Lets look at some indicators. The motorcycle market is continuing its 14-year trend of sales growth. For the fourth-consecutive year, more than one million new units were sold in 2006.
This is important for two reasons. Bike sales drive marketing budgets for the motorcycle makers, and these sales fund racing programs as a key element of their marketing mix. Also with U.S. motorcycling becoming more generally accepted, greater numbers of Americans have become more pre-disposed to watch or attend a motorcycle race, as evidenced by the growing popularity of Supercross over the past few years.
Many older U.S. roadracing facilities have updated their racetracks to be better suited for motorcycle racing. In a previous era, the largest event at these tracks was their CART race (now Champ Car and IRL), which produced much of the annual operating budget and profit for the facility. In current times, the largest (and most profitable) event at these pure roadrace courses is likely to be their Superbike event.
Additionally in the last few years, a couple of new, state-of-the-art, world-class roadrace facilities have been built. Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL and Miller Motorsports Park outside of Salt Lake City have racetracks and facilities that are on par with the best in the world.
In recent months, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has announced it’s desire to host a MotoGP event, which given the gravity in the motorsports universe that IMS has, a 2008 motorcycle race here could in fact be the tipping point for motorcycle roadracing in the U.S.
But, there’s more. This past weekend, Barber Motorsports announced that they were exploring the possibility of hosting a World Superbike event at their facility in 2008. If the Indy and Barber races come to be, the U.S. will be home to three rounds of world championship motorcycle racing.
Prior to the 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, MotoGP had not visited the U.S. since 1994. And while World Superbike enjoyed a great run of successful events (at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), this championship has not visited the U.S. since 2004. This convergence of market forces and events may help motorcycle racing turn that corner to general awareness and acceptance that we have been long waiting for.