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Robin Miller: F1 is setting a cost-slashing example

When Formula One has run out of money you know things are getting serious.

The news that it has received a £1.15 billion loan from its American owner Liberty Media to get it through this season may not have come as a surprise to those close to this ludicrously-expensive sport and there is a message here for all forms of racing.

When Liberty bought F1 from Bernie Ecclestone a couple of years ago, bosses hoped that by improving a rather dull spectacle, reducing team costs, making the racing more competitive and extracting more money from the circuits and media they were on to a winner.


Little did they know that F1 is a political snakepit and manufacturers like Ferrari and Mercedes, who spend something like £400m a year and employ hundreds of people, had no interest in levelling the playing field.

And the idea of a cost cap at a mere £175m per annum, excluding driver and management costs, had the Italian team threatening to withdraw. Some of the circuits, led by Silverstone, wanted sanctioning fees of around £20m a race to be reduced dramatically.

Then came coronavirus and the prospect of racing without spectators.

We in the two wheel version of motor sport should not be too cocky. Even the best are facing huge financial challenges which will be with us for some time. But we should be grateful that Dorna’s major shareholders, British based investment company Bridgepoint and Canadian pension fund CCP, are fully behind the company and both MotoGP and WorldSBK will run when they can.

And the same will apply to MSV’s backing of British Superbikes.

But if there is a small upside to this dreadful disease it has brought to a head the facts that costs were getting out of hand and, as Dylan prophesied, the times they are a-changing.

What does it cost to participate? Factory teams like Honda, Yamaha and Ducati will splash out somewhere between £50m and £70m including riders costs - Rossi and Marquez don’t come cheap - and they will be heavily supported by sponsors.

Further back on the grid, the costs will range from £10m to £20m. All get considerable support from Dorna, via IRTA (the International Racing Teams Association).

WorldSBK will probably start at £4m but a works-supported team like Kawasaki, plus Jonathan Rea, will be in the region of £12m. And a top BSB team like PBM, with lower travelling costs, will be around £1.2m.


By comparison, NASCAR, the biggest motorsport series in the States, is planning to halve its costs by 2022 under a programme called Gen Next. Currently, a NASCAR team costs around £65m for a full season. That covers four drivers and 16 cars racing at ovals and the occasional road circuit over 34 weekends.

Ultimately, of course, it is the fans who pay. Either by attending a meeting, watching on pay TV or buying product from retailers.

Not only are people spending less this year but for the next two or three years which means there will be less money coming into the sport.

The message is clear. The cost of racing has got to be reduced from MotoGP to club racing at Darley Moor. Fans don’t care about the amount spent on development or how much a rider gets paid. Or that teams have four sets of tyres to choose from.

They want great racing and heroes. And as Mike Nicks observed recently, are three-day events necessary?

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