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Oct 4, 2013

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Not Giving Up On MotoGP Or World Superbike

The start of the 2013 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
On October 1, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca announced that it would not be hosting the FIM MotoGP World Championship in 2014, what would have been the final year of the historic track’s current contract with Dorna Sports, the commercial rights holder for the MotoGP and Superbike World Championships.

In that announcement, the reasoning was not entirely clear, but Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO/General Manager Gill Campbell told Friday that the situation was simply a tough financial business decision.

“I think the bottom line here is I have been one of the loudest voices stating that there should only be two MotoGPs in the United States,” Campbell said in a telephone interview. “I don’t believe that the United States can support more than two. I’ll be honest, though. I was anticipating that I would be one of the two.

“When Indianapolis [Motor Speedway] announced that they had $100 million in grants [from the state of Indiana] to do track updates that Dorna had been asking them to do for several years and with CoTA [Circuit of The Americas] being a place with state subsidies, it renders us in a tough position. We haven’t made money on the [Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix] event…we’ve lost money on the event each year since the recession. And we still have money due to Dorna for our sanctioning fee [for 2013], and [the decision on 2014] came down to money.

“Not only do I need to clear up for 2013, but I have to guarantee [Dorna] $3 million for a sanctioning fee for 2014. And quite frankly in this economy and without the kinds of subsidies that other tracks get and other governments give throughout Europe, we don’t have that luxury.

“It’s very hard, emotionally. Wayne [Rainey] and I worked darn hard to get this event back to the United States. We worked darn hard to retain it. And so it’s frustrating. It’s emotionally hard to accept that OK, we may need to take a year off.

“My CPAs [Certified Public Accountants] got together with me and said, ‘Gill, we need to take a hard look at this. And right now you’re probably better off financially not doing MotoGP than actually doing it and losing more money.’ Which that does make perfect business sense as much as I hate to admit it.”

Campbell said that while the costs of putting on the event have gone up over the last four years revenue has gone down, particularly revenue from corporate hospitality sales.

“Corporate hospitality spending, in particular, has dropped to the tune of about $2.5 million,” said Campbell. “That $2.5 million accrued over a period of four year has rendered our event non-profitable.”

Campbell, however, has hopes that things will turn for the better in the near future and allow Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to host MotoGP again as soon as 2015. In the meantime, Campbell and her staff are trying to bolster their World Superbike event [which they are contracted to host through 2015] by moving it from its current late-September date to MotoGP’s traditional slot in July.

“Being in the football season doesn’t work very well for us. We’ve got two NFL teams just up the road,” said Campbell. “I do think if we could secure a July date it would work well in everyone’s best interest. But there are a lot of factors involved in that, notwithstanding the entire [World Superbike] schedule which is like a Rubik’s Cube to put together.

“My relationship with Dorna is still very, very good. They’ve been part of our family. They’ve been wonderful to work with, and I cannot fault Dorna in anyway. It was mutual. The decision was based purely on our finances. Again, moving forward we want to make World Superbike work, and I want to keep motorcycle road racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We’ve put a lot of money into this facility to make it motorcycle-friendly, and I want to get my money back (laughs).”
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