If you acquired a controlling interest in WSBK and MotoGP, it’s a fair bet you would be contemplating how to best resolve the contradictions implicit in running two entirely separate series staged independently across the planet. Quite apart from the bottomless pit of costs (logistics, technical development, consumables, production costs et al) in times of major financial uncertainty, you have irrefutable evidence – from F1 and assorted media rights holders – that the average sports fan has neither the time nor inclination to invest interest in anything other than the premier blue ribbon series. Which means brand recognition is a real problem for the lesser of your two investments (WSBK). However, since both are owned by the same company – yours – you have a unique opportunity to address the issues. Which is pretty much the intriguing position Bridgepoint – real world owners of WSBK and GP via their control of Infront and Dorna respectively – find themselves in.
When we raised the possibility of unified meets – ie both series on the same card at selected meetings – it was an idea that Infront and Dorna instinctively shied away from: despite common ownership, they have positions to protect, and hopping into bed with the enemy wasn’t on the agenda. Yet paradoxically, doing so represents the best chance of both series retaining autonomy and crucially, identity: having both races on the same card would re-inforce the differences between the two. A unified meet has massive potential benefits for Bridgepoint, who ultimately call the shots. Logistics costs would be drastically reduced, since divvying up reduces the overall number of meetings required. Attendance and coverage would be maximised, since such an event would be a mouth watering prospect for petrol heads everywhere: the best production machines in action along with their exotic, thoroughbred cousins – plus a full stable of the world’s best riders. What’s not to like?
One step forward, two steps back… imagine decicing to ditch the fastest cornering bikes on the planet. That’s what GP did…..
Best of all though is that this coming together would resolve the identity crisis that has been plaguing GP and haunting series around the world. GP could once again concentrate on the best machinery, and eschew cost cutting CRT like exercises which have threatened to undermine its premiere status: compromising on quality is not a sensible option when your product is founded on its manifest superiority. Superbikes would benefit by reason of increased exposure relative to their current status: the fact is that outside bike and hardcore motorsport fans, relatively few people have heard of WSBK. That would soon change in the brave new world of combined cards, but like MotoGP, WSBK must face up to the reality of what they represent.
That means moving closer to a superstock variety, allowing real identification between what people see on the roads and in the showroom, and what is in front of them on the track. GP meanwhile would become an open class, with no funding available for compromises, the likes of which would instantly become redundant. An open class means minimal restriction, so that in theory, a modern, litre DI two stroke or rotary could take on the M1s of this world. Which in itself would be worth the entrance money. That is our fantasy, but the reality of integrating GP and WSBK in order to max profits and resolve identities really ought to have a Bridgepoint chaired committee on the case right now. Put it another way: if we were told that this subject was already on the agenda (although totally deniable) we wouldn’t be surprised. What Bridgepoint must understand is that the way to profitability does not lie in restricting MotoGP, because if we go down that route it will mean both series will see slower racing – since WSBK will have to tone down their show in order to avoid overshadowing the premier class. Thus Dorna’s current proposals to restrict GP bikes could end up with both series fatally undermined. Uniting the meets while retaining identity is the key. The credibility of the sport depends on someone with sufficient foresight taking control now, and we believe that individual must come from (or via) Bridgepoint rather than Infront or Dorna, since an objective overview is desperately needed.
We suspect this is not a position the private equity firm relishes: it would be more usual for them to express their point of view via their boardroom representatives, but this situation is unique, and too important to leave to the usual suspects at Infront and Dorna. Counter intuitive as it may be to a bunch of financiers whose preferred mode is anonymity, Bridgepoint need to step onto the podium themselves.