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Suppo: "MotoGP is in danger of also losing Honda and Yamaha"

"The sprint race does not attract more spectators, to increase the show it is better to decrease the aerodynamics. The riders will have to learn to limit themselves, the new format is excessive on a psycho-physical level"

MotoGP: Suppo:

Livio Suppo is someone who knows MotoGP like the back of his hand. As team manager he was the boss of the official Ducati, Honda and Suzuki teams and was a close observer of the first Grand Prix of the season, in which the new sprint race format made its debut. The Turin manager had been critical of this change and seeing it in action did not thrill him that much.

Livio, do you still have doubts about the sprint race?

“I said right away that I didn't like it and I have strengthened my conviction. When you go from theory to practice things can change and I tried to see it in an unprejudiced way. It was obvious that the sprint race would have been spectacular and from that point of view it lived up to expectations, the problem is that the current format is excessive in my opinion because it puts the riders in the condition starting on Friday to think little about the race and a lot about qualifying, which means risking a lot. In practice, they have 3 qualifying sessions, 4 for those who go through Q1, which means doing 8 laps at a breakneck pace".

Other critical issues?

“Saturday is a day with an excessive format from a psycho-physical point of view. There are free practices which are pointless, because it's the only session where times don't matter but it's at a different time to the race ones. Then there are qualifying, the sprint race, to which all the extra commitments are added: it seems really too much to me. Especially considering that Sunday is the most important event of the weekend, the one that gives the most points. In my opinion it is excessive, moreover in a championship with 21 rounds, many of which are close to each other. Try to think from a psycho-physical point of view what the last two months will be like".

"The riders and the new format? Like giving children a dangerous toy"

After just one Grand Prix we already have 4 riders in the hospital…

“It was the first appointment and they were all excited, I hope that from now on the riders settle down, even if that's their job. It's like giving children a dangerous toy, it's hard for them to understand. Even without further injuries, they will arrive exhausted at the end of the season. In my opinion, it's too much, something could and should be invented to make the Sunday race a more important event, to make MotoGP something people want to see again".

Is that the real problem?

“If they did the sprint race to increase interest in MotoGP, it's not working. They are making the usual enthusiasts happy who followed it even before and who now have the opportunity to see two races. Mario Rossi, who didn't know what MotoGP was, begins to follow it because now there's the sprint race".

"The race must become an event: like the Super Bowl and Wimbledon"

As a spectator, what impression did it make on you?

“Despite being very passionate, I wasn't able to see qualifying because you can't stay in front of the TV all day, there's too much. As a spectator, you realize that you also find it difficult to follow Moto3 and Moto2, unless one shuts himself up at home on Saturday and Sunday and it's difficult, especially in the summer".

It must be made worthwhile.

"The Super Bowl is no different from any other American football game, but it is the Super Bowl and millions of people watch it, not only in America but also in Italy. The same happens with the Wimbledon final or with the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, they are something that people want to watch. It's not by having a race halved, which gives half points and which doesn't even decide the Sunday line-up, that makes MotoGP cool".

It seems that MotoGP is copying Formula 1 but forgetting that they are different sports, starting with the fact that it is much easier for motorcycle racers to get hurt.

“Not to mention that cars are bigger, it's more difficult to overtake and therefore also to make big mistakes. They try on the bike, we saw what happened with Marini and Bastianini or with Mir and Quartararo. This leads to another problem."

Which one?

“It is said that sprint races are better because there is more overtaking, but also more accidents. I haven't heard anyone wondering if to make the races more spectacular we could instead decrease aerodynamics on the bikes, the riders themselves say that this is a limit to overcome. In Formula 1, continuous changes have been made to the aerodynamic regulations, if only to increase the show. In MotoGP there are now technical reasons why overtaking is more difficult and nobody talks about it. In a 12-lap race everyone is stoked, then they have bikes with which you struggle to overtake... one plus one equals two".

"Aerodynamics count too much. A Suzuki technician told me: with that Aprilia we would have won all the races"

The technical regulations, however, will in theory be frozen until 2027.

“The risk is that in the next 3 years things could get even worse. If interest in the world championship does not undergo a trend reversal, some manufacturers, especially the Japanese ones, might decide to leave. Since 2035 there is talk only of electric motors, the development of aerodynamics is pointless for the mass-produced product, why should they spend money and also look like fools?”.

It's a double-edged problem…

“Suzuki has already done it. Why are there manufacturers who want to enter Formula 1? Because the marketing and commercial departments believe it is a great added value, it is a planetary event. MotoGP is not and never has been, it enjoyed 20 years of glory thanks to Valentino and the interest of the manufacturers. I started with Ducati in 2003 and the manufacturers arrived en masse, but then some left and then came back. There have been some right moves, like keeping the engines technically the same since 2012, introducing the control unit and above all software. Unfortunately, aerodynamics has made the difference in recent years: Ducati and Aprilia, who believed in it more, took a clear advantage, KTM tried to fight it and then adapted, while Honda and Yamaha remained behind, at least 3 years. Some Suzuki technicians told me: if we had the Aprilia aerodynamics, we would have won all the races".

Is the solution therefore purely technical or can something else be changed?

“Twenty years ago, the riders hardly ever tried to set the time on Fridays, because they set up the bike and chose the tyres. Only in the last minute of FP3 did they start trying the time attack, but the times were still far from what they would have done in qualifying. Now, right from the first session, they are forced to take crazy risks without having the bike set up: there are a number of things that don't stand the test of time. At least they could have introduced, like Formula 1, the sprint race only in some races and maybe then modify something. It's a problematic moment, let's also add the international crisis: if the goal was to have 100,000 people at Mugello again, it doesn't seem to me that we're taking the right path".

Do you think Dorna will be able to go back on its word and eliminate the sprint race in some GPs?

“After one race we already have 4 riders less, if the same thing happened in Argentina, then there will be a right royal mess. If the fact that it was not a coincidence were highlighted, that we fall more into this format, then they should think about it".

"If the riders get injured, it's not their fault, it's highly unlikely they'll be the one to put the brakes on"

Will the riders unite against this format?

"In all these years I have never seen them take a common position. It is difficult for them to say no unanimously. It's the example I gave earlier: if you let children play with dangerous toys and they get hurt, it's your fault and not theirs. I doubt that an outcry will come from the riders."

And what about the managers of the manufacturers?

“Last year I found out about the introduction of the sprint race just a few hours before you. Suzuki had already announced its withdrawal and was not involved, but more than a decision-making process, it seemed to me that the manufacturers were simply informed after the fact. No one said no at the time, now it seems too late to do so. I hope that, as the races go by, the riders realize that they have to spare themselves and not get involved in accidents and therefore that they all settle down. However, hoping that the riders will put the brakes on themselves seems difficult to me. Maybe they'll realize that by going all out, they won't be able to make it to the end of the season."


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