• Covid-19 threw motorcycle racing into disarray in 2020.
• The Seller Racing Team made the most of this year's troubles to come out on top.
• Dino Iozzo will leave the team to continue his racing career in Germany next year.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
A year that started full of promise suddenly dumped all of us into deep uncertainty, and none more so than the fickle world of motorcycle racing. Thousands of active sponsorships were left in limbo as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it also resulted in several high-profile racing teams hanging up their helmets.
We recently spoke to Clint Seller, Sfiso Themba and Dino Iozzo, the members of one of the few teams that managed to perform exceptionally well amid the adversity - the King Price-sponsored Seller Racing - asking them to reflect on both the past year and what the future may hold.
Seller, the team leader and the rider who's won his seventh South African Superbike Championship title on 31 October, says: "Our team, and the entire industry, exists solely because of the sponsors of our sport. Covid-19 taught us a lot about the power of partnerships, where there's a mutual respect and exchange of value. It says a lot about our sponsors that they've stuck by us during this time."
No spectators at races
But it is not just about money. The pandemic also ushered in a 'new normal' for the racing world. One aspect of this was spectator-less races - was this a problem for them? Says Iozzo, the youngest rider in the team: "It's never great when we can't have any of our fans there, but I'm hoping that next year it will become a lot less restricted and people will be allowed to come out more."
Themba agrees: "It's been a very strange year. A lot of our fans have been asking 'Can we come through because we see that other places internationally allow people to come and watch?' Unfortunately, we still had to adhere to all the Covid regulations. For us as racers too, it is strange because you can't get inspiration from the people, but we have to do the job at hand and make sure we push to the limit."
Even in the midst of a second wave of Covid infections hitting Europe and the Americas very hard, Seller believes that the future doesn't look too bleak, saying: "I think we'll see a little more stability, because are all learning to live with the disease. From living with it comes a better understanding, and from that understanding comes comfort. So I think you'll see people coming to events.
"People will want to come to events; they want to be out with their families. And they're going to take care of themselves; observing social distancing, wearing masks and all that are going to come into play, but I think we are going to see people very, very thirsty to watch local motorsports."
Racing going forward
And what role will technology play going forward? Themba says that Covid has shown the benefits of races being live-streamed. "Before, there was only the race and TV, but now there are more ways for people to be exposed to and enjoy the racing."
"Technology," Seller adds, "is going to shift everything in motorsport - in fact in all sports. I think what's already shifted massively is how training is happening: you can now train in a virtual world, and you can still track your progress and give feedback to a trainer - I think we have gotten more efficient.
"Also in the running of the team: ten years ago there was no way you could run a team with all its intricacies without having physical meetings and get-togethers, whereas now, for us as a team, we have WhatsApp groups and things like that, where all the bits and pieces come together."
That Seller Racing's approach is working, is beyond dispute in view of the team's impressive results during the past season. Unfortunately for them, Iozzo is leaving the team, moving to Germany to compete in the IDM German Supersport Championship for 2021. While wishing him loads of success, we hope that the talented young rider's departure will not leave too great a void in what has proven to be an very succesful bike racing team.