The German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring is an immensely popular event, attracting over 100,000 fans on race day and some quarter of a million visitors over the three days of the MotoGP weekend. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that 2011 could be the last year that the German MotoGP round is held at the track in Saxony, as according to the German tabloid Bild, the race could be moved elsewhere in Germany, if Dorna and the track owners - the Saxon branch of ADAC, the German equivalent of the Automobile Association - cannot reach agreement on the sanctioning fee for the event.
The Sachsenring's contract with the FIM to host the event runs out at the end of 2011, and according to Bild, Dorna is looking to double the sanctioning fee, raising it from 2 million to 4 million euros from 2012 onwards. That may put the event out of the financial reach of the Saxon branch of ADAC, leaving the German Grand Prix to move to another location. The Sachsenring is very keen to host the event, the ADAC's spokesperson Klaus Klötzner told Bild, but not at any price. Preliminary talks had been started, Klötzner reported, but the outcome was far from certain.
The ADAC were aiming to ensure the continuity of the event, however. The hosting organization are looking at selling increased advertising space at the track, and recoup some of the extra costs by raising ticket prices.
If the Sachsenring were to lose the German MotoGP round, it would also mean losing a little bit of racing history. The East German Grand Prix was held on the original public roads surrounding the area - roads which are still in use as public thoroughfares - from 1961 until 1972. The race fell out of favor with the East German authorities in 1971, when the 250 race was won by West German rider Dieter Braun, and the 200,000 fans gathered in the former Communist Eastern Bloc country sang along with the national anthem of its capitalist rival West Germany at full volume.
The race returned to the region in 1998, after the purpose-build circuit gained FIM approval. The race has been incredibly popular with fans from around the region, with Dutch, German, Belgian, British, Scandinavian and Czech fans all making the pilgrimage in droves to the rolling hills of Saxony.
If the race does leave the Sachsenring, replacing the circuit would present a problem for Dorna. The tracks in West Germany - Hockenheim and the Nurburgring - do not attract the same level of crowds as the tracks in the east, making funding the event there a much more difficult proposition. Other alternatives in the East of Germany also exist - most notably, the Eurospeedway Lausitzring near the Polish and Czech borders, but that circuit suffers from poor drainage, and failed to attract large crowds when the Lausitzring hosted the World Superbikes from 2005 to 2007. With former WSBK rider - now in Moto2 with MZ riding an FTR - Max Neukirchner born and raised just a few miles from the Sachsenring circuit, there is considerable local interest in the race. Few other German tracks can boast the same level of local interest.