The result of the 2019 price doubling in Imola compared to last year, captured by us at the height of the Curva Tosa on Sunday morning just before the WSBK Superpole race. Four years later, the main problem is not the ticket prices, but the completely unreasonable date for the seventh WSBK round of 2023, which was set in midsummer in southern Italy of all places.

Planning madness for WorldSBK Round 7

Holding a race for the Superbike World Championship in the middle of summer on the edge of the Po plain in Emilia Romagna is absolute nonsense, to put it mildly. However, we have long been used to this from FIM and Dorna, see as an example their cancellation of the MotoGP Grand Prix of Kazakhstan, which was actually planned for July 9, 2023. According to weather forecasts, temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius can be expected for mid-July. In addition, Italy is flooded with tourists during this period, which means that the few access routes from northern Europe are usually catastrophically congested at the weekend. The countless holidaymakers go to the sea during this time, where at least in the evening you can usually count on pleasantly fresh onshore wind from the cooling Mediterranean Sea to the inland, which is heated up during the day. This is missing in Imola and that is why WorldSBK used to be a guest in spring or autumn, as it was in Monza, Misano and Mugello. For example, at the last event in May 2019, when Jonathan Rea was back on top of the podium for the first time after 11 races without a win.

First win of the 2019 season in Imola for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) and beginning of the turning point in the fight for the world title, which he claimed for the 5th time in a row afterwards. Shortly after we took this photo, we received his helmet visor from the record world champion. Of course, it was given a place of honor and reminds us of a historic weekend that we were able to attend back in May.

Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari

The circuit in Imola, a small town in Emilia Romagna near the Adriatic coast, was opened in 1953. The course came about from an idea by Enzo Ferrari, who wanted to build a small Nürburgring here. Originally there were no chicanes in the layout. As a result, the Tamburello corner was the first and the Curva Tosa was already the second corner, which of course led to safety concerns early on. Today it is unthinkable that the course could be homologated for MotoGP again due to the lack of a rescue lane and sometimes too narrow crash zones. Nevertheless, the WSBK is still a regular guest in Imola. In 1968 the track was renamed Autodromo Dino Ferrari after Enzo Ferrari’s son Alfredo (Dino), who died early. After Enzo Ferrari’s death in 1988, the name of the course was extended to include his first name.

Our photo of start-finish with the pit area of the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, which was newly created in 2007. At the F1 GP of San Marino in 1994, first Roland Ratzenberger (Austria) and the following day Ayrton Senna, one of the best racing drivers of all time, had a fatal accident here. Despite the installation of four additional chicanes, this circuit is still considered extremely dangerous, especially for motorcycles.

Today’s racetrack

With a length of 4,936 km, Imola is one of the longer routes in motorcycle racing. There are 9 right-hand and 13 left-hand corners in an anti-clockwise direction. The start-finish straight is only 358 meters long, with curve 1 practically being driven at full throttle even at the WSBK. One of the most interesting spots for spectators is the Curva Tosa, as well as Acque Minerali (both equipped with spectator stands) and the Rivazza double curve with natural stands inside the circuit. The largest grandstands are naturally located in the area of the chicane (turns 16 and 17) to start-finish.

WorldSBK and WSSP 600 winner stats

With 9 wins despite a second race canceled in 2019 due to rain, in which he was a huge favourite, Jonathan Rea is a clear leader in Imola’s winning statistics. Turkey’s Kenan Sofuoglu has an impressive 5 victories in the World Supersport 600 World Championship.

MotoGP (Motorcycle World Championship) winner statistics Imola

With 3 victories in the premier class up to 500cc, 5-time world champion Mick Doohan from Australia holds the record for GP victories in Imola. At the beginning of his GP career, Valentino Rossi won twice in the lower classes in 1997 (125 cc) and 1998 (250 cc). Alberto Pagani, the winner of the first Imola GP, drove a Linto constructed by his Italian compatriot Lino Tonti. The Swiss Gyula Marsovszky was second in the 1969 World Championship up to 500 cc on a Linto.

The starting position before WSBK Round 7 in Imola

Although Imola and Most would again be reason for some optimism for the competition from Alvaro Bautista, something of a last glimmer of hope, but one thing speaks very much for the Ducati rider in Italy. Perhaps the organizers and those responsible at FIM and Dorna even deliberately chose a hair-raising date. In the past, the tiny Spanish car was almost unbeatable on its Panigale V4R, especially when it was very hot. So far this season, however, he has easily been able to do without this advantage, since he has almost no opponent to fear in 2023 anyway on the greatly improved Ducati. Without the high temperatures, Johnny Rea would otherwise be the big favorite on the Imola driver’s track, but everything is really going well for Bautista at the moment. As long as he doesn’t get seriously injured, the world championship is as good as decided after half-time before round 7 in Imola. As his toughest opponent this year, Toprak Razgatlioglu stated after the races in Donington Park (England) that he felt like he was on a Supersport 600 machine in terms of acceleration and top speed against the Spaniard’s factory Ducati. That actually says it all.

Inside the race track, with a zoo and walking paths, it looks more like a local recreation area, as our photo from 2019 shows. However, you can’t see anything of the racing from here and you can’t hear the motors and loudspeakers at all.

Travel tip for Imola’s WorldSBK event

If you still want to do it despite the almost unbearable heat in Emilia Romagna at this time of year and the congested main axes, you should stay overnight on the Adriatic coast. The hotels around Imola are almost fully booked and in mid-July anyway much too expensive. Camping is not advisable due to the lack of cooling at night in Imola. Less than an hour’s drive away, smaller towns by the sea such as Cesenatico offer some attractive offers for the WSBK weekend despite the high season. A hotel or guesthouse with air conditioning is of course an advantage. If you come by car, you should take a cool box with you if possible, which also works on the 220 volt power supply. This allows you to cool your drinks yourself in the hotel room, because the prices for beer and mineral water in Italy are often almost as high as in southern France. Unfortunately, refrigerators or minibars are rarely found in most restaurants, including in neighboring Austria. At least food and wine (it’s best to order “Vino locale”) are usually still quite cheap compared to more northern countries.

Our shot of June 2, 2023 on the beach of Cesenatico, at the stopover point to get to Misano for the fifth round of the WSBK. At that time, the temperatures were still moderate compared to mid-July. We recommend arriving early for dinner in this region or otherwise making reservations. Otherwise, long waiting times must be expected in the high season.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).