Rossi opposes Ecclestone's GP shake-up idea

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Valentino Rossi has spoken out against Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion the 125 and 250 GP classes should be stripped of their world championship status to help make MotoGP more exclusive.

Ecclestone believes the MotoGP class must stand alone as the premier series to tackle the sponsorship issues currently engulfing world championship racing.

He believes the exclusivity would help attract investment from the stay away blue chip companies to help alleviate some of the financial worries in MotoGP.

But that is not a view supported by Rossi, who honed his skills in the smaller classes and carved out his formidable reputation as world champion in both the 125 and 250 world championships.

It’s not for the first time in his career Rossi has shared a much different view to Ecclestone.

While Ecclestone held an overwhelming belief Rossi had a big future in Formula One, the seven-times world motorcycle champion disagreed and last June turned his back on Ferrari’s millions to commit his future to MotoGP.

The pair didn’t share the same vision again at last weekend’s Turkish GP in Istanbul, after Ecclestone said he would immediately downgrade the 125 and 250 series from world championship status.

“I don’t agree,” stated Rossi.

“Formula One is Formula One and motorcycling is motorcycling. Formula One has a long story but also motorcycling has a long story and a different story.

“So for me it is right to have world championships in 125 and 250s, especially because I like to follow the races and it’s very good for the young guys. At the end not being world championships won’t change a lot. Now it’s not like 10 years ago.

“Now MotoGP is the Formula One of motorcycling and this is very clear. All the young riders want to win in 125 and 250s because they want to arrive in MotoGP as soon as they can.

“Ten years ago they wanted to stay longer in 250s but now we are the top class and that’s clear for everybody. For me three classes is ok and I think they do deserve to be world championships.”

For Ecclestone though, depriving the 125 and 250 class of world championship status is a must to create a feeling of exclusivity that will convince big budget global companies to invest in the motorcycle world championship.

When Ecclestone had a management interest in MotoGP in the early 1990s, with Two Wheel Promotions, he wanted to downgrade the 125 and 250 classes then to make the old 500cc world championship more exclusive.

Currently though the 125 and 250 classes have a contract to run as world championships until the end of 2011.

When asked if there were too many world championships in motorcycling, he said: “Yes, absolutely. I wanted to run the 500 class as the top class and everything else more or less as a support series not championships.

“They need to be a support event in my opinion and not championships. The other classes whether they are good or bad should be support events, not world championship events.

“World Superbikes is another story and I don’t know much about it but it seems to be doing a lot better than it was,” said Ecclestone.

Ecclestone also rubbished the recent sponsorship summit held in Barcelona between MotoGP rights owners Dorna and representatives from each of the premier class teams who met to tackle ways of attracting more sponsorship money.

Was it a good idea to meet?

“I don’t think so,” said Ecclestone.

“Most of the race teams are racers. They just need enough money to make sure they have the ability to race. Unfortunately Formula One costs an awful lot more money to run a team than in MotoGP and therefore they need more sponsorship, so maybe they make a bigger effort.

“Big companies spend their money in the way they think they should do and sometimes they are wrong. I think MotoGP is very popular worldwide and I’m quite surprised.

“If you talk about sponsors for the teams then it’s up to the teams to present their case better perhaps,” said Ecclestone, who said MotoGP could learn no lessons by trying to emulate the phenomenal commercial success of Formula One.

“Not really, “Ecclestone added:

“You have a different market really. There’s the football market and then there’s us in F1 and its all these different people dealing with different markets. It’s not easy.

“The problem is that manufacturer’s in all motorsport is good and bad. They are there for one reason and that’s to win, so it’s very, very difficult to put them in any particular direction.

“I suppose it’s better if everybody was truly independent but today nobody can afford that. In fairness in Formula One we don’t have any problem with the manufacturers now.

“This is a problem with all motorsport. It costs too much. When I was something to do with MotoGP it cost an awful lost less to run a team.

“It’s like in America with NASCAR. They used to cost five million a year to run a team and now they tell me it costs 60 or 70 million.”

Ecclestone said another solution MotoGP bosses must tackle is the open paddock, with no exclusivity for the sponsors who do or want to plough millions into the premier class.

At present anybody with a paddock pass can roam round as they feel free, largely populating outside Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha garage at the bigger races in Spain and Italy.

Ecclestone added: “You need to build up the major class.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt