In the last week it has been widely reported that the Aragon circuit in Spain has looked to reduce their MotoGP race fees by 15%. The current contract looks set to cost the Spanish venue almost €50 million to host a race until 2016.
This means that Dorna, the MotoGP commercial rights holder, is charging the circuit just under €10 million per year to host the series. With Dorna also taking the vast majority of trackside advertising from races it is easy to see why circuits are struggling to raise the necessary capital to host a race and why ticket prices have increased at the majority of races.
The rise in ticket prices has seen the number of spectators fall dramatically with the recent Italian Grand Prix having been played out in front of a very sparse crowd a prime example of the struggles facing circuits.
The Aragon circuit has cited the growing recession in Spain as their principal motive for looking to reduce their expenses as they try and offer better value for money to the local fans. Dorna, a Spanish company based in Madrid, has agreed to Aragon’s request but apart from the falling spectator numbers this weekend’s race at Indianapolis has also given another reason to examine the costs circuits are being charged for hosting the sport.
If Dorna are charging in the region of €9-11 million to circuits for the rights to host races the commercial rights holder should be placed at a much greater level of scrutiny for the safety of racers.
This weekend’s race in Indianapolis has firmly placed rider safety to the fore with numerous riders crashing heavily and suffering from a variety of injuries.
The most severe was Hector Barbera’s crash during Friday practice. The Spaniard, who was racing with a broken leg, high-sided from his Pramac Ducati and landed heavily. It was later found that he had broken a vertebrae in his back yet the circuit marshals showed no regard for the rider’s safety as they moved him without a stretcher following the crash.
It was remarkably lucky that Barbera was not more severely injured following the treatment that the received from the marshals.
With Shoya Tomizawa and Marco Simoncelli having died on track in the last two seasons it is ridiculous that any rider should be subjected to such treatment and the risk of further injury.
It should also be noted that both riders’ stretchers were dropped as marshals made their way through the gravel trap towards ambulances. In both cases it was found that this had no effect on their chances of survival but in an incident such as Barbara’s where a rider has broken his back it could well have a massive implication on his injury.
The time has come for Dorna to pay more than lip service to the treatment of MotoGP’s riders. With the commercial rights holder charging so much to tracks to host its races Dorna should be in a position to hire a full time staff of medical marshals to travel to each Grand Prix.
These full time staff could work in conjunction with the local medical staff but there should be enough Dorna contracted marshals to ensure that this type of treatment is avoided at all costs.
The images of Barbera being carried away by the arms and legs harked back to a time when riders routinely lost their lives and motorsport had a “the show must go on mentality” with little regard to the safety of competitors.
We saw with both Tomizawa and Simoncelli’s accidents that the spectrum of death always hangs over motorsport but there is no reason to court disaster as Dorna have been doing lately with their refusal to spend some of their exorbitant race fees on genuinely helping riders.
With a calendar of 18 races it is clear, without taking television revenue into account, just how much money the commercial rights holder is making from hosting fees alone yet they are still unwilling to hire a support staff to take to each race.
Other series, such as NASCAR, bring a crew of marshals to each race to work with the local marshals and educate them. Dorna should be doing the same by using a tiny percentage of the money which each track pays to them.
The cost of standing still and doing nothing could be far greater than the cost of making a meaningful change that would go some distance to winning support from the teams and riders.
As the series organiser it is not a responsibility of Dorna to provide as safe an environment as possible for the riders it is their moral obligation and this latest incident have shown that they failing to take heed of what needs to be done to ensure that the risk of serious injuries are as low as possible.