MotoGP could follow Formula One out of Indy
Indianapolis: Motorcycles were the first to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than 100 years ago and Sunday`s Indianapolis MotoGP could be the last with no deal in place to bring the series back to the Brickyard next year.
After just four years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, MotoGP looks ready to follow Formula One and leave the home of American motor sport with the series having agreed to deals with Laguna Seca and the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Dorna, the promoters and commercial rights holders for MotoGP, say they are confident the United States could support three races but have watched interest and attendance at Indianapolis drop off since the first race in 2008, casting a shadow over the event`s future in the American Mid-West.
Javier Alonso, MotoGP events managing director, said Dorna had just signed a new two-year deal with Laguna Seca and earlier announced a 10-year agreement to stage races in Austin beginning in 2013.
"We`re still talking about what the future holds," IMS president Jeff Belskus said. "I hope it (MotoGP) is back and I hope we can come to terms.”
"We would be disappointed to lose it but I think both sides will move on if that`s what it comes to."
After watching Formula One walk away from the Brickyard in 2007, the departure of MotoGP would be another blow to the prestige of America`s most famous racetrack.
The Indy 500 and NASCAR`s Brickyard 400 remain hugely successful events but the American Mid-West has never embraced international racing the same way.
IMS does not announce attendances but according to Dorna figures published in the Indianapolis Star, weekend ticket sales for the event have been on a steady decline from a high of 174,052 in 2008 to 146,680 in 2009 and 136,184 last year.
Alonso points out that Spain will stage four MotoGP races this season but conceded the appetite for the sport is not the same in both countries.
"It`s possible to have three races in the United States," said Alonso. "We had only one race in Spain 20 years ago.”
"It is important for us to be successful in America."
The massive state-of-the-art media room at the Brickyard was packed for the MotoGP but the buzz was in Italian, Spanish, Japanese and many other foreign languages.
The race attracted only scant interest from domestic media outlets with only a handful of mostly local reporters sprinkled among the large international contingent.
"There are some differences (between European and American race fans)," admitted Belskus. "Are they less sophisticated, I wouldn`t say that but it`s the Mid-West and it`s different than Europe and California."
The U.S., however, remains an important market for bike manufacturers and one Dorna wants to develop.
While American bike fans have had successful riders to cheer on such as Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies the emergence of some new young talent could help push the sport into the spotlight.
Looking to become MotoGP`s version to IndyCar success story Danica Patrick, 17-year-old Elena Myers was invited by the Suzuki MotoGP team to test one of their bikes this weekend while Shelina Moreda became the first woman to compete in a motorcycle race at the Brickyard in 102 years.
"It is important to be here for the manufacturers," said Alonso. "We saw on Thursday a 17-year-old girl doing a fantastic demonstration.
"She`s doing well. There are ways to improve the marketing of the MotoGP in America."