The FIM today announced the official and final version of the 2009 World Superbike calendar. The announcement both confirmed some sad news and provided some excellent news for racing fans.
The bad news is that Brands Hatch, the biggest motorcycle race in the UK, and arguably the largest motorsports event in the country, is now officially off the calendar. Its absence is a result of an argument over sanctioning fees between FGSport (or as it is now called, Infront Motor Sports) and MSV, the body which organizes BSB and is run by Jonathan Palmer, which owns both Brands Hatch and a number of other major race circuits in the UK. The arguments may ostensibly be over money, but a whiff of politics hangs over the decision, with the Flammini brothers wanting a great deal more money than last year, while Palmer refusing to pay any more than he did last year. The loss of Brands is a major blow to race fans, both in terms of the circuit - which is a beautiful track, in a rather idyllic wooded area, and in terms of the event. Attendances at Brands were huge, rivalling even the numbers seen at Spanish MotoGP rounds.
The good news, however, is that Vallelunga has been dropped in favor of Imola. There had been rumors that this was to happen, as the track was dangerous and difficult, with a tight section added on in haste to make it eligible for FIM sanctioned international races. And as Vallelunga was thought to be included primarily to draw in Max Biaggi's fans from his native Rome, with Biaggi now a regular part of the series, the need for a round near Rome has been obviated.
The return of Imola sees one of the classic race tracks back on the calendar. Imola has been the site of some classic battles, both in the Grand Prix series and in World Superbikes, but perhaps none have been so famous as the final round of the 2002 World Superbike series, when Colin Edwards beat Troy Bayliss to win the championship.