The 2017 WorldSBK season got off to a start in familiar surroundings at Phillip Island. The weather was kind with both race days being warm and dry, and as usual the race action was just what everyone would like to see, fast and close with lots of overtaking.

Somehow that didn’t entice any more punters to come and watch trackside, the crowd figure was more or less the same as last year, as confirmed by circuit manager Fergus Cameron after the race. On face value it doesn’t look good when viewed from any angle but things seem to be moving forward in the broadcasting stakes. In the run up to the race Dorna signed new TV packages for the series with several broadcasters covering Turkey, Hungary Portugal, The Carribean, the Middle East, Africa and most interestingly with Servus TV in Austria and Germany, all broadcasting live coverage.

That’s an impressive list but the question is will Dorna be looking to take the championship to these new broadcast territories, over nations where the Superbike championship has been traditionally popular? The introduction of Red Bull into the championship has clearly had an impact with Servus TV acquiring broadcast rights and it is already rumoured that the series will go to the Red Bull Ring in Austria next year.

One problem remains for Dorna, however, as with all sports right holders, and that is the rise of broadcasting on social media. I spoke about this in my last bog as something that Red Bull are masters of, but it appears that most global rights holders are terrified of channels such as Periscope, Facebook live ad so on. In Doha last year Jonathan Rea did a Facebook live broadcast from his hotel a couple of days before the race and was apparently reprimanded for doing so. This weekend one broadcaster wanted to do a similar thing with JR in the evening on the jetty in the town of Cowes on Phillip Island and were told it would breach their rights.


Now I can understand any rights holder restricting the broadcasting of moving images from within the boundary of the ‘sporting arena’, in this case once you enter the circuit, but is it correct to restrict other forms of broadcasting out with the circuit in a rider’s free time? This to me suggests that Dorna would like to control the broadcast rights of the riders and teams at all times and not just on a race weekend. That sounds a bit extreme but there is nothing wrong with that if everyone is on board. What I can’t understand is why, when the general perception that WorldSBK has a flagging public profile, they are not embracing these new forms of broadcast media.

As happened in a Scottish football match recently someone, a fan, used Periscope to broadcast an entire match live due to UEFA’s ban on live coverage domestic matches on the same night as a Champion’s League match. Legally that was clearly in breach of the broadcast rights but how on earth can that ever be controlled. It is only a matter of time until someone does it from the race track.

Dorna have their own Video Pass for MotoGP and WorldSBK that offers live streaming of the action online. As a subscriber myself, it’s great value for money and in many cases offers much more insight into what is happening in a race than any live TV show can, but this is still based on a traditional broadcast model. For me Dorna need to develop and encourage the use of these new social network mediums to promote WorldSBK as that is where the next generation of subscribers and trackside viewers are coming form. It seems to be a general problem in the motorcycle industry, that all manufacturers are struggling to find ways of attracting the 17-25 year olds to ride motorcycles. Everything is geared to a demographic that extends from 40 years old and upwards. A look at the punters round the track at any race and that is very evident.

It’s a conundrum that will run on for sure but it is one that really does need solving.


On the track the racing was pretty much as everyone predicted. Fast, close and……oh….predictable. Guess who won. Guess who was second. Guess what nation made up the entire race one podium. Yup, correct.

How the result was delivered was a bit more interesting and actually quite enthralling. Even a disinterested Mrs Brown who had been woken up by storm Doris in the UK popped Eurosport on at 4am and watched the race all the way to the end – “that was quite exciting” So something went right.

The reverse grid, as predicted, made little difference other than having a different pole sitter. Davies and Rea were in the lead group of 5 after 2 laps with the only loser being Tom Sykes who didn’t manage to catch the train, and thus the tow, and languished alone in sixth place.

It was great to see Alex Lowes lead race one and properly fight for a podium in both races. Two years ago I met him in Kuala Lumpur on the way home from Australia and he looked a broken man. Technical problems with his Suzuki robbed him of any chances that weekend but he would languish mid field all season and things didn’t improve much with the new Yamaha R1 last year.

Fast forward to Sunday evening and I had a quick chat with a different man as we left Phillip Island for the airport. There had been no big eureka moment that had made the R1 a front runner on the weekend but he felt that Yamaha, the Crescent team and he himself had just persevered and enjoyed the fruits of a bit of hard work. He is now feeling much more comfortable on the bike, which breeds confidence and the ability to push hard. He walked off with a spring in his step and I don’t think it will be long before he is on the podium again.

Now if only he wasn’t British.

Photos by GeeBee images/Kawasaki

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