Race Features

Lone Wolf and parking a tank on WSBK's lawn



Lone Wolf and parking a tank on WSBK's lawn


By Lone Wolf

FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE

The decision of British Superbike supremos Jonathan Palmer and Stuart Higgs to take their circus across the North Sea is certainly bold. But not without risk.

It has to be presumed that they have the backing of the teams and, presumably, the governing body of international motorcycle racing the FIM. The latter is obviously important because the move of a successful national series to Assen, home of the Dutch TT and host of a World Superbike round, will have resulted in yet more telephone calls between Rome and Geneva.

WSBK boss Paolo Flammini and Palmer have never been the best of friends since the MSV boss has consistently refused to pay the sanction fee necessary to host a World round at Brands Hatch. Flammini might be justified in thinking that Palmer's move on Assen is the equivalent of parking a tank on his lawn. Particularly as it is on the same weekend as the WSB event at Portimao

But the simple fact is that Palmer has a problem. Although he owns the marketing rights to the BSB series and most of the races are held on his circuits, a situation unique in motor sport, there is little prospect of growth while the championship is confined to the UK. While attendances at the bigger events remained good last season, some of the smaller events struggled. It was no surprise that Croft dropped out and there must have been question marks over Thruxton and Knockhill.

So taking what is arguably the world's most successful championship overseas must have been on his mind for some time. And when both MotoGP and World Superbikes were showing signs of weakness.

But how did he persuade the teams. After all it is not the first time BSB has crossed the water, remember Mondello Park near Dublin. The Irish adventure came to an end because the teams objected to the cost of getting there. One can only presume a deal has been cooked up subsidising the ferry charges to the Hook of Holland.

There is also the added attraction of a night in Amsterdam, a favourite haunt of British racegoers for reasons beyond the ken of this scribe (Yeah, right ho - DM) who would clearly prefer a pint in Dublin though perhaps not Darlington.

One final thought. When The Superbike Championship was first invented it was called just that. It was sometime later that it was prefaced by "British." Perhaps it is time to go back to the original.


A WELCOME IN THE HILLSIDES

News has it that a plan is being cooked up to construct a racing circuit in Wales. Not another one I hear you groan. They must be mad.

Well, it is said to be well into the planning stage and is being received with some enthusiasm by the Welsh Tourist Board and their industrial equivalent who see it as being the centre of a sort of motor sport hub.

Fortune does indeed favour the brave (well, sometimes) and we wish them well. But getting your money back on something of that scale has historically proved quite difficult, witness Rockingham.

Meanwhile, it is being said that the 850 acre airfield in Northamptonshire at Silverstone is moving nearer to being sold off to the Qatar Investment Authority who are the bidder preferred by the British Racing Drivers Club. The deal, it is said, involves a 150 year lease at about £2.5m a year, paying off some £20m of debt, investing another £50m and, presumably, giving the members a golden goodbye!

Nice work if you can get it. But it just shows how difficult it is to make these things work, even for a bunch of well-heeled gentlemen like the BRDC.

Good luck then to Christopher Tate who has just taken over as managing director at Donington where owner Kevin Wheatcroft has spent the last year doing a restoration job, costing several millions following the F1 fiasco left behind by the previous lease-holder.

Donington covers a mere 600 acres but faces similar challenges to Silverstone, the main one being that racing, on its own, does not pay. Chris has a lot of experience in motor sport including, at one time, being involved with Rockingham. So he knows a thing or two.