Steps to spark life into WorldSBK as an entertainment package for next year are actively being considered by Dorna. And that should mean good news for UK fans faced with having no round in 2019.
Lips remain firmly sealed but it is well known that series Executive Director Daniel Carrera has been busy consulting circuit owners, teams, sponsors and promoters about what more can be done to increase viewers and crowds. They have just about held their own over 2017, some more than others, but it is not enough.
Three factors have influenced the likely changes:
1) A piece of research showed that while having the first of the two races on Saturday improved viewership, weekend ticket sales and was a useful taster for the following day, having only the second on Sunday did not.
2) Some circuit owners - Donington in particular - were eager to point out that Sunday was traditionally seen as THE race day and having only one big race lasting little more than half an hour was poor value.
3) With venues willing to pay the sanction fee to stage WorldSBK being in short supply - Donington having given a virtual ultimatum that without a change they wouldn’t and Laguna Seca suffering from the decline in US participation and interest - something more than a facelift is required.
So what was suggested by Carrera last year but resisted by at least one major manufacturer may be seen in 2019. This looks likely to include staging a three-race weekend at some if not all circuits while other, more radical, moves such as pit stops are not being discounted.
This may persuade Donington to make every effort in returning the British round to something resembling its former glory.
The manufacturers are very important to WorldSBK and Dorna having been trying hard to get more factory support. The effect of that has been seen this year in that Yamaha now have bikes capable of winning and Honda’s Superbike effort will, it is said, get more help from HRC in 2019. They certainly need it.
Whether the reverse grid idea will survive is anyone’s guess. It is not a bad idea except for one man - Jonathan Rea. His ability to carve his way through from grid position nine into the lead within two or three laps indicates his extraordinaryness.
Indeed, one of the factors which makes WorldSBK so predictable is the sheer brilliance of the Northern Irishman. It brings the old saying ‘We can’t do with him but we couldn’t do without him’ to mind.
What Carrera and his team have done really well is bringing the riders to their fans. The paddock show which goes on all day, hosted by the inimitable Michael Hill, has the stars of the show talking direct to the spectators, answering questions, signing autographs and sometimes putting a band together.
As to the racing, no-one would bet against Rea and Kawasaki winning yet another title next year. But it is getting closer and the transition of Alvaro Bautista from MotoGP to the works Ducati Superbike team will add some much needed Spanish spice.