Stuart Higgs is a man with many work hats. The Englishman runs most aspects of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship day-to-day for the ultimate owners Motorsport Vision, and also has had an input into the re-growth of MotoAmerica for some time too.
In 2018 MSV, who own most of the British tracks and now have the rights to Donington Park too, now promoted the British round of the WorldSBK series.
Tales of bust-ups with WorldSBK rights holders Dorna about the recent WorldSBK weekend, a disappointing crowd figure despite the new promoters, and the small matter of needing to re-negotiate a different kind of Donington/Dorna deal to host any British round of WorldSBK in the future, have all emanated from the WorldSBK rumour mill recently.
No problems between MSV and Dorna, said Higgs at Laguna Seca.
“There is no issue with us and Dorna,” Higgs told bikesportnews.com in California. “We contract to do other things, run the British Talent Cup with them. The bottom line is that the event format of a race on Saturday and a race on Sunday does not gel with a UK audience.
"The attendance was pretty poor and we cannot really claim lack of promotion. We have a big ticketing database through BSB, we do television advertising. All the tools we would use to promote BSB we promoted that event and still they do not come. When you have a slightly inflated ticket price, and there is a perception that that the content is less because it is spread over two days, the public kind of vote with their feet.”
The main issue, as many others have said, is the format. “The Saturday is, we acknowledge, a better day with qualifying and a race, but the reality of how you promote an event weekend you cannot suddenly load a Saturday ticker price to what a Sunday ticket price would be. You have to piecemeal it, so you have a slightly inflated crowd from what you had on a Saturday but still paying a Saturday price.
"The Sunday price, for business reasons, you cannot decrease that, it has to be the premium day, the main race day, but the content has been quite heavily diluted. The Superbike race two is done by 1.30 in the afternoon. Selling that as a proposition to people, the obvious comparison is a BSB weekend, where the ticket price is probably five or six ponds less, but the content is more in terms of support classes and feature races on day. And some people only have one day. People’s leisure time they are competing against a lot of other things, particularly that weekend.”
There were other very typically British things to take into account. “There were other factors that worked against it. There was a fairly negative weather forecast for the Sunday that did not actually manifest. Maybe that weekend is not the best weekend with other stuff that is going on in the country and with other motorsport.”
Both parties seem to want to host a British round of WorldSBK at Donington, which is being revamped, but you cannot think other than a different deal would like ti be done than the previous one.
“We are out of contract now, and that was a contract that was done by the previous operators of the track,” said Higgs. “We have expressed some views and some things that need to be done. I think Dorna acknowledge our remarks and the ball is a bit in their court at the moment.”
A possible rival circuit for the affections (or otherwise) of any UK round is Lake Torrent. They indeed have a deal with Dorna for a round in 2019 but news of the whole new circuit in Northern Ireland has petered off on all channels recently.
“Because we have a mutual contractor who works on our French Circuit project, we know they were engaged with Lake Torrent, and I understand that they have not had a great deal of work to do, so maybe it has all gone a bit quiet,” said Higgs. “We have not heard anything. As a group of people they came with us to Oulton Park in I thin 2016 or 2017, to look at promoting events and how they ran them. We opened the arms of friendship and we have not heard anything since then, really.”