After the bombshell announcement that Bridgepoint was putting Dorna in charge of both the MotoGP and World Superbike series, the media were keen to get a reaction from either of the Flammini brothers, the two men who had helped to grow the series into the success it is today, and who currently run WSBK. After an initial deafening silence, Paolo Flammini finally made an appearance at Magny-Cours on Sunday morning, to explain his, and Infront’s, point of view. Our friends at the Italian website InfoMotoGP.com were present to record the press conference on video.
Flammini did not say much – indeed, he started his speech with the words “I don’t have much to add to what is written in the press release,” – but what he did say helped clarify the situation a little. Starting off with an understatement – “This step represents a very big moment in the history of World Superbikes”, Flammini told the assembled media – the Italian was at pains to make clear that World Superbikes would face few changes for 2013. “Many people are worried for the 2013 season, but nothing special will happen,” he said, emphasizing that his aim was to keep stability in the series.
Sunday was a big day for World Superbikes at Magny-Cours. Not just because the 2012 title was settled in what was a fascinating showdown, helped in no small part by the weather, but perhaps most of all because on Sunday morning at 9am local time, Infront Motor Sports CEO spoke to the media for the first time since the announcement that Bridgepoint, the private equity firm which owns both Infront and MotoGP rights owners Dorna, has decided to bring both series under a single umbrella, and that umbrella is to be Dorna.
That news has sent a shockwave through the motorcycle racing world. The World Superbike paddock is hardest hit of all: the mood there is somber, with everyone from Infront staff to team mechanics fearing the outcome of what amounts to a coup by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. Optimists are few, especially as Ezpeleta is one of the most reviled characters among denizens of the WSBK paddock, because of what he represents: the perceived arrogance of the Grand Prix paddock, and a culture which is anathema to everything which World Superbikes stand for. MotoGP is truly the Beatles to WSBK’s Rolling Stones.
Bridgepoint has announced today that it has brought MotoGP and World Superbike, the two motorcycle racing series it owns, under a single umbrella organization. The reorganization will see Dorna Sports become the parent organization for both series, though Infront will operate as an independent entity and continue to organize World Superbike under its own banner. Infront has also been named as “marketing advisor and global advisor” for both MotoGP and WSBK.
The implications of this announcement are huge, but not immediately clear. The logic behind the move is impeccable: the two series are spending too much of their time competing against each other instead of working together to promote the sport of motorcycle racing. By combining their marketing efforts, the hope is that both series will be made stronger.
Infront Motor Sports and the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have agreed to a three-year contract, which sees World Superike racing returning to the coastal California circuit. The American round for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 WSBK seasons, Laguna Seca replaces Miller Motorsports Park, with this announcement, as the sole-destination for the premier production motorcycle racing class.
Returning back to Laguna Seca after an eight-year hiatus, Infront cites that Seca’s vital location near the motorcycle industry, as well as its rising attendance as the main reasons for the switch from Miller. However, we think US fans will agree though that Miller provided an excellent venue for WSBK, and that the World Superbike Championship could benefit from having more than one American-based round, especially considering how many stops on its calendar are still in Europe.
The hoopla surrounding the Effenbert Liberty Racing team and last weekend’s World Superbike race at Monza continues, though the Czech-based racing squad is present and accounted for at Donington Park this race-weekend. Traveling without its hospitality suite, the largest in the WSBK paddock, Liberty Racing is essentially sans its title sponsor this weekend, and the teams says Effenbert may withdraw its participation in World Superbike after the events at Monza, though the team is committed to completing the 2012 World Superbike Championship.
Saying that its ire in the press was improperly casted towards Infront Motorsport, the team in another statement has clarified that it blames a small number teams and riders, who helped shape the cancellation of Race 1 at Monza, and the shortened distance of Race 2. With Effenbert Liberty Racing rider Sylvain Guintoli on the pole position in Italy, the team is understandably upset about not being able to capitalize on the weekend, especially after securing two podiums at Assen, one of which was a race win. The broken English press release after the jump, while Liberty rider Jakub Smrz currently sits on WSBK’s provisional pole.
It seems sometimes that the title “World Sueprbike” is a bit of a misnomer, as the premier production motorcycle racing championship is hardly a worldly affair at all. With fourteen races on the 2012 World Superbike Championship calendar, WSBK will leave Europe a grand total of two times: once for the season-opener at Phillip Island, and once for the American round at Miller Motorsports Park. Holding the other twelve races on the European continent, World Superbike is really stretching its legs this year by holding a race outside of Moscow, Russia.
Progress will apparently be made to rectify this situation though, as starting in 2013 World Superbike will head to Indonesia with a five year contract (races to be held 2013-2017). Set to either end the 2013 calendar with a race at the Sentul International Circuit, or lump the race at the beginning of the season with Phillip Island, the announcement ends s 15 year draught of WSBK racing in Indonesia. Infront and the FIM clearly must be recognizing that the Southeast Asian country is a hot bed for the motorcycle industry (Jakarta is A&R‘s single-largest city of readership).
In the developing markets land grab that is occurring in motorcycle racing, it looks like World Superbike has beat out MotoGP, and is the first to strike in the Russian market, as Paolo Flammini, CEO of Infront Motor Sports (media rights holder for World Superbike) and Alexander Yakhnich, CEO of Yakhnich Motorsport announced that a partnership agreement between the two companies had been reached.
As a part of this contract, Yakhnich Motorsport will become the organizer of an FIM Superbike World Championship round in Russia, and unsurprisingly will have the TV rights to the event. Infront and Yakhnich hope to host a round in Russia by 2012, though further details of the event have not been outlined. Russia has several circuits that could host the World Superbike round, though none are FIM homologated.
There’s a growing rumor (if not fact) that Pirelli won’t be supplying the World Superbike Championship with tires after the 2012 season, and a piece of that puzzle has come forth today as Infront Motor Sports (IMS) has announced that it will be accepting bids from tire manufacturers to exclusively supply the World Superbike & World Supersport Championships, the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup, and the Superstock 600 European Championship for the 2013-2015 racing seasons.
WSBK’s worldwide television audience grew by 33% from the 2009 to 2010 season. According to Infront, the “championship reached a cumulative audience of 498 million” for the 2010 season, meaning each WSBK race garnered around 40 million viewers. While still a considerably smaller number than MotoGP, which claims around 300 million viewers for each race, this is the sort of jump in audience that makes sponsorship dollars appear more easily. The official WSBK website had “a 30% increase of unique visitors compared to 2009,”with a total of four million individual visitors in 2010.
The FIM and Infront Motorsports announced Wednesday the launch of its own European Junior Cup, a support series racing alongside the World Superbike series, for fourteen to seventeen year old riders. According to a press release from the FIM, “riders will compete on identical race prepared Kawasaki Ninja 250R motorcycles,” racing in the time between the two WSBK races at Assen, Monza, Aragon, Silverstone, Nurburgring, and Mangy-Cours.
Riders selected to compete will also attend a training camp before the season begins in Guadix, Spain. Riders will be eligible if they “have held a competition license for at least one year in either road racing, motocross, enduro, supermoto, trials or minimoto.”
Good news for British motorcycle racing fans, as Donington Park has secured a spot on the 2011 World Superbike calendar. But the real good news for the Brits is that WSBK will come to both Donington and Silverstone next year, giving the sometimes rainy island a double-helping of production-based international motorcycle racing.
The announcement signals the rescue of the British track from what seemed like certain death, after planned renovations fell through and the track was unable to secure a Formula 1 bid, leaving the Donington Park leasees without a dime to spend, and without a track circuit to run (construction had begun to make the track conform to Formula 1 standards).