MXGP Insider No.27 – Giuseppe Luongo on the Grand Prix of Mexico
Welcome to our web-exclusive weekly column: Transmoto’s MXGP Insider, presented by Kawasaki.
Youthstream president, Guiseppe Luongo, addresses the challenges faced at the Mexican round of the World Motocross Championship.
For the Motocross World Championship round in Mexico we have to think on a middle term strategy (not immediate/short term); Mexico has a huge potential but as this year was their first year they are just beginning to understand the level of the Motocross World Championship organisation and that’s why we discovered many difficulties for this first time. Next year we will already overcome the difficulties faced this year and the Grand Prix of Mexico will be outstanding. Mexicans are people full of passion and love for sport but they need experience and good partners to help them grow on an international level.
With a population of 113 million, Mexico is an important developing market which is growing at a rate of 4% per year. A 2012 Dow Jones report states that more than 500,000 motorbikes are sold per year in Mexico, in the first quarter of this year motorcycle sales rose by 26% and in their report they forecast that Mexico’s motorcycle market is expected to expand by four to five times. So you can clearly see why it’s very important to be there.
At the GP of Mexico this year our staff present worked crazily day and night to help the local organisers solve all the problem so that the Grand Prix could be run and to make the track in the best condition possible to allow the riders race. After seeing the hard and passionate work the organisers’ staff did it’s obvious they understand the importance of respecting the standards for the future. We are delighted to have been in Mexico and I am extremely happy about the enormous work our staff did on the track and for the TV production because in a very difficult situation and stressful atmosphere we saw our staff react professionally, solve the various problems and they made the race go on, bringing the GP home safely, without injuries and with great possibilities for the future.
The contract with the Mexican organiser and the standards are very similar to that of a European organiser. Our staff was there several times and we received all the guarantees from the organisers that everything would be done according to our agreement; when we arrived 10 days before the GP they continued saying that everything was coming. We immediately started pushing very hard and started acting directly ourselves for the most serious points; one by one we managed to solve the majority of the problems giving priority to the security, the track, the paddock, and the TV, and in the end things went in the right direction.
During a difficult moment we were able to realise who our true partners are, because during complications normally a true partner tries to help you solve problems, not put banana skins under your feet, but sadly this was what happened. The reason why the riders didn’t want to race the qualifying races on Saturday had nothing to do with the security of the track, because Saturday’s track was fine to race on; there was just some dust in two corners (total of about 100m) during the morning practice, which, on the request of the riders, was well watered. But not one of them went to see that this corner was okay. The reality is that after the two practices on Saturday morning many riders were exhausted because it was hot (32°), dry (30% of humidity) and the altitude was close to 1,700m and they wanted to avoid the qualifying race, so they used the excuse of the track to save their energy. The fact that many team managers were not present, the riders were easily manipulated by some people present in the paddock who, with their short vision, did not think about the damage they would cause.
The Motocross World Championship is very complicated for everyone involved because the races are held on 16 different types of circuits with different types of soil, different countries, cultures, languages and climates. All this forces the riders, teams, media, industries, fans and ourselves to adapt every weekend making our championship the most complicated and complete championship in the world – simply a World Championship. A rider who wins the title ‘World Champion’ is really the number 1 in the world as he has been able to overcome all the various hurdles. A World Champion must be talented. He has to be mentality and physically the strongest and ready to adapt himself entirely (body, mind, eating habits, sleeping habits) to any kind of situation. A World Champion has to be our sport’s ambassador, with their attitude and actions they have to respect the environment, people, cultures and work of others.
Due to the riders’ behaviour on the Saturday in Mexico the local press, who are not experts in MX, wrote in Sunday morning’s news paper that there would be no race on Sunday because the World Championship riders didn’t want to race. This was obviously terribly detrimental for the local organisers. But even with the negative publicity caused by the riders there were more than 15,000 spectators, which is what we have at an average good GP in Europe.
Moving on to the television in Mexico, like always, problems bring more difficulties. Aside from the fact we were working with the limits of infrastructure, on the Sunday morning, half an hour before the start of the 1st MX2 race, a bulldozer passed an area where he should not have passed and cut six optic fibre TV cables which sent the whole system into chaos (this could have happened at any circuit, even in Europe). There were practically only 50% of the cameras working for the 1st MX2 race; you would have seen that we missed the start and a large part of the track was not covered. We had the same problem with a sound cable. During the race we worked like crazy to repair all these problems and as you also would have seen, the last race was covered well; the last race was one of the best races we’ve had over the last years, and there was no dust and all the cameras were working.
The results coming from this event are that the Mexicans are very excited about the GP, we have many people from Mexico interested in working with us for future Grand Prix events, and we have had several sponsors contact us and TV stations proposing to broadcast the entire Motocross World Championship in Mexico. As a whole, a lot of interest has been created and with the experience of this year we know clearly how it has to be managed for the future. One of the reasons why we have Motocross on the level it is today is because we had a vision wider and further than many people involved and we have always fought for it. You will see in less than five years how the GP of Mexico will be imperative for our world. Mexico is not Western Europe, which has more than 60 years of experience in Motocross organisation. Mexico is new to this sport with a lot to learn but they want to continue and they are hungry to learn fast. In the 90s in Europe we had to often deal with dusty tracks, organisers who didn’t have experience that caused chaos, paddocks that were in the middle of dust or mud, telephone lines that weren’t working, and so on. What we have done in Europe over 20 years will be done in a place like Mexico in two or three years.