It appears the 15 years of motorcycle Grand Prix racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has now come to end, with the picturesque racetrack announcing yesterday that it will not host a MotoGP race in 2014, despite having one more year left on its contract with MotoGP rightsholders Dorna Sports. According to a story in the Monterey Herald, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca general manager Gill Campbell stated that the decision to cancel the 2014 event was made when Indianapolis Motor Speedway picked up its option for 2014, meaning that there would be three MotoGP races in the U.S. vying for the same spectator pie.
"There is, frankly, not enough of everything to go around for three world [MotoGP championship races] in the United States," Campbell said, referring to IMS and newly constructed Circuit of the Americas in Texas hosting MotoGP races.
Dorna is reportedly looking at expanding the series into South America and the Southeast Asian areas, which would require trimming the current 18-race schedule to make room. When Dorna announced that it was granting Argentina a round in 2014, many pit row pundits were looking for the first race to get the axe, of which Laguna Seca was an easy target.
Spectator attendance reportedly dipped this year from last at Laguna, with attendance dropping for four years in succession. Campbell stated that it cost some $9 million to host the MotoGP race at Laguna; Campbell said that the cost of running the race was not profitable for those four years. Add a licensing fee from Dorna that increased some $800,000 for 2014 and it resulted in the cancellation; “We can’t afford to take a bath,” Campbell said. The agreement to end the contract early was mutual between the circuit and Dorna Sports.
Unlike Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a non-profit facility run by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) on Monterey County Parks property. This prevents it from receiving the numerous tax subsidies and government grants that the other circuits enjoy (the Circuit of the Americas received a $29.3 million payment from the Texas state Major Events Trust tax slush fund, and IMS reportedly was granted $100 million from the Indiana government to help keep MotoGP at the facility). "We can't compete with that. Here there are no tax credits or state subsidies," Campbell said.
Campbell says that this doesn’t spell the end of MotoGP at the California facility. It’s possible that the series will return in “a year, or two or three...we may just take a big breath and look at our opportunities, and see where we want to go.” While the World Superbike event this past weekend could be looked at as a replacement, the event itself was poorly attended, and it would require a lot of work (including the participation of some American riders in the series, which currently has none) to get to the excitement level of MotoGP.