PaddockChatter got a chance to speak with the British Superbike Series and Race Director, Stuart Higgs, following the first day of testing at Donington Park last week. Stuart spoke with us about the current sponsorship ‘crisis’, the ‘War for Four’, and Social Media from his perspective…
Firstly, how did you primarily become involved in BSB?
I’ve spent my whole life around motorcycle racing. Initially coming to all the events at Brands Hatch with my father who was one of the chief marshals. In 1991 I was asked to put an organising team together with him for a live BBC televised Shell Supercup meeting at Brands Hatch. Through that event I was introduced to the then promoter of British Championship events Robert Fearnall from Two Four Sports who operated Donington and over the next four years I worked on selected events as part of the organisation. In 95/96 Robert piloted the MCRCB as the new sanctioning body for British & International championship events in the UK and I headed up the operational side as race director/operations clerk of the course. This was a part time role as my full time professional job was within Finance & IT working for a major European financial institution. In 2001 I was head hunted by Martin Brundle who was Chairman of the BRDC to head up the Silverstone race department, as part of that move I engineered that my motor cycle racing tasks came with me. In 2004 I set up MCRCB Events to act as the BSB organiser working alongside the newly appointed BSB promoter Dorna UK and then in 2008 joined multi circuit owner MSV to bring together the promoting & organisational roles under one roof.
What is your favourite period of the year, in relation to your role as series & race director?
Once the season starts, the second and third rounds are really enjoyable as your in the groove for the actual season and the next season is just far enough away ahead not to dwell on and start stressing about. Also anytime we pull off something new or innovative. For example taking the Assen event from concept to reality was an overall career highlight.
At certain times of the year, you perform duties for the FIM at MotoGP rounds. What do you enjoy about this?
I’m on the FIM road racing commission of which one of the roles is to officiate at world championship events. I enjoy meeting people and seeing other circuits and looking at their systems and more often being reinforced of the view that we have a very high organisational standard from club to MCE BSB and world championship events.
How do you see the British Superbike Championship developing in the near future?
It’s simply continuous work in progress on all fronts.
Who think will surprise, or simply come of age in BSB this year?
Every few years the page turns as the new cast establish themselves. The ascendency of Lowes, Bridewell, Farmer and Jacobsen for example will be fascinating.
With many riders around the globe struggling for sponsorship, what is your view on how to improve the current situation?
There’s no easy fix. Attracting third party investment is difficult. But saying that it’s not impossible but the concept of a sponsorship has changed far beyond simplistic cash in exchange for branding. That’s where we are very active in using our resources by coming at different angles to attract sponsors with a diverse range of rights so things are a mixture of team, rider, series, on site etc.
There have been many comments about how World Superbikes is struggling as a series at the moment, what do you think of the World series, given BSB is really flourishing?
I steer well clear of direct comparisons. We share the word “Superbike” in our respective series titles so we need both series to be doing well.
There have been criticisms of the decision to run a promo campaign based on the “War for Four” between Kiyo and Shakey, with critics saying that it’s unfair on riders such as Brookes, Lowes and others who are capable of winning the title this year. What are your thoughts?
I haven’t seen or heard any such remarks but we’d be pretty daft not to want to highlight the very rare occurrence of having the two most successful riders of a generation going head to head. Other story lines will of course emerge. Micro analysis of things like this is a bit silly really.
PaddockChatter has developed through social media, mainly twitter – a forum that many riders now use to communicate with each other and fans. The BSB twitter community is huge, perhaps larger than for any other series. For you as BSB series director, is Twitter a help or a hindrance and what are your views on the effect social media can have on marketing and the press?
It’s a double edge sword. We’ve embraced social media perhaps more than others in the industry and I think people appreciate it. Engaging with over 70000 customers and fans directly is an incredibly powerful platform. But at the same time we are an easy target for attack and its not always easy to defend a particular situation in 140 characters.
PaddockChatter would like to thank Stuart for answering our questions, we look forward to seeing how BSB unfolds throughout the year and hope to catch up with him later on in the season. We also wish he and the rest of the BSB organisational team the very best of fortunes for the coming season.