Dorna chief plays down MotoGP cash concerns

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MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta has refuted suggestions that the current dire economic climate in world championship racing has reached crisis status.

With only 19 riders on the grid and teams suffering from a lack of external investment, questions have been raised about the long-term prospects of MotoGP, with commercial interest not reflecting the public interest in the premier class series.

But Ezpeleta, who coughed up an extra £15m to plough into the manufacturers and teams for 2007, said: “I don’t think we are in a crisis. I think there is no crisis. We are in a new era with the tobacco sponsorship finished but I have not heard the word crisis.

“But I want to know what we can do to improve. That’s why we held the meeting with the teams to discuss proposals to move forward. The situation when Dorna arrived in 1992 was even worse. It’s true that in ‘92 that the costs to race were much lower and there were some tobacco companies involved.

“The bikes were cheaper but the impact of the sport in 1992 compared to now –well there is no comparison.”

Ezpeleta said he was pleased with the positive and constructive Barcelona sponsorship summit held during the Easter break, despite Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone’s scepticism about its value.

“The meeting was nothing to do with having better management or being more efficient. The teams are themselves self sufficient as it shows because its not like they don’t have anything to eat. We are trying to show our sport better and to get more money into the world championship. If we can reduce the costs as well then this would be perfect.

“We can’t study nothing and do nothing. We have been established for long enough to propose new ways to improve, “said the Spaniard, who said the arrival of the new 800cc MotoGP era had only added to the spectacle of MotoGP, with concerns in some quarters that the capacity reduction from 990cc would impact on the racing.

“When I heard that people said the 800s would lose the show for MotoGP, I laughed a lot. In Jerez there were 138,000 people that were very interested in a very boring show. If it was that boring why are so many people coming?”

Ezpeleta also said he wouldn’t entertain the idea of considering downgrading the 125 and 250 classes to just support events, robbing them of world championship status as suggested by Formula One counterpart Ecclestone at last weekend’s Turkey GP.

“I have always said from 1992 when we first got involved that the world championship has three classes. I think 125 and 250s are very important in my opinion. It’s where the riders learn how to work and these riders are the ones who will eventually go to MotoGP.

“With experience from 125 and 250s they learn and become specialised in set-up and working on prototype bikes. And every year for the 125 and 250 classes we have bigger demand for entries every year. We have more applications than grid spots so the grids are growing.

“I could give a list of five or six teams in 125 and two or three in 250s that wanted to race this year but they couldn’t, “said Ezpeleta.

One idea discussed in Barcelona to help make MotoGP a more attractive investment opportunity for major global companies was an exclusive MotoGP paddock, separate from 125 and 250s.

While Ezpeleta said he supported the idea to make the paddock more enticing for blue chip companies, he said a possible implementation would not completely shut out the 125 and 250 teams.

“We need to give more exclusivity to MotoGP and the paddock idea is a possibility. Not all the passes given to 125 and 250 teams will be restricted, “said Ezpeleta.


Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt