Brno is a racing institution. Much like Assen, it has been a fixture on the motorcycle grand prix circuit for more than most people's lifetimes. It attracts the biggest crowds of the year - over 240,000 in 2014 - and is a favourite of several riders and many fans, yours truly included.
So, you can imagine my horror when news rumbled throughout the first half of the season that this year's event could be scrapped. Thankfully, it hasn't come to that - but there's still a big chance that this year's Czech grand prix could be the last for the foreseeable future.
Let's take a look at the details.
The Dorna Licence
Dorna is the company that runs and operates MotoGP, licensed by the FIM. Think Formula One Management and how they work (or don't) with the FIA. As per the way F1 runs, Dorna require a licensing fee to run at a course, albeit less than what Bernie tries to get out of tracks.
Estimates from interviews with other circuit chiefs place that fee somewhere around five million Euros - £3.47m or $5.6m. Indeed, it's a fee that put some courses off hosting - Silverstone gave up the rights to the British Grand Prix, and are only hosting the race because the Circuit Of Wales isn't built yet.
However, it is money that is easily made up in ticket prices. Which should be especially easy at the best attended race of the year, right?
The Brno Issue
The Brno Automotodrom host the event, but it is licensed by Karel Abraham's father, also called Karel. Abraham Sr says he was promised public funds by the local authority, who haven't coughed up the cash.
All of which seems fair. The authority said they would help towards the costs of running the event, and they seemingly haven't paid. The authority doesn't seem to acknowledge the economic boost hosting a round of a world championship can give - thousands of people coming into your area willing to spend money in local restaurants and shops. It's a bit short-sighted.
What that doesn't answer is where the cash from last year's event went.
Some Basic Maths
I've used this year's prices to work this out.
All tickets at Brno are weekend tickets, with three different price bands (120 Euros, 90 Euros, 68 Euros) and a 10 Euros junior band. The 240,000 attendance was an aggregate figure for the days. So let's say that 20,000 went to day one, 80,000 went to qualifying and 140,000 was the attendance for Sunday - so 140,000 tickets were bought. Let's then break it down - say 5,000 people were in the top band, another 30,000 were in the middle band, 95,000 were the bottom band paying adults, with 10,000 junior tickets sold.
120 x 5,000 = 600,000 Euros
90 x 30,000 = 2,700,000 Euros
68 x 95,000 = 6,460,000 Euros
10 x 10,000 = 100,000 Euros
Total = 9,860,000 Euros
Now, I understand that these events have to run a profit, and Dorna do require their fee up front, but if the fee is somewhere around 5 million Euros, there's a handsome profit of nearly....5 million Euros - and that's before licensing for catering, bars, merchandise stands and the like. Did nobody think "oh, maybe we should save some of that for next year"? Is the Czech economy in such a state that nobody would give them a loan for a guaranteed profit? Are the local authority that blind to what is a surefire winner for the area?
Reading the statement from Dorna, it seems like they're just taking a hit on this year's event.
Automotodrom Brno has informed Dorna of the difficulties to receive financial resources from the public sector for the 2014 and 2015 Grand Prix despite the fact that such financial resources had been promised several times to be released.
Under these circumstances, Automotodrom has asked Dorna about the possibility of cancelling the 2015 Grand Prix but Dorna believes that cancelling the MotoGP race in Brno would neither be in the interest of the FIM, teams, sponsors and Automotodrom itself.
Dorna and Automotodrom have agreed to continue with the existing contract under which the 2015 Grand Prix of the Czech Republic will take place and Automotodrom will meet its financial obligations.
However, such conditions exclude the continuance of the 50 year-long tradition of Grand Prix in 2016 and following years in the Czech Republic, unless an agreement is reached before August 16th 2015, with the competent authorities and Automotodrom that guarantees the financial viability of the Grand Prix for the long term.
(Quote courtesy of bikesportnews.com)
There's a big thing to take away from that. If an agreement is not reached before August 16th, and the different parties don't get their heads together and sort something out, then we will lose Brno. For the sake of racing fans everywhere, this cannot happen.