Gordon Ritchie has covered World Superbikes for over a quarter of a century, and is widely regarded as the world's leading journalist on the series. MotoMatters.com is delighted to be hosting a monthly blog by Ritchie. The full blog will be available each month for MotoMatters.com subscribers. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.
How much WorldSBK rights holders Dorna value their second division championship will only be fully known after the COVID-19 lockdown across most of the world has been lifted. Nobody seems to think that is about to happen anytime soon. And to state the obvious, you cannot hold a World Championship of any kind unless all the riders and teams, scattered across the entire globe, are allowed to first travel, then race and finally get back home again afterwards.
The WorldSBK calendar, as we have seen twice already, is being actively rescheduled, ‘back-weighted’ to the autumn months and will be heavily truncated unless a miracle happens between now and July. (On a personal note my 2020 wall planner is taking on the appearance of a Jackson Pollock action painting, with WorldSBK rounds having been inked in and scrubbed out already).
It was interesting therefore to note that Dorna made an official comment on the whole virus situation recently, and even managed a kind word or two about WorldSBK next to the gilded MotoGP lettering, which got its usual top billing.
Less money mo' problems
Already disadvantaged to a great degree in financial terms compared to the pay-for-play MotoGP paddock, WorldSBK teams are arguably under greater pressure from the COVID-19-fallout than MotoGP teams. Many are already up against it for income and financial stability at the best of times and had their main sponsorship lifelines were more or less cut recently. No TV or race-based exposure means no sponsor exposure. So no public profile beyond what can be rustled up via social media, workshop tour videos, web feature stories, or daft Twitter/Instagram/TikTok videos and challenges (some of which are actually funny and creative, so well played to all).
But we are all venturing deeper into the swamp as a business entity with every cancelled, postponed or delayed round that is announced, and no amount of individual or collective optimism and positivity will pay everyone’s salaries and bills until we get wheels rolling in anger once again. But we will keep on keeping on towards a better future.
The mantra in WorldSBK about money for teams in normal circumstances is that ‘we’ do not generate enough income to justify a per-rider slab of money from Dorna, similar to the MotoGP model. Of course, and it has to be said publicly here and elsewhere, that Dorna can and does spend some money and gives support where it can in WorldSBK, where it is deemed viable and important enough.
But it is also a granite hard reality that the teams and manufacturers provide the final show that Dorna ultimately put on at WorldSBK meetings just as much as the teams in MotoGP do on the biggest stage.
Priorities on display
As alluded to at the top of the piece, soon is when we will see how much Dorna can do for WorldSBK as it also has great difficulties beyond its control with its biggest asset, MotoGP. This is through no fault of Dorna or anybody else, of course. Blame the bizarre infectious microbeast that is a Coronavirus. Nonetheless, how we react to a crisis says much more about all of us than the good times do. Where does WorldSBK fit into those circumstances, as far as the joint organisers of both major two wheeled championships are concerned?
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