facing up to the reality that the Manx Government may simply have less money to spend, in 2021 how to protect that famous brand, the TT.
According to Peter Duke, who brings in several thousand people every year, re-bookings for next year are very strong even though the alternative of money being returned is offered. And talking with James Whitham on the BSN Zoom interview, TT stalwart and multi-win team owner Clive Padgett was exuding confidence for next year and the continued advance of the world’s greatest race.
Crisis can be the mother of invention and opportunity. Paul Phillips and the Manx Government should be brave and bold.