2012 MotoGP Provisional Calendar Released: Schedule Very Tentative Indeed

The FIM today announced the provisional dates for the 2012 MotoGP schedule. The season kicks off in Qatar on April 15th, with a fortnightly schedule of races until Assen, when the Dutch, German and Italian rounds take place on consecutive weekends. The series then heads across the Atlantic for two US rounds at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, before returning to Europe for three more races. A triple-header in Asia and Australia follows, before the season wraps up at the traditional final round at Valencia on November 11th.

Reading the notes on the calendar, it is clear that the schedule really is very provisional indeed. The rounds at Jerez, Estoril and in Germany are all labeled "Subject to contract," with doubts especially strong about the Portuguese and German rounds of MotoGP. Estoril has still to sign a contract with Dorna, and given the extreme austerity measures in place in Portugal, the circuit is unlikely to receive much assistances from the Portuguese government. Attendance at the circuit is also one of the lowest of the year, meaning gate receipts fall well short of being able to cover the sanctioning fee.

The German Grand Prix is also highly doubtful. As reported a couple of days ago, the Sachsenring has decided against organizing the German round of MotoGP, with Dorna's nearly doubled sanctioning fee turning the event into a loss-maker for the ADAC, the German motoring organization that runs the circuit. Despite the nearly 130,000 fans that turn out on race day, and the immense popularity of the circuit, the ADAC calculated that hosting the 2012 German MotoGP round would incur losses of 850,000 euro, in part due to the 3.7 million euro sanctioning fee reportedly demanded by Dorna.

The situation with Jerez is much more complicated. Cirjesa, the association that runs the circuit, is still stuck in talks with its creditors, including the consortium that carried out construction work at the track in 2005. Although Jerez already has a contract with Dorna to run the Spanish round of MotoGP (the other three races held in Spain are named after the Autonomous Communities the circuits are located in, Catalunya, Aragon and Valencia), if Cirjesa cannot find an accommodation with its creditors, then the circuit may not be in a position to host the round.

The schedule also shows clear signs of being put together with a more rational emphasis on costs: After the season opener at Qatar, the paddock heads to Europe for a series of 8 races, with Spain, Portugal, France, Barcelona, Silverstone and Assen all two weeks apart, while Assen, the German round and Mugello are to be run on consecutive weekends. The series then heads across the Atlantic for the two US rounds, allowing the MotoGP class to leave its trucks and equipment in the US after the Laguna Seca race, to be shipped across the country to Indianapolis three weeks later.

Three more races in Europe follow, then the series heads out east for the three flyaway rounds. Though holding the Japanese, Malaysian and Australian rounds on consecutive weekends helps keep costs to a minimum (the three races can be done in one trip), having three races in such different climates and with 8-hour flights to travel between the races imposes a punishing schedule on the teams and riders. Though riders are free to recover between the races, the teams and mechanics have to work nearly non-stop during the flyaway schedule. There is likely to be a good deal of protest at the three back-to-back flyaways, just as there was in previous years, but cost considerations are likely to prevail.

The final anomaly in the calendar is the lateness of the start. With the season reverting to start in mid-April again, MotoGP appears once again to be giving the early spring to World Superbikes and Formula One. WSBK is likely to kick off its season in February at Phillip Island, with a second round likely to take place in March ahead of the MotoGP opener, while F1 will be on its third race of the season when MotoGP kicks off at Qatar. The late start is a consequence of Qatar's insistence on being both the season opener and a night race, with conditions in the dark often proving treacherous so early in the season.

For those wishing to book flights and hotels to go visit a race, the message of the calendar seems to be make your bookings in pencil. A finalized version of the calendar is unlikely to be completed until the last race of the year at Valencia, and some of the issues may take even longer than that to settle.

Below is the FIM press release containing the provisional calendar:

FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
2012 provisional calendar

Dates Grand Prix Circuit
15 April Qatar* Doha/Losail
29 April Spain (STC) Jerez de la Frontera
6 May Portugal (STC) Estoril
20 May France Le Mans
3 June Catalunya Catalunya
17 June Great Britain Silverstone
30 June Netherlands** Assen
8 July Germany (STC) TBC
15 July Italy Mugello
29 July United States*** Laguna Seca
19 August Indianapolis Indianapolis
26 August Czech Rep. Brno
16 September San Marino & Riviera di Rimini Misano
30 September Aragon Motorland
14 October Japan Motegi
21 October Malaysia Sepang
28 October Australia Phillip Island
11 November Valencia Ricardo Tormo – Valencia

* Evening Race
** Saturday Race
*** Only MotoGP class
STC (Subject to the contract)
TBC (To be confirmed)

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A quick look suggests that there are 8 double-headers with World Superbike, with 6 of them being potential broadcast clashes.


Ducati officially pulled out, Yamaha has done the same now. MotoGP rejects/retirees (with all due respect) are dominating. That adds up to WSBK not looking to be in its prime. So maybe Dorna wants to clash and then beat WSBK even more before they are forced to become something like stock bike racing to survive while MotoGP remains THE prototypse series with the undoubtly (sp?) fastest bikes, despite CRT kicking in.

Even if I'm completely wrong about the above paragraph, the one guy MotoGP does not want to clash with is F1. They can deal with all the rest, IMO.

The World Superbike calendar isn't official either. Some of the dates that clash could also change.

...suppose that's Dorna giving Ducati extra time to fix their issues ;)

On a serious note, this will give less gaps between races which is a good thing in my opinion, a weekend without MotoGP is never quite so good...

Just wonder if the riders can cope without as much rest?

The late start could become an issue in 2013 though, when we're due to see several new rounds enter the calendar (Austin, India, Argentina).

When is the contract with Qatar that guarantees them the opening race due to expire?

I believe that's when the overall contract expires, but I don't know if the season opener is a built in clause to that or something. I'm not a fan of the flat tracks in the dessert to begin with, and holding it at night certainly does nothing to make the 3k fans in attendance feel any more robust.

You'd think with all that sand and money someone would have thought to add an elevation change somewhere. Least liked round of the year IMHO.

What about the acquisition of Infront by Bridgepoint Capital? One would think that jointly arranged calendars avoiding conflict between the two championships makes now more sense. Unless Infront was bought to negate reactions to CRT rules and afford Dorna the time and sponsor money for hegemonizing the sport.

I doubt you'll see Qatar leave the calendar. Nobody (compared to the other circuits) attends the round so those sheiks have plenty of $ to re-up with Dorna. They didn't spend all that cash on those lates only for the series to go away.

David, as always, thanks for a great write-up!

On the licensing fee being doubled for Sachsenring, is this becoming a common practice for Dorna to nearly double the fee for all the tracks or has it only been limited to a few? I love the Sachsenring track layout and if I ever get across the pond from the U.S. to attend I would have to go to the Sachsenring and Mugello rounds. I can't understand why in their right mind Dorna would try to ruin a perfectly good round that produces large attendance numbers. Maybe they thought that the Sachsenring would just pay up for whatever Dorna wanted and its backfiring on them...

I live in the U.S. and have been going to Laguna Seca since 2006 and every year we are left without the support classes (125cc, and 250cc, now Moto2). Is there ever any talk of bringing the lower classes to Laguna Seca? Nothing against the AMA, but I don't follow it as much as MotoGP and WSBK.

The support classes are unlikely to ever feature at Laguna Seca. The circuit has a very limited number of days it can stage events with a high-noise level, and by combining the AMA with MotoGP, they get two major events on one day. Then there's the cost issue (Laguna is really expensive for the teams), and the fact that there is simply no space in the paddock for all three classes plus the AMA, and maybe not even enough for just the three Grand Prix classes.

It's like those who live by airports and complain about the planes...

It's like those who live by airports and complain about the planes...