The World Superbike round scheduled for March 10 in India may be canceled due to a complex maze of Indian customs regulations that must be navigated by teams, probably at a heavy financial cost.
India customs rules require all team technical equipment to arrive in the country at least 15 days before the race for inspection. That poses a big problem, because WSBK teams will be on track at the season opener in Phillip Island on Feb. 24, 15 days before the Indian race at the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi.
Teams also must deposit funds with Indian customs equal or slightly greater to the value of equipment that's not for sale. That duty usually is waived or refunded once the goods in question leave the country, but bureaucratic red tape often delays the return of those significant funds for a while. So that will require teams - some struggling to stay afloat - to get significant cash advances to cover the duty. Most WSBK teams probably can handle that burden, but some minnow teams may not.
This Indian problem is nothing new.
Formula One Management, which handles all commercial aspects of Formula One, works with customs officials in all nations conducting F1 events to pave smooth passage for F1 teams into their countries. But Indian customs refused to relent on their regulations for F1 teams for the first two Grands Prix of India in 2011 and 2012, causing headaches for teams and plenty of extra work for the FOM.
Dorna will conduct an emergency meeting next week in Madrid to try and sort this problem with team officials and the Italian company that transports team and WSBK sanctioning body equipment around the globe to WSBK events.
This will be a significant first test of Dorna's ability to juggle the administration of both MotoGP and WSBK. The decision about how hard to push Indian authorities to relax customs policies for WSBK also may give some indication about the importance Dorna will place on WSBK compared to MotoGP.
It's a tenuous balancing act for Dorna. The company would extend a virtual olive branch to a very skeptical WSBK paddock by helping smooth teams' entry to India. But Dorna also doesn't want to ruffle feathers with governments in India or Southeast Asia, as it would certainly like to add MotoGP rounds to India and other emerging Southeast Asian markets.