The repercussions of Bridgepoint’s decision to hand control of the World Superbike series to Dorna are just starting to become clear, as each of the protagonists get to explain their side of the story. After Paolo Flammini spoke to the media at the final World Superbike round of the year at Magny-Cours, at Motegi, it was the turn of Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to face the press.
He did so an hour before the traditional pre-event press conference, giving a statement and answering questions from assembled journalists on the implications of the move (a full transcript of the press conference is available on the official MotoGP.com website). Ezpeleta did his best to first of all quell any fears among the legions of World Superbike fans that Dorna intended implementing any major changes for the coming season, ensuring the assembled media that all would go ahead for 2013 as planned.
“For next year things will continue as they are, and both MotoGP and WSBK will continue the same way, with exactly the same system of organization and with the same technical rules,” Ezpeleta told the press. “For 2013 the regulations will be the ones that have been approved between the FIM and Infront Motor Sports,” he said in response to questions, “In 2013 it will be exactly as proposed by the different parties involved, there will not be any changes for 2013.”
Beyond 2013 is a different matter, however. Ezpeleta made it clear that his goal was to harmonize the regulations between the MotoGP and World Superbike series, each maintaining their separate identities, but cutting costs and increasing the spectacle in both. “From now, together with the FIM, the manufacturers, the circuits and with the teams, we will try to accommodate these difficult economic times to set up two championships that are able to continue and to grow together,” Ezpeleta said. “This is the main aim of both championships – reducing costs and increasing the show.”
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.
The news of the MotoGP and World Superbike Championship beyond moved under one roof 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.
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.
World Superbike has a serious venue problem, as only two of its fourteen races are outside of Europe — a market with a significantly depressed sport bike market. With both WSBK and MotoGP fighting for venues in developing regions, it looks like World Superbike is first to score the lucrative Indian market.
Signing an agreement with Jaypee Sports International Ltd (JPSI), a subsidiary of the private Indian engineering and construction conglomerate Jaypee Group, the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) will host a round on the World Superbike Championship Calendar.
Fresh on the heels of AMA Pro Racing’s 2012 Daytona 200 (surely to be a race we will talk about all season), there is a fun rumor floating around that World Superbike is considering changing from its two-race format at select events to one longer race format that would include pit stops. The rumor comes about as Infront boss man Paolo Flammini allegedly told journalists that he was considering the format switch for WSBK, as it would increase the spectacle of the sport, and we presume help differentiate it from its rival series, MotoGP.
Bear with us on this one, as it’s a bit convoluted. Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity firm based out of London, owns Spanish company Dorna Sports SL. Dorna, which as you might recall is the media rights holder and promoter for MotoGP, the motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship that we all know and love. Meanwhile World Superbike is owned in majority by Swiss company Infront Sports & Media, and in minority by the Italian-born Flammini brothers, with the latter group still handling WSBK’s media promotion.
Now according to reports, Infront Sports & Media is up for sale, and one of the three alleged bidders is Bridgepoint Capital (circle back to the second sentence in the first paragraph if you got lost on the way here). This means that potentially the twice-removed owner of MotoGP could potentially own a controlling stake in the Championship’s rival series: World Superbike. There are still a number of “if’s” in whether Bridgepoint will come through as a buyer on Infront Sports & Media, but ownership of both series by the same party, even at a removed distance is worth some general discussion.
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.
Two-stroke GP racing is expected to die next year, and the announcement of the Moto3 class is expected to occur during the GP Commission’s meeting at the Czech GP in a couple days. Scheduled to meet on Friday, the GP Commission has been hammering out the details on the 250cc single-cylinder four-stroke racing class that will replace 125GP in 2012, and will likely make an announcement after Sunday’s race.
Similar in concept to the Moto2 class, the most notable difference is the rumor that the Moto3 class will not be a spec-motor series, meaning any manufacturer can build a thumper and compete in the series. Considering the large number of manufacturers that already have experience racing 250cc singles, we can expect an array of bikes to be on the grid in 2012.
Dorna (MotoGP) and Infront Sports (WSBK) are to battle over the exclusive rights to race at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain. Home to the Valencian GP, the venue has also played host to the World Superbike Championship since 2000. As one of the larger and most popular venues, the track is the cornerstone for both races series, and in one of the most fruitful motorcycle racing markets…and Dorna wants it all to itself.
Just days after WSBK wrapped up its season opener at Phillip Island, Australia, rumors are about that the Flammini Brothers are eyeing the Hampton Down circuit in New Zealand as a possible destination for the World Superbike Championship in 2012. Hampton Downs will reportedly have to increase its track length in order to qualify for FIM homologation, which should make the road course 2.4 miles long.