Jerez is to remain on the MotoGP calendar for at least one more year. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta announced the extension during the official presentation in Madrid of this year’s Spanish GP at the iconic Jerez circuit, stating that Jerez will stay on the calendar for 2013. He also confirmed that from next year, there will be just 3 races on the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), with Jerez and Aragon certain to stay, while Barcelona and Valencia could alternate, as is currently being proposed for Formula 1. Meanwhile, the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril appears destined to disappear from the calendar.
Rumors surrounding the fate of the Jerez Grand Prix had been circulating for a while, with the circuit still in financial problems over non-payment of debts to the consortium that carried out remodelling work at the circuit back in 2001. It was widely expected that Jerez would be dropped from the calendar, but sources close to the circuit owners were confident of being able to continue. Though the official confirmation is only for 2013, the chances of the race remaining at the track for the next five years look very good.
With Jerez confirmed, and Aragon holding both a long-term contract and having the finances in place to continue to host the race – Ezpeleta confirmed to the Spanish press that Aragon would also remain on the calendar – the location of the third Spanish race remains uncertain. Both Valencia and Barcelona are keen to remain, but both races face financial difficulty due to local government budget constraints, as Spain continues to suffer under the Euro debt crisis that wracks the continent, and Spain in particular.
The situation of Barcelona is stronger than Valencia, as the Valencian regional government faces much tougher budget cuts, but a solution could be found similar to the one being put in place for Formula One, with the race alternating between Barcelona and Valencia every other year. The solution would be ideal if coordinated with Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula One Management organization, with F1 and MotoGP swapping races, ensuring that both Valencia and Barcelona have a Grand Prix each year, alternating between the two-wheeled and four-wheeled varieties.
Ezpeleta also hinted at changes around the start of the season. Dorna is keen to start the MotoGP season earlier, but the night race at Qatar makes that a tricky proposition, as the temperatures in the desert cause dew to form on the track surface around the time of the race in March. But with Dorna keen to break into new markets, and with support from the manufacturers – as confirmed to MotoMatters by Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis in a recent interview – India looks set to gain a place on the calendar, and given the heat on the subcontinent in summer, the season could easily start at the Buddh International Circuit near Delhi. Though the Dorna CEO did not confirm it, when Spanish media suggested that Delhi could take the place of Qatar as the first race of the year, Ezpeleta merely indicated that they were “thinking along the right lines”.
The calendar would make sense in terms of logistics as well. With the Doha airport functioning as a major freight hub between Europe and Asia, holding the first race in Delhi, followed by a second race at the Losail circuit in Qatar, before heading back to Europe – probably to Jerez – looks like a viable schedule. Despite losing its place as the season opener, the Qatar race would remain a night race, thereby retaining its unique character.
The major question mark over Qatar losing its place as season-opener would be how that would affect the sanctioning fee the circuit pays. If the QMMF – which owns the Losail circuit – decides that its value has been eroded by losing the spotlight of the season opener, it may decide to reduce the amount it is prepared to pay. Though no official figures are available, the sanctioning fee for Qatar is believed to be sizable, one source revealing that it was sufficient to cover the overseas logistics budget for the entire season. The organizers of the Indian GP would have to be prepared to make up the shortfall, should that be the case.
Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.