Despite the mountain of debt facing the Circuito de Jerez, the 2012 MotoGP round looks set to go ahead. Over the past couple of days, doubts had appeared in the Spanish press over whether the 2012 race at Jerez scheduled for April 29th would be able to go ahead, but reports from the Mayor of Jerez' office indicate that the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez will go ahead as scheduled.
The financial problems at the Jerez circuit go back a long way. They started with construction work carried out by a consortium including the construction firm Serviobras back in 2001, work which Cirjesa, the municipal association which owns the circuit, had yet to pay for. Over the years, those debts grew to a massive 45 million euros, reportedly including some 6 million euros to Dorna, the company that runs MotoGP. The situation got so far out of hand that at the end of October, the Jerez City Council terminated the contracts with Gestion Circuito de Jerez and Two Wheeled Promotions Ltd, the two private companies that had been brought in to run the circuit, and took it back under its own administration.
Despite assurances from the mayor of Jerez, María José García-Pelayo, that the race would go ahead as scheduled, doubts about the race had been circulating in Spain for some time, and had been exacerbated after the recent Spanish general election. The newly-installed government, led by the right-of-center Partido Popular, has been forced into massive budget cuts due to the crisis facing the euro and the mounting national debt in Spain. With public spending being massively curtailed, the chances of the city of Jerez and the region of Andalucia being able to pay off the 45 million euro debts owed by the circuit - or even the 6 million owed to Dorna - ahead of the Spanish MotoGP round in April are zero. With contract negotiations still underway between the Jerez circuit and Dorna about the Spanish GP, rumors started to emerge that the race would be canceled.
The situation was made worse still by reports that telephone enquiries about ticket sales were being met with the response that sales had not yet started because of the lack of a contract between the track and Dorna. Yesterday, several reports in the Spanish press appeared to the effect that the Jerez round of MotoGP was in danger, and could face cancellation in the face of the debts the track had accumulated.
But last night, Mayor García-Pelayo acted to end the rumors. A statement was issued that the 2012 MotoGP race at Jerez would be going ahead, with García-Pelayo insisting that she had spoken to Carmelo Ezpeleta about the situation, and that he, too, intended that the race should take place as scheduled. Though it appears that a contract is still to be signed - and that Dorna is pushing to recoup some of the debt it is owed by the circuit for previous races held there - the massive income that the event brings to the region is too valuable to run the risk of losing the race.
There are reasons other than the purely financial to believe that the race will go ahead as planned, despite the economic difficulties. Of the four MotoGP rounds held in Spain, Jerez is the most popular, marking the emotional opening of the MotoGP season after the sterile official season opener under the floodlights at Qatar. The atmosphere at the race is matched only by Mugello, and having the race at the start of the season is important for the Spanish domestic market. TV ratings in Spain start to go up once Jerez impinges on the consciousness of MotoGP fans in Spain, Italy and the rest of Europe. The loss of Jerez would mean a hiatus of at least three weeks between Qatar and the next European round. And with Estoril also still uncertain - the economic situation in Portugal being even worse than in Spain - Dorna could potentially have faced a gap of five weeks between the first and the second races of the season. It is hard to imagine MotoGP season without Jerez, whatever the contractual situation might be.