The recently released Skegg report, compiled by Professor Sir David Skegg and the Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group, details a potential path for possible reopening of New Zealand’s borders amid the ongoing pandemic.
What could these suggested changes mean for local series’?
The report suggests that international travel won’t get back underway until the population is largely vaccinated, adding that this likely won’t be until 2022.
Even then travel may only be open to countries deemed to be lower risk with high vaccination rates.
“If the vaccine coverage were lower and with appreciable heterogeneity, there would be much larger outbreaks, with more hospital admissions and deaths, and various forms of lockdown would be required to bring them under control,” the report says.
“Our group does not believe border restrictions should be relaxed significantly (beyond current ‘bubble’ arrangements, as with Australia and the Cook Islands) until the vaccination programme has been fully rolled out.”
This would not only be a significant change to current rules but would further affect local motorsport.
The Castrol Toyota Racing Series is likely to be one of the most affected local championships, the category typically sees the next generation of open-wheel talent flock to New Zealand from all around the world.
If international travel isn’t possible by the time the 2022 series kicks off, it could result in the series having to rely on entries from New Zealand and Australia
In 2021, the series was also forced to cut the championship down to three events all of which were in the North Island, two of which only had a handful of drivers.
The season saw a number of up and coming drivers competing against some of the country’s biggest motorsport names, particularly at the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix, which saw the grid size more than double.
A plethora of our biggest local stars including Greg Murphy, Andre Heimgartner, Shane van Gisbergen and Kenny Smith joined the grid in the absence of international competitors.
The potential of a Trans-Tasman bubble reopening in September could be something of a saving grace for the TRS’ hopes
If a Trans-Tasman bubble is in effect during the summer series it may allow some of the Australian competitors to cross the ditch to race here, something that wasn’t an option last season.
The series calendar was announced earlier this year, which leaves more time for potential competitors to make arrangements to enter the category.
The 2021 Battle of Jacks Ridge may also be affected, it’s set to be the second time the event has been held, after a successful debut, which drew a star-studded lineup of drivers from a variety of disciplines.
The event is set to welcome van Gisbergen back this year to defend his victory in 2020, although if the Skegg report’s findings become reality his attendance could be up in the air.
A trip home last summer left the Red Bull driver close to missing the pre-season test day when the travel bubble was paused days before he was due to return to Australia.
Though he made it back without missing the category’s first full test day for 2021, the close call may see the driver and his team being more cautious about returning to the event this time around.
This is particularly true as this year’s event is set to be held the weekend between the Bathurst 1000 and the Sydney Super night.
This means the Trans-Tasman bubble would have to be open for him to make the trip.
Main Image: Bruce Jenkins