JOCKEYING FOR POSITION
Presenters and commentators who add knowledge and colour to the television coverage of motorcycle racing whether on Eurosport or the BBC are already devoting a lot of their thinking time to next season. No, not which team will sign Cal Crutchlow but whether they themselves will be continuing their lives of status and luxury or joining the queue at BBC9.
BT, having paid Dorna four times the amount of money they were getting from the BBC, is the broadcaster they all want to join - particularly those covering MotoGP for the BBC and Eurosport who will be out of a job.
If odds were being offered, Steve Parrish would be a hot favourite. The ex-rider's incisive and humorous summaries are valued. Matt Roberts might be a good each way bet to join him but ex-saloon car racer, the Aussie Charlie Cox, looks like suffering the fate of his other fellow countrymen this year. That also goes for the other presenter whose name escapes me.
But what of Eurosport's Julian Ryder, Toby Moody and Steve Day. Can BT accommodate Parrish and Ryder? Moody will go to other forms of Motorsport but Day is a rising star and is certain to find a berth either with BT or Eurosport which will be increasing its coverage of BSB and World Superbikes. That should cause the incumbent Eurosport home team to start examining their contracts.
Dark horse in all this is Sky motorsport commentator, ex-racer Keith Heuwen. Sky, spending a fortune on F1, are cutting back on all other forms and BT are known to be viewing Heuwen favourably. The other unknown is BT's plans for the TT which they are considering televising live via the production company North One, which has produced the excellent ITV4 programmes.
The really big unknown of unknowns is how many viewers BT will get for any of this. The one million plus audience attracted by the BBC looks to be in serious danger but, as Mr Ezpeleta might have said: "Think about the money!"
The contrast could hardly have been greater. The Festival of Speed and the Festival of 1000 Bikes. One at Goodwood, a huge country estate, owned by Lord March. The other at Mallory Park, the Leicestershire circuit with a famous past but doubtful future. One dripping with cash. The other at a venue showing all the signs of the struggle to survive.
But despite those obvious differences between two events on the same weekend, each requires the same sort of creativity, determination and entrepeneurship. In the case of Goodwood it is Charles March who may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth but before taking over from his father was a fashion photographer in London. He took over an estate, almost certainly in decline, and created two amazing events, the Festival of Speed, and the even more iconic Revival,recreating the post-war years of speed. Each attracts more than 150,000 spectators per weekend.
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club, founded by the late Titch Allen at a meeting of enthusiasts at a cafe on the Hog's Back in Surrey in 1946 and now lead by James Hewing, is the driving force behind the Festival of 1000 Bikes and many other events. Whereas bikes play second fiddle to cars in the leafy glades near Chichester, but attract a lot of attention, the Mallory event is all about bikes.
The spirit which joins them together is one of enthusiasm, dedication and bloody hard work. It is also about leadership from the top, determined to make something happen often against opposition from a few who, selfishly one might say, are not concerned with the pleasure it brings to thousands or the money it brings into the area.
Goodwood will survive although it's racing circuit is no longer used for truly competitive events. Mallory, on the other hand, faces closure. It's problems are typical of those faced by all motor sport venues whether tarmac, grass or mud. Noise is the usual problem and permission has to be obtained from the local authoritiy for a given number of unsilenced days, ie racing.
The conflict is between having as many paid events as possible, to keep going, while staying within the planning guide lines. Occasionally circuits have only themselves to blame by overstepping the mark. More often it is a small group of protesters, some of whom may only have moved into the area comparitively recently, stirring it up. This they are perfectly entitled to do but it has to be asked:"Why didn't you think of this before buying the house?"
What is the answer? (No, please don't say electric bikes!) Circuit owners and promoters must be very conscious, which they mostly are, of the need to stay strictly within the rules; make friends with local councillors; present facts about the economic value to the area of the events they hold. Noise pollution is largely the issue but the heavily prejudiced views of some people about bikes and bikers cannot be ignored. We have got to go out of our way to be good. So there!
IT IS BETTER TO TRAVEL IN HOPE .......
Those of you who imagine that our racing stars travel to work in a style becoming of their status may be interested to hear it is not always the case. No longer do riders go around Europe in Ford Transits with a bed in the back and the line-up of luxury motor homes at the top end of MotoGP paddocks do indicate a certain degree of pampering.
But according to my informant this did not apply to the travel arrangements of the Honda Legends team on their lengthy flight to Japan for the Suzuka Eight-Hours this weekend. They may well have been on an A380 or the equivalent but they were nearer to the back of the plane than the front.
Times are hard even for the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. Hope they don't fall asleep on the track.