By Sam Watson
THE Phillip Island MotoGP has been cancelled and Australian Grand Prix CEO Andrew Westacott spoke to the Sentinel-Times about the impact it will have on the industry and the community.
Westacott said the state government’s announcement of the cancellation was a double whammy because it would mean the MotoGP and the Formula 1 event at Albert Park would not go ahead for the second year in a row.
“I’m gutted for the staff at the Grand Prix Corporation, but also for the huge amount of suppliers that we have, and the fans who travel from all over the country,” Westacott said.
“I’m also really disappointed for the traders and the businesses and the accommodation locations in the Bass Coast shire, who get so much out of it from a social and economic point of view when MotoGP comes to town.”
“That’s the thing that really is disappointing.”
Westacott also said he, like many Australian fans, is devastated the two Australian riders, Jack Miller and Remy Gardner, won’t be in action in front of their home crowd.
“It’s not something that we can control but it doesn’t make the disappointment any easier,” Westacott said.
Westacott has been attending the MotoGP since he started with the corporation in 2006 and he’s become very fond of the festivities at Phillip Island.
“I know firsthand the fun and enjoyment the fans get when they come down and stay on the Island and I can see firsthand what it economically does,” Westacott said.
“It’s disappointing for not only the workers, the teams and the campers but also for people on the big day trips like the Cranbourne ride.”
“It’s always great to see the amount of riders who come into Cowes for that weekend, so it’s heartbreaking for them.”
Westacott has spoken to multiple workers from the MotoGP, and they obviously share his disappointment, but they all knew getting an international event going in regional Victoria was always going to be difficult.
Since the pandemic started, the MotoGP contingent has been travelling the world on chartered flights and doing their best to avoid any COVID-19 breaches.
So, with the current vaccination situation in Australia, they knew they wouldn’t be able to protect all MotoGP members to the best of their ability.
“If you test positive, whether you’re Valentino Rossi or Lewis Hamilton in F1, you don’t get into the race,” Westacott said.
“They’ve got to protect the safety of all their contingents because that’s the way they protect their livelihood and revenue.”
“So having an international contingent come in and assimilate into the Phillip Island and Bass Coast community was always going to be challenging.”
“It was just a bridge too far for health authorities and ourselves.”
And changing the venue of the MotoGP was also unmanageable.
“The technical side of an approval on a motorcycle circuit is intricate and if you’re not aware of those intricacies, the layperson could suggest racing it around Albert Park, it’s not physically possible,” Westacott said.
Westacott assured the Phillip Island community that his corporation and the Victorian government are steadfastly committed to keeping the home of MotoGP at Phillip Island.
Their current contract states that the race will be at Phillip Island until at least 2026 and Westacott said Dorna Sports, who run MotoGP, have no thought of it being anywhere else.
“Whilst we’ve kicked around for two years because of the pandemic, we’ve all got to be optimistic that we’ll see Jack Miller and Remy Gardner racing at Phillip Island next year,” Westacott said.
Westacott said he’s yet to speak to Miller and Gardner but when speaking to the higher-ups Dorna Sports, they told him how much they love coming to Phillip Island.
“Normally they go city to city and they’re in big hotels and it’s hustle and bustle throughout Europe, but when they come down to Phillip Island, they just love the ability to stay in the same accommodation places that the teams stay year after year,” Westacott said.
“That’s why Phillip Island is such a unique stopover for them on the MotoGP calendar.”
“It’s not just the fantastic racing at the circuit but it’s also the fantastic community feel and the vibe they get in the Bass Coast area.”
“So, they’re disappointed but they’ve also got to keep the continuity and sustain their season.”
“They’ll go to other locations and already they’ve had to slot in replacement races to accommodate for the fact that we’re not happening nor is Japan happening.”
Despite the contract, Westacott said the Victorian government should do everything they can to make sure the MotoGP is on Phillip Island next year.
“We’ve seen how the AFL grand final, state of origin and other sports at a domestic level can move from one state to another.”
“We don’t want to lose the Formula One, MotoGP or Australian Open to other countries.”
“That might sound absurd but for many years the Australian Open called themselves the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific. If they can’t hold it here, they have to generate revenues via their TV rights then they’ve got obligations to protect their sport.”
“Our two events are owned by the Victorian government, so they’re real mechanisms for tourism and that’s why we want to make sure we stage it next year and make it a real bonanza.”
“The fans haven’t seen MotoGP in Australia for a number of years, so to have Jack Miller and Remy Gardner racing next year, that’s a pretty good reason to lock the date in, target it and make sure that every motorcycle racing fan in Australia gets down to Phillip Island in 2022.”
In their statement released on July 6, the Victorian government said planning for the 2022 event has already commenced.