With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.
Young riders coming up today, and even current riders, need to understand that they are no longer being paid to race. This is a major change in mindset, what they are paid to do is work as a marketing tool for their sponsors and patrons. For most of the history of athletics and motorsports, one of two things had to happen for you to compete, you either were either wealthy, or, you had to have a wealthy patron. Patron, another term for sponsor, is something that disappeared, for the most part, post-World War II on a personal level. Post World War II sponsorship came from corporations rather than people though that really didn't become visible until the 1960s with the Lotus Formula One team.
In today's world, corporations aren't racing for anything more than exposure. And that exposure is not so much about what happens on the racetrack, it's what happens with that sponsorship at the track and off the track. In fact, most sponsors don't care a whole lot about what happens on the track as long as their brand is visible, it's about what you're doing with your visibility and your hospitality on a race weekend. Then, it's also about, promotion pre-race and post race. On top of that it's doing appearances for the corporation when and where they choose.