The inaugural round of World Superbikes in India is under serious threat, which leaves Dorna facing severe problems just months after taking over the running of the WSBK series. Bureaucracy, customs formalities, and import bonds threaten to see the race, scheduled to be held on March 10th at the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi in India, either postponed or called off indefinitely, according to reports over on GPOne.

The problem revolves around the difficulties faced by the need to temporarily import large quantities of material into India, and consists of two parts, GPOne is reporting. The first issue is one of timing: the Indian round of WSBK is due to be held on March 10th, just two weeks after the opening round of the series at Phillip Island in Australia.

The problem is that Indian customs regulations demand that the technical equipment (bikes, parts, tools, and other equipment) need to be in a customs warehouse in India 15 days ahead of the race, to allow the customs service time to inspect the goods prior to entry into the country. That would make racing at Phillip Island difficult, given that it would mean that the bikes would have to be in India at around the same time that the WSBK men need them to contest Superpole on the Saturday before the race.

The second problem could be even bigger. Normally, when goods are imported into a country, that country’s custom authorities levy some form of import duty, a tax on imports. However, in the case of goods which are only in the country temporarily before being exported again, as in the case of racing motorcycles to be used at a round of World Superbikes, the import duty is either waived entirely, or a temporary import duty is paid, to be returned (minus a handling fee, of course) once proof has been shown that the imported goods have left the country again.

The problem here is that the sums involved are large: import duty on a street-legal superbike is 105% of its new value, though what value would be used to calculate the duty on a race-ready WSBK machine remains to be seen. Similar amounts are due on all spare parts, tools and other equipment, meaning the sum required for each team in temporary import duty could easily run into the high tens or low hundreds of thousands of euros.

Though they would (eventually) see this money returned, it would mean that already cash-strapped World Superbike teams need to find very large bank guarantees for a period of several months. While WSBK budgets might just be able to stretch to covering those amounts, the much poorer World Supersport teams would have a real problem handling this.

The problem of temporary import duty is not unique to India, of course. Many countries around the world impose similar charges, but usually, political support for sporting events such as MotoGP, World Superbikes or Formula One helps smooth the passage of equipment in and out of the country. Customs procedures are shortened, temporary import duty requirements are either waived or reduced.

In the case of Formula One, for example, a separate internal department of FOM, the company which runs F1, deals with such issues for the championship as a whole. Dorna does something similar for MotoGP, while Infront Motor Sports has tried to do the same for WSBK. But while F1 is a global sport with an income in the billions of dollars, World Superbikes must work with a much more modest budget, which creates problems when faced with the gargantuan bureaucracy of countries such as India.

But dealing with India is not easy even for F1; the Indian Sports Ministry could have waived import duty requirements for F1 by designating the race an event of national importance. They did not, leaving the F1 organization to deal with a mountain of paperwork for the event. The situation was so complex that some teams, such as Ferrari, decided against flying in development parts for the Indian race, a decision which Fernando Alonso felt cost him significantly in the title chase.

Just months after taking over World Superbikes from Infront Motor Sports, Dorna faces its first major challenge. An emergency meeting has been called in Madrid for next week to discuss the situation. At the meeting will be Dorna, the Italian shipping company charged with transport, and representatives of the teams, according to the reports by GPOne.

The way this situation is handled will be a test of Dorna’s intentions towards the World Superbike championship, but it is also a test of Dorna’s future strategy for both WSBK and MotoGP. Dorna is very keen to break into the major Asian TV markets, seeing India and Indonesia as key to their future expansion.

This is a goal shared with the manufacturers, who are seeing increasing shares of their revenue being generated by sales of motorcycles on both the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia as a whole. Staging a race in India is the first step in Dorna’s Asian strategy, and having World Superbikes visit the country first would see WSBK paving the way for a MotoGP race in the country as well.

But while postponing the race would be a major setback for this season, it could well prove to be an advantage in the long term. The India WSBK race was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back in the battle between Dorna and Infront, which saw Bridgepoint, hand control of WSBK and MotoGP to Dorna, taking it away from the Flamminis, who have run it for the past couple of decades.

Early in 2012, Dorna had been in negotiations with the Buddh International Circuit to stage a MotoGP race in April, either before or after the race in Qatar. But Infront reportedly massively undercut Dorna’s offer, offering a round of World Superbikes in March for a fraction of the price Dorna was asking for the MotoGP race.

The offer was a political move on the part of Infront, the sanctioning fee being requested from the Buddh International Circuit way too little to make it a commercially viable proposition for either WSBK or MotoGP to visit regularly. Snatching away the Indian round was a victory for Infront, leaving Dorna without a race in India, the circuit showing no interest in organizing a race for the price Dorna was asking, now that they had the ultra-cheap WSBK round on offer.

Now that Dorna controls both series, however, they may be able to use their leverage to increase the price of both MotoGP and WSBK races in India to more commercially sustainable levels. This would be good for both series in the long run, with World Superbikes covering its costs for going there, and MotoGP perhaps even turning a profit. By threatening to call off the Indian WSBK round, they could hope to persuade the Buddh International Circuit management to increase the sanctioning fees they are willing to pay.

Much depends on contracts, however. If Dorna cannot blame the customs difficulties on force majeure – which seems unlikely, as customs procedures are well-known and well-established – then they may be forced to either pay off the organizers, or try to work whatever miracles possible to make the race happen. While Dorna should have been prepared to face the problems of dealing with the notoriously sluggardly Indian bureaucracy, the real problem lies in the conflict between Dorna and Infront.

While both sides were busy fighting for supremacy in the Bridgepoint board room, they were neglecting to ensure that the details of the race in India would be dealt with. In the bitterest of ironies, the battle precipitated by a conflict over the Indian World Superbike round could end up causing the Indian World Superbike round to be called off.

Source: GPone

  • Hey I got an idea! Skip India!

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    I have a better idea–just have the riders race against each other on Royal Enfields.

  • aditya

    f****ing indian govt and authorities…bringing shame and bullshit to the country forever…people around here that are even mildly into racing and bikes have been totally stoked for 10th march ever since the official news was declared a few months ago and now this bullshit just 2 months from it…

    i dont blame the people who say the race should altogether be cancelled…i myself have half a mind towards the idea, seeing as how they dont seem to realise or have any appreciation for what a good business/tourism/exposure an international sports event like this brings…i dont expect to appreciate or like or even tolerate racing, but how hard is it to see this is good business for the country in the least.

  • I like Chaz’s idea. Back in my college days one Bumble-bee leathered gentlemen posed that idea.

  • MikeD

    Sorry for the Indian spectators BUT too much of a pain on the balls. Is not the second coming of a deity or something……….is just a motorcycle race………sheeeessshs.
    Dorna… call it off, regroup and replan.

  • what a bunch of BS find another track and go for it…

  • Ian W

    I think Dorna are as much to blame as the Indian gvt. Indian import duties are no secret, so who agreed the contract in the first place without checking the no-so-small print?

    On the other hand it seems a little petty not to waive the duties. These are race teams who travel the world racing. Don’t worry they’re not coming to sell their (two) bikes and undermine your industry, they kind of need to take them away and use them again.

  • Franxou

    First, I don’t know much about India and I don’t mean to offend anyone, I hope I don’t sound rude to anyone.

    What I get from reading that is that by fighting between each another for the indian round, old wsbk lowballed in order to keep motogp out of India. Right?
    I believe that old wsbk hoped to get some government help and comprehension in dealing with the paperwork and fees but even if it is not happening, wsbk, whoever rules it now, has to go by the contract that is signed, right? So I would understand that even if it is “old wsbk” that signed a contract with the track to race in India at bargain price (or even in the red) in order to secure the title of “the only world bike series in India”, now dorna has to deal with it but even if the takeover did not happen, old wsbk would be in the same situation, right?
    So to get to my question :
    Is the Indian government known to be greedy, corrupt, or both?
    If it is known to be corrupt or greedy, well there you have it, they want to milk the international circus for as much as they can get.
    If it is not, it is just that they just don’t deal this way. After all, if a government decides that it works in a single way and does not mingle with the private sector, especially a big player from another country, maybe they just don’t want to create a precedent.
    If it not corrupt but not completely closed either, dorna might only need some loddyists to get some traction in the governing bodies in order to make things go smoothly, probably by promising more events in the future (like motogp in the future, after wsbk has got some serious recognition over there) and promising tourism and international recognition.
    On the whole, if it gets cancelled, it’s going to be bad for everyone : India hoping for a quick buck on import tariff, for losing the import tariff (or fee if the tax is returned after the goods left), for losing the media revenue, for losing the tourism revenue. The manufacturers, for losing visibility in a country they want to woo. The Indian people, who gets no local round (in the future they might get a couple races, India is big and populous). For Dorna, who lose some notoriety in front of pretty much everyone for not being able to make that race happen.

  • Robert Chase

    I’m on the “skip India” train myself. If their government can’t see that this type of event adds to their economy then just find some place else to hold the event. There are plenty of other countries that would appreciate the additional income.

  • Jimmy Midnight

    Just bribe them, that’s what the F1 guys do. How do you think they pulled off an F1 race there in the first place.

  • aditya


    “Is the Indian government known to be greedy, corrupt, or both?”

    both, in most cases…

  • qstek

    cancel. Next

  • David

    What! Don’t cancel, India is a HUGE market for motorcycles. It would be worth it to try and work something out with Indian customs. I’m sure if Dorna wants to have the race, than they will.