World Superbike’s spec-tire contract with Pirelli comes to a conclusion after the 2015 season, and as such the Dorna WSBK Organization, in agreement with the FIM, has announced that it is taking bids from companies who are willing to be the sole-tire supplier of the World Superbike Championship from 2016 onwards. Interested parties will have to contact Gregorio Lavilla, the WSBK Sporting Director, and have their offers in by August 25th.
The discourse in AMA paddock is palpable. From 2013′s surprise revelation that AMA Pro Road Racing’s TV package would not cover all the events, to 2014′s complete lack of television coverage, there have been serious questions raised about DMG’s ability to market the premier road racing series in the United States.
A constantly dwindling calendar of events has caused many to wonder about DMG’s ability to organize race weekends, as this year’s provisional five-event calendar was marked with the absence of any races west of The Rockies (the motorcycle industry’s sweet spot), a move that would cause John Ulrich of Roadracing World to start his own three-event “Superbike Shootout” series (Laguna Seca would later be added to the AMA calendar as a sixth event).
This year was also marked by an exodus of top-level teams (Michael Jordan Motorsports and Erik Buell Racing), as well as marquee sponsors (The Army National Guard and GEICO).
Just recently torrential rain, a field of Superbikes on slicks, and not a red flag in sight caused a dust-up just a few weeks ago at Road America, resulting in a modest investment in publication ink regarding the officiating at AMA Pro Road Racing events, especially in regards to rider safety.
American road racing has long been in decline, but never before has the frustration with the series been so evident across the series’ stakeholders of riders, teams, sponsors, fans, and journalists. The malcontent is evident whenever the subject is broached.
No one can say for certain what form American road racing will take for the 2015 season, but things do not seem to be taking a positive direction with DMG’s ownership of AMA Pro Racing.
American road racing is in serious danger of fracturing if the Superbike Shootout continues, and it could legitimately collapse altogether if DMG continues operating the way it has to date. As if that wasn’t enough, a third option is waiting in the wings: Dorna.
At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the ‘Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya’ – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called ‘The Doctor’, marketed around Valentino Rossi. This is not a particularly unusual event at a MotoGP weekend. Almost every race there is a presentation for one product or another, linking in with a team, or a race, or a factory.
If anything, the presentation of the Monster Energy drink is even more typical than most, featuring motorcycle racing’s marketing dynamite Valentino Rossi promoting an energy drink, the financial backbone of the sport. It is also a sign of the deep trouble in which motorcycle racing finds itself. Energy drinks are slowly taking over the role that tobacco once played, funding teams, riders, and races, and acting as the foundation on which much of the sport is built.
Red Bull funds three MotoGP rounds, a Moto3 team and backs a handful of riders in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Monster Energy sponsors two MotoGP rounds, is the title sponsor of the Tech 3 MotoGP squad, a major backer of the factory Yamaha squad, and has a squadron of other riders which it supports in both MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks.
Then there’s the armada of other brands: Gresini’s Go & Fun (a peculiar name if ever there was one), Drive M7 backing Aspar, Rockstar backing Spanish riders, Relentless, Burn, and far too many more to mention.
Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008.
A popular figure in the MotoGP paddock, Simoncelli tragically lost his life in 2011, during the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The news that 340mm carbon brake discs are to be allowed once again in MotoGP has rekindled a debate that has been going on behind the scenes for some time.
The move to allow the discs at all tracks, and not just Motegi where they are already compulsory, has come as both power and weight of the MotoGP machines has grown over the past three years. But the real solution lies in reducing the minimum weight.
There was a certain irony in the moment chosen by the Grand Prix Commission to ban carbon discs larger than 320mm. The move – made for reason of cost savings and rationalization – came just as MotoGP was to return to 1000cc, meaning the bikes were about to reach higher top speeds.
Compounding the problem, the minimum weight was also increased. The initial proposal was to raise the minimum from 150kg, the weight of the old 800cc machines, to 153kg. However, to make life easier for the CRT machines, the weight limit was raised even further, in two steps, to 157kg in 2012 and 160kg in 2013.
In the space of two years, engine capacity had been increased by 25%, leading to a power increase of around 10%, while weight had also been increased by nearly 7%. It was a recipe for brake problems, and that is precisely what occurred.
Michelin has been named as the official tire supplier for MotoGP starting from 2016. The French tire manufacturer will take over the role from Bridgestone when Bridgestone leaves at the end of 2015 season.
The official announcement confirms the worst kept secret in the paddock. Michelin had been widely trailed as being awarded the contract, as the French firm had shown the most interest.
Unofficial talks had taken place with Pirelli, and Dunlop had made a formal request for information, but Michelin was the only tire maker to submit a bid. Michelin has already been testing its 16.5″ slicks at Vallelunga and Clermont Ferrand in preparation for a bid.
MotoGP riders are to get some help with braking. From Mugello onward, all riders will be able to choose once again between running 320mm and 340mm brake discs on the front wheel. Use of the 340mm discs had been made compulsory at Motegi for safety reasons, but now, they will be available at all circuits.
The 320mm brake discs had been made compulsory at the end of the 2011 season, in an effort to cut costs. At that point, teams were free to choose from multiple sizes and masses of brake disc, meaning they were forced to purchase and transport sizeable numbers of discs to each race, while only using one or two sizes. Limiting choice was meant to rationalize the process, and cut costs for the teams.
Unfortunately, the compulsory brake disc size was imposed at the same time as bike capacity and weight were increased. In 2012, the first year of the restrictions, capacity of MotoGP machines was increased to 1000cc, and weights were increased to 157kg, and a year later to 160kg. With more power and nearly 7% more weight, braking forces were growing very large once again.
World Superbike fans may, or may not, be pleased to hear that beIN Sports will continue televising WSBK for the American market, through the 2015 season.
As was the case previously, beIN Sports will continue as the sole-television provider for the American and Canadian television markets, while the beIN Sports online streaming service will operate alongside World Superbike’s own internet property.
France will continue to host MotoGP for at least another seven years. Today, Dorna announced that an agreement had been reached to extend the contract with race organizer Claude Michy through 2021, adding five years to the deal which was due to expire after the 2017 round.
The new deal does not guarantee that the race will continue to be held at the Le Mans circuit, however, as the contract is with the organizer, who negotiates separate deals with the Le Mans track. The chances of it being moved elsewhere are slim, however. The two alternative circuits capable of hosting a Grand Prix in France are Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard.
Both feature interesting layouts, but suffer with location, as neither are very close to large population centers. Paul Ricard is better situated, close to the French coast, and therefore with accommodation reasonably nearby. But Paul Ricard suffers the disadavantage of having all of its gravel traps replaced with hard asphalted run off, ideal for cars, but not so good for motorcycles.
At the Assen round of World Superbikes two weeks’ ago, we caught up with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki boss Paul Denning, to get his vision on how the new technical regulations proposed for World Superbike from 2015 onwards would affect Suzuki’s WSBK effort.
Denning gave us a fascinating alternative view of the regulations, emphasizing that revenue generation was at least as important as cost cutting, and warning against false economies that could end up destroying the close racing World Superbikes has traditionall enjoyed.
Denning also covered just where he saw the biggest costs in World Superbike racing, and how the new TV schedule has impacted the series, and could spell the end of the one-bike rule in WSBK.