With the easing of lockdown restrictions, the Madras Motor Sports Club is gearing itself up for the “new normal” with a slew of measures conforming to government regulations to create a safe environment at the iconic MMRT circuit here while also carrying out upgrades to the track. Keeping in mind the situation arising out of COVID-19, the MMSC will implement safety protocols as mandated by the government at the MMRT. Simultaneously, a new grandstand, digital flags that can be operated from the Race Control room and self-contained Marshal posts are being added to the facility.
MMSC president Ajit Thomas said: “This is a difficult and sensitive phase we are going through and it is MMSC’s endeavour to ensure that track users, be it vehicle manufacturers who test their products here or the competitors, are provided a safe and healthy environment. In this context, we have already put in place the ‘new normal’ protocols such as thermal temperature check at the entrance, social distancing and hand sanitisation, as per government regulations.”
The track has been active for the past few days with testing sessions by vehicle manufacturers, and the facility will be opened to car and bike competitors from June 14 for paid practice sessions.
Regarding various upgrades to the track, MMSC vice-president Vicky Chandhok, who is also Chairman of Racing Events, said: “The track is open for non-sporting activity as we try to ease into a situation and conditions we are not familiar with. So, we are not taking anything for granted or lightly. Health and safety of our employees, officials, competitors and visitors are our priority.
“To start with, for the practice sessions, we will be restricting the number of persons attached to each vehicle to two in the case of cars and one for bikes. This will help us enforce social distancing with a gap of at least 10 feet between them. Next up are the Marshals who play a critical role during races. We are replacing all 21 existing Marshal posts with new, self-contained locked enclosures that will protect them from elements, and numbered as per FIA and FIM international standards.
“We are close to finalising a deal with Tag Heuer for digital flags that will considerably reduce the number of Marshals. We plan to install 12 digital flags at select spots around the track to start off with and go on to 21 in due course. Having said that, I must emphasise that there would be absolutely no compromise on safety and we will have sufficient staff to handle any on-track incidents.”
MMSC is also addressing a long-felt need for a permanent grandstand along the start-finish straight, facing the eastern paddock and pits. “For the moment, it would be a 600-seater structure with a provision for expansion. The bottom rung of the stand will start three metres above track surface. Below the stands, we are providing space for two-wheeler academies with access to the track, food kiosks and self-contained toilets. This facility should be ready by September. “We also have plans to actively promote the sport at the grassroot level by putting up suitable facilities, the details of which will be announced later,” said Chandhok.
As for sporting events, Chandhok said: “The action will commence with the National Championship in September, by which time, hopefully, the overall situation would have improved.”
Meanwhile, the sport’s World governing body FIA, has extended MMRT circuit’s Grade-2 certification to July 2021 on a request by MMSC and in view of prevailing virus-related situation in India, said Chandhok.