Ever since Indianapolis Motor Speedway re-signed to host the MotoGP Championship, the writing has been on the wall for GP racing at Laguna Seca. The tiny coastal track in California is a favorite amongst the riders, mostly for how different it is compared to the computer-designed Grand Prix circuits in Europe, but that distinction has also always been the Achilles heel of Laguna Seca.
While the circuit provides fans with the unique ability to get close to the racers in the paddock, as well as great general admission vantage points for watching the racing action on the track, Laguna Seca is only able to do so because of its low attendance figures, and generally campy approach to hosting motorcycle racing.
Looking for a more polished GP experience, one which would be more consistent with how MotoGP operates in Europe and other venues, Dorna has always viewed Laguna Seca as the black sheep of GP racing circuits. Looking now to push MotoGP more into developing regions, Dorna’s current holding of three American GP rounds seems to make less sense, and thus something has to give.
With drafts of the 2014 MotoGP Championship calendar circulating at the Aragon GP, and with World Superbike meeting this weekend in Laguna Seca, all but the official announcement itself has made its way through the two camps. As such, multiple confidential sources have reported to Asphalt & Rubber that MotoGP will not return to Laguna Seca, despite the track’s contract with Dorna for next season.
Located in a sleepy beach town that would rather save the sea otters than support its racing tradition, the Red Bull US GP has always been a bit unwelcomed when MotoGP showed up in Monterey. Fans are faced with legions of CHP officers, who sit atop each overpass waiting for unsuspecting motorists to speed by, while nearby hotels raise their nightly rates to ludicrous levels.
Though the track itself has always been a highlight, Laguna Seca’s more modest facilities have prevented the circuit from hosting the typical GP support classes, with not enough paddock space available for the usual MotoGP circus, let alone the AMA Pro Racing camp.
Rumors even circulate about Laguna Seca’s FIM homologation, with the list of alleged non-compliance issues ranging from the track’s runoff to its physical lap distance.
Now with three races in the United States, and with two other circuits who are willing to put on the grand show that Dorna envisions for Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the quaintness of Laguna Seca is giving way to reality: the US GP will be omitted from the 2014 MotoGP Championship calendar when it is made public later this week.
The big question remaining will be whether Laguna Seca can spin straw into gold with the World Superbike Championship, as the track has two more years of hosting WSBK contracted with Dorna.
Debuting World Superbike this weekend with noticeably vacant grandstands, Laguna Seca’s official three-day attendance was 41,175 which would be a little more than a third of what the track reported for MotoGP back in July (118,696 thru the gate). However, anyone in attendance at the track would estimate the actual fan presence as being much lower.
Theories range as to why such a poor attendance rate occurred this weekend for WSBK, with the most optimistic culprit in fact being the MotoGP race from three months earlier.
With cash-strapped die-hard fans facing an “either/or” dilemma in regards to the expensive MotoGP and WSBK weekends, the idea is that would-be track attendees opted to spend their money on the more prestigious event, the MotoGP race.
More pessimistic theories include the lack of an American presence in the World Superbike Championship, along with WSBK’s TV coverage being moved from SPEED to BeIN Sports TV, as being reasons for American motorcycle race fans to lose interest in World Superbikes.