Clouds gather over Australian grands prix
With the Australian Formula One race on shaky ground, officials are now scrambling to save the Motorcycle Grand Prix.
MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta says GP Corporation chairman Ron Walker has assured him he is working on more weather-friendly dates for the Phillip Island event.
Walker is also trying to placate Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, who he said was “insulted” by comments Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle made questioning the value of the event.
Ezpeleta is adamant that the motorcycle race will not remain in Australia after this year unless it is moved away from October, when the track is frequently lashed by rain and wind, to early in the year.
“Ron Walker told me in an email that he would come back to me as soon as possible with dates for 2012,” Ezpeleta said.
“In 2010 we were very close to cancelling the race. If all the weekend the weather was like Friday, which could happen, then we cannot run the event.
“This is the matter we are discussing and it is not just the rain but the problem at Phillip Island is rain and the cold and then the tyres are not up to temperature.
“The riders have strongly requested to us to change the date.”
Ezpeleta has suggested Victoria stage a `Festival of Speed’ with the motorcycle and Formula One rounds held on successive weekends in March.
He said he had told officials as far back as November last year that there would be no issues with the two international races being held back-to-back.
“If it is one week before the Formula One they can have a motorsport week in Victoria,” Ezpeleta said during a press briefing in Valencia, Spain.
“Formula One is at another track and while it is the same organisation I think the Phillip Island circuit people (track owner Lindsay Fox) can help the Grand Prix Corporation.
“I have also talked with the (former Labor Government) Minister Tim Holding and also Ron Walker about this.”
The two events draw different audiences, bike clubs provide the bulk of marshalls for Phillip Island and other services would have sufficient warning to provide extra staff.
The drive for a date change has been led by riders prominent on the MotoGP safety commission, spearheaded by multiple world champion Valentino Rossi.
The grand prix corporation says it has a contract to run the motorcycle race in October, but Ezpeleta says that is dependent on the track being homologated, or approved, for a race.
“Any contract is subject to the homologation of the circuit and this can depend on the climatic conditions.
“The Brno (Czech Republic) circuit might be homologated but right now you could not race on it because of the snow,” Ezpeleta said.
“Our position has not changed at all. We want the race moving to earlier in the year for 2012 and the Corporation is aware of our position.”
Ezpeleta has suggested the 2012 MotoGP calendar open with the Phillip Island race and then be followed by the Qatar round and a new race in Abu Dhabi.
“We have an agreement with Qatar that the season starts there but I have spoken to them and in the case that Australia must be changed they will move to the second race,” he said.
Australian Honda racer Casey Stoner and Ducati rider Loris Capirossi, both members of the Safety Commission, have inspected the Yas Marina circuit to report on on any issues that need to be addressed for MotoGP.© AAP 2013