Barcelona Joins WorldSBK Calendar For 2020 - Prelude To Losing MotoGP In 2021?

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo is to host a round of the World Superbike championship in 2020. The event is to be held from 18-20th September 2020, between the Portimao and Magny-Cours rounds of the series. 

The addition of Barcelona presages a few of the changes coming in both the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars in future years. Next year, WorldSBK loses Buriram in Thailand to MotoGP, and also looks set to lose the race at Laguna Seca in the USA. Instead, WorldSBK will head to Barcelona in September, and the German circuit of Oschersleben in August.

The loss of both Thailand and the US means a stark reduction in the number of rounds outside Europe. The WorldSBK championship now only visits Phillip Island at the start of the season, and Argentina and Qatar at the end, meaning that ten of the thirteen WorldSBK rounds will be held in Europe, with three rounds on the Iberian peninsula (Jerez, Portimao, and Barcelona) and two in Italy (Imola and Misano).

Adding more overseas rounds could prove problematic, from a cost point of view. In the past, Dorna has used WorldSBK as a test case, sending them to new tracks to try out the logistics and costs of getting bikes and riders in and out of countries and venues on time. That may happen again in the future: rumors persist that WorldSBK will be sent to Indonesia or Vietnam before MotoGP going there, to test the viability of the venue.

The addition of Barcelona to the WorldSBK calendar could also be a prelude to the Spanish track's removal from the MotoGP calendar, or at least to it rotating with other Spanish tracks when the MotoGP calendar expands. A story in the Catalan press suggests that Barcelona will lose its MotoGP round in 2021.

That would make sense if Indonesia is to join the MotoGP calendar for 2021. The current contract with MotoGP teams stipulates a maximum of 20 races a season. That contract expires at the end of 2021, at which point Dorna intends to expand the calendar to 22 races.

Dropping Barcelona for 2021 would be one way of fitting Indonesia onto the calendar. It could also serve as a backup if the Indonesian track at Mandalika on Lombok isn't ready in time to host a race. But it may also be a chance to start rotating MotoGP and WorldSBK at Spanish circuits, as a way of reducing the number of rounds held in Spain.  

A 2020 calendar for WorldSBK is expected to be published soon.

The press release from WorldSBK announcing Barcelona on the calendar appears below:

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya welcomed onto 2020 WorldSBK calendar

A new track awaits the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as the historic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya readies for WorldSBK action

For the first time in its history, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will host a round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The agreement between the Circuit, Dorna WorldSBK Organization and the Gemocat event manager will make the Catalunya Round of WorldSBK one of the biggest events to be on the 2020 calendar and is set to be held from the 18th – 20th September.

Joan Fontserè, General Director of the Circuit of Barcelona-Catalunya has expressed his appreciation of the new event, saying: “With the inclusion of WorldSBK at the circuit, in addition to making history, the missing piece fits into our calendar of events, which will in-turn make for an exceptional 2020 season. We are very happy to be able to host the Catalunya Round of WorldSBK and we are sure that the fans will turn to this event and make this first addition a resounding success”.

Ricard Cardús, spokesman for Gemocat, added: “We are very excited about bringing the Superbike World Championship show to Catalonia for the first time. We want the weekend from September 18th to 20th to be a real party for the fan and we will organize events and activities around the event; there will be a limit of 30,000 tickets in order to offer an exclusive experience to the public. We hope that the Catalunya Round of WorldSBK will become a classic on the fans' agenda.”

Gregorio Lavilla, WorldSBK Executive director - Sporting & Organization depts: “The new addition to the 2020 WorldSBK calendar is warmly welcomed and expected in great anticipation. The circuit has seen many memorable races in various motorsport disciplines and WorldSBK cannot wait to join the list. With such a rich heritage in motorcycle racing in Spain and the region, the Catalunya WorldSBK Round promises to be a great success for all parties involved.”

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When Ascot Park in Gardena, Ca closed, I thought that the world was figuratively coming to an end. I had been there to see every national dirt track race since 1974 till it closed. That's to say I saw Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, and Eddie Lawson race there long before the rest of the world knew about them. It was billed then as the fastest half-mile in the nation. It was a dump as far as the concessions and rest rooms were concerned. But the racing was second to none. I still lament its closing. I was supremely disappointed when Laguna Seca lost its MotoGp round. A small track that provides great racing. A track that has many great viewing opportunities that can be easily reached by foot. Now I find that it will probably lose World Superbike. Is Austin next? Is the U.S. just becoming an inconvenient travel destination? I doubt we will lose Austin, but I won't put any money on it.

I'm afraid Laguna is very likely to be a goner - track management is inadequately prepared for the job (at best) or incapable of the job (at worst).

The city of Monterey hates Laguna - the noise, the crowds, everything associated with racing activity there. They want it turned into another housing development, frankly. SCRAMP has fought off efforts to shut it down over and over again for decades and now, the city has the ammunition it needs to boot them out because their accounting practices are so shoddy. I bet the winner of the bid to operate the track wins because they plan to scale back activity there tremendously.

The only other options for SBK are Austin (they can't afford it), Indy (only if they could piggyback on the MotoAmerica round there next year - I don't think the schedule will permit that) and Utah Motorsports Campus - which SBK has already abandoned before. So I sincerely doubt Garrett Gerloff will have a home round next year.

I imagine Austin will be kept around as a token GP round for the US market for a few more years. But Dorna has made it clear in both GP and SBK that our market isn't of great value to them.

The low attendance figures for MotoGP in Austin and SBK at Laguna spell doom for world level motorcycle racing in north america.

Maybe the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal can host MotoGP or SBK.

When 250,000 peopele show up in Thailand, DORNA will not be satisified with the attendance figures of 35,000 for Phillip Island, or the 60,000 at COTA. 

Reality sucks :(

I'm curious what a seat costs in Thailand for the weekend?  For the last four years my wife and I have made the trip to TX from NJ for the racing, for Austin and to do some Texas touring.  My seat-of-the-pants estimate says the crowd has grown marginally each year but I don't have actual numbers.  We pay $190+ (USD) each for our two seats (all three days) in the turn 12-15 grandstands.  My point is, perhaps the 250,000 in Thailand pay a gate or seat fee that is less which makes the two events more financially equivalent?  I was at Indy in 2013 and they had the same 60-65K people there but that place is cavernous and seemed really empty from my perch in the southwest corner.  I'm thinking that MotoAmerica doesn't draw near 60K folks anywhere they go.  I'd WAG 10-15K in NJ in September this year but real numbers are hard to come by...

Only 35,000 people turn up to see the race at PI, and it's close to Melbourne - which is the same size as Sydney, and it's a fantastic track in a fantastic location (although subject to weather).  Having a round at Eastern Creek would be another race with low attendence numbers, at a mediocre track, and would poach attendees from PI.

The last few years I have been waiting with baited breath as to whether WSBK would venture to The Bend, a new motorsport part facility in South Australia. The only thing stopping it is the riders love for Phillip Island however PI loses out in every aspect except the track itself. The Bend having greater grandstand seating and spectator facilities and onsite hotel. 

I remember reading during the development stage of the track receiving FIM level 2 status (to the best of my knowledge capable of holding every World Championship bar F1?). The full layout encompasses the longest continuous track length in the Southern hemisphere. I had sincerely hoped that WSBK would venture there and leave PI to Moto GP.

Daytona could be a unique venue for one of the big series. The town can certainly handle huge crowds with over 100,000 tickets for the annual Daytona 500 plus another 100,000+ that come for the activities outside of the race. And imagine the top speeds MotoGP could hit on the banking.