Carmelo Ezpeleta is often described as the Big Boss of MotoGP, the man who has dragged it into the new millennium. The Dorna CEO is the man at the helm of motorcycling, also pulling the strings of SBK. We met him in Switzerland, at the headquarters of FIM, the International Motorcycling Federation.
What better place to ask him what the future of the World Championship will be, just a few days away from the last tests of the year at Losail?
“I always think that the new season should go better than the previous one - smiles Ezpeleta - I know that tests have a relative value, but those in Malaysia have shown that from a technical point of view all the manufacturers are closer. I think it will be a year with a high level of competitiveness".
In MotoGP there are three European and three Japanese manufacturers, is anyone still missing? What about Kawasaki or BMW, for example…
“To be honest, we wouldn't have any more places at the moment. For 2022 Aprilia has asked for a place as a constructor, something that it had previously not wanted, and therefore we will have six manufacturers present and the same number of private teams. This means that each of the latter will have the opportunity to lease the motorcycle that interests them, without any obligation. So, if I had to give an example, Kawasaki could only enter if they reached an agreement with a private team."
That would be one way for a satellite team to gain value…
"Exactly, because now the license, the right to participate in MotoGP, has a value in itself while before it didn’t. If anyone wants to join, they must reach an agreement with a team that is already in MotoGP. Clearly, from a sporting point of view, the more teams you have, the better, but in overall budget terms, this is the solution I like best".
Haven't you had any requests from new constructors?
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“I'll tell you something, recently Kawasaki asked me for the possibility of doing wild cards with their Superbike. I replied no, because wild cards are reserved for those who participate in MotoGP. I like to be direct; I don't think this is the only solution but the best one for us."
Are you referring to the closed number?
“People think that the more we are the better, but for me, each satellite team means 6 million euros of investment. Is it convenient for me to increase the number? This is the calculation I have to make."
When will the agreement between Dorna and the manufacturers participating in MotoGP expire?
"At the end of 2021 and we are already at a very advanced stage for the next agreement, practically only the signatures are missing."
What will change?
"A lot of things. We have increased both the contribution towards the teams and towards the manufacturers. For example, to date, each manufacturer receives one million euros for each bike they supply to the satellite teams, from 2022 they will receive one and a half million euros. Then we increased the contribution for the teams by almost 50%. In the face of this, it will be possible to exceed the maximum limit of 2 million 200 thousand euros for the cost of leasing motorcycles, because that refers to a standard motorcycle. If a team wants an evolution, as happens with Petronas with Yamaha, they will make an agreement with the manufacturer."
Leaving MotoGP aside for a moment, are you satisfied with SBK?
“All the time more and more. Some time ago it was written that I claimed that SBK is the second division of motorcycling and people got angry. I don't care because that's how things are, it's reality. In the past, Flammini tried to do the job better for him and I do the same."
Like any entrepreneur…
“People have the wrong perception about me, I am one of Dorna's shareholders, but I am not the owner, while Flammini was the owner of his own company. As a result, he had to look at what was best for the championship and for his business, but I have to work only for the best of the company in general. Flammini had to demonstrate that his could have become the best championship and this was useful for him to sell the company 3 or 4 times (laughs). I am a friend of Flammini, we worked together, we were rivals".
"We were together under the umbrella of Bridgepoint, who didn't like this rivalry between the two championships. To the outside world, it was beyond dispute that MotoGP was the number 1 championship, but inside SBK he supported his series and did it very well. It took a person to say that the war was lost, so I went to the SBK paddock and said clearly that they were the second division."
What consequences did it have?
"I think SBK is necessary because there is a need for motorcycle racing derived from production models. Indeed, if it were up to me, they would be even more standard, because they already have incredible performance. I also know, however, that there are important differences between the models: the Ducati is ready to race with the bike it sells in dealers, the Honda needs more preparation".
Is there a solution?
"In Superbike I’m not interested in the number of homologated motorcycles but their cost"
“The cost of the bikes: I’m not really interested in anything else, not even the minimum number of homologated bikes. For example, let’s set the price cap at 45 thousand euros, we take away the cost of the production bike and the rest is for its preparation. I think it would be a good idea, of course while respecting safety standards and managing to level performance. Nothing else is needed. Dorna is working hard to do well in SBK, regardless of whether it is the second division. Do you want to know something curious?".
“Two years ago, Bautista was about to retire, and I advised him to go to SBK. He wasn't convinced at the beginning and now he earns more than if he had stayed in MotoGP in a private team (laughs). This is something that riders should start thinking about."
Do you like the SBK format?
“Yes, because it was the promoters and the TVs that asked for it. Dorna has a contract with the FIM: there must be a minimum number of races and they must be broadcast on television".
On the subject of TV, in 2021 the contract with Sky will expire and the streaming giants are buying more and more space…
"It is difficult to say what will happen, but I know we have a great show."
TO BE CONTINUED...
Interview by Paolo Scalera