Moto2 driver Sam Lowes has been competing in the Moto Grand Prix World Championship since 2014, and he has seen a lot during his career. The main thing he sees now is how the popularity of MotoGP in the UK is rapidly declining due to the lack of local riders in the Royal Class.
But 5 years ago, there was no limit to the enthusiasm of British Grand Prix fans: in August 2016, Cal Crutchlow became the first Englishman to win a Big Prize in the last 40 years, and then, next season, he repeated his result. The popularity of the native of the Isle of Man skyrocketed for a couple of years, he began to be recognized better than Olympic champions (the Olympics were held in London in 2016). Crutchlow was appointed a “national hero” for a short time, and motorsport is the main discipline in which England is experiencing a rapid rise.
Moreover, during the same period in World Superbike, Jonathan Ray fought for the championship title with Tom Sykes and Welshman Chaz Davis, the British dominated the championship, but the attendance of races was not an example below MotoGP.
The 2017 MotoGP season was the highest for the British: Crutchlow was elevated to heaven, and Sam Lowes was promoted to the Royal Class, where he was supposed to compete for Aprilia Racing. However, not for long at all. Lowes lost his place and returned to Moto2, where since then he has been pursuing the goal of becoming a champion, although he probably performs for the last season.
It took only 2-3 years after takeoff, and Crutchlow was safely forgotten. Cal switched to a modest role as a test pilot and disappeared from the radar. There was no replacement for him – and the Britons’ interest in the Moto Grand Prix immediately faded away!
Sam Lowes’ brother Alex plays for the Kawasaki Racing Team in the World Superbike, they regularly support each other at races (Alex arrives at MotoGP, and Sam – on a Superbike). They are well aware of what is happening in the paddock.
I think the British are psychologically tuned to the Superbike, rather than the Grand Prix, – Sam is sure. – There are a couple of reasons for this. Our national class is exactly like a Superbike, championships and races are set up for a Superbike. One could say that BSB has a Supersport close to Moto2, but this is absolutely not the case. In general, the approach of the promoters in the development of our motorsport is focused on the Superbike, the Grand Prix is not a priority. Brexit played a big role, breaking many ties – the teams that competed in the Grand Prix moved to Spain and Italy, we just don’t have this culture left.”
“The second reason is that our tracks are “old” in nature. They are radically different from modern grand Prix tracks and are not being improved. Thanks to the growth of the technical level of Moto2 and MotoGP, the improvement of the tracks, the increase in speeds – The Big Prizes are moving further away from England…”
In other words, motorcycle England is rapidly aging and losing the race to Europe in terms of technology and sports:
“WorldSBK intersects with MotoGP in many ways, in particular, in terms of pilots, which also increases the level of the Superbike. But in my opinion, the idea is that the Superbike looks like an adult championship, whereas the Grand Prix is perceived as a young sport. Great Britain today is a country of adults. And young people don’t want to go to the Grand Prix, they prefer a Superbike because it’s easier to be realized in it.”
“90% of those who tried to enter the Grand Prix at a young age, who moved to train in Spain and Italy, passed the Red Bull Rookies Cup school, even Moto3, then returned to England and now perform in BSB, consider it self-sufficient,” Sam clarified.
But there is another important factor: the British have actually become much poorer over the past 10-15 years. It became impossible to find a national sponsor. Representative offices of global companies are focused only on the local market, and Brexit has worsened the situation. The British simply can’t find the money to perform in Europe and America.