After an update on the condition of Gino Rea, who suffered serious injuries during practice for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the first part of the show focuses on reaction to last week’s episode on the low Silverstone crowd.
“We had hundreds of comments and tweets,” said Podcast host Harry Benjamin, “and a lot of them mentioned the same things:
“’Silverstone is not the right track to watch bike racing, the money side – not just the cost of living, but tickets, parking, the cost of a burger – not having any British riders in MotoGP class, the promotion of the event… ‘
“Everything we kind of predicted last week but it’s worse in a way isn’t it Keith, because it’s not just one problem?”
“I think you’re right Harry. I won’t say it’s a problem, but I think it’s a smorgasbord of things that need tweaking,” replied former Grand Prix rider and British champion Keith Huewen. “I think we have to be positive, the overall event was great: The British Grand Prix under the sun at Silverstone. And they put on lots of entertainment.
“I think the questions are mostly over, to start with, the parking prices. It’s a bit like if you buy a television and then got charged by the same shop for parking as well. Nobody likes those extra charges.
“As far as the beers, burgers and so on, I assume the vendors are paying Silverstone to be on-site and then setting the prices. Could those be controlled more? Maybe no more than a 20% rise over what you would pay in a pub would be acceptable, considering someone has to drag their bar to Silverstone, set it up and take it away again afterwards.
“Silverstone did a lot of things right, but I think there were things that antagonized people into not going, and I think that is reflected in our mailbox.
“Some people you will never please, the Donington vs Silverstone thing just gets on my nerves! Donington is a good racetrack, the facilities are better since Jonathan Palmer took up the lease but not as good as Silverstone.
“The biggest thing I think is that we need a home MotoGP race winner. This weekend we had a home winner at the British Grand Prix… Speedway at the Principality stadium in Cardiff. Dan Bewley. You’ve never heard a roar like it inside that stadium! Just imagine if it was happening in MotoGP? We need that situation.
“The mainstream British media were also not behind the MotoGP like they were for the F1 Grand Prix, where it was in every newspaper and magazine.
“The answer is – and I can see you both looking very stern! – the cost of seeing racing on the Sunday was, deep breath, not the best value for money. £90 plus the car parking, for three races and the British Talent Cup, for me it wasn’t enough track action.
“Our market in Britain is different, our fans are different, our expectations are slightly different… We won’t go! It’s not a case of going just because it’s the British MotoGP, it’s still got to represent value for money. Whatever that is.
“But where do we find that happy medium? Less entertainment on stage and knock £15 off a ticket?
“Parking, in my view, should always be part of the deal. I heard a rumor along the lines of, the reason why they were charging for parking was to encourage people to go on motorbikes. Now only a car block could think of that!
“The other thing was that there’s not enough room for all the cars. Hang on a second, you had 140,000 race day fans for the F1 Grand Prix. They all came in cars. I don’t understand some of the contradictions.”
Crash.net MotoGP editor Pete McLaren added: “I do think it comes down to the perception of value for money, as well as the actual cost. Do people feel what they’re getting back is worth what they’re paying?
“I also think that on Friday for example, and you often see this kind of thing at some of the flyaways, why not have really cheap tickets to boost attendance and allow virtually everyone to afford some kind of MotoGP trackside experience. Especially new fans.”
Responding to a comment from a listener about empty grandstands, McLaren said: “You’d have to imagine the grandstands would have been left in place from the F1 anyway, so why not let people use them?
“I also think you need to adjust the ticket pricing to reflect the situation on a yearly basis, depending on the circumstances and taking into account the factors Keith has mentioned. How popular is the sport in terms of viewing figures in the UK? Is there a home rider doing well in the top class? How much disposable income do people have relative to previous years?
“I don’t think you can just charge a blanket rate year in, year out on the assumption that people will automatically keep coming back.
“People have other choices, including WorldSBK and BSB, and I think they will look at the British MotoGP each season and decide, is this good value for money? Given all the financial pressures people are under now.
“As far as the organization of the event, we should give credit to Silverstone. We’ve all been in massive queues getting in or out of Grand Prix circuits in the past and, for me at least, that side of it ran like clockwork all weekend.
“But there’s no doubt you need to get more fans to attend.”
The trio then go on to debate the impact of free-to-air TV versus pay-per-view and how to attract new fans to the sport, plus potential improvements to the trackside experience itself.
Silverstone is listening…
Addressing the listeners directly, Huewen concludes: “Keep getting in touch and leaving your opinions because we don’t ignore them and the fact of the matter is, managing director Stuart Pringle – and one or two others at Silverstone – were among those listening to last week’s podcast.
“I’ve had a couple of emails from Silverstone since regarding our podcast and the ideas that came up. They will be looking at our timeline as well. So your comments are being picked up by Silverstone and by anybody that’s interested in giving the trackside fans something more. They are listening.”
New Austria chicane looks like it’s drawn by a 2-year-old!
Attention then turns to this weekend’s Austrian MotoGP, which will feature a new ‘Z’ shaped chicane inserted at Turn 2 of the Red Bull Ring circuit, in response to the huge accident for Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli in 2020.
“They’ve put this zig-zag in now, halfway down the hill towards Turn 3,” said Huewen. “I just wonder if there was a 2-year-old that squiggled on the piece of paper that Tilke was working on!
“I really don’t get it. Yeah, they’ve done what they needed to do to slow things down I suppose. It’ll be interesting to see what the riders actually make of it. I’m sure they’ll just bite their lip and get on with it.
“But it just looks horrendous. Literally, the mark of Zoro. A zig-zag… As you can tell, I’m not really a fan! But that’s me looking at a piece of paper, not riding it. Let’s see how the riders get on in the first practices.
“It’s a stop-start chicane at the end of the day, they could have had something so much nicer than that.”
“Quartararo said at Silverstone the new chicane also looks a bit dangerous,” McLaren added.
“The original track layout still exists, and is still used by F1, and if a rider loses control on the way into the new chicane, they could potentially come into contact with riders ahead as they cross the original track.
“I’m sure Quartararo is not the only one looking at that chicane and wondering, is this solving one problem and maybe creating another?”
Bastianini or Martin – Ducati’s big decision
This weekend’s event should also be the last before Ducati makes its decision on whether Enea Bastianini or Jorge Martin joins Francesco Bagnaia at the factory team next season.
“If you look at it on paper, Bastianini has three wins and Martin no wins this year. But then if you look at the last five races, Martin has scored more than double the points of Bastianini,” McLaren said.
“Martin also had the hand operation earlier in the season, and most importantly they are riding different spec bikes, which makes direct comparisons difficult.
“But there’s no doubt Bastianini was back on form at Silverstone, only 1.6s from victory with a broken wing. Without that it could well have been Bastianini, rather than Bagnaia, who took his fourth win of the year.
“I think it might be easier for Ducati if Martin was the clear favorite because he’s already at Pramac and so a bit further up that ladder towards the factory team. But Bastianini is making it a really difficult decision for them…”
Huewen said: “I fancy Jorge for that [factory] place and I think Bastianini at Pramac will be the right call. But that’s based on looking from where I am, not looking from where they are.
“This will be a decision based on the overall picture. Gigi’s no fool and he will make the right call for the team, and I don’t think Bagnaia will be affected by whoever they put alongside him.”
The trio finish by making their top three predictions for this weekend’s race, which current weather forecasts warn could see wet weather on all three days.
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