A new circuit on the motor racing calendar is a challenge, not only for the racers, but for everyone involved in the championship, with many hours involved to ensure everything goes swimmingly.
Next year, MotoGP heads to the new KymiRing circuit in Finland for the first time, and preparations are already underway to ensure that the event happens without a hitch. Last week, six riders participated in a two-day test session, inaugurating the track.
The test was also the first time that MotoGP’s production team had visited the facility. Sergi Sendra, who is Dorna’s Senior Director for Media Content, Television and Production, gave me the low-down on how the test went, from a broadcasting perspective.
The logistics of a new event
For readers unaware, Dorna are MotoGP’s commercial rights holder, and have been since 1992. “I remember at the beginning it was tougher for us to arrive to a place and design which positions we would have, but now it is easier with experience,” Sendra tells me.
Races on the MotoGP calendar broadly fit into two categories from a logistical perspective: European and non-European. Sendra does not expect any surprises on the logistical front for Finland, as all the logistics from a broadcasting perspective sits within Dorna instead of third-party suppliers.
“The resources to accomplish the goal of having a stable Grand Prix in terms of logistics is going to be the same as at any other European round,” Sendra adds.
“We shouldn’t have any surprises on that front. We bring the scaffolds, the power supplies (with a triple generator group), the posts for the antennas, the cables, the fibre, it’s all ours. We never expect the local people to provide the key things. We make sure we have the same conditions, comfort, and practicability that we have in other circuits.”
The main difference, of course, is the layout of the circuit which varies from weekend to weekend. A typical MotoGP event has between 20 to 25 cameras track side, which gives Dorna enough scope to change the perspective on offer lap-by-lap.
“One camera should have a wide range of coverage from the in-point to the end-point,” he says. “This will help to have no gap in the coverage, when you cut from camera to camera.”
“What you want is a comfortable zone, where both cameras overlay for us to cut and have a good continuity for the viewer.”
Even with existing events, Dorna are always reviewing the existing camera angles on offer, to see if there is further room for refinement. Sendra gives Brno as an example, where Dorna have changed some angles in recent years to give MotoGP fans a different view of the circuit, whilst keeping to the core principles.
What Dorna does not currently have for new circuits is the ability to simulate camera angles using 3D graphics months before the event which, although Sendra says would be beneficial, is not worthwhile given that new races are rare.
“This map [for Finland] in 3D will arrive later. We would make simulations if we had a 3D map that we could put in our computer and then start playing.”
“We wanted to do this a long time ago, but it takes a team to prepare the maps, and we don’t have this yet,” Sendra explains. “If we had five or six new circuits every year, then we should have it, but actually going to the circuit is better.”
“When you go to the circuit, you see it changing in front of your eyes, you can experiment with it, take cameras and film, which is the best way. We take the GPS positions exactly, and photos of everything to refer to later.”
“In any case, I think with the knowledge we have, we can presume and predict things that can also be done with computer.”
Normally when a new race is added to any Grand Prix calendar, whether it be Formula 1, Formula E, or in this case MotoGP, the production team working on the series will visit the circuit to perform a recce. The purpose of the recce is to firm up the exact details (i.e. deciding camera angles), and to iron out any potential risks ahead of time.
On the desk in front of myself and Sendra at Silverstone is a map of the KymiRing circuit, which Sendra and his team have heavily annotated, during and following their two-day visit.
With only a handful of laps on the board during day one due to heavy rain, the TV team walked the track to scope out their initial thinking.
Immediately obvious to all was the scenery that surrounds the circuit, the nearest city twenty minutes away by car. The scenery, along with the elevation change from corner to corner, presents Dorna with an opportunity to highlight the best of Finland.
“The nice thing about this track is that it is surrounded by beautiful trees, nice Finland forest. We were looking for positions where we can see more of the nature,” Sendra tells me.
“It’s quite wild, and I’m sure we will look for the animals to capture the atmosphere. There are a lot of animals, not here, but close to here!”
“The second thing is the shape of the corners, the vision of the corners from the positions. It’s very different to Thailand, which is flat and very easy from that perspective, whereas Finland has a lot of up’s and down’s.”
“Here, there are spots that you cannot see, where there are trees in between. We like that, because it will give personality to the event.”
Throughout their visit, Sendra and his team are comparing KymiRing to MotoGP’s existing portfolio of circuits, although this is a challenge (in a good way for Sendra). Sendra says that KymiRing “is a completely different shape which is very good, because it enriches the championship.”
The second day allowed Dorna to confirm their thinking from day one, adjusting the positions slightly based on the action that was unfolding in front of them.
During the visit, Dorna try to ‘second guess’ where the hot spots are in terms of action. Turns 1, 4, 5 and 13 all have two camera angles to capture potential overtakes, whilst the 1.2 kilometre back straight requires a different approach.
Sendra continues “At the end of a straight, there will be braking points, so two cameras are necessary. If the straight is as long as this, we will have to split it, because with one camera will be boring. In the case of Finland, there are three spot cameras.”
“One at the beginning, let us say 350 meters, another one at 300 more, and then two at the end. There will be, for sure, overtaking at the end of this straight.”
One area of the circuit that Dorna believes will be a hot spot is the final bend, which may remind readers of the Fuji Speedway in Japan. Sendra expects the final corner to be “crazy” with Dorna opting to place more cameras down at that section than they usually would, for 2020 at least.
“It’s quite wide here, and we wanted to see a camera from outside and inside at the same time. We believe the corner is going to be better seen from outside than inside, but then all the cameras are inside so this is something you solve when you’re directing.”
“The final bend goes up, then goes down [heading to the finish line], it’s really very different compared to other places. All are quite flat to the finish line, only Saschsenring goes up.”
“We will have more cameras here the first time to make sure we don’t miss anything. If somebody likes to make a last lap overtake here like in Austria, then we must see it from various angles.”
Outside of the circuit itself, Dorna are figuring out their own logistics. The paddock being on the outside as opposed to the inside means that the television compound will be in a different location to usual, more than likely on the outside of turn one, Sendra tells me.
Whilst the track itself is finished, the surrounding area is still under construction, and it will not be long before the production team are back.
“Once we’ve set the camera spots, then it will be the people from the technical side to calculate lengths, accesses and everything else that surrounds this,” Sendra says.
“Normally we do two or three rehearsals. For TV, two rehearsals is the minimum to make sure we arrive during the week of a Grand Prix and nothing is forgotten, and everything is on the spot.”
Even with rehearsals, nothing is better preparation than a race weekend, and Sendra says that, it can take two or three year for the direction to gel on a new circuit.
“Honestly, we will have to wait until the first race, wet or dry, to understand if we made the right choices. The first weekend we will spend in Finland with a real experience, with three classes, races and practices, it will allow us to improve for the next year.”
“And I can more or less tell you that for us it takes between two and three years to stabilise the circuit, to have a good knowledge, because one year it will be hotter than the other, maybe it rains, it’s never the same.”
Now with a lot more information than before following the inauguration of the circuit, Dorna’s television team have a better sense of what they are dealing with ahead of the first MotoGP race at KymiRing next year.