2013 WSBK Calendar Shake Up: Istanbul To Replace Silverstone, TBA Round Scrapped?

Despite the fact that the World Superbike series kicks off on Sunday, the provisional calendar is still very much in a state of flux. Rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock, gathered at Phillip Island for the 2013 season opener, suggest that major changes could stilll take place to the calendar. The biggest change is that the UK round, set for Silverstone on 4th August, could be dropped altogether, and replaced with a round in Turkey, at the spectacular Istanbul Park Circuit in mid-September.

The rumors, reported by German-language website Speedweek and confirmed by other WSBK sources, state that Silverstone is to be dropped because the circuit cannot afford to pay the sanctioning fee previously agreed with Infront, and now being demanded by Dorna. Crowd numbers at Silverstone for World Superbikes were always low, in part because the flat nature of the circuit made viewing difficult, and in part due to relatively high ticket prices, which meant that ticket sales did not generate sufficient revenue to cover the circuit's costs.

The round scheduled for Silverstone could now take place at Istanbul Park in Turkey. The circuit, once run by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, is under new management since Ecclestone withdrew at the end of last year, and is in need of events to host at the $200 million dollar facility. While the new management is negotiating with Ecclestone over a return of Formula One, adding a World Superbikes round would be logical, given that Turkey has a reigning champion in the World Supersport class in Kenan Sofuoglu, and a candidate to repeat in 2013. Acording to Speedweek, the Turkish round of WSBK could be held on 15th September.

The rest of the calendar is also far from finalized. The round scheduled for 23rd June and marked as "to be announced" is now certain to be dropped, with the Brno circuit already having confirmed that they will not host a round of the series. Both Imola and Portimao are still marked as being subject to contract, and given the economic situation in both Italy and Portugal, still under severe doubt. The Portimao circuit continues to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, while doubts remain over the future of Imola.

The disappearance of Silverstone reduces the Superstock season - run at European rounds only, to keep the series cheap - to just 8 races. With both Superstock 1000 and 600 classes set to be scrapped for 2014, several riders and teams are taking a look at the rival series being set up in Central Europe, and based around the Brno circuit.

The problems at Silverstone highlight a key concern at the center of the business of hosting motorcycle racing. Crowd attendances at motorcycle racing have been historically good, and as tobacco advertising was still allowed at motor sport events, the circuits had extra ways of generating revenues. But a combination of the ending of the loophole which allowed tobacco sponsorship, the decline in attendance as the sport became more clinical and professional, and the global economic collapse in 2008 meant that circuits started to struggle to pay the sanctioning fees charged by both Dorna and Infront (or FGSport, as it was then called) to organize MotoGP and World Superbike rounds. The iconic WSBK round at Brands Hatch was one of the first casualties, the circuit being dropped from the WSBK calendar in 2009, after a dispute between the Flamminis and the MSVR, who run the circuit, over the level of fees to be charged.

The situation has grown worse since then. Several circuits, both on the WSBK and MotoGP calendars, continue to complain of the cost of hosting rounds, with several rounds under threat as a result. The Sachsenring circuit has struggled to pay the sanctioning fee for the German round of MotoGP for several years now, and is subject to constant negotiation with local government over subsidies. Despite its history and the existence of a contract, the Jerez round of MotoGP has been in doubt for the past three years. Even the iconic Assen circuit has struggled to pay the fee required by Dorna, and is looking at ways of increasing crowds and building revenues again.

The problem is very much a chicken-and-egg situation: to recoup the sanctioning fees, the circuits need to set ticket pricing at an uncomfortably high level. But those higher prices are keeping some fans away, who simply cannot afford it. Finding the right balance between ticket prices and attendance number is extremely complex, and not entirely under the control of the circuits. That the demand for racing is there is certain: at the Estoril round of MotoGP last year, the circuit - knowing it would be losing MotoGP - set its prices at extremely low levels - between 2 and 20 euros, in comparison to 90 euros and upwards for most other circuits. They filled the circuit, something which had not happened for many years at Estoril, which has traditionally had poor attendance. However, the revenues generated with such a low ticket price are simply not enough to cover costs.

Getting out of this precarious situation will be difficult. For Dorna, the way forward may not lie in continually raising sanctioning fees for both motorcycle racing series. Instead, they may have to try and capitalize on the intangible assets, raising income from sponsors by selling higher crowd attendances, and generating higher crowd attendances by lowering ticket prices. But with Dorna under pressure from their owners, Bridgepoint and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, to generate income to pay off the loans which the private equity firm has burdened it with, the Spanish company has little room for maneuver.

Despite the fact that the World Superbike series kicks off on Sunday, the provisional calendar is still very much in a state of flux. Rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock, gathered at Phillip Island for the 2013 season opener, suggest that major changes could stilll take place to the calendar. The biggest change is that the UK round, set for Silverstone on 4th August, could be dropped altogether, and replaced with a round in Turkey, at the spectacular Istanbul Park Circuit in mid-September.The rumors, reported by German-language website Speedweek and confirmed by other WSBK sources, state that Silverstone is to be dropped because the circuit cannot afford to pay the sanctioning fee previously agreed with Infront, and now being demanded by Dorna. Crowd numbers at Silverstone for World Superbikes were always low, in part because the flat nature of the circuit made viewing difficult, and in part due to relatively high ticket prices, which meant that ticket sales did not generate sufficient revenue to cover the circuit's costs.

Comments

Can team/rider sponsors do more to boost attendance?

The attendance of these events is limited to the cost of the individual tickets. That's a no brainer and this is left to the circuits to sell tickets at a price point that the consumer will want and is equally profitable for the organizers as you have covered quite clearly. But what if you [or the consumer if you will] had more bang for the buck? Take for example, Ducati's ticket package at select events where with the purchase of the package, you become part of the racing experience as well as Ducati Island. I know for me, this was the difference between going or not to a previous event. If other manufactures, team and rider sponsors take the same direction and offer their own ticket packages, they may draw in more crowd attendees in addition to whatever the circuit is trying to do. Think of the potential pull an energy drink would have if it offered a ticket package at a WSBK/MotoGP event that included access to hospitality, chance meeting with sponsored riders, etc. I'm sure that this may draw a person who has a rider/team who is covered by this sponsor would consider buying a package vs just going general admission. Now if more manufactures and sponsors were asked to do the same [clearly optional], then that would offer more options for race fans to tailor their racing experience. This would also have a direct effect on the sponsor's interest in advertising their item (TV, print media), something that the US is severely lacking. Having that added coverage would suggest that more coverage is needed, and hopefully more events are shown.

Total votes: 80

I guess it bears noting that AFAIK Dorna...

...don't own motorcycle racing, they own two particular race series. In the final analysis, if no circuits want to host the races in one or both of their series, and no teams want to participate in one or both of the series they run, then nobody will want to pay for the TV rights to show those series, and they will be de-facto out of either the production based racing business, or the Grand Prix business. If, one day soon, somebody like e.g. Jonathan Palmer decides to combine with other dissatisfied interests in Europe to start a pan-european production based racing series that steals Dorna's lunch, leaving Dorna with a 'World Championship' consisting of flyaway rounds, second string racers and half empty grids, then I'm really not sure what they can possibly do about it without running head on into EU competition law, and I think they will own a very expensive nothing. Until the WSB contract expires, when they will presumably own even less...

Of course, once it has happened once, it can happen again...

Does Dorna have some hold over people's right to race motorcycles that I have missed that would preclude this from happening?

Total votes: 76

WSBK Shakedown?

Motorcycle racing fans (and track owners) are too smart to pay more than they can afford to see Dorna's show. There is the cost/valve equation to consider. I agree that the time is just about here for the rise of a new sanctioning entity in production-based motorcycle racing. Look at the problems the Irish are having with insurance costs for roadracing events. There are opportunities being created if someone is smart enough and willing to put a new business model together. Of course that's the big if, isn't it?
Maybe Dorna has decided to run WSBK into the ground. It won't be a challenge to MotoGP then , will it?

Total votes: 71

i know right...?

re: "There is the cost/valve equation to consider."

i hate when this happens. that's why for every engine build, i source me kit from delwest. :)

Total votes: 84

FIM

Appears to be some confusion as to who owns and is responsible for what in these comments.

The FIM are Key here, they sanction World championship motorcycle racing, Dorna merely own the rights to promote them. You cannot simply set up your own International race series, without the FIM sanctioning it. If you tried, you, the circuits, entrants or riders wouldn't get insurance in Europe. Not public liability, medical, or life. It sounds like it's anti competition, but the facts are No insurer will cover any event unless they are sanction by an internationally recognised body, the FIM in this case.
People have tried in car racing, Jonathan Palmer included, and ultimatly had their arses kicked.

Imho, it's Dorna who need to be looking for other revenue streams, and improving there product. The circuits needed to do more to improve the race day experience for the paying fans.

Total votes: 66

not a problem, an opportunity

re: "but the facts are No insurer will cover any event unless they are sanction by an internationally recognised body, the FIM in this case.

never say never.

re: "Imho, it's Dorna who need to be looking for other revenue streams, and improving there product.The circuits needed to do more to improve the race day experience for the paying fans."

Q: (rhetorical) how is it that "fan-sumer" opinion always (but always) centers around what EVERYBODY ELSE can do to improve the situation...? with never a mention of what THEY themselves can do to improve the situation...? gotta wonder what magical force in the equation grants the fan-sumer ZERO responsibility...?

things that make you go hmmmmmnn... (rubbing chin/scratching temple)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzzGjCmABzw

Total votes: 68

pretty obvious to me

That this is part of the answer to why Ben Spies stayed in GP on a lackluster bike. Who wants to be king of nothing...

FWIW anyone know where I can watch the entire races whether live or post facto. I checked my USA listings and there was nothing I could record before we left and I am in Jamaica right now and the hotel does not have eurosport. Albeit they have faster Internet though.

Total votes: 67

One word.....

Japan

Total votes: 77

Silverstone

Silverstone makes for good TV but as a circuit to visit, it sucks. The F1 barbed wire makes it feel like a prison camp and there's really nowhere you can get a good view so you end up just watching the big screens, so you might as well be at home. Istanbul coming back is great. Can we please have MotoGP there as well!

Is Donington ever going to make enough money or find the capital to restore the infield? I don't really want to attend a building site again. Please just find a way to bring WSB back to Brands Hatch.

The economics of this game clearly just don't work at the moment. The cycle of increasing ticket prices to try and claw back revenue to pay the increasing license fee that isn't generating enough sponsorship and advertising is well into diminishing returns.

Total votes: 78

Fair point and I agree

But, we like sitting in a stand with a cover, there's no such option at Donny or Brands. I like the new infield at Silverstone, there's a good stand there (Village?).

Admittedly the Silverstone attandance at WSBK last year was dire, not helped by terrible weather (both cold and raining) and it being right in the middle of the Olympics. 2011 was better and 2010 (when lots of Brits were at the front) was good I remember.

Maybe the UK is suffering a bit from losing the very popular 'star' James Toseland?

Total votes: 64

This is the Brits best chance in years

With Tom & Eugene on form, and Chaz lurking this could be the year for another UK (or NI) Championship. Part of it is the fans, and part of it is the circuits. Fans need to support the sport, and not from afar. Circuits need to make it enticing for fans. It's a two way street.

-jim

Total votes: 63

More Silverstone

I agree with the previous comments and would add the following.

The Silverstone owners, the BRDC, has for many years had a poor relationship with Bernie Ecclestone, the rights holder to F1. It would seem that Silverstone think of themselves as "The home of the British GP" and Bernie thought their facilities poor in relation to the new tracks.

After a lot of arguing and threats to drop the British GP, the BRDC took the plunge and spent many millions on upgrades to the track and facilities, but in doing so appear to have put themselves in a financial position where they may have to sell part of their assets; i.e., the track and land, to keep up payments on the debt. There is land to build a business park and other non-racing activities, with few, if any, planning issues, but right now they may struggle to find investors.

This may well be causing them the difficulty in paying Dorna's fee. They are contractually committed to F1, paying more year by year and if they can't see a profit in running the World Superbike race, may take the view that it costs less to not run a meeting than run one at a significant loss.

It would be interesting to know their contractual obligations for the MotoGP round, now both series are under one ownership.

Total votes: 68

on tv...usa

buzzman- beinsport.com is live streaming all wsbk events in 2013. Hope useful.

Total votes: 61

I believe the major problem

I believe the major problem for a world championship is coverage, especially in the uk. How can a series plan to increase popularity when a large proportion of the population can't watch the racing? Being on 'terrestrial' tv is essential for growth. It is the only way NEW followers will be 'caught'.

In the UK you can only watch WSBK if you have chosen to include in a package with all manner of other s, er, stuff. (and furthermore, in doing so financially support an abhorent media empire).

My partner became a fan of motogp- during the period that established fans consider least enjoyable. She would never have paid for motorcycle racing of any sort but by being on tv whilst waiting for her family dinner she and her two younger siblings all enjoyed and are now established as fans. She and I along with her brother and father all went to Misano- a trip specifically but not exclusively for motogp. Soemthing that could never have occured without free access to racing initially. She now rides too.

Total votes: 68

I think running WSBK @ Silverstone during the Olympics last year

...was a big thing. I mean, all of us armchair fans could tell you that the circuit was going to lose out massively in terms of bums on seats & gate money so it's not exactly likely that nobody @ InFront as was or Silverstone could foresee a problem when the schedule was being drawn up. And yet the event was scheduled for that weekend anyway. Did Silverstone host that race last year under duress? Were they given a massive discount to compensate them for hosting a race that nobody would come to? Or we're they told by InFront that they'd be looked after this year if they lost out last year? If the fact that attendance was unusually low last year did come as a surprise to either InFront or Silverstone then words would fail me.

I expect that confidence in the series future has a bearing here. You might decide to take a loss in a bad year if you think that next year the series will recapture the glory days of Foggy or Rossi might move there or something. The moment you decide that actually it's in terminal decline, and that next year will be worse than this year but still better than the year after, with Dorna perhaps hinting that there is no chance of rules that will permit domestic wild cards any time soon, sanctioning fees on an upward trajectory and no chance of terrestrial British TV coverage... Well, at that point 'A loss leader' is just a loss.

Total votes: 64

Silverstone update

Some confirmation of the fact that the Silverstone round looks like being canceled:

http://www.bennetts.co.uk/bikesocial/news-and-views/racing/world-superbi...

Total votes: 60

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