On The Record: Paolo Ciabatti

Director, eni FIM Superbike World Championship.

Paolo Ciabatti

On The Record: Paolo Ciabatti

Dorna is a bigger company than Infront Motor Sports, and MotoGP is a bigger championship than World Superbike. MotoGP is coming from a longer history; World Superbike is only 25 years old. Having said that, we have been growing and make steady technical regulations.

Dorna and Infront Motor Sports belong to separate funds of the same private-equity group: Bridgepoint. Dorna's fund is six years old; our fund is six months old. Investors on one fund are not investors on the other. Infront Motor Sports is not big, but it is a significant part of Infront Sports & Media, the second-largest sport-media group in the world. People managing the fund would like to see us more profitable, and this can only be achieved by continuing to do a careful job to keep this championship viable for manufacturers and private teams and giving better TV visibility.

Since we are under the same umbrella as Dorna, we have started discussing problems openly around a table. We are still independent and will do what we think is best for our series. If we can do something we think is right and in the direction that will make them happy, fine. Dorna might do the same by defining CRT more precisely. Those bikes shouldn't be considered "masked" Superbikes. Yes, they have production-based engines, and we have to live with that because prototype engines aren't available. But there are some points that need to be qualified within CRT, which, by definition, is a prototype.

We don't want our Superbikes to be faster than MotoGP. Next year, we are going to 17-inch wheels. If we're half a second slower, we don't care. The problem with motorbikes is that they all look the same. This is one reason we think fake headlights is not a bad idea for us. Sometimes in life you have to make compromises. If they are acceptable, why not? But on principle, we don't compromise.

Superbike in the 1990s had been going a bit too far. I had been working for Ducati for 10 years, and if I went to the museum, I would see Carl Fogarty's 916 from 1994: carbon brakes, 145 kilograms. That was not healthy. Now, we keep Superbike as a dream bike everybody would like to build if they had the money without bringing it too far from production.

If you give V-Twins, V-Fours, straight-Fours, etc. a chance to win races and have an exciting show, like we often have, then we think we are doing the right thing. The fact that we have 24 permanent riders probably in the worst economical time in the world, and definitely in Europe, gives us a sign that we didn't make too many mistakes. It's the only world championship in motorsport where a privateer has a chance of winning a race.

When I hear people talking about a single ECU and so on, these people should realize some companies—Aprilia and BMW, for example—are taking part in Superbike because they want to develop their own electronics. Unless they are faster than everyone else, I don't see why we should change. The show is what we are selling, so we want to keep the show going.

We would like to have more American riders. When I was at Ducati, I was looking at AMA as a source of potential riders for Superbike. Unfortunately, AMA is not perceived as it was when Ducati was spending millions of dollars to run a factory team in America. It cost us a fortune, but during those years, AMA was like a second world championship.

We will bring the championship to Asia. It was a strong request from the manufacturers. Europe is a decreasing market. The U.S. is so-so. Indonesia sells 7.4 million new bikes every year. India is similar numbers, if not bigger. Bringing our races there will help brand awareness. Also, we will bring the championship to Russia. It's not easy logistically to move everyone by truck to Moscow, but we'll do it. Russia may not be the biggest motorcycle market, but it's definitely a booming economy.