Record world champion Jonathan Rea (on Kawasaki until 2023) – here with a remarkable stoppie on the ZX-10RR, after one of his countless victories. Because his Japanese manufacturer withdrew from MotoGP far too early after a short guest appearance, he lacked the opportunity to continue to prove his strength in MotoGP. Only in 2012 as a Repsol Honda reserve driver did the Northern Irishman give a taste of his skills with two top ten results in Misano and Aragon.

About the danger of Dorna being taken over by Formula 1

What initially circulated through the media as a rumor became official surprisingly quickly over Easter. Formula 1 TV and advertising rights holder Liberty Media intends to take over Dorna by the end of 2024, assuming the announcement on April 1 was not intended as a joke. This would mean that the road world championships for motorcycles with MotoGP and WorldSBK would be under the control of F1 from next year, unless the responsible EU Commission prevents this. However, the takeover is still subject to approval by the competition and investment protection authorities in various countries. Not surprisingly, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, one of the most controversial figures in racing in recent decades, will, according to an official announcement, remain in office until further notice. Given the biblical age of the engineer, who was born in Barcelona in 1946, this is hardly surprising, as his replacement can only be a matter of a few years. What is particularly threatening from a sporting perspective is a spicy detail in the official announcement about the Dorna takeover.

Valentino Rossi photographed by us on his beloved Yamaha M1 on the starting grid of Jerez de la Frontera 2019. Since the shining light of MotoGP stepped down, the number of visitors, especially in Italy, has fallen drastically, as previously feared. To the annoyance of many long-serving fans, the organizers and Dorna have since counteracted the loss of income with outrageously expensive VIP packages.

No mention of WorldSBK in the official statement

According to the official announcement, it is intended that Dorna Sports S.L. as the exclusive owner of the advertising and television rights to MotoGP, will remain an independently managed company, which will be allocated to Liberty Media’s Formula One Group shares. The company’s headquarters should remain in Madrid. Dorna holds the exclusive rights to MotoGP, as well as the associated Moto and Moto3 series, as well as the FIM Enel MotoE World Championship, which is little noticed by fans and the media and only occurs in Europe and is more of a supporting race. But also for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, including of course WorldSSP, WSSP 300 and the new FIM Women’s Circuit Racing World Championship, which, like MotoE, is only held in Europe with just a few rounds. What is truly frightening for fans of the series-based world championship is the fact that neither Liberty Media nor Dorna even mentioned WorldSBK in passing in the official statement.

WorldSBK icon “King” Carl Fogarty in 2000 on his factory Ducati – the Englishman was responsible for this together with pilots such as Pierfranchesco “Frankie” Chili, Noriyuki “Nitro Nori” Haga, Colin Edwards, Troy Corser and “Foggy’s” successor Troy Bayliss that in the golden years of the Superbike World Championship, MotoGP was overshadowed in terms of viewership for many years.

Confusing detail in the context of the public announcement

Liberty Media is expected to acquire around 86% of Dorna, with Dorna management retaining 14% of its shares in the company. The transaction represents an enterprise value for Dorna with MotoGP of €4.2 billion and an equity value of €3.5 billion, with MotoGP’s existing debt expected to remain in place following completion of the transaction. Hello, was this really about debt? The interested viewer wonders how the more than 20 events per year and the enormous interest from spectators and visitors can still result in red numbers. Where did all the tens of millions per event go anyway? Let’s reckon with TV broadcast fees, MotoGP streaming app costs (of well over 100 EUR per person per year), audience revenue of 5 to 15 million euros per event, sometimes horrendous parking fees and the tens of millions for VIP packages to companies and wealthy individuals, as well as hospitality income. How debts can have accumulated against this background irritates even people with above-average mathematical talent.

At the first Grand Prix in Jerez de la Frontera in the first Covid pandemic season of 2020, masks were required and no visitors were officially allowed. Nevertheless, selfie hunters, here framed in red by us on the starting grid on the first race weekend, milled around the starting grid. Everyone can imagine how much it must have cost these people to still be able to be there. Many a true MotoGP fan may have had their faces flushed with anger at such scenes, not to mention the usually accredited journalists.

The counterpart of former Formula 1 Zampano Bernie Ecclestone

Carmelo Ezpeleta served as track director at the then Calafat Circuit in Barcelona from 1974-1978. He then moved from Barcelona to Madrid to the Jarama Circuit. He became manager for all racing activities of the Spanish Automobile Federation. Ezpeleta has been director of Dorna’s motorsport department since 1991 and the little Catalan has been its CEO since 1994. This means that the 78-year-old is without a doubt the main responsible for what many observers see as an unhealthy development in relation to the increasingly pronounced commercialization of MotoGP. This fits with the description that critical voices increasingly gave him in the paddock when his critics began to call him the poor man’s Eccclestone. However, he is unlikely to come close to his wealth (at least before his divorce) and his days as Dorna-Zampano may be as good as numbered due to the impending takeover.

Carmelo Ezpeleta 1992 – it is not for nothing that he has recently been criticized because a noticeable number of his relatives have been promoted to key positions at Dorna. For example, his son Carlos is now the sports director of MotoGP, his sister Ana is responsible for the youth sector and her cousin Tome Alfonso was recently appointed FIM head of security.

The long list of Dorna’s mistakes, bankruptcies and breakdowns

First and foremost is the clumsiness with regard to the calendar planning that was concocted together with the FIM, led by his close friend Jorge Viegas. After the debacle of the Balaton Circuit, which only existed on paper at the time, Hungary’s return to the Motorcycle World Championship after 1990 and 1992 was announced for the 2009 MotoGP season, he and his employees seemed to have learned nothing. The track was never completed and despite this embarrassing breakdown, the existing Balaton Park Circuit at the upper end of the huge inland lake is again on the calendar for WorldSBK in 2024. But if current rumors in the paddock turn out to be true, nothing will come of it. Just like last year’s cancellation of the WSBK, a GP in Argentina in 2024, which had to be canceled again shortly before the start of the season. The reasoning was, unsurprisingly, analogous to that given six months earlier for the Superbike World Championship. But even earlier, the list of bad planning on Dorna’s part is extremely impressive. This is even without the weather problems of 2010 with the canceled Japanese Grand Prix due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland and the resulting ban on flights throughout Europe. Below is our list of Dorna planning errors and cancellations, without the mutations necessary as a result of Covid-19, from 2020 to 2022.

Argentinian GP2024Almost 2.5 months before the deadline: canceled due to “political turbulence”.
Kasachstan GP20232,5 months before the deadline: cancellation due to lack of completion.
GP of Finnland20225th rejection, although denied until shortly before, real reason was lack of money.
Hungarian GP2022Contract in 2019 for 2022 to 2026 in Debrecen, nothing came of that either.
GP of Brasil2022Contract for 2022 – 2026 discarded at the beginning of 2021 (environmental protection reasons).
GP of England2015Despite contract for a Circuit of Wales, Silverstone again, project rejected.
GP of Brasil2014At the beginning of the year, the event at the end of September in Brasilia was canceled.
Hungarian GP2009Instead of September 20th Cancellation and also the year after, due to the lack of construction of the route.
GP of Brasil1998Cancellation due to inadequate safety on the route from Jacarepagua.
GP of Italy1995Short-term cancellation due to insufficient security.
The many bankruptcies in Hungary seem almost unbelievable, many of which involved non-existent race tracks that were ultimately never built. The high number of cancellations could confirm the assumption that at the time the contract was signed with the organizers, Dorna was collecting deposits without there being any serious likelihood of the event taking place. The repeated breakdown story in Hungary particularly fuels this suspicion.

It wasn’t just ghost events that drained Ezpeleta’s credibility

A special case was the KymiRing in Finland, whose sponsorship slipped into insolvency due to the Covid-19 pandemic after the fifth cancellation of a MotoGP event in a row. Shortly before, Ezpeleta had publicly denied the rumor that had emerged in the paddock about the impending cancellation. His numerous critics understandably saw him as a liar a little later, as he ultimately had to admit that there would be no Finnish GP in 2022 either. Above all, the reason he gave at the time with reference to the geopolitical situation, relating to Russia’s war with Ukraine, was simply not truthful for the above-mentioned reason, but a pure excuse. The Spaniard recently made himself extremely unpopular with numerous WorldSBK manufacturers and teams when he, together with FIM President Viegas, reversed their decision to introduce a minimum weight for pilot and machine using his veto right. Only when some companies threatened to pull out of the Superbike World Championship did the two give in. They are also considered to be mainly responsible for the WSBK being literally cannibalized by MotoGP due to the numerous calendar overlaps.

Our combined calendar for 2023 from MotoGP and WorldSBK with the numerous overlaps in red on the date. In order to avoid collisions between the Prototype World Championship and Formula 1, the Superbike World Championship has never been taken into account for years. Those who suffer from this are countless fans of both series, but above all of course the teams and their sponsors, due to the resulting lack of TV and media presence.

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