Serge Saulnier, Chairman of the Board for the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit, is seldom afraid to get his hands dirty. With the French round of the Superbike World Championship less than four months away, we caught up with him to talk preparation, the importance of the event to Magny-Cours and his own personal achievements in the sport.
Serge, you’re the Chairman of the Board for the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit. What does that position entail?
Serge Saulnier: Initially I was tasked with restructuring the company and once the financial situation was sorted to reinvest in the circuit’s maintenance. Today we are in phase three where we start to develop the activities that can take place at the facility.
How did you go from managing a racing team to overseeing Magny-Cours?
SS: At Saulnier Racing we were competing in Word Series by Renault and endurance racing, before I took over the management of Peugeot Sport’s Le Mans programme. Just after we won Le Mans in 2009 Marcel Charmant, President of the Nievre regional Board, offered me the chance to take on this role with the Magny-Cours circuit.
As a hands-on motor racing man, was it easy to adapt to your current position? Are there similarities between these two roles?
SS: It came quite naturally as I simply changed to the other side of the barrier by becoming a manager of the circuit instead of a client. There are numerous similarities: day-to-day company management, the link with motorsport, staff motivation and overseeing a hard-working and structured organisation.
The Superbike World Championship is a major event for the circuit. How important is it compared to other events and activities?
SS: The WSBK generates the largest turnover and greatest number of spectators of any event organised by the circuit.
Who are the key players involved in organising this international event?
SS: Firstly, you have Infront Sports who organise the entire Superbike World Championship. Then there’s Dorna who will be involved for the first time since acquiring the WSBK rights. From our side there is SAEMS, the company of Circuit Magny-Cours who help to organise the event in partnership with the Nièvre General Council and the Regional Council of Bourgogne.
The contract between Magny-Cours and the Superbike World Championship runs until the end of 2015. In this regard you’re now working with Dorna who also organise the MotoGP World Championship. How do you see the future panning out? Have you noticed any differences in the planning of this year’s event?
SS: None, actually. On the technical and rule-making side the championship continues to function on the same basis as last year, while on the organisational side we have been working with the same people. If there is going to be an evolution then we won’t see it until next year as it is difficult and risky to change everything in year one. We will pay close attention to the championship’s development in 2014 as that will shape our commitment for the future.
This is the 11th season that the WSBK will visit Magny-Cours. Circuit-wise what has changed the most and how have the public reacted?
SS: There has been constant evolution with the presence and involvement of different manufacturers, the professionalism of the organisers and teams, and in terms of promotion. All has contributed towards greater numbers of spectators attending.
On the technical side, do you specifically prepare or adapt anything in order to comply with World Superbike guidelines?
SS: The FIM homologates the track every three years and, on top of that, we regularly make safety improvements to protect competitors.
Track rental for bikes is one area that has increased markedly at Magny-Cours, to the point that it is now at the same level as cars. What are the reasons for this?
SS: Magny-Cours’ image had been linked with car racing, and especially Formula 1, for a long time. But by hosting events such as WSBK, the Bol d’Or and all the national bike series, it’s an image that has changed amongst riders. Today we organise numerous track days specifically for bikes.
Numerous French riders in World Superbike and Superstock will be racing in front of their home crowd at Magny-Cours. Does it satisfy you to offer the French fans an opportunity to support these rising stars at a time when motorsport is being criticised?
SS: I personally hope that Sylvain Guintoli will still be fighting for the world title when WSBK reaches Magny-Cours. But regarding the up-and-coming generation in both bikes and cars, it’s important for the future to have special talents in order to make our sport popular within the mainstream media and also wider society.
Information for the French round of the Eni FIM Superbike World Championship (4-6 October 2013):
Special offer: save €10 per ticket until June 30:
- 3-day General Access + grandstand L: €65 instead of €75
- 3-day General Access: €55 instead of €65
- Sunday General Access: €50 instead of €55
- Paddock Access: €20 instead of €25
- Pitlane Walkabout (Saturday/Sunday, fixed times): €30
Don’t forget your headphones! All the action from each of the three days will be broadcast on BAC FM 106.1 and www.bacfm.fr.
Special Aprilia and BMW tickets:
Aprilia SBK PLUS: 3-day General Access with reserved seating in grandstand B, paddock access and secure bike parking: €80
BMW Planet Power: 3-day General Access with reserved seating in grandstand F, paddock access, secure bike parking and entry to the BMW village: €80
New for 2013:
Saturday night fever!
Head to the circuit village on Saturday 5 October from 18.30 to experience a range of fantastic activities: stunt and freestyle riding to the sound of DJ and double World Supersport champion Sébastien Charpentier who will be on the decks.
For further information on the French World Superbike Championship round at Magny-Cours please visit www.magnysbk.com
For further information about Magny-Cours please visit www.circuitmagnycours.com
You can keep up to date with the WSBK at Magny-Cours by following @MagnyCoursTrack and liking the circuit’s Facebook page.