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GP Week : Issue 170
22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Did the earth move for you? Last week’s shock announcement of Dorna’s take-over of world racing was seismic. It changes everything. Or, to put it another way, it changes nothing. The two major world series, now (as the official announcement put it) “under one umbrella” can proceed according to Dorna’s plan along the road already started in grand prix. And anyone who tries to rock the boat will find it impossible. It’s a catamaran now. Commercially, joint management is the only plan that makes any sense, in exceedingly hard times for the business side of racing. European private equity firm Bridgepoint’s portfolio of companies is some 50-strong, ranging from retailing and hotels to packaging and the care industry. Bridgepoint acquired Dorna and thus MotoGP in 2006, the result of a compulsory anti-monopoly sale by previous owners CVC, when the latter company bought the rights to F1. In September 2011 Bridgepoint bought InFront Sports & Media. The real prize lay in worldwide football rights, including China. It just happened that InFront had itself fairly recently acquired World Superbikes, the upstart production-based series run out of Italy, and a thorn in the side to MotoGP. They hadn’t been looking for Superbikes; it was a side issue. And obviously considered so unimportant that the same monopolies commission that forced Bridgepoint’s initial purchase of Dorna felt no obligation to intervene. In spite of the obvious business logic, last week’s announcement took everybody by surprise, except for the handful of insiders involved. This obviously includes Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna and now the Grand Vizier of the whole show. This foreknowledge goes a long way to explaining the Spanish MotoGP chief’s complacency during the turmoil of recent months. His deadline for major rule changes challenged and forever moving backwards? So what ... just keep moving it until the big change happens. Superbikes get closer to MotoGP on speed and popularity as the ‘prototypes’ run under increasing technical restrictions? No problem: Carmelo will soon be able to slow the Superbikes down as required, to keep them in their place. Honda threatens to leave MotoGP for World Superbikes? There’s no point any more. The only risk now is that the company will leave racing altogether. It’s happened before, in 1967, but nowadays the possibility is considered remote. Racing threatened by dire economic circumstances? Well, now (worst come to the worst) Dorna has the power to merge both series, to create just one championship. The big change comes not a moment too soon for beleaguered MotoGP, for World Superbikes has been growing stronger – most especially in attracting diverse entries. After losing Aprilia, Kawasaki and then Suzuki, MotoGP is in the hands of Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. Over at SBK, all the above- named are racing like mad, with the addition of BMW. The loftier status of MotoGP was then challenged from within by the production-based CRT bikes. A transitory stage, but apparently leading closer to the ethos and performance levels found in Superbike. The series continued to take small but damaging chunks out of one another. Reports from Magny Cours, where SBK had its last round this weekend, were of as much shock and surprise in that paddock as in MotoGP when the news broke. But the only real surprise is that it has taken this long for Bridgepoint to rationalise its stranglehold over bike racing. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor THE GREAT DORNA TAKE-AWAY OPINION