The long-term future of MotoGP and World Superbikes in Australia has been secured. Earlier this week, Dorna signed an agreement with the Victorian government and the Phillip Island circuit which will see both world championship motorcycle racing series remain at the circuit for the next ten years, until 2027.
The agreement is great news for motorcycle racing fans and riders, as the Phillip Island circuit is almost universally regarded as one of the best two or three circuits in the world. Riders praise its fast, flowing layout - it is the fastest track on the calendar, with an average speed of well over 181 km/h - and its location, perched atop a cliff overlooking the Bass Strait which separates mainland Australia from Tasmania, makes for a spectacular setting and dramatic TV images. The flowing layout always provides fantastic racing, as the 2015 MotoGP race proved.
There have been concerns that the event could be in trouble. Despite its location - or perhaps because of it - attendance at the circuit is poor. Since the retirement of Casey Stoner at the end of 2012, crowds have dropped to around 35,000 on race day, which is the worst of every race except for Qatar. There were fears that the round may not be financially viable, and reports that the race could be switched to another venue.
Although several venues were mentioned, the new motorsports venue being built at Tailem Bend, near Adelaide, 750km north west of Phillip Island, appeared to pose the biggest threat. FIM Safety Officer Franco Uncini went to inspect the construction site earlier this year, and praised the project. But the building of Tailem Bend could mean a second MotoGP race being held in Australia, rather than a switch from Phillip Island.
With both Phillip Island and Assen now secured for the next ten years, some of the key and most iconic circuits on the calendar look set to remain. The MotoGP calendar is due for a shake up, with several new circuits set to be added over the next couple of years. Races will be added in Indonesia, at Sentul, in 2017, with the race moving to a new circuit to be built on South Sumatra from 2018 onwards. The Chang circuit in Thailand could also host a MotoGP round from next year, and talks are currently underway to hold a round of MotoGP in Kazakhstan. Given the dependence of Kazakhstan's economy on oil and mining, and the decline of prices of those commodities over recent years, it is questionable whether such an event is either sustainable or desirable.
Below is the press release announcing the contract extension with Phillip Island:
Dorna Sports ensures racing at Phillip Island for next ten years
The beautiful Phillip Island Circuit will remain on the MotoGP™ World Championship calendar until 2026 and on the FIM Superbike World Championship calendar until 2027. Fans and riders alike rate the circuit as one of their favourites, the incredible sweeping corners made even more majestic by the Bass Strait backdrop.
Dorna, the Phillip Island Circuit and the local Victorian Government all came to the agreement in light of the great historic success of the event. An estimated 85,000 spectators converged on Phillip Island for the 2015 Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, while more than 42,000 turned out for the 2016 WorldSBK race.
The Minister for Tourism and Major Events, John Eren, has said: “Our motorsports events at Phillip Island are flagship dates on our calendar, and they’re going nowhere. Phillip Island will remain at the centre of world motorsport for many years to come. These events create a unique buzz around Phillip Island, attract visitors to Victoria from all over the globe, and show the world we have the best of everything.”
The Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing, pointed out: “Thousands of motorsports fans from around the world flock to Phillip Island every year, and for good reason. It’s a great track, and competition is fierce. It’s fantastic that the excitement and adrenalin of these major events will be on show, with Gippsland’s beauty front and centre – inspiring many people to travel here and see the Island for themselves.”
DORNA CEO, Carmelo Ezpeleta, declared: “The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and the FIM Superbike World Championship have a strong history at Phillip Island, and have become part of the Island’s fabric. I am delighted the Victorian Government has decided to continue this longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship.”