Much has been made over the past few days of this year’s low turnout at Silverstone for the MotoGP British Grand Prix, with just 40,000 for Sunday’s main event – the smallest crowd at the race since ‘She left Donington Park for the 2010 event.
But while the first port of call for tackling those numbers might be to look at other races on the MotoGP calendar, there might be answers closer to home in the British National Superbike Championship.
There are many factors to explain what went so wrong at Silverstone this year, some of the most commonly cited reasons for people not bothering to make the trip being cost, circuit and the lack of a headlining name thanks to the retirement of Valentino Rossi and the absence of Marc Marquez due to lingering injuries.
It’s no secret that the UK (along with the rest of Europe) is about to enter a cost of living crisis as energy prices continue to soar. arrow, and while not everyone is feeling the pinch yet, even the media The hype surrounding it is sure to make people less willing to shell out tickets – and there’s no doubt Silverstone’s prices are higher than comparable tracks in Europe.
This is not necessarily his fault, as the situation is different at Silverstone than at many other circuits where the series promoter Dorna’s accommodation costs (estimated at around 4 million euros) are paid for the circuit by the local or national government, which means that there is less incentive to make money from ticket sales.
It’s an aside for those hoping to attend, of course, because the bottom line doesn’t change: it’s not a cheap weekend tour.
But if money is a factor, it is not the main factor. How can I say this conclusively? Well, that’s easy – British fans are willing to shell out for F1 tickets at the same circuit, and pay for the privilege too. The cheapest general weekend ticket for the four-wheeled series is £279, more than three times that of MotoGP, while even the Silverstone Classic event, held on the last weekend of August , starts at £145, considerably higher than the cheapest last weekend. £90 entry.
So if it’s not cost, then what is? Well, that’s where a weekend at a round of British Superbike opens your eyes to what has in many ways become the norm of the national championship, because not only has it become a much cheaper series to watch, but it also has weighted value for money.
ICYMI: The most amazing last lap here at @thruxtonracing
— Bennetts British Superbike Championship (@OfficialBSB) August 14, 2022
At Thruxton, for example, your £45 weekend ticket not only gets you into the paddock to get close to the teams, it also gets you 14 races over two days. For comparison, at the British Grand Prix this year there were five: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 and two rounds of the British Talent Cup.
Based on the absolutely huge numbers that go to BSB every weekend (the next round at Cadwell Park is expected to sell its 45,000 tickets) – the vast majority of the 40,000 UK fans who have been to Silverstone are also well used to it .
This is something MotoGP promoter Dorna should also be aware of. It is also the promoter of World Superbikes and saw a big crowd at Donington Park earlier in July, where the fan experience is much closer to that of BSB than it is in MotoGP. The podium is in the middle of the paddock, the fans can mingle with the riders, and it’s hard to argue that even at MotoGP awards you don’t get what you pay for.
It may not be the same outside of the UK, but in that market motorcycle racing has always been a working class affair, a far cry from the upper class world of four wheel racing; When the very first racetrack was built at Brooklands, racers ate in restaurants, bikers in cafes!
While times have obviously changed, some of that legacy remains, and as a result Dorna is evolving into a layered world of VIP and exclusive access (perhaps best exemplified by its post-COVID restriction on the number of passes pass issued every weekend to team guests) just doesn’t sit well with UK racing fans – especially when BSB nails it so well.
There are other things BSB does well too, of course, free parking (a weekend at Silverstone was £50) and excellent marketing, with local media from ITV and BBC present in the build-up of most laps to ensure everyone in the area is aware that the race is underway.
Racing in BSB is good, sure, but so is a lot of racing in MotoGP, although 2022 has had something of a blow on that front.
But a series seems to do a better job of engaging with fans, keeping them coming back weekend after weekend, and selling a compelling narrative that sucks people in. There’s no shame in MotoGP (premium class or not) trying to figure out why this is, before the number of people watching drops lower.