Finding the ingredients

Graeme checks in from Assen

Whilst Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un prepare to sit down and compare their big, shiny missiles, a group of photographers met with the staff from Dorna on Thursday to discuss the issues that were experienced with the parc ferme and podium set up in Aragon. It was a meeting with a similar level of geo-political gravitas.

It was heartening to know that I wasn’t the only one aggrieved and a bit frustrated that our working environment didn’t seem to have been a factor in designing the paddock layout in Aragon.

I am happy to report that relations were cordial and we came up with a range of solutions that worked for the majority. Not everyone was content but with more knowledge of how the logistics of the paddock would work we were then able to plan the work-flow for the two race days on the weekend. Another positive is that we will have a regular get-together to raise any issues or concerns, from both sides, and work towards the best solution in all cases. I wonder who will be the first to bring cakes and initiate the press room baking club.

When chatting over the weekend with a few journalists about all the recent changes that have been made, it was pointed out that when an organiser/promoter stops making changes that’s when you have to worry. Last week I was hankering for the old days, but time marches on and one journalist pointed out that in his view people are really not aware of the amount of work that Dorna are doing behind the scenes in WorldSBK to improve the profile of the series.

I was surprised this weekend that the podium celebrations were again in the paddock. Assen is traditionally one of the events where there is a huge crowd in the grandstands along the start/finish straight, and in this case directly opposite the podium. Moving it to the paddock denied those people a view of the celebrations, particularly when there was a strong possibility of Magic Mikey being on any of the top three spots. I can understand at circuits like Aragon, Donington, Misano etc where the podium faces out into nothing but at Assen I wasn’t so sure. However, the circuit management were in full agreement with the proposal and in the end I understand why. There was still 31,600 people on Sunday and a full grandstand but by Saturday afternoon there had been a huge increase in sales of paddock tickets, 3000 more than normal was a figure I heard.

So now the idea begins to make sense for the circuits. There is more of an attraction to go the races because you can get nearer the ‘action’ and the circuit benefits from increased revenue.

The changes to the technical regulations were also under scrutiny again at the weekend. After Aragon the new concession rules came into play with all manufacturers apart from Ducati being allowed an additional engine upgrade for the season. However, it would appear at the moment that the uptake for that is limited. I only heard that possibly MV Agusta and Aprilia would look at it, but of the other manufacturers, everyone agreed that working on electronics and chassis improvements were the main focus and current priority.

The system is also a bit more complicated than it seems. Only Kawasaki really have what could be termed ‘customer teams’ with Puccetti, Pedercini, Go Eleven and Orelac. Now logic would suggest that these teams would jump at the chance at some engine revisions. However, the way the system has to work is that the manufacturer, Kawasaki, has to request the engine upgrade and then make it available to those teams. A quick chat with Kawasaki engineers revealed that they have no plan to do that at the moment and so the three satellite teams are left with what they have. Even if Kawasaki did opt for an upgrade, those parts would be sold on, so the lesser teams may not have the budget to make use of it in any case.

The gripe that Kawasaki still has is the loss of revs and they are still feeling their way a little on electronics and gearing to hit a sweet spot. Although, things looked pretty sweet at the weekend.

Which begs the question; does another recent change need to be reconsidered? The one thing that many people have agreed on is that the actual racing has improved this year. It has been much closer. Jonathan Rea has still been winning but you get the impression that those victories are much more hard fought. At each round this year the racing has been so much tighter in race one but race two hasn’t lived up to expectation. We saw that on Sunday again and I wonder if there is any need for the reverse gridding system any more.

Having a strong rider like Tom Sykes start on pole, with his nearest rivals two rows back, meant he shot off into the distance not to be seen again. It was a hark back to last year and before. Race two in Aragon was also not as closely fought as race one. I would be interested to know what peoples thoughts are on that…but I guess we have to wait a little longer and see how other races go before a decision is made.

With all these changes in WorldSBK over the last few years and the recent controversies in MotoGP, who would be an organsiser/promoter of a motorsport series? Not all changes and decisions are going to please everyone but I guess so long as someone is still thinking about it and making changes then there will be a positive feeling about the future.

My big decision now is, should I stay safe and go for scones or go in high with a Lemon Drizzle Cake?

Photos by GeeBee Images

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