The 2015 MotoGP round at Brno is still not certain to go ahead as a result of a battle for control of the race. According to German-language website Speedweek, circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and South Moravian governor Michal Hasek have been arguing since August last year over who will organize the Czech round of MotoGP at the Masaryk circuit in Brno. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has given them an ultimatum, saying that if the situation is not resolved by the first week of June, the 2015 Brno MotoGP round will be canceled.
The dispute at the heart of the problem is about control, and about money. Circuit owner Abraham Sr claims he cannot afford the €2.73 million sanctioning fee demanded by Dorna to host the race, and was therefore subsidized by the city council of Brno and the regional government of South Moravia. Abraham Sr told Speedweek that over €1 million of the amount promised for the 2014 race has yet to be paid. Governor Hasek, meanwhile, has been trying to persuade Dorna to award the contract to the South Moravian government, and allow them to organize the race, according to Speedweek. Ezpeleta is reported to be wary of any such deal, as the government has no control over the race track. Organizing the practical side of the race becomes much more difficult if the track is owned by Abraham Sr, but run by the South Moravian government. Negotiations over the numbers of marshals, medical marshals, etc, become very complex when it is not clear where the responsibility lies.
What is not clear is why Abraham Sr claims that he does not have the funds to organize the Czech round of MotoGP. Last year, there were 138,000 spectators on Sunday, and over 240,000 over three days. The cheapest tickets on sale for this year's event retail at 68 euros. If everyone who attended only bought GA tickets, that would generate nearly €9.4 million in turnover. According to Speedweek, the race is profitable if they get over 170,000 visitors over the three days of the event. The Brno race is the most popular on the calendar, and exceeds that number by 40% or more every year.
Ezpeleta has now issued an ultimatum to both Abraham Sr. and Hasek. If the two cannot reach agreement on the situation and in the week following Mugello, then the 2015 Brno round will be canceled with immediate effect, and there will be a three week break between Indianapolis on 9th August and Silverstone on 30th August. Ezpeleta hopes to force the two parties, who have refused to speak to one another for several months now, into action. Both parties want the race to go ahead: the event is profitable for the circuit, and it brings a large amount of money into the South Moravia region, generating employment and tax revenue. The problem is that neither party appears willing to concede.
This is not a new problem. The race has been shrouded in uncertainty for several years now, with arguments over money, and who should fund the race, at the heart of the issue. With MotoGP due to return to the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria in 2016, that would provide a race in the same region, and offering an alternative to the Czech race.
The loss of Brno would be a tragedy, though. The circuit is one of the few which allow the MotoGP bikes to truly stretch their legs, and the challenging layout has often provided memorable races. The race is extremely popular with fans - in part due to the generally low prices for accommodation, and especially food and beer - and the setting is stunning, the Masarykring track snaking up and down steep wooded hills. We can only hope that common sense prevails in the near future.