Concentration of Power
by staff
Monday, September 24, 2012

Packed grandstands at Estoril. Do we need to mention this is an old photograph?
image by don cornwell

Dorna issued the 2013 provisional schedule Friday, Sept. 21, verifying the picture that former Grand Prix star Loris Capirossi tweeted Thursday night, Sept. 20.

The changes in the schedule have been detailed in other notes at Soup, but one fact is worthy of mention and analysis: Nine of the 19 events in the "world" championship are concentrated in just three countries, Spain, Italy and the United States.

Spain and Italy are traditional geysers of motorcycle racing, the countries where MotoGP is most popular due to native sons such as Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi. And the United States is a vital market for Yamaha, Honda and Ducati.

Still, Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta is walking on hot coals without Nomex boots by building this three-headed monster into the schedule.

Spain is in the midst of an economic meltdown. Unemployment among people 30 and younger is approaching 50 percent and boasts last Spring that the Euro economy implosion would be "over in 2013" now look uninformed. When you're living in your car, your options for entertainment are limited. Young people don't have euros to attend races in Spain, proven by the empty grandstands this season at Jerez and Barcelona and almost certain to be repeated at Aragon and Valencia, this with two Spanish riders as major players in the series..

Many Spanish sponsors, with the exception of the ubiquitous Repsol, are cutting back or withdrawing from MotoGP due to the fiscal crisis.

Italy probably is bike-crazy enough to support two races, especially with the legions that Rossi attracts. But the Italian economy isn't splitting financial atoms like a nuclear reactor, and there's an even bigger potential problem on the horizon: What happens to the popularity of MotoGP in Italy when Rossi retires?

The heir apparent to Rossi's throne of popularity, ability and stardom was lost last October in Malaysia when the charismatic, talented Marco Simoncelli was killed. There is no other Italian star on the horizon unless Andrea "Crazy Joe" Iannone can make a big footprint with the Ducati junior team next season.

Andrea Dovizioso is moving to the unofficial Italian national team at Ducati, but his smooth style and under-the-radar personality never have ignited the passion of Italian fans. Romano Fenati is showing promise in Moto3, but he's a few years away from any shot at the premier class.

It's quite a contrast from 10 years ago, when Italians ruled the World Championship. Rossi and Max Biaggi were 1-2 in MotoGP and among the princes of Italian sport. Marco Melandri was en route to winning the 250cc World Championship, and the top 10 of the 125cc final standings featured three Italians and a San Marino native.

The US? America is a weird market for MotoGP. It's a land of 311 million people, a gold mine for motorcycle manufacturers.

But motorcycle racing is not yet a part of the American sporting fabric, a major sport like in some European nations. It's not the NFL. It's not the NBA. While we personally don't care that MotoGP may or may not be a niche sport, Bridgepoint, owners of MotoGP (and WSBK) probably do. On the upside, it's an amazing thing that we now have the potential for three GP races in the USA. Kenny Roberts raced his entire career in Europe without the GP series ever hitting these shores. What's more, at least one more track currently on the DMG/AMA schedule has strong interest in holding a MotoGP event in the future. Dorna, seemingly, has plenty of customers here in the land of apple pie.

So, Dorna's addiction to Spain, Italy and the United States works—for now. But one of the reasons that F1's Bernie Ecclestone continues to print euros by the Louis Vuitton bag full in a weak economy is the recent diversification of the Formula One schedule. Ecclestone has pissed off purists but created mushrooming profits by moving away from traditional cradles of the sport in Europe.

The 2013 provisional F1 schedule features doubled-up races in just one country—the United States. Otherwise, F1 goes in 2013 to the resilient South American economic powerhouse in Brazil and the Asian economic hotbed in South Korea. It also visits the two most populous nations on Earth—China and India.

Bernie is treating the F1 schedule like a smart mutual fund, spreading his assets. Dorna is playing roulette, putting a lot of chips on three numbers that may not keep hitting for much longer.


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