David Luongo interview - 2019
Posted on July 11, 2018
The sport is in good hands and the development of the European based riders has clearly improved since 2004, when Youthstream took over. Not surprisingly the development has also seen domination by Europe at the MXoN in recent years and it isn’t surprising that a former World MX2 champion, Marvin Musquin is currently leading the AMA 450 Nationals and Jeffrey Herlings dominated the American based riders when he visited in 2018.
We caught up with Youthstream Vice President, David Luongo to talk about the World of MXGP, from the Indonesia races these last two weeks, and also the 2019 calendar. It is a calendar with some new places, like China and Hong Kong, and also possibly new tracks in Indonesia and Argentina in 2019.
While some say coming to Indonesia is a waste of time, those people really don’t understand the development that goes into the sport, behind the scenes and what Youthstream are really trying to achieve, both with the events and the improvement of the Asian riders.
MXlarge: First I want to talk to you about the calendar. It’s a nice calendar with some good countries and circuits. The first round, I know your dad mentioned to me the middle east. Can you tell me more about that?
Luongo: I can not say the location, but it should be middle east yes.
MXlarge: We just had two in Indonesia, and it always amazes me how you can organize two in such a country. How is that organized?
Luongo: We have different ways, but when we talk about Indonesia, it’s a big market, and the fourth biggest country in the World, with around 260,000,000 people. We received huge requests from Indonesia, working with their federation, and the local promoter. They contacted us last year for the first one, and then there was so much interest from other cities, that we decided to go to two locations. In our mind it was very possible to have two in Indonesia.
MXlarge: The first one in Indonesia this year was a success after last year being ruined by bad weather, and because it was dry, and the racing was really exciting, but I think what people miss, and I know you talked to Lewis at mxvice about it, about the beautiful people on that island and the experience for everyone. You can’t really capture that experience and show everyone how enjoyable it is.
Luongo: People who don’t travel, don’t really understand how popular our sport is outside of Europe, but it isn’t just in Indonesia, it is also in South America, when we come here, the people are like virgin fans, they are so happy to see the best riders in the world, and they are so happy to see the tourists and this experience is unique, we don’t have this anywhere in Europe. In the city here, I never saw so many people excited for this. The promotion for this event in Semarang, I have never seen this type of promotion in Europe, but we want this. It is a huge investment in time and people to make the track and the paddock and you have to respect these organizers outside of Europe.
MXLarge: Indonesia is a country you have been dealing with for some time, and finally we go there. Can you tell me why it was possibly to organize this race now?
Luongo: Sometimes it is the timing. We had the races in Thailand, and we met them in Thailand. They came two years to Thailand and of course Indonesia had run GP in the 1990s and we talked to their president of the federation and they were so proud being the GP back to Indonesia.
MXlarge: China and Hong Kong in the same year. To have one of these countries involved is very special, but to have both in the same year, and their first involvement with motocross, this is very special. Can you explain how that happened?
Luongo: Again, it was the timing. The MXGP series is having one of the best moments in its history and we have a huge request from Asia. Many countries want a race, and we talk about Indonesia, but at the race in Semarang we had four different majors from four different cities in Indonesia that want a Grand Prix, and we won’t have six rounds in Indonesia, but the interest is really big here. China was the same, we had talked to a lot of promoters from China, but it was all about the timing. It is so popular and an organizer from Shanghai, is also the owner of Just One helmet, so they really want to develop the industry and the fans and the sport in China, and the other one is in Hong Kong, so a different organizer. This one will be run in one of the best spots in the world. Hong Kong can be like Monaco or something like that.
MXlarge: I understood the Hong Kong GP might be run in the city center?
Luongo: It is not known for sure, but there is a big chance if will be in the city, the city of Hong Kong. The set-up will be a bit like in Switzerland, to find a nice place. If it is in the countryside it will be a different plan.
MXlarge: You mentioned that four majors were in Semarang, is it possible we change the venues in Indonesia each year, like you do in France with Ernee and St Jean?
Luongo: Depends on the project. When you come to Semarang and you see the project and you see the infrastructure, then you want to come back. On that it is more on the decision of the federation, which city is the best place to have the Grand Prix.
MXlarge: The fee the countries pay to hold a race, how is that done? The amount I mean.
Luongo: I can talk in general, but I can’t go into detail. The GP has to cover the Youthstream expenses, and the fee is higher when we go overseas, because for sure we have a lot of cost with transport. The marketing and right of the world championship is from Youthstream, so we need to find an agreement with the organizer because of this.
MXlarge: What about the rest of the calendar, Argentina might move from its current location and move north of Buenos Aires, which might be easier to get to for the teams. Can you talk about this?
Luongo: This is always the provisional calendar is to show the base of the calendar, but sure some things can change. We don’t know if the organizer wants to stay in Patagonia, or he wants to go to Cordoba. What we are sure about is the number of races that we will have, and that will be 20.
MXlarge: A couple of things I wanted to ask you about, and that is the new deal with FIM and also Monster Energy, from what I understand both are long term deals?
Luongo: We are still in discussion and also with Monster we are in a time to extend the partnership, and it is looking very positive.
MXlarge: I know I have asked you before, about your roll at Youthstream. I know whenever I interview your dad, he is very passionate and talks a lot about the sport. You seem more relaxed and direct with your answers. You seem to really enjoy the experience and are learning a lot. When you speak you have a good speaking voice and get your message across well. Did you learn that from school, or from your father?
Luongo: Its straight to the point. I like to make things simple and I don’t like the complication of going left and right and I like to go straight, so maybe I talk more direct and get to the point. I try to be structured and we are not in mathematics and its sport and it has to be easy.
MXlarge: The overseas races, will they remain at the maximum of what you now have, or will you go for more overseas in the future? Maybe Japan or Australia?
Luongo: We have a lot of interest and this is really positive for the sport. When we took over the right for the sport in 2004, there were 13 races on the calendar. Today we have 20 and 25 or 26 requests and we know the limit of our sport and we know we are developing the sport well. We also know that 20 races are the good number. Six overseas is a good number, and the fact, we have a good balance, 14 in Europe, and six overseas, covering the biggest markets. We would like to go to Australia, we would like to go to Japan and we are talking with them, but it is a long process, just like it was with Indonesia.
MXlarge: Maybe Australia lacks the funding?
Luongo: It is with Kevin Williams (who ran two GPs at Broadford many years ago), we talk with him for years now and we need to find the good timing for this country.
MXlarge: And talks with any other exotic countries?
Luongo: No, now it is Asia, different countries were in Indonesia looking, when we were in Argentina we also talked to Chile and Brazil. So, many different places are interested and now it is up to us to make the right deal and make sure we develop the sport. We have to develop MXGP even more.
MXlarge: The way MXGP is promoted, with all the exposure from MXGP.tv, it is very well done.
Luongo: For the motocross fan, it is very exciting. Nine hours of motocross per weekend, so it is a good product. The television staff, Paul Malin and Lisa, it’s a great product and in the last four years we have a 24% increase per subscriber. It is very good, and it is the future. I don’t have kids, but all my friends that have kids are watching sport all day long on their computer.
MXlarge: Talking about the pyramid that your father talks about, starting with the Academy, the EMX, MX2 and MXGP. It seems that this is working really well in developing the riders.
Luongo: We have one of the most beautiful seasons ever, the level and the speed our guys have is crazy, but this is also part of the pyramid, and the different tracks we have all around the World. We have tracks with sand, hard ground, big jumps and the riders improve their skills.
MXlarge: One thing that seems to be really improving is the Academy. I have spoken to the Martin and Jan who organize it, and they mentioned there will be big news soon about it, and it is something that seems to really have a great impact on the sport. Can you tell me more about this?
Luongo: This was a full cost investment from Youthstream, and we don’t get anything from that financially. It is a process that will develop the trainer and the riders, and it is something that we started four years ago and now we start to see the fruits of this. Martin, John and Jan go to all the countries and check the riders and to see if it is working well. And the good result of that is that Indonesia want to create an academy and improve the riders there. They will also send riders to Europe, and we want to develop this in virgin countries like Indonesia. It is a long-term vision. 20 years ago it was Belgian, Italian, English and French riders, now we have a Latvian world champion, and when you see the classification for the EMX, in 125, at one race we had 14 nationalities in the top 15, and also in MXGP we have many nationalities. That is because we are developing the young riders from many countries and the EMX is important for this, but also the Academy is important for this.