Let me begin with an assurance. I am under no illusion whatsoever that I am the first person to be writing about this subject in the recent past. I am fully aware that people who have better credentials than I have, have spoken at length about this subject and that mine will be just another opinion on this issue. Nevertheless, many people could be saying the same thing for different reasons and therefore I shall go ahead and say what I have to say.
Before beginning my arguments the prudent thing to do would be set the context in which I am saying what I am saying. In fact, it is not one context but two contexts that we should be looking at. The first and for me this is the most important context is that there has been a huge melt down globally in the economy and there is no evidence that the world is going to be coming out of this anytime soon. Please do not take me to be a doomsdayer who wants to show dark clouds around silver linings. The world in the last four years has been moving from one economic crisis to another and most importantly these crises are happening in the developed part of the world; Europe and America. This bit of information is of significance since motorsport as a category has been birthed, nurtured and evolved in the context of Europe and America. Of course, there is Japan as well but then, on its own Japan also is not doing so excellently in economic terms.
Now to come to the second context which is that about Bridgepoint Capital being the owners of both MotoGP and World Superbike Racing since they have purchased Infront a company that has rights over World Superbikes among many other things. Before I get to this part of the story let me acquaint you with an interesting piece of information. MotoGP was originally owned by CVC Capital before good old Bernie Ecclestone decided to sell the rights of Formula1 to them. The European Commission on monopolies then decided that it was not correct for CVC Capital to have rights over both F1 and MotoGP and as a result, CVC Capital sold the rights of MotoGP to Bridgepoint Capital.
Last year thanks to the global economic recession Infront was put up for sale and Bridgepoint that had the money bid for it and got control of it as well. Interestingly enough the deal was passed by the European Monopolies Commission when it was told that there would be no merger of the series called World Superbikes with MotoGP. Just word of mouth was good enough for one owner to have both series under its belt. It is unprecedented but then so is the global recession which is now being touted as the bleakest after the recession of 1929. Any objection at this time would mean that other series that are held by Infront such as Serie A football league would suffer. So the deal went through with just oral assertions.
Now to take stock of health of the two series that go under the name of MotoGP and World Superbikes. The former is older, has a richer history and is all about prototype racing that allows manufacturers to experiment with cutting edge technologies that would later find their way onto road going motorcycles. The latter is all about road going motorcycles that can be raced on weekends and will not have any great cutting edge technology. This was how things were supposed to be. But we know that it is not very often that things are the way that they are supposed to be. As competition between the two series hotted up World Superbikes stopped being a championship of pure road going motorcycles. Let me give you an illustration. In stock trim, a Kawasaki ZX10R makes somewhat like 197 PS of power at the crank shaft. But when it is going racing it makes about 215PS. Same is the case with the BMW S1000RR. In stock trim it makes about 193 PS but when it is raced it makes 220PS. That kind of increase in power is due to the addition of parts that are anything but stock. So World Superbikes began encroaching on the prototype turf or that of MotoGP.
The response of MotoGP was to make its technology even more cutting edge and out of the reach of World Superbikes and this has meant that they have not only experimented with newer technologies, metals and what have you but they also reduced all MotoGP racing to factory racing. In the days of the two strokes there were privateer teams that bought engines mainly from Yamaha and chassis either from ROC or Harris. Some used old engines and fit them in new chassis. But with MotoGP going four stroke the strangle hold of the factories increased and there were only two types of teams, factory teams and leasing teams, where the leasing teams could not even look at what went into the engine of their motorcycle. The job of looking after the engine was left to representatives of the factory who had to be hired by the leasing teams, which are also called satellite teams. This meant that the cost of running motorcycles in MotoGP went into millions of Euros and with the global economic recession monies from sponsorships to such operations have all but dried up.
So MotoGP can now only field 12 factory prototypes while smaller factories such as Aprilia, Kawasaki and Suzuki walked away from the series. This forces the hand of Dorna who are a part of Bridgepoint Capital to introduce the CRT concept with a production engine and a prototype chassis. So MotoGP starts going the World Superbike way, relying on production machinery. What is important to note is that both series are unable to pack grids and with the exception of the new Moto3 class the engine capacities of Moto2 and World Supersports rely on 600cc engines and MotoGP and World Superbike have identical 1000cc engines. Now comes the question. When there are only something like 5 or 6 factories in both versions of motorcycle racing does it make sense to have to separate series? What makes things even more difficult is that the lap times of GP and Superbikes are not separated by much. More importantly unlike in cars where prototypes look very different from production models like F1 cars as against touring cars, production and prototype motorcycles look almost identical.
Instead of sponsor money being thinly spread over two series and with artificial attempts to keep them distinct, it makes less and less sense to keep the two going as separate entities. It would be in the interest of motorcycle racing to therefore club the two together and that will also mean better TV viewership for both series since one can then do away with this two race format that Superbikes has and creates problems for most sports networks. Also with Formula1 expanding to 20 weekends the exclusive availability of race weekends to both motorcycle racing series also is a problem. All these can be overcome by all parties concerned sitting together and creating one series; a series that is financially and technologically strong and has the ability to satisfy the cravings of bike racing aficionados. Well that is what I think, what about you? Do let us know.