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SBK, The 2024 Calendar splits Superbike: those who promote it and those who reject it

Denning (Yamaha): "Dorna must start protecting SBK". Puccetti (Kawasaki): "exceptional calendar, we can bring sponsors to all the rounds". Camier (Honda): "I hope the tracks are suitable". Sacchetti (Ducati): "too much time between races"

SBK: The 2024 Calendar splits Superbike: those who promote it and those who reject it

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The 2024 World SBK calendar has been received in a decidedly varied way by the paddock. Speaking with the team managers of the various teams, it is clear how different the points of view are depending on the role held. Those in charge of official teams seem less enthusiastic about a world championship that risks becoming a European one given that the only round beyond the borders of the old continent is at Phillip Island. Those who manage an independent team, on the other hand, appreciate a less demanding program from an economic point of view, with more affordable travel costs and perhaps close to current general economic needs.

We interviewed several figures precisely to best represent these different realities and capture the mood of the paddock regarding certain decisions which in any case do not seem to satisfy the main stakeholders of the world championship at all.

Let's start with Paul Denning, Team Manager of Crescent Yamaha. Paul has a very long experience in the paddock, split between BSB, MotoGP world championship and SBK. Here are his words on the matter.

"First of all, I have to say that I don't like this calendar. Then everyone agrees that just one race outside Europe is not sustainable for the future of the World SBK championship. There are commercial difficulties regarding costs, I'm sure of this. We must also remember that Lombok had a 10-year deal with Dorna for SBK which they broke, Argentina had a contract which they broke. So, this left them in a difficult position for short term plans. The intentions were good, but it didn't depend only on Dorna. Having said that, I must say that as a team manager I think that Dorna must start protecting SBK and do its best to give strength to this championship. The value there is for the fans, for the sponsors, for the Manufacturers. Dorna has always tried to find a way to be successful with SBK without damaging MotoGP too much, but I think it has gone a little further in this direction. Going forward in this direction could create problems for this championship, for the FIM, in short, for everyone."

 

Do you think that SBK will return to racing on tracks outside of Europe in the future?

"I know that Dorna has a memorandum of understanding with two non-European tracks for 2025, which would be great. I think that perhaps a mistake by Dorna was to announce the 2024 calendar without explaining some things. I think that sharing more information and future solutions perhaps would have worked better. There are also positive things however, like Balaton and Cremona. Even if all Italians seem to me to be in shock about this choice, but I know that there is a 5-year investment plan for that track. But given that Italy is one of the most important markets, why not give already some exact information. I see it as a communication error. I know that many things will change, but why not say it and explain it?".

You don't seem very happy either way.

"I think Dorna needs to help develop SBK better for the future, it can do a better job. There's no point in creating a championship that damages and threatens MotoGP, they need to take care of SBK otherwise something will happen."

Manuel Puccetti, at the head of a different reality and who finds several advantages in a calendar like this, has a completely different opinion.

"For me it is an exceptional calendar. They are all European rounds except Australia and we can take our sponsors' guests to all the rounds, because they are close. We know that Cremona is a bit of a gamble, undoubtedly. A race that for us will be at home, everyone will come to see us. We know that adjustments are needed in terms of track and space, but it will be a great challenge. I like this calendar because from my point of view going racing in Indonesia or Thailand in remote places, if there are no special business reasons, for me it's a waste of time. I prefer to race in Europe where we can have more iterations with our sponsors, bring the hospitality and make everyone happy."

 

In short, aren't you worried about the lack of non-European races?

"Nothing changes for me; we can even do 15 races in Europe. For me it's more important to do a good job with our sponsors and make them happy."

Midori Moriwaki seemed one of the figures most affected given the generous sponsor Petronas, who however will not be able to count on a round in Asia. But the Japanese manager is not losing her optimism.

"Now it's difficult to have many races outside Europe, but honestly I don't know the situation very well. It would have been convenient for me to have at least one more round in Asia, in Indonesia it would have been perfect, and I know that we will miss Mandalika a lot. 2024 will be like this, but I think that other races outside Europe will return in 2025. It's easy to talk and criticize, we would all like more races like Phillip Island, but the situation is what it is and there's no point in hiding behind a finger."

Aren't you worried about a possible decline in interest from Petronas?

"I'm not worried about Petronas, they understand our challenge, the Academy project we have with them. Every team has a task and Moriwaki has his like everyone else. The calendar won't change our situation, I see it as another challenge. In the end, life is always full of challenges, and this is just one more."

Honda HRC Team Manager Leon Camier would have preferred more trips outside Europe, but he doesn't seem worried about the future of SBK.

"From my point of view, it would have been nice to go more to other places outside Europe. But this is how things are, I know a little about Dorna's strategy behind this decision and I know that they are working to return to racing on other tracks and to open new markets. I don't see it as a huge problem, in my opinion the important thing will be more that the tracks where we go are suitable, that the level is adequate for the world championship, and I see this as the FIM's duty."

 

Aren't you afraid that it could be a sort of decline for SBK?

"I don't think it's like the beginning of the end, I think the championship will adapt. In the past the SBK world championship has opened up new markets, it was the first to go to Thailand and also to Indonesia. Also, to understand how much these tracks were suitable to then go there with MotoGP. SBK has existed for a long time, I think it will also adapt to this new scenario."

Despite being at the head of an Italian team, Denis Sacchetti appeared to be worried above all about the repercussions on the sponsors.

"It's an unusual calendar, in the first part of the season there is too much time between one race and another and then everything is concentrated in the second half of the season, and this is something that leaves no room for the spectator to follow things well. It's unfortunate to only have one race outside Europe, which is Australia. For us it would have been important to do more, because even though we are an Italian and private team, we have Asian sponsors who were interested in having rounds in their geographical area. It will be difficult fo rus to manage this with our partners."

In your opinion, is it still a world championship, or does it risk losing too much interest?

"A championship like SBK must be present on different continents, not just Europe, that's clear. Today part of the budget comes from Asia, so it's a shame not to take advantage of this aspect, this interest. They are inclined towards racing; they have passion, and we are not exploiting it. Then these days we are talking about Cremona, which certainly has its strengths and weaknesses. Of course, it is close to Milan, an important basin that you can pick from. But a lot of work is needed to adapt to our championship and I'm not just talking about the grandstands that can also be built quickly. But I'm thinking of the paddock, the services, the garages, the hotels. In short, there are many things to sort out."

Among the managers there are also those who are enthusiastic about the choice of Cremona, such as Lorenzo Mauri of Motocorsa, who sees 2024 as a year of transition.

"In my opinion, 2024 will be a year of transition dictated by many factors, including some external political factors. There is no point in hiding behind a finger, there are wars now in the world. I regret not going to Mandalika and Argentina anymore, but for me it will be a transition year. Then we must remember that there is little money around today, so I think that for the organizer to force the teams to participate in many non-European races would have been difficult. Maybe in one or two years there will be some others, but now I see it as a thoughtful choice. It's not easy to raise budgets today, so forcing it today wouldn't make sense."

 

Are you not worried about leaving important markets such as the Asian ones?

"Yes, it's true that leaving Asia is a shame. But it will be necessary to reorganize this championship with more races outside Europe when they can be supported. It's clear that some main sponsors are not happy, having just one race outside Europe doesn't please them. But if the official teams are struggling, think about the privateers. However, I like the tracks chosen, even if some rounds are not balanced so much for the trips and for the riders who have to cross Europe back and forth. From the outside it is easy to criticize, because fitting everything together from the inside is much more difficult and I understand that."

Do you like Cremona as a choice? Vallelunga was also in the running.

"As for Cremona, I am enthusiastic. I know that the entrepreneurs behind it are very serious, I have seen all the changes that will come, and I know that they will make a tour de force for the event. I am convinced that having Milan close by, it will be a successful round of the world championship. Vallelunga is great, but the paddock is distributed over three levels, and it is complex to assemble certain structures there."

 

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