That MotoGP is too Iberocentric – too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders – is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.
This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race.
In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.
The race in Brazil is scheduled to take in Brasilia, the capital of the South American country. Whether that is at the Brasilia race track (the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasilia) is unclear, but Ezpeleta told Reuters that work was currently underway on the circuit, and the hope was it would be finished by the end of the year.
That would make scheduling a race for 2014 difficult, but Ezpeleta was confident that there could be a race in Brazil from 2015 onwards. Ezpeleta did not give any details of the race planned for Asia, but Reuters reporter Baldwin suggests that it could take place in Thailand.
Previously, Dorna sources have hinted that a race could take place in Indonesia, though currently, neither country has a circuit that would pass an FIM safety inspection. Given the explosion of interest in the sport in the region, however, that could change quickly.
To make room for the two new races – three, including the race at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina planned for 2014 – something will have to give on the current schedule. The obvious candidates are in Spain and the US, with Ezpeleta indicating that four races in Spain and three in the US were too many.
In Spain, the Valencia circuit looks to be the most likely victim, as the track is facing the largest financial problems. Schemes have been sugggested in the past where Valencia and Barcelona could alternate annually, as Formula 1 is expected to do in the future. In the US, the Indianapolis race is most at threat, with Ezpeleta commenting positively on both the Austin and Laguna Seca circuits.
Dorna has a ten-year contract with the Austin facility, and Ezpeleta describing the Laguna Seca event as ‘special’. Given that California is central to the US sport bike market, not having a race in the state is impossible to imagine.
This leaves the Indianapolis Motor Speedway out in the cold. Despite the enormous effort which the facility has put into the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix every year it has been held, MotoGP always looks a little lost.
This is in part due to the vastness of the track: at a facility capable of holding some 400,000, even respectable crowds of 80,000 plus – nearly double race day attendance at Misano, for example – look swamped.
The layout of the road course is also unloved among the riders, perhaps because it is run in the opposition direction to the way it was originally laid yout, when IMS hosted Formula 1. The combination with the Indy Mile and the excellent atmosphere downtown will probably not be sufficient to save the event, despite the fact that IMS is very keen to continue to organize the event.
Ezpeleta also addressed the issue of the number of Spanish riders in MotoGP. It was not a situation of Dorna’s making, Ezpeleta told Reuters: “In the history of Dorna, we never helped any Spanish people to race and we helped a lot of non-Spanish people,” he said.
He pointed to the support Dorna has given to other nationalities, but emphasized that the real solution must come from elsewhere. The Red Bull Rookies is one example of this: recent graduates of the series include a Belgian, two Germans, a Malaysian and an Australian (of Greek extraction). The current leader of the series is Karel Hanika, a young Czech rider universally tipped as one of the most talented riders to come up through the series in many years.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.