Seasoned campaigner Michael Rutter was gearing up for another busy season of road British championship racing in 2020, where he’d signed reigning champion Richard Cooper for a concerted attack on the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 series, only for the coronavirus pandemic to intervene.
Continuing his dual role as both team manager and rider, Rutter has been keeping busy in the interim period, preparing the Bathams Racing BMW S1000RRs for when racing resumes but he believes the short term outcome may see a change in the landscape of racing as we’ve known it in recent years. And he also believes some good may come out of it with costs significantly reducing.
“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time for some teams as, financially, things tend to get a bit easier once the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT are out the way,” Rutter told bikesportnews.com.
“All sponsors work in different ways with some paying up front at the beginning of the season and others paying in instalments as the season goes on so some teams will be hoping to get some racing in before the end of the season.
“From a team perspective, I’m one of the more fortunate ones as I have a really good, long term relationship with Bathams and everything was paid for up front whilst there’s only myself and Alec (Tague) in terms of full time staff; we’re not like a BSB team in terms of that aspect.”
Big or small, Rutter believes all teams will suffer in the BSB and road racing paddocks and we may see a scaled down version in some areas in the immediate months ahead although that may not be a bad thing.
“We’ve never been in this position before but racing somehow always carries on no matter what. Racing may look a bit different when it does get back underway as people will have to scale back from a financial point of view. And that’s not a bad thing as things have spiralled a bit out of control in recent years.
“Big sponsors may have gone bust and smaller sponsors, who chuck in a grand or so, who are equally important, may not be able to do that anymore.
“We’re running in the Superstock 1000 Championship again but the costs of our team aren’t that far off those that you see in Superbike so the sport needs a bit of a reset. Racing may need to be simpler and become a throwback to twenty years ago when people just went racing in a van, not with an artic and hospitality.
“A lot of us remember those days fondly but we also remember the state of the toilets at places like Cadwell! The money that’s gone into the sport has benefited us in a number of ways in terms of the work that’s been done at the circuits whether it’s circuit safety and facilities, which have both come on leaps and bounds, and TV. But, like all other sports at the moment – however big or small – the costs need to be looked at.”
Three day meetings is an area that Rutter believes may not be needed with a return to two -ay events a possibility. A reduction in time spent at the circuits would certainly help reduce costs for all concerned.
“Cutting back on the time spent at circuits and also the size of some of the teams would help with costs. A lot of people have day jobs that may have been affected by the pandemic so getting time off to go racing may not be as easy as it once was.
“Some people start setting up on Wednesday’s and I don’t think that will be feasible for a lot of people going forward as priorities have changed. Everyone will have to lose something whether its teams, riders or the tracks.
“At the same time, other opportunities may arise and we may see bigger fields at the likes of the Stars at Darley and Mallory Race of the Year, a bit like the old days when we had a lot of non-Championship races during the year. I’m not saying that will happen but someone, somewhere will always benefit no matter what the situation.”
“It’s the same with sponsors. Sponsors are definitely going to go away from the sport but, at the same time, others will come in as there’ll always be people who want to be involved. Some may no longer have the funds to be in F1, Moto GP or WSB but they may see BSB as an opportunity. Like I said, there’ll always be some people to benefit.”
As mentioned, Rutter has no doubt racing will continue on the mainland and also on the roads, certainly the Internationals anyway. It may experience a dip in terms of entries but he’s certain most people will be back.
“The TT and NW200 might not be as strong in the short term as people are going to have to cut back their costs but both events will go ahead. They’re both a major source of income to their respective economies so people will want to make it happen – there’s nothing to replace it.
“I hope we do have some racing in the UK this year, for all concerned, but it may be I just end up riding at Macau, if that goes ahead. That would be a full year away from racing but everyone’s sensible enough to take things steady out there. If you haven’t tested the bike it may be an issue, but most people will be dialled in after a few laps.”