Wacky races | 10 forgotten WorldSBK venues that were really quite mental…


As a series that has either in the past sold itself as a stepping stone towards Grand Prix/MotoGP or a seamless transition for the higher profile riders coming the other way, it’s interesting to see WorldSBK – despite coming under the same ownership and governance as the premier class – does like to do things its own way occasionally.

With its future and direction (its very existence, in fact) predominantly dictated by the pace and frequency of whatever is going on in the roadgoing sportsbike market, it has been left to WorldSBK to instead get its kicks throwing in a few bizarre curve balls when it comes to choosing which venues it attends.

This is going to be very apparent this year after WorldSBK caught almost everyone by surprise by announcing two brand-new venues for the 2024 calendar at the Balaton Park Circuit in Hungary and Cremona Circuit in Italy.

While the nations themselves aren’t surprising, the venues are. The Balaton Park Circuit – having been on the drawing board many years — is now complete, albeit ten years after it was supposed to host a round of MotoGP.

Cremona, meanwhile, is a venue best-known for hosting top level karting, while the circuit itself is so technical, tight and short that even the CIV Italian Superbike series doesn’t use it.

Nonetheless, they are just the latest in a long line of unusual picks for venues that – generally – don’t last terribly long and are all-but-forgotten… so let’s shine a light back on a selection, eh?

Anderstorp, Sweden [1991, 1993]

Compared to four wheels, motorcycle racing generally prefers to thrive in warmer climes when it comes to scheduling. 

Sure, Asia has its wet seasons, the UK has its threat of four wet seasons and there is the risk of being twat*ed by a penguin being hurled at hurricane force velocity at Phillip Island, but the idea of heading north of Germany is met by – typically – a cold reception.

It hasn’t always been the case though since Sweden – despite not being the most prevalent nation on entry lists for two-wheels – hosted a round of WorldSBK on two occasions in the early 90s.

A venue that had its glory days in the 70s and 80s when it featured on the F1 calendar, Anderstorp had seen better days by the time WorldSBK reached it in 1991, but deserves some credit for featuring as a proper old-school venue.

By old-school we mean it was essentially a re-purposed airfield, so it’s very ironic that the reason it fell off the WorldSBK calendar was because of noise complaints that got a 24hr race cancelled… the night before the event was due to take place!

WorldSBK gets underway in Turkey, but the fans and stray dogs are here to see WorldSSP…

Istanbul Park, Turkey [2013]

An example of WorldSBK wanting to cash in on the success of one of its most famous products of production racing, the brief sojourn to Istanbul Park in 2013 was odd because it made Kenan Sofuoglu’s WorldSSP class priority over the main WorldSBK one.

Which is frankly just as well because a mixture of hideous luck for a number of riders – both in the run up to the event and during it – led to a remarkable rate of absences and only 15 starters.

On the flip side, as well as the delight of seeing Sofuoglu win the intermediate category (much to the relief of his rarely-seen mother in the garage who spent the entire race with her hands covering her eyes), two unheard of Turkish riders had the privilege of scoring in the Superbike class too – albeit a lap down on the winner in just 18 laps.

WorldSBK hasn’t been back since, which is a shame in the context of Toprak Razgatlioglu’s stardom (not to mention Bahattin Sofuoglu and Can Oncu) and the fact that – despite the facilities being left to decay and the high likelihood of coming across a stray dog right on the apex of any turn – the circuit itself is an absolute corker.

Oran Park, Australia [1988 – 1989]

Before we had Phillip Island – which has been a Mecca-type venue for WorldSBK in Australia since 1990 – there was Oran Park.

A bit of a ‘holding venue’ before WorldSBK found its rightful home with the penguins on an island south of Melbourne, Oran Park was still a curious choice of venue even in 1988…

One of the few top level circuits in the world to favour a ‘scalextric’ figure-of-eight style layout like Suzuka, what set Oran Park apart is that it did all this within a space smaller than many karting tracks.

At 1.6-miles long it is almost as small as Mallory Park… and that is before you take into account the fact you go under, round and back over yourself. A bit like a rallycross track for motorcycles.

Truthfully, it would have been more fun/insane in a V8 Supercar, which continued visiting it long after WorldSBK did before eventually the doors closed and the bulldozers sadly moved in in 2010.

Sentul, Indonesia [1994-1997]

If you thought Dorna was ruthless in prioritising cold hard dollar over the spectacle (and safety) of MotoGP (think Lusil for the 11 spectators and their camels, Kazakhstan for the preposterous sport-washing) then it’s worth noting that the sport was doing this way before the Ezpeletas got involved.

Indeed, while a song and dance has been made in recent years about MotoGP capitalising on south-east Asian markets with events in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, that’s largely because it has taken this long for such regions to deliver venues befitting of the sport, its huge fanbase and the commercial potential.

After all, it’s easy to forget MotoGP went to Shah Alam and Johor before eventually getting it right with Sepang, albeit not before some close encounters with wildlife of the cobra and venomous variety on track.

The same goes for Indonesia, which long before WorldSBK and MotoGP headed to Lombok and Mandalika tried Sentul for size over four years.

Short and tricky, the Sentul Circuit was also very brittle, with the track regularly breaking up in the sweltering heat, not helped by its close proximity to the city and the vibrations that rattled through the little-used venue. 

It made races hard going, but respect to the Indonesians for regularly trying to get Sentul back on the schedule after 1997. Indeed, it would regularly find itself on the provisional calendar, only for it to slip off again because promised maintenance hadn’t been completed… with the introduction of Mandalika, it’s now all but obsolete.

The Utah backdrop was impressive, the racing less so…

Miller Motorsports Park, United States [2008-2012]

WorldSBK has always had a strange relationship with the United States, best described as ‘cool’ and ‘cordial’.

Which is surprising given the size of the nation and the importance of the sportsbike market for the likes of Honda, Ducati and Yamaha et al.

However, while Laguna Seca was a popular visit for a while, as a general rule it seemed local fans were more interested in the domestic AMA/MotoAmerica series than the world-class all-comers. But each to their own…

Still, WorldSBK has at least tried to make in-roads into the American market with some leftfield thinking and travelling with Miller Motorsports Park, a brand-new facility in Utah built with the international series in mind.

Dusty, barren and flat, the fussy Miller layout didn’t exactly win many fans here, there or anywhere and its five years on the WorldSBK schedule have already been largely forgotten only 12 years after its final appearance in 2012. 

For the record, it’s worth noting this is where Carlos Checa won his first WorldSBK races in 2008. I should know, it was the first time I had ever covered a WorldSBK event as a last minute stand-in for a colleague having never previously been tasked to know the difference between WorldSBK and MotoGP… so commentators getting excited over Checa winning for the first time led to some feverish and confused bit of research. Never looked back, ahem.

Despite the layout looking like a cartoon dinosaur having a lie down, Moscow Raceway was a pain to get to…

Moscow Raceway, Russia [2012-2013]

Here’s the thing about the Moscow Raceway… it is absolutely nowhere near Moscow.

At 60km away, it is the equivalent of competing at the LondonRing but it’s located in Cambridge. That said, your journey east isn’t likely to be slowed by having to offer bribes to make your way through various checkpoints…

The ambitious naming policy did work to get the ginormous nation of Russia onto the WorldSBK calendar (something MotoGP has never managed) even if it was for only two years.

The sad death of Andrea Antonelli in frightfully treacherous weather conditions contributed to it disappearing after 2013, but it didn’t help the circuit was frightfully uninspiring too. 

Then there was of course the stringent immigration, visa and hotel protocols (particularly for media) which made for a tiresome rigmarole that had largely put Dorna off from trying again even before Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion on Ukraine.

Navarra. Better known as MSVR’s attempt at Portimao…

Circuito do Navarra, Spain [2021]

Before MSVR got its hands on Navarra to promote it to BSB season opener status this year, Navarra made a bizarre and brief single appearance on the WorldSBK calendar in 2021.

A curiously leftfield choice for Dorna considering the 8,783(approx) other options in the Spanish portfolio of circuit venues, Navarra scored points for being fairly new, in good nick and being quite a fun, fast challenge for the riders that delivered good racing.

That’s the good news for BSB. Alas, it lasted only one year in WorldSBK because fewer in Spain (or Andorra) wanted to make the trip to the chillier northern part of Spain compared to the more balmy Aragon and Jerez. 

This isn’t such good news for BSB because if Spanish fans couldn’t be arsed with the 50km trip to Navarra for WorldSBK, how many will do so for BSB…? 

Actually, how many British fans will be willing to head 1250km for the opening round of the UK championship?! We shall soon see…

Brainerd, United States [1989-1991]

As a venue that reads like an uncomfortable portmanteau of ‘brain’ and ‘nerd’, Brainerd rather sums up WorldSBK’s ‘laissez-faire’ relationship with the United States in that the Minnesota venue seemed like an impulsively unexotic choice from an otherwise more exciting list of alternatives.

Brainerd would be WorldSBK’s first home in the United States but it wouldn’t last long, managing just three seasons before eventually heading to the more alluring Laguna Seca.

Mosport, Canada [1989-1991]

Given its size and influence on the world, it’s perhaps surprising how little interest has ever been given to getting WorldSBK (or MotoGP) going properly in Canada.

That’s not to say it hasn’t tried with a brief three-year tenure at Mosport Raceway, which uncoincidentally acted as a double-header event with Brainerd.

Unlike Brainerd though, Mosport had some major pedigree and established itself as Canada’s home for motorsport through the 70s, 80s, 90s and into the new Millennium.

This was despite the venue having a fairly hardcore reputation for fatalities, its fast, undulating curves and unforgiving run-off into walls making it a bit of a worry when it came to coming off. The circuit endures today but probably just as well the interest in visiting isn’t exactly feverish.

Salzburgring, Austria [1995]

Austria has always had a bit-part relationship with motorcycle racing, beginning from when it utilised the fearsome high-speed Osterreichring, which eventually evolved into the more clinical A1-Ring-turned-Red Bull Ring used by MotoGP today.

WorldSBK has used both iterations of the Spielberg track, albeit not in its current Red Bull-initiated glow-up, but it is Austria’s ‘other’ international circuit we feature here, the Salzburgring.

The circuit has been used just once in a WorldSBK context back in 1995 with Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser scoring the wins. Because once was probably enough. 

Indeed, brief though the Salzburgring’s presence was, it’s challenge shouldn’t be underestimated. 

With a layout that looks a bit like a loose elastic band laid out on the table in front of you, it’s essentially two long curvy throttle-pinned stretches bonded by a banked curve at each side… oh, there is zero run-off, so a mistake would have had you disappearing into a forest or heading up a hill at 45-to-80 degrees..

In short, it’s a bit like going around Oulton Park but without the chicanes or brakes, so basically it’s mental. And we thought the Dutch were wacky…



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