South African scientists announced a new variant of Covid-19 with concerning mutations on 24 November 2021 which sparked irrational fear worldwide. The UK was the first to shut their borders to South African passengers by 26 November 2021. Many countries followed suit despite the advice of the World Health Organisations against travel bans.
As news of the borders being closed, transit through major routes being disallowed and flights being cancelled the whole team jumped on board trying to find a way to the Kingdom of Bahrain. From private charters, to contacting people who dealt with repatriation through the first lockdowns in 2020 and a desperate plea to the event organisers to assist with exemption letters to pass through certain countries on route to Bahrain and exemption from Bahrain for South Africans to enter.
Stefan Gruber manager of Rotax Karting & OEM Business informed Jennifer Verheul of Rotax South Africa on Friday, 3 December 2021 that after his organisational team had met once again in Bahrain with government and local ASN officials, they could not get the exemption letters requested by Rotax SA for their team. Even if these letters were forthcoming there are no direct flights to Bahrain and South Africans are not allowed through the transit countries. He expressed his sadness that the team would not attend the event but reiterated that the rules of the host country need to be respected.
Rumours to be dispelled – Rotax South Africa did not sell or refuse to pay for the South African team to compete at the Rotax Grand Finals. Many have asked how the seats were filled up so quickly and state Rotax must have known before they let the team know. Both assertions are false. Considering there are nearly 7,500 active Rotax MAX drivers in the RMC programme and many more competing in around 60 countries on all 5 continents you can see why these seats are so hard to come by. You must qualify in your country or win an open event or series like the Euro Trophy. Each distributor feels that they deserve more seats than they are allocated per class. In this case distributors apply for an additional seat in the various classes and are placed on a waiting list. Unfortunately, when a seat comes up like this it is someone else’s misfortune – in our case the fact that the South African Team were not able to travel to the event in Bahrain.
Only one South African was lucky enough to be in Saudi Arabia when the red list came into effect so young Muhammad Wally will be the only South African at the event but will compete under a different countries flag. We wish him well at the Grand Finals this week.
Jolanda and Ed Murray South African Rotax Max Challenge series promoters since 1999 will miss this event for the first time since its inception.
South Africa will be back at the Rotax Grand Finals in 2022 – ready to take on the world!