As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. The leaked document is a figment of my fevered imagination, and Dorna intends to cut races in Spain, rather than expand them. We are more likely to see races in a wider variety of countries than see all the races be held in Spain. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
Since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, MotoGP has been desperately looking for ways to cut costs. A raft of measures aimed at lowering the technological costs of MotoGP have been rushed through over the past three years, with more expected to come in the coming months and years. But with much of the excess already cut from the bikes and the technology, the following area to undergo drastic cost reductions is the second largest budget item facing teams: Travel and transportation.
MotoMatters.com has received a copy of a confidential internal discussion document circulating inside Dorna setting out a plan to radically reduce the costs of travel and accommodation for the MotoGP paddock. The plan is certain to be controversial: the method for reducing travel costs currently under discussion is simply to do away with them, and host all of the MotoGP races in Spain.
Under the new MotoGP plan - using the working title Virtual MotoGP, or vMotoGP for short - all 18 rounds of the MotoGP championship would be held in Spain. Alongside the four tracks currently being used - Jerez, Aragon, Barcelona and Valencia - would be added the new Grand Prix circuit of Alcarras, and a revised Jarama, with the latter being modified to make the track safer. Each circuit would host three rounds each season, the schedule being determined mainly by the climate, the season kicking of at Jerez and terminating at Valencia.
The obvious advantage for the teams is that transport costs would be slashed to a minimum, with all travel taking place by truck and by car, and no air freight required. But accommodation costs would also be drastically reduced as well: the Spanish housing bubble collapsed during the global financial crisis, leaving the housing market in ruins and a stock of some 800,000 homes unsold in the country. The plan - our sources revealed that preliminary contacts have already been made with Francisco Hernando, the spanish property magnate who was formerly involved in backing both the Onde2000 250 team and a MotoGP team for Sete Gibernau in 2009 - involves taking some of the many unsold unsold apartment blocks in various parts of the country, and refurbishing them for use as accommodation for the teams.
Talks with the Spanish banks which own the projects are already underway, with the banks willing to transfer ownership of the properties in exchange for sponsorship. The banks not only benefit from increased exposure, but with the loss-making buildings off their books in exchange for the nominal value of sponsorship, they will also be able to improve their capital reserves and hence their credit ratings.
With overseas travel no longer required, the teams would also be offered the chance to obtain cheap workshop space under the same property deal. One of the large, unsold construction sites near El Casar, to the northwest of the Spanish capital Madrid, would be converted to a technology park housing all of the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 teams who wanted to move there, with Dorna offering financial incentives to teams to assist with the move.
To respond to the criticism of the loss of the races outside Spain, and a devaluing of the Grand Prix championship to an overblown national series, Dorna will make massive investments in new media technology and virtual reality, according to the leaked plan. The series is to be rebranded as vMotoGP, or Virtual MotoGP, and Dorna hopes to capitalize on the TV and media infrastructure it already has in place, and expand it to make the series even more attractive. Fans watching via digital TV or the official MotoGP.com website will be able to select which camera view they wish to see the race from, switching between all of the cameras both on the bikes, at trackside and in the pits. To comply with existing TV contracts, the official video stream created by Dorna's TV production team will always be visible, though fans will be able to reduce it using picture-in-picture technology.
Video coverage is set to expand even further: massive amounts of previously unshown data will also be viewable during the race and practice sessions. Each rider will be fitted with equipment monitoring his bio signs, adding respiration and body temperature to the heart rate feeds already being shown on the official video feeds. The system of rider debriefs is to change too: instead of being organized by the teams, all of the riders will have to take part in a live televised video Q&A session, with journalists from around the world present. Here, too, fans will be able to participate, by using Twitter and Facebook to put questions to be read out to the riders.
According to the document seen by MotoMatters.com, the plan has the blessing and backing of the Spanish federal government. The government believes that the benefits of staging the series wholly inside Spain outweigh the short term costs. The deal to move ownership of unsold property off the books of some of Spain's regional banks is calculated to save the government nearly 1 billion euros in bank guarantees, helping reduce the budget deficit at little extra cost. What's more, the hope is that the investments in media and digital infrastructure required to make the "Virtual" aspect of vMotoGP a success will provide a boost to Spain's lagging technology sector, and provide a long-term improvement in the country's economic base.
MotoMatters.com understands that the document is still at the discussion stage, with talks mainly going on with potential financial partners. The plan has yet to be shown to the factories, the teams and the FIM, though the teams are unlikely to oppose it, and the FIM will not be capable of preventing the plan if the factories and teams accept it. The biggest stumbling block is likely to be Bridgepoint Capital, the private equity fund which currently owns Dorna. One entire section of the document leaked to MotoMatters.com deals with the best approach for handling Bridgepoint, with the main conclusion being that the proposals should only be discussed with Bridgepoint once all of the finance is in place, and the equity fund can see the returns on their capital. Dorna is hoping to keep the proposals from Bridgepoint until the end of the year, with the December monthly meeting tentatively scheduled to introduce the subject, at the meeting to be held in Madrid on the 28th of that month.