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Can we go back? 6 MotoGP races that should still exist

The MotoGP calendar is expanding with returns to Finland and Brazil... but should the sport be considering returning to some of former favourites?

With MotoGP returning to Rio in 2022 - albeit at the new Rio Motorpark rather than the now-demolished Jacarepagua venue - it got us all misty-eyed about other former races that we think should (and could) make a return...

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium

Our dream of watching MotoGP competing at Spa-Francorchamps can be summed up in one sentence.

22 MotoGP riders jostling for position as they thunder into Eau Rouge, up and over Radillon and slipstreaming the long Kemmel Straight…

Better still – unlike other venues in this collection – such a dream is a plausible reality. Though the 24-hour race announcement sets up an exciting premise with its late-starting, round-the-clock summer spectacle, it’s the confirmation of upgrades to bring it up to standard for the FIM to grant a licence that would allow it to host international events that gets us excited.

While an EWC race requires a lower grade licence than WorldSBK and MotoGP to compete at a venue, with the required upgrades totalling in the millions and requiring support of the local government, it’s reasonable to assume it go for a full Grade A licence allowing MotoGP to race. 

It’s been a long time since the series has made the trip to Belgium. Indeed, while EWC competed at Spa-Francorchamps up to 2003, GP racing hasn’t visited the venue since 1990. 

Even so, though it has been almost three decades since the premier class competed at Spa, the venue has a long and illustrious association with motorbike racing, hosting intermittently from 1921 and right through between 1947-1972 when the length totalled 14km and safety standards weren’t of the highest priorities.

Could MotoGP return to Spa-Francorchamps?

We are still two or three years away from the prospect of watching Valentino Rossi and co. throwing it full commitment through Eau Rouge, Pouhon and La Source but whereas a return to Spa has been little more than a fun rumour in recent years, we anticipate Carmelo Ezpeleta has already been on the phone…

LAGUNA SECA, United States

Axed from the MotoGP schedule after hosting the 2013 United States Grand Prix, Laguna Seca was the unfortunate (and unfair) victim of an over-saturation of US venues at a time of drought in the American rider talent pool.

Featuring on the schedule from 1988 to 1994 and then again between 2005 to 2013, Laguna Seca Raceway in California somehow ended up becoming one of three Stateside venues to host MotoGP in 2013.

However, with only two destined to remain for 2014, MotoGP was already committed to the new, state-of-the-art Circuit of The Americas, while Indianapolis promised upgrades that made Laguna Seca, with its charming but ageing facilities and dipping spectator numbers, primed for the chop. 

Alas, the move robbed us of one of MotoGP’s most visual treats – the Corkscrew. 

While no exciting circuit is the sum of just one corner, the Corkscrew comes very close. Accelerating up a deceptively long incline, the crest at the top suddenly drops to the left before you tip into the heavily-cambered right-hander, the bike’s suspension compressing as far as it will go as gravity does its work. Visually stunning, watching bikes streaming through is surely surpassed only by plunging down the corner itself.

Of course, Laguna Seca also played host to one of MotoGP’s most talked about races as Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner squared off in a thriller in 2008 that would have been edge-of-the-seat had anyone been able to sit still as they bashed panels, goaded each other into braking first and pushed the (track) limits in a battle that was more personal than logical. Rossi won, Stoner cried foul, the fans lapped it up and history was very much made. 

Could MotoGP return to Laguna Seca?

Unfortunately it appears Laguna Seca is also consigned to the history books and as long as COTA is around, seems destined to remain that way unless the next Rossi-Marquez et al. happens to be American… could be a long wait.

ISTANBUL PARK, Turkey

Like a lot of new venues appearing during the global boom of the early 2000s, Turkey’s inclusion on the MotoGP calendar had all the hallmarks of a state-of-the-art (soulless)venue in an exciting (wealthy)new market. 

Then, against the odds, Istanbul Park turned out to be an instant classic… which just makes its shortlived tenure on the schedule all the more galling.

Making its first appearance in 2005 – with its swansong coming just two years later in 2007 – Istanbul Park is long, fast and unusually anti-clockwise in configuration. 

With an opening corner that drops away, sweeping technical first sector and the rev-limiter bouncing back straight, Istanbul Park is brimming with features that alone qualified it as a high new entry on most riders’ ‘best of…’ lists.

It was the fabled quadruple-apex ‘Turn 8’ – technically Turns 8, 9, 10 and 11 – that really captured imaginations though.

The seemingly never-ending left-hander is never quite just a single corner but these ‘four turns’ needed to be approached as one such was the importance of pin-point accuracy in nailing those discreet but crucial apexes. Get it wrong at the first part ruins all four corners, but get it right all the way through and it was probably – from a technical point of view at least – the most satisfying experience on the calendar. 

Could MotoGP return to Istanbul Park?

Istanbul Park remains one of motorsport’s more interesting enigmas. Though the events proved popular, the venue was irrationally constructed with a capacity way in excess of what it attracted making even big crowds look thin, while the government didn’t contribute much to its upkeep, putting too much pressure on a promoter unwilling to fill the margins. WorldSBK visited for the first time as recently as 2013 but tellingly never returned.

Today, it is used as a rental car park for title sponsors Intercity, while nature is reportedly reclaiming a track that 15 years ago was the pride of both F1 and MotoGP. A crying shame since ‘Turn 8’ is yet to have been replicated as successfully anywhere else.

SALZBURGRING, Austria

With its excellent facilities, stunningly lush ‘the hills are alive…’ backdrop and energy drink-fuelled super fans, the Red Bull Ring was certainly a welcome addition to the MotoGP schedule in 2016.

However, whilst the spectacle and quality is superior to most venues, the layout itself lacks some sparkle for two-wheels, not least because it is very short. 

Which brings us to our Austrian alternative – the Salzburgring.

A mainstay of the GP calendar for more than two decades, the track hosted 24 races between 1971 and 1994. It probably the closest thing to a GranTurismo fantasy track come to life such is its old-school layout deep into the Austrian forests– a mini-Nordschleife, if you will.

It’s fast too… and not in a ruler-like long straight way either. With a layout that appears like a rubber band you hold on opposite sides and stretch, there is no room for an infield but the ‘straights’ gently curve with camber left to right, creating the challenge of slipstreaming but at constant lean angles. Even the ‘slow’ chicane is fast.

Throw in banked bends at the far ends and the Salzburgring is arguably one of Europe’s most underrated and exhilarating venues.

Don’t believe us? We’ll let Barry Sheene circa 1971 have the last word: “[It’s like] threading a motorcycle through the eye of a needle at 180mph whilst banging fairings with your competitors with armco barriers on each side". Preach.

Could MotoGP return to the Salzburgring?

For a circuit that hasn’t changed much over the years, the Salzburgring is still used fairly regularly for high profile motorsport, albeit more for four-wheel competition than bikes. Whilst the layout could potentially be retained, it would need to be made less ‘eye of a needle’, while the run-offs need extending too. However, if it came down to a choice between Salzburg and Spielberg, you’d assume the Red Bull-backed behemoth is going to win-out every single time… 

DONINGTON PARK, United Kingdom

There have been campaigns to move Britain’s round of MotoGP back to Donington Park in the wake of the track surface debacle that led to last year’s Silverstone’s race, though a successful 2019 return appears to have appeased the masses. Even so, for many Donington Park still evokes more emotion from UK MotoGP fans.

Britain’s MotoGP home between 1990 and 2009, while Donington Park’s bold but misguided attempts to wrest Formula 1 from Silverstone instead led to MotoGP to go in the opposite direction (before F1 decided to stay put anyway!), many still pine to watch bikes pour through Redgate and down Craner Curves, or skip across the Tarmac under braking at the Melbourne loop.

Hilly to Silverstone’s pancake flat, Donington Park benefits from not giving into F1 requirements which mean the ‘run offs’ are old-school gravel, spectators are closer to the action and viewing is superior.

Could MotoGP return to Donington Park?

Potentially. Donington Park was going to step in to take the spot vacated by the Circuit of Wales – which somehow made it onto the calendar despite never existing beyond a powerpoint presentation – in 2015 but withdrew owing to financial issues.

With MSV stepping in to add Donington Park to its circuit portfolio, it has spent money on modernising the facilities, which would upgrade its current Grade B licence to the Grade A it needs to host MotoGP. Whether it wants to is more questionable – and Silverstone is confirmed for several more years now - but it’s reasonable to assume the conversation has been broached…

DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, United States

The iconic Indianapolis may have hosted MotoGP for handful of seasons which were more memorable for the amphitheatre venue than the action, but for us Daytona is the more superior ‘roval’ for two-wheels.

Famed for the Daytona 200 – so-called for its 200-mile length – Superbike/Sportbike annual event, though the track layout has changed a lot over the years as growing speeds necessitated fewer banked bends, the oval section of the layout is still a considerable portion of the lap.

While compromises have had to be reached limiting the specification of the entries to reduce the stress on over-heating tyres around the oval, the sight of bikes thundering round at different elevations whether they are on the banks or the infield section just looks evocative – more so than Indianapolis, which barely used the oval (albeit for obvious reasons).

Could MotoGP return to the Daytona International Speedway?

Absolutely not. Daytona hosted rounds of the 500cc class back in the 60s and even then safety concerns were rife as top speeds increased. Whilst standards of safety have are in a different stratosphere now, a 200mph bike and walls aren’t a logical combination and the fact the existing SportBikes have been pegged back in recent years as their speeds grew too says a lot. Indianapolis barely used its defining feature during its shortlived event, which ultimately defeats the point. We’ll leave flat (uninspiring) infield-style tracks to the Qatars of this world.

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