I’M IN A GREAT MOOD THIS MORNING. I’m writing this article in the middle of May and for the first time in months there is light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t tell you how much fun it is for the track team to spend the winter planning events and then in the spring cancelling them. Joking, of course. It’s a good thing my business is shut down or I wouldn’t have time for this. That said, there are a lot of people in the world, including in Ontario, who have it much worse than me. One of the advantages of age is that debt is far behind me. Not having to worry about car payments or mortgages gives you a different prospective than those struggling to feed their families. My heart goes out to them.
As someone who is self-employed, I think there are going to be some changes in the way that business is conducted. Many small business owners, who are my customers, have indicated that they are realizing how sloppy their business model was. Everything from excess floor space to inefficient equipment is being re-evaluated. Some products and services were only provided to increase volume and support a workforce that no longer exists. A sudden decrease in business is a shock to the system. It opens your eyes to what you really need and eliminates a lot of shiny objects that you just wanted to have. One of my competitors has always bought the best and the brightest equipment and stuffed it into a huge rented space. I always used to joke that he had to make two grand before I got out of bed in the morning. I really do hope his business survives, because I wouldn’t wish failure on anyone.
We at PCA UCR Driver Education (DE) have had to take some drastic steps too. Believe me that it broke my heart to drop our newest drivers from the schedule, but there was no safe way to support them at that time. I can promise you that we will get back to the program as soon as safely possible. I spent part of May harassing my neighbor who is also my Ontario member of provincial parliament. There was already talk that the government was going to include golf courses in phase one of provincial reopening. I’m pretty sure that the premier has lots of golf buddies and there was considerable pressure from them. I took the opportunity to explain that all track events aren’t big races with thousands of spectators. I showed him my social-distancing plan and clarified some private-event misconceptions. I can tell you that I was still caught by surprise when phase one actually named solo driving events. I think I owe someone a good bottle of scotch.
The time that the track team spent working out an operational plan paid off. The premier announced the phase one reopening on May 14, to take effect on May 19. By then we had come to an agreement with Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, closed registration for the event and distributed our operational plan to all the participants. It pays to be prepared. Thankfully I had put my car back together the previous weekend, so other than some maintenance on the truck and trailer, I was ready to go.
I can’t tell you how the event went, since I’m writing this editorial two weeks prior. I am confident that if everything went according to our detailed plan, that it was a complete success. As mentioned, I don’t like the thought that we couldn’t provide our usual outstanding driver education components, but at least everyone got to experience the thrill of enjoying their cars on the track again. For me it was liberating after spending the winter hiding from the cold and the spring hiding from a virus. The whole “sun on my face” and “wind in my hair” thing was extraordinary. It’s funny how the small things become the most gratifying. It was great sharing that experience with all of you.
I’m afraid that I can’t clarify any of our future plans at this point. Our next event is in mid-July and until I know the condition of the world we can’t solidify our plans. We have three track days reserved in July. July 17 is a Driver Development Track (DDT) rental followed by two days on the Grand Prix track on July 18 and 19. Until we find out what stage of the recovery plan we are in, we won’t know what to do with any of it. The options for Friday are the original DE or an Introductory Driving School if we are allowed students at that point. If we are allowed students, we would have a full Driver Education event on the following two days at the main track. If the province hasn’t recovered sufficiently at that point, we could use the DDT as another solo-lapping opportunity and then move to the main track for more of the same.
So that’s it for all the track talk since I don’t know anything at this point. I do want to take the opportunity to thank each and every person who remained signed up for the May events. I appreciate your patience as we moved you around and your support while we tried to sort everything out. Without a solid foundation of trackies behind us we may have been forced to cancel the first half of the season. It was your steadfast support that allowed us to successfully negotiate cancellations and plan into the future. Sometimes the worst of times brings out the best in people. I’m honoured to be your track chairman.