At this week’s Ducati Wrooom event, motogp.com caught up with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to discuss the MotoGP™ season ahead.
Given our work on MotoGP projects, including our new partnership with Racing Steps Foundation and British Moto3 rider John McPhee and our own MotoGP webzines and Connected TV products, we thought it would make sense to share this interview from an “industry” perspective as much as one of our simply being great fans of the sport. MotoGP is in the middle of going through great changes and – as commercial rights holder to the sport – it’s always interesting to know how Dorna (and Ezpeleta) view things…
Looking at the season ahead there are some big line-up changes in MotoGP. What do you make of the new faces coming in and the rider switches?
In principal in 2013 we’ll have changes, but not big changes. These changes will come in the 2014 season. This year the most important changes have been between the different compositions of the teams. Andrea [Dovizioso] coming to Ducati; the decision of Ducati to have four riders to work on the development of the bike; of course Valentino going back to Yamaha, and Márquez entering in MotoGP to cover the loss of Casey [Stoner]. These are the most important changes of the future, and the use of five engines instead of six, but this is not the big change. The big changes will come from 2014.
From a racing perspective, with the riders that have now changed teams, how excited are you about the on-track racing this season. Do you think it’s going to be a bit closer than last year?
It is our obligation to think that the next season will be better than the previous one. Obviously always during the season crashes and other problems with the engine or whatever occur, but I definitely think it will be a good start. I’m sure that the championship will be very exciting.
We have a new qualifying format coming in. Can you explain how that’s going to work and why you brought it in?
We did that in principle to make the championship more spectacular; to give the season a more exciting Saturday for the spectators. During the weekend the free practice, which until now were “unofficial practices”, will count to have a place in the first 12 or not. And if somebody makes a mistake he needs to qualify in the Q1 to make it to the Q2, and this is something we think will be exciting and good for the show.
We have a new race coming up in Texas. How important is it for MotoGP to keep adding new racetracks to the calendar, and do you think Texas is going to be a big hit with the fans and the riders?
The States is a very important country for everything. Also during the last Formula 1 Grand Prix in Texas it was really amazing, fantastic. The racetrack is amazing, and also the attendance of the circuit in the first race was very good. I have been meeting with the people of Texas the day before yesterday in Madrid. They are so committed to do the best they can do to make this even a great success.
This is now the second year for the CRT class, and this year they have the option for the new ECU (Magneti Marelli). Do you think they will be challenging the prototype bikes this year, and how important is that as a foundation for 2014?
In our opinion CRT has been a big success for 2012. I know that this is in wet conditions…but in any case, a CRT was leading the Valencia Grand Prix during many laps. This season is very important, and the bikes are not very far away. Theoretically the riders that are using the CRT are not the top riders, and I want to see…though this is impossible…if any of the top riders would use a CRT, I don’t know how big the difference would be. But this has been a very important solution. This season they will have some improvement in the tyres, but also we will develop together with Marelli and some of them the new ECU that will be compulsory in 2014 for the non-factory teams. This gives us a big expectation.
Not thinking as “Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO”, but as Carmelo the Race Fan, what are you most looking forward to this season?
Well, I cannot separate being managing director of Dorna and a fan. Also, for me, it is a necessity to be a fan of MotoGP and motorsport to be member of the board of directors of Dorna. But what I am expecting is exactly what I have been expecting over the last 21 seasons…a safe season, this is the most important. Not to have crashes, or if there are crashes to not have problems with the riders. And I hope for as much success we have had with the two big changes, which has first been Moto2 and then Moto3. This has been an incredible success, and I’m sure this will come in MotoGP as well this year.