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Top 15 Stories of 2012. Number One: Dorna Rules The World
by staff
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'World Superbike will be Dorna's Afghanistan, and a fight for the true homeland of motorcycle racing,' said one wag.
image by dean f adams

Editor's Note: This concludes a series counting down the top 15 stories in MotoGP in 2012, as determined by the Soup staff.

There were two bombs dropped in worldwide motorcycle racing in 2012.

The first was Casey Stoner's announcement in May that he was retiring from MotoGP after the 2012 season, at age 27. But that detonation was a Fourth of July sparkler compared to the munitions dropped in the fall by private equity firm Bridgepoint, which owns both MotoGP promoter Dorna Sports and World Superbike promoter Infront Sports & Media.

Bridgepoint announced Oct. 2 that Dorna Sports would take over promotion and organization of World Superbike, along with MotoGP, starting in 2013.

Ka-freaking-boom.

This was one of the most ground-shaking developments in worldwide motorcycle racing in a generation. It was so simple, yet so awkward.

Simple, because Bridgepoint ended a simmering, undeclared civil war between two global motorcycle roadracing series with one stroke of a pen. Awkward, because the hostility between MotoGP and WSBK didn't disappear with the new arrangement, and the future of both series remains arguably murkier than ever despite the united marketing and promotional front.

But one thing is clear: Dorna is the king of global motorcycle roadracing, with almost unlimited power. But almost no one sees the Masters from Madrid putting aside old rivalries with former WSBK owners the Flammini brothers and taking a balanced approach to management of both championships. Nearly everyone expects a version of the old adage "we're from the government and we're here to help" play out over time. Any real asset to WSBK will be encouraged to join MotoGP. One day WSBK will be a paltry sideshow.

There's little question MotoGP will benefit the most from this new paradigm. Dorna already has indicated it will create even greater distinctions between the prototype, elite ethos of MotoGP and the production-based philosophy of World Superbike by dumbing down the technical specs of WSBK machinery to nearly stock starting in 2014.

Dorna can counter criticism of that move by pointing toward the production-based Claiming Rules Team caste that entered MotoGP in 2012, which boosted bike numbers but littered grids with sub-standard machinery guided mainly by rent-a-riders.

But deep down, Carmelo Ezpeleta and Co. have to be relishing the prospect of Honda and Yamaha putting CRT into the dustpan of history - and widening the performance gap between MotoGP and WSBK - with their respective plans to offer prototype equipment to teams at a cheaper price starting in 2014. Honda will sell customer versions of its complete RC213V bike, while Yamaha will lease the engine and electronics from its M1 to teams to bolt into the chassis of their choice.

Dorna already has shown WSBK will be the red-headed step-sister in scheduling. The third race of the 2013 WSBK schedule, at Aragon, was moved back one week to accommodate the new date of the season-opening MotoGP race at Qatar. But that move also puts the WSBK Aragon round into direct conflict with the Chinese Grand Prix Formula One race, in which Spaniard Fernando Alonso almost certainly will be one of the race favorites.

The consolidation of power also lets Dorna play serious hardball with circuit promoters. In the past, track officials could play the threat of hosting a race from the "rival series" when it negotiated deals with Dorna for MotoGP. Or tracks could threaten to drop the MotoGP race and stick with its cheaper WSBK race if both series raced at the facility.

Those days are gone. It's Dorna's way or the highway - in negotiating sanctioning fees and nearly every other aspect of worldwide motorcycle roadracing.

Throwing a Star Wars metaphor at all this means WSBK desperately needs a Jedi right now to take on the empire. Who will it be?

ENDS

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