Published Apr 10, 2020, 6:26 PM SGT

The sporting world is at a standstill, reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For athletes, this year will see Olympic dreams halted, professional careers reassessed and new obstacles to overcome. In this four-part series, The Straits Times looks at how Singaporean athletes cope with these unusual times on different fronts.

SINGAPORE – Just six months ago, race driver Sean Hudspeth was relishing life in the fast lane as he stood atop the podium after claiming the Italian GT Sprint Championship Pro-Am overall title.

Fresh off winning a championship in his first season with GT racing team AF Corse where he drove Ferrari cars, an eager Hudspeth hoped that the feat would set him on course for more success on the track.

But that has since come to a screeching halt with Covid-19 sweeping across the globe, with Italy one of the hardest hit countries in Europe with over 144,000 infections and more than 18,000 deaths.

The Singaporean was supposed to compete in 13 races this season, starting with the first leg of the GT World Challenge Europe in Monza, Italy, on April 19, followed by 12 races in a domestic event in Europe that ended in October.

But three weeks ago, his plans were thrown into disarray when the race in Monza was cancelled due to a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The domestic event has also been suspended indefinitely.

The 26-year-old said: “It’s definitely disappointing, especially after winning a championship last year. I was hoping to pick up where I left off, but everything has ground to a halt now.

“It’s challenging. It’s kind of like when you are running a marathon – if you stop it’s hard to get going again.”

Last year, Hudspeth was able to focus solely on racing for first time after graduating from the University of Warwick with a mechanical engineering degree in 2018.

Racing alongside teammate Antonio Fuoco also pushed him to go quicker as he learnt from the Italian, gradually matching his timings and on some occasions, beating him.

But his 2020 season has sputtered so far and remains in limbo. Hudspeth has spent the past few weeks checking websites for updates, making countless calls and sending multiple messages and emails to race organisers, manufacturers and brands about future partnership proposals in his search of some semblance of certainty. It is not only his racing career that has been hit. The Singaporean is also a coach at Corso Pilota, Ferrari’s driving school, and with the virus situation, many of his coaching events have been cancelled or postponed, leaving him without a pay cheque since last December.

He also runs a business that provides race car driving experiences, road tours around Europe and private coaching. That has also suffered because of the strict travel restrictions.

With no races or events, the Europe-based driver returned to Singapore on March 19 and served a 14-day stay home notice that ended last Thursday (April 2).

He said: “I don’t know when I’m going to receive my next pay cheque. It’s more difficult to get motivated in terms of mental preparation and physical training. You’ve really got to dig deep, keep on training and push yourself.

“I’ve constantly been online every evening, checking for updates on the racing and team websites trying to get more information. It’s very stressful and it’s been hard to sleep. I’ll just lie awake in bed for hours thinking.”

When he finally does get back on track, Hudspeth could be in for a change in scenery. The race driver has been in discussions with various manufacturers and teams to race in Asia later this year.

In the meantime, he has made it a priority to keep fit by doing workouts at home, running and cycling. He is looking into race simulations so that he will be ready to race again once the situation stabilises.

He said: “It’s the same for everyone in my industry, there’s a lot of uncertainty and I’m trying not to compare myself to anyone else. I’m focusing on myself and trying to do the best I can.”