What will the new 'normal' in the motoring world look like?

Car Culture

When the current pandemic begins to subside, will racing and general life return as it was? Andrew Frankel looks at how things could change


It is of course entirely possible that in a month or two a vaccine will have been found, tested, found safe and the general population inoculated against this awful virus. Possible, but not likely I feel. So while lockdown rules are likely to be relaxed next week you, like me, will still be wondering in what form our ‘new normal’ will come.

And I think there’s a temptation to think the new normal will look very much like the old normal. We are creatures of habit after all, and if history teaches us anything, it is that history is not a very good teacher. Usually it’s not long after the most seismic of world events before we are back to our old ways, be they good or bad.

But this time will be different because I think the truth that dare not speak its name is that this virus is going to be around for a very long time. And if the many are going to have any kind of new normal in the future, then it will come at the price of a few not having a future at all.

Because the truth is that while we have used vaccines to eradicate menaces like smallpox in the past, in many other cases and despite the best efforts of the finest minds of the global medical and scientific communities – cold, ‘flu, Ebola and HIV to name just the obvious ones – the best we’ve been able to achieve to date is to mitigate and manage.

In time so called herd immunity could be an effective way to manage C-19, but by definition that requires the majority of the population to catch the disease, resulting in a death toll that makes even the awful current figures look modest by comparison.

What does this mean for those of us who love to drive? Simply that we may find the bonds of that love challenged like never before for the simple reason that when it comes to a contest between fear and greed, fear wins every time.

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It is why markets fall faster than they rise. We may sit in our kitchens, dreaming of the open road while our coffee goes cold, but when it comes to it, are you actually going to get out there?

Will you risk crowded service stations on motorways, packed grandstands at the most popular race meetings, or standing next to someone with a bit of a cough as you try to grab the bartender’s attention at your car club’s next noggin ‘n’ natter?

Actually, I suspect you’ll all be shouting ‘yes of course I will’ at your screens, but I invite you to consider whether that says more about the virus, or you. The very fact you’re reading this suggests you count yourself among the hardest of hard core enthusiasts and are therefore almost by definition not representative of the even typical car fans, let alone the country as a whole.

Of course this could be good news. If people don’t flock back to using their cars for recreational purposes, they’ll be even less keen to do so for work. Many will have to, but plenty of employees and employers will have discovered that working from home does not actually throw productivity off a cliff.

And I can see a generation from now young people goggling at the fact that once it was normal for billions of people the world over to lose hours of every day commuting into polluted cities to sit in a room full of coughing, farting, sneezing co-workers, for whom they feel mostly either nothing or mild dislike.

So the roads are going to be quieter. Those service stations will be less busy and the fuel they sell will be cheaper, if not quite as cheap as it is now.

But maybe we should be careful what we wish for. If, for instance, circuits can’t fill their grandstands for the big events, the future of both such event and the circuits at which they are held will be threatened.

There is no easy answer to this. All I can do is tell what I’m going to do: I’m going to get out there because there is a difference between living and having a life. I’ll tread carefully of course, but tread I will most certainly will.