Phillip Island 2012 date under threat
|By Matt Beer||Monday, February 14th 2011, 14:14 GMT|
MotoGP commercial rights-holder Carmelo Ezpeleta says a date change is critical to the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island keeping its place on the calendar next year.
Poor weather has blighted the event in recent seasons, with Friday practice delayed by a flooded track in 2010, and strong winds and very low temperatures causing problems for riders throughout the weekend.
Valentino Rossi said at the time that the riders would push for the race to be moved from its current October slot to an early-season date as soon as possible, and now Ezpeleta says this has become a firm demand if Phillip Island wants to retain the race.
''Our position has not changed at all,'' he was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press. ''We want the race moving to earlier in the year for 2012, and the corporation is aware of our position.''
Ezpeleta added that he was expecting suggestions from the Australian Grand Prix Corporation imminently, and that it was not just extreme events like last year's practice washout that had prompted the move, but the consistently difficult weather conditions encountered at the track in October.
"[Corporation chairman] Ron Walker told me in an email that he would come back to me as soon as possible with dates for 2012,'' Ezpeleta said.
''In 2010, we were very close to cancelling the race. If all the weekend the weather was like Friday, which could happen, then we cannot run the event.
''This is the matter we are discussing, and it is not just the rain, but the problem at Phillip Island is rain and the cold and then the tyres are not up to temperature. The riders have strongly requested to us to change the date.''
The Phillip Island authorities have preferred to keep their MotoGP event at the opposite end of the calendar from the Formula 1 grand prix in Melbourne, but Ezpeleta sees no reason why the two events could not be twinned.
''If it is one week before the Formula 1 they can have a motorsport week in Victoria,'' he said.