The FIM today announced the provisional dates for the 2012 MotoGP schedule. The season kicks off in Qatar on April 15th, with a fortnightly schedule of races until Assen, when the Dutch, German and Italian rounds take place on consecutive weekends. The series then heads across the Atlantic for two US rounds at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, before returning to Europe for three more races. A triple-header in Asia and Australia follows, before the season wraps up at the traditional final round at Valencia on November 11th.
Reading the notes on the calendar, it is clear that the schedule really is very provisional indeed. The rounds at Jerez, Estoril and in Germany are all labeled "Subject to contract," with doubts especially strong about the Portuguese and German rounds of MotoGP. Estoril has still to sign a contract with Dorna, and given the extreme austerity measures in place in Portugal, the circuit is unlikely to receive much assistances from the Portuguese government. Attendance at the circuit is also one of the lowest of the year, meaning gate receipts fall well short of being able to cover the sanctioning fee.
The German Grand Prix is also highly doubtful. As reported a couple of days ago, the Sachsenring has decided against organizing the German round of MotoGP, with Dorna's nearly doubled sanctioning fee turning the event into a loss-maker for the ADAC, the German motoring organization that runs the circuit. Despite the nearly 130,000 fans that turn out on race day, and the immense popularity of the circuit, the ADAC calculated that hosting the 2012 German MotoGP round would incur losses of 850,000 euro, in part due to the 3.7 million euro sanctioning fee reportedly demanded by Dorna.
The situation with Jerez is much more complicated. Cirjesa, the association that runs the circuit, is still stuck in talks with its creditors, including the consortium that carried out construction work at the track in 2005. Although Jerez already has a contract with Dorna to run the Spanish round of MotoGP (the other three races held in Spain are named after the Autonomous Communities the circuits are located in, Catalunya, Aragon and Valencia), if Cirjesa cannot find an accommodation with its creditors, then the circuit may not be in a position to host the round.
The schedule also shows clear signs of being put together with a more rational emphasis on costs: After the season opener at Qatar, the paddock heads to Europe for a series of 8 races, with Spain, Portugal, France, Barcelona, Silverstone and Assen all two weeks apart, while Assen, the German round and Mugello are to be run on consecutive weekends. The series then heads across the Atlantic for the two US rounds, allowing the MotoGP class to leave its trucks and equipment in the US after the Laguna Seca race, to be shipped across the country to Indianapolis three weeks later.
Three more races in Europe follow, then the series heads out east for the three flyaway rounds. Though holding the Japanese, Malaysian and Australian rounds on consecutive weekends helps keep costs to a minimum (the three races can be done in one trip), having three races in such different climates and with 8-hour flights to travel between the races imposes a punishing schedule on the teams and riders. Though riders are free to recover between the races, the teams and mechanics have to work nearly non-stop during the flyaway schedule. There is likely to be a good deal of protest at the three back-to-back flyaways, just as there was in previous years, but cost considerations are likely to prevail.
The final anomaly in the calendar is the lateness of the start. With the season reverting to start in mid-April again, MotoGP appears once again to be giving the early spring to World Superbikes and Formula One. WSBK is likely to kick off its season in February at Phillip Island, with a second round likely to take place in March ahead of the MotoGP opener, while F1 will be on its third race of the season when MotoGP kicks off at Qatar. The late start is a consequence of Qatar's insistence on being both the season opener and a night race, with conditions in the dark often proving treacherous so early in the season.
For those wishing to book flights and hotels to go visit a race, the message of the calendar seems to be make your bookings in pencil. A finalized version of the calendar is unlikely to be completed until the last race of the year at Valencia, and some of the issues may take even longer than that to settle.
Below is the FIM press release containing the provisional calendar:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
2012 provisional calendar
|29 April||Spain (STC)||Jerez de la Frontera|
|6 May||Portugal (STC)||Estoril|
|20 May||France||Le Mans|
|17 June||Great Britain||Silverstone|
|8 July||Germany (STC)||TBC|
|29 July||United States***||Laguna Seca|
|26 August||Czech Rep.||Brno|
|16 September||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Misano|
|28 October||Australia||Phillip Island|
|11 November||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo – Valencia|
* Evening Race
** Saturday Race
*** Only MotoGP class
STC (Subject to the contract)
TBC (To be confirmed)