The World Superbike tests at Portugal's Portimao circuit last week were more than just the first opportunity for the World Superbike and World Supersport riders to take to the track this year, it also marked the official opening of the 2009 World Superbike season. To mark that fact, InFront Motor Sports CEO Paolo Flammini spoke to journalists at the launch to present the riders and teams officially. During the presentation, he also shared some of his thoughts on the future of the series, and its relationship with MotoGP.
Writing for the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, veteran World Superbike reporter Guy Ritchie reports that Flammini told the press he did not believe that the contest for TV audiences was between World Superbikes and MotoGP, but rather between motorcycle racing and other sports, such as Formula 1 and soccer. What was important was for both series was to work together to grow the popularity of the sport in general, rather than fight each other.
Having said that, however, Flammini then went on to address the new Moto2 class, and on the subject of the new 600cc four-stroke class due to replace the 250s, he was a good deal less conciliatory. InFront Motor Sports, Flammini said, has the exclusive rights to motorcycle racing with production equipment, and they were prepared to defend their rights. But they will have nothing to complain about if the Moto2 class is not based on equipment derived from production bikes.
"It's in the hands of the FIM," Flammini said. But at the same time, he pointed to the case of WCM as an example of what he expects. "In the case of WCM, the FIM gave a clear interpretation of this concept," Flammini told the press. "The FIM disqualified the WCM because it had an engine partially derived from a production motor, despite using a fully prototype chassis. This shows that in the past, the FIM has ruled that a motorcycle with a prototype chassis and a production engine is not a prototype."
With the launch of the Moto2 class likely to be brought forward to 2010, in response to the prospect of an empty 250 grid thanks to the two strokes being scrapped at the end of next year, it is looking increasingly like the future of the new class could be fought out in the courts. The new class was specifically aimed at reducing the cost of racing. But any savings made from cheaper engines could end up being lost again in legal wrangling over the meaning of the word "prototype". The contracts which established the World Superbike series could yet be the death knell of MotoGP.