Crescent Yamaha team boss Paul Denning has given full support to the change in World Superbike scheduling for 2016, believing it not only makes logistical sense for teams, but can also aid the recovery of attendance and viewing figures for the series.
Despite three of its past four championships being decided at the last round of the season, series organisers Dorna have hitherto been unable to reverse the dwindling attendance figures, with races in Spain and England in particular badly affected.
In Denning's eyes the new schedule, which hosts one race on Saturday and the other on Sunday lunchtime, will give fans an added incentive to attend the event for the entire weekend, rather than planning a one day jaunt.
“I think it's fantastic. There are so many reasons why. Especially in England no one likes change. But trust me, it's going to be so much better,” he said at Yamaha Europe's team launch in Barcelona, citing a recent meeting with Donington Park as cause for optimism.
“The Donington guys were also against it at the start. But, hang on. The attendance price will be for a weekend; Thursday night through to Monday morning if you're camping. [In terms of price] Less than one day last year.
“It will include paddock access. You are free to get into the paddock, to get close to the teams, close to the riders. You can stand outside the hospitality and get close to the riders after they've had lunch.”
What's more, the prospect of seeing a race rather than a qualifying session on Saturday should attract a higher audience, with the chance for developing storylines and rivalries from one day into the other potentially adding to the drama.
“People were saying that attendances were not so good on Saturday,” continued Denning, whose riders Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli will contest the series on a Pata-backed R1 in 2016.
“But that was qualifying. I've been in racing twenty years professionally. I can't see the difference. If one of our riders does an amazing lap in Donington, let's say a 1m 27 or 28, none of us can see the difference. Don't tell me that you can. Sometimes it looks slower to make the lap time. The riders are slower, so precise and everything has to be perfect. It's only when you see the splits.
"Sometimes when the guy is out of the seat is the slowest lap. To really watch that is not much of a spectacle. But to turn up on Saturday and see a fist-fight and then take that fist-fight into day two… There could be revenge, or however many stories there will be, to tell.”
The new scheduling has come in for criticism from fans, who believe the change dilutes the concentration of action on a Sunday. However, Denning feels that, as a television viewer, watching two one-hour slots over a weekend will be a more attractive proposition than a five-hour marathon on Sunday.
“The second side of it is that the TV numbers will be through the roof. If we happen to attract more sponsorship [it will be important], because the commercial development in World Superbikes has been so tough over the last few years.
“To have a one hour slot for grid interviews, post-race analysis… It's not too challenging for a guy to say to his girlfriend, 'Let's just watch that or record that and watch it.' To sit down and engage for four and a half or five hours is not so easy.”
The series has had to take F1 scheduling into account and in recent years, to avoid starting at the same time as Bernie Ecclestone's series, races on Sundays started earlier, with less than two hours between the first and second encounter of the day.
Logistically, Denning said, this was extremely trying and opened the door to potential human error, such were the time constraints placed under teams. For 2016, engineers will be able to fully analyse and comprehend machine performance on Saturday evening before making adequate changes for race two.
“From our point of view, what we can give back to our sponsors and to the fans is so much more. Race day was, excuse my language, a clusterf**k. We arrived at the track at seven in the morning. We did the warm-up at 8.40am. If there were technical problems…
“Last year, at the last race of the year was a good example. We didn't finish with Alex in Qatar because we broke the engine in the first race. There was a human error in swapping the engine for the second race. But you will get that human error [because of time constraints].
“They knew it when they first fired the bike up and the oil pressure was down, but then there were ten minutes until pit lane opened. We said to Alex, 'Try but we think the engine might stop.' In the end it didn't make one lap. That wouldn't happen [with the new schedule].
“A one o'clock race on each day is great. It also means that after the races we can go and do Q&As with the fans in the village, which was impossible before, because it's leading into something the next day. I think overall there has been some negative reaction and I don't have that opinion just because we're working with Dorna. I have a strong belief that in the end it will be much better.”
While the series was notable for the breath-taking dominance of runaway title winner Jonathan Rea in 2015, a certain depth has been added to the field for the new year with ex-MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden and reigning British champion Josh Brookes two noteworthy additions.
Denning added that the addition of two BMW teams, Yamaha's official return and Dorna's increased understanding of how the series should be run leaves the championship in fine shape as it enters its 29th season.
“We have now got two competitive BMW teams rather just a one-rider team. MV is still her and we've unfortunately lost Suzuki, they've been replaced with Yamaha. The championship will be a lot stronger. Nicky is a big attraction. I think he's riding that bike really well. He's strong and looks committed. He'll do a really good job.
“Josh has a bit of a bad boy image. He's the British champion. He's a fast Australian. We need that. You look at the depth of the field and it's much stronger and more interesting, in terms of bikes and riders.
“When Dorna took over World Superbike they didn't really understand the points of difference between GPs and World Superbikes. Now they do. It's a slow transition but the team in World Superbike are now focussing on the differences. The fans can get more access to riders.
“The two-race format is something completely different. This understanding from Dorna was of GP racing as it was and MotoGP racing in the last ten years, so it's quite a big transition for them. For Javier Alonso to say, 'If you think that's right, go ahead and do it' [is positive]. I'd still like to see more free-to-access video content in World Superbike. But we keep pushing for that, let's see.”