Can it really be 25 years since Dorna stuck its oar and took over MotoGP? I guess that means the grandstands and TV couches are people who don’t know any different. To whom the good-old/bad-old days are nothing more than a few fading photographs. Pictures in which at least you could tell which class of motorcycle was involved by the color of the easily legible numbers.
That wasn’t the only good thing about the old days. There was also an informal camaraderie. Riders were accessible and for the most past friendly too – just ordinary motorcyclists who happened to be exceptionally good at it. All part of an often impoverished and always fraught traveling circus.
The answer to the question at the top is: yes. It not only can be 25 years, but at Assen a fresh five-year contract was signed between Dorna and teams’ association IRTA, taking the cooperation up to 30. This was announced on race eve, with much mutual backslapping between Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and IRTA president Herve Poncharal, with IRTA general secretary Mike Trimby managing to maintain his dignity alongside, in spite of a barrage of syrupy compliments from the pair of them.
Yet neither the self-congratulation nor the soft soap was entirely misplaced, given the progress achieved over the past 25 years.
Some began even before Dorna arrived, in the five-odd years after IRTA grew up from a sort of riders’/teams’ union to a serious management corps. Poncharal picked out several milestones, ranging from unification of TV contracts to the introduction of electronic timing. Plus the first steps in on-bike cameras; a beginning from which Dorna have developed truly superb TV coverage.
So without rehashing the feelings in the wake of the first fatal accident in more than five years, what else have Dorna and IRTA managed, even while that old atmosphere of camaraderie has been so badly eroded as to be little more than notional?
Good things there are aplenty. Financially, most certainly. One might point at the accusations of tax fraud hanging over Ezpeleta and some of his Dorna associates as the trappings of personal success: almost a badge of honor carried by many possibly quite blameless successful tycoons.
But Dorna has not trousered all the money. Over 25 years, in increasing amounts, they have not only maximized the financial yield of grand prix racing as a business, but shared the profits among the teams.
This was, of course, partly self-interest. If they hadn’t been hard pushed to survive the loss of the tobacco millions, as cigarette advertising was banned in domino fashion eventually pretty much worldwide.
In any case, most of the dirty cigarette money went to the factory teams. Private teams were worse than beleaguered. They were becoming extinct and desperately needed help.
This was not only financial. One of Dorna’s boldest and riskiest initiatives was to take the factory teams down a peg or for riders in the small classes to have to buy their seats, one of several remaining blots on racing’s landscape.
The other is the nature of Moto2, and no amount of blustering brimstone can disguise the fact that it is a down-market one-make farrago that dulls the lustre of an otherwise satisfactorily elevated championship series.
Even Moto3, supposedly the poor relation, can call itself a proper prototype grand prix. Moto2 fields porky production engines with fixed-ratio gearboxes and sub-production-level electronics. The chassis are okay, but there is effectively only one manufacturer involved.
It’s the riders I feel sorry for, battling away in a talent-sapping elbow-banging contest. It’s kind of fun for fans, in the same way that club-level one -make series are knockabout fun. But this is grand prix racing, the World Championships. Moto2 is not so much a finishing school for would-be premier-class jockeys as a holding pool for sacrificial victims.