Interview: WorldSBK Executive Director Gregorio Lavilla debriefs 2020 WorldSBK season
A look back on a challenging but successful 2020 season, from new formats and on-track action to the season finale and the COVID-19 protocols
Gregorio Lavilla gives his thoughts on the unique 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship season. The ex WorldSBK racer talks protocols, new formats, the title battle between Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) and sheds some light on 2021’s goings on.
How do you think the season went?
“Well, I think we are very happy considering that this hasn’t been a normal season. It was not easy to reach our goal and we had a lot of uncertainties through the year. We set our goal in June and by the end of July, we had made it. I think the racing was great and everything went as planned, with not many difficult situations. We are all happy with how the season went. A lot of people thanked us for putting a Championship in place and yes, we did that but, to keep going with the Championship, it was a responsibility of everyone in the paddock to follow the protocols. I thank everyone involved because without their cooperation, it really wouldn’t be possible.”
What was the biggest challenge this season?
“At the start, it was all about seeing which tracks were happy to host an event. The circumstances that we were proposing – and in fact were the same apart from Portimao and Magny-Cours – were behind closed doors. The first challenge was finding the circuits which could do this, as setting up for a World Championship isn’t easy when you don’t have the money that the fans bring in. Then, we had to set up a protocol that was feasible to achieve and thirdly, we had to get the mobility of our community and Championship; we had to sign letters of dispensation to authorize personnel coming from outside of the Schengen zone.
However, we didn’t know if these special permissions would be enough as everything was changing daily and you always have that doubt. The weekend before Magny-Cours, there was a change in the restrictions that meant maybe we wouldn’t be able to run the event, even though teams were already travelling, which was a horrible situation to be in. I was relieved to get the season over, as it was very stressful!”
How about the double races in WorldSSP and WorldSSP300, how were they?
“With a reduced number of events – I didn’t know how many we would do, maybe two, three, four etc – I felt that we should give more action to the other classes. In 2018, I think we had only eight races in WorldSSP300, so I thought that in the worst-case scenario, we would at least match that with our minimum number of races. In this way, we would at least be able to say that it is a ‘real’ World Championship. The second thing was to give more visibility to all the teams in the classes, to help defend their budgets and show their sponsors more, especially during these hard times. Overall, we and the teams were happy with the season.”
What are your thoughts on the action and excitement on-track in 2020?
“I think that even if the Championship went to its original 13-round planned calendar, we would still have the title fight until the end. Yes, people will say ‘well the same guy won at the end’ but racing is racing, and there was not such a clear advantage from anyone in any particular scenario. There were tracks were Kawasaki were strong, then on others Ducatis and on quite a few, Yamaha and also, Honda were in the mix. Looking at this and into the future, we should have a solid basis for better, more exciting races because as I say, the Championship has grown throughout the year. BMWs had ups and downs, but they’re working hard on the new model to be competitive. I am really looking forward and am very positive that in 2021, we should have more close racing.”
How hard was it to get the season done?
“I think we need to establish two things: our own protocol and also the protocol in each country and region. The key was to adapt the guidelines of the country to the ones in the paddock – for example, in Portugal, it wasn’t obligatory to wear a mask in open spaces with more than two metres of social distancing but in the paddock, we made sure everyone wore a mask and it went very smoothly. We continued to monitor the compliance of our paddock, from teams and officials to catering and hospitality. It became a routine and that made this season possible.”
How do you think the Estoril Round went and what’s the future for the circuit?
“It was a great surprise for sure, as it is a track that I’d never been to. The feedback from the paddock and some riders was that, for sure we need to do some work on the maintenance like we already do in the other circuits but overall, we got the green light that this event would be a good one to have for the future. We are in conversation about the possibilities and the future and these days, my job is to finalise the proposed calendar for 2021 and at the moment, Estoril is on the table and hopefully we can include it.”