"Relations between Dorna and FIM were and remain excellent."
After Jorge Viegas' recent statements, Carmelo Ezpeleta wants to quickly put an end to the alleged friction between the International Federation and the organizer of the SBK and MotoGP World Championships.
In fact, in an interview with Prawda Moto, FIM's president had predicted a future for Superbike without Dorna, despite the contract between the parties that expires in 2036.
"Simply, Viegas did not express himself well. He made a mistake translating his thoughts into English," explained Dorna's CEO. "I don't give much importance to this mistake because I speak with him all the time. I did today too, and I know perfectly well what he thinks."
"Even if some might disagree, I believe that the MotoGP and SBK are experiencing their best moment. This said, we also know that there are things to improve."
Dorna never thought of leaving the Superbike. The contract expires in 2036.
Dorna never thought of leaving the SBK?
"No, we never did."
In a recent interview of ours, Viegas anticipated some news for the SBK. What is it?
"He spoke of an idea that comes from the Federation, and the president will reveal it. Of course, we listen to every proposal that comes from the Federation, as does Dorna. As I said, it's only an idea for now, which needs to be developed."
The current bikes are already quite efficient as productions. It'll continue to be like this.
Would you agree to an SBK with bikes that are more similar to productions ones?
"Yes, and not just today, but always. I believe that the current bikes are already quite efficient, and there is no need to complicate things further. Of course, certain changes are made step-by-step. The most important thing is to keep the show level high, but there is room for new things."
Dorna already reduced SBK costs. Now we're thinking of also reducing the staff.
Is it also a question of costs?
“As I said, from the beginning, I thought that the bikes which race in the SBK should be as similar as possible to standard ones. We are talking about very competitive vehicles. There is no need to create complications that can affect the budget of teams and manufacturers. During these years, we've managed to lower the cost of the motorcycles in the SBK, but we must also act on other fronts. The bikes represent a part of the budget, but the number of people working in a team can have a much greater impact on the final budget."
In the past, some teams threatened to leave MotoGP, but none did.
For Dorna, having the SBK also means having the teams in their hands. If they wanted to leave MotoGP, they wouldn't know where to go...
"In the past, some companies threatened to do so, but none ever did. Dorna has the SBK because we think it's best for a single organizer to handle both of the most important series. SBK is not better or worse than MotoGP, it's simply different. We are working to give talents a chance to find space in these championships. Soon, the Road to Superbike project will begin, as we've already done in the world championship. I think the two championships are a means of communication, where there might be an exchange of riders, as occurred recently with Bautista.”
I won't comment on the F.1. For Dorna, the priority is sustainability for the teams.
In car racing, however, there is only one major series: Formula 1.
"Out of respect, I don't want to comment on the choices of others, but I can say that, for me, the priority is sustainability for the teams. I don't know if the same happens with racing cars, and it's important to reduce costs."
The MotoE will not replace the MotoGP in the future. It will work alongside it.
The F1 is hybrid. Do you think there could be an electric future for MotoGP?
"Right now, I don't think this change is easy. Spectators now want Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP as they are. The MotoE for us is a sui generis experiment, with bikes that are all the same. We're curious to see what the results will be and what the public and the spectators will think of it. This doesn't mean that the MotoE should replace the MotoGP, but it should work along with it. We're preparing the regulation for the 2022/2026 period to propose to the teams, and I don't foresee changes in this sense."
The FormulaE is attracting teams.
"Yes, they put their names on cars, but that are all the same. After all, even in Moto2, KTM races using a motor that is not theirs. The important thing for Dorna is to have a sport that attracts spectators on TV and on the circuits. If there is also an interest on behalf of the teams, we hit the jackpot" (he smiled).
So what is the goal for the MotoE?
"This championship will be able to count on the visibility of racing together with the MotoGP. We, above all, want to gain xperience. For example, we didn't think we had a problem with fires (he laughed). We want to see how far the MotoE can go. But, again, we're not thinking about replacements."
Ecclestone is no longer in F.1. Dorna is ready for when I decide to retire.
Formula 1 seems a little lost after Bernie Ecclestone left. What will happen to MotoGP without Ezpeleta?
"We're already prepared for the day when I will retire. I would like for this sport to continue to grow even without me. In July, I'll be 73. It's normal that we think of the future after me."
Rossi as my heir? I can't imagine him behind this desk.
Could Valentino be a good heir?
"I really don't know what to think. However, I don't think he'd like to sit in this chair, although he would always be welcome. We all have our own type of job. I started racing, first slowly on bikes, then a bit faster with cars, but passion is not enough, you need skills. Therefore, when I was still studying engineering, I started thinking about organizing the races, and I took that opportunity, which allowed me to start this career."
In Imola, we listened to the riders: their safety is fundamental.
Regarding the race in Imola that was cancelled. In cases like these, should the riders or should the organizers decide?
"The riders must give their opinion, but it's the organizer that must decide, like in Silverstone last year. Logically, we'll never have a different opinion from that of the riders."
If you were to remember Dorna's best moments, what would they be?
"I don't remember any of those moments, but I remember all of the worst. Marco Simoncelli's death at Sepang, and Luis Salom's in Barcelona. Speaking with Daijiro Katoh's father in Suzuka. For me, for us at Dorna, there's nothing more important than the weekend ending as it started. Like a party. There are no dramatic or unsolvable problems. Everything has a solution. Only one thing cannot be remedied. This is why safety is the first of our thoughts."
Interview by Matteo Aglio recorded with Paolo Scalera
Photo © Fermino Fraternali