Giuseppe Luongo interview - Change
Posted on March 20, 2023
With the opening round of the MXGP championship run last weekend in Argentina being a huge success, I thought it might be a good idea to catch up with Infront Moto Racing President Giuseppe Luongo and ask a few questions about the many changes made for the 2023 season.
Firstly, applaud to the riders, teams and promoters for this MXGP of Argentina, because it was as always sensational. Huge crowds, exciting racing and as always in Argentina, just a brilliant vibe.
For those not able to be there, the Worldwide television coverage of MXGP is larger than any other series in our sport, be you living in Australia, Asia, America, South Africa or any other motocross country, you can either watch it on television or on the MXGP live stream. Unmatched coverage with the educated voice of Paul Malin giving us brilliant inside information.
With a new points system for the Saturday (of which I love as did Jorge Prado the first winner of that race), the very well received introduction of wild-card riders, making sure we have full gates for many of the rounds this year and it also offers some riders the chance to show their skills to the factory teams without having to fork out a lot of money.
Then of course the Saturday Paddock Show, which will be presented for the first time by Francis Magnanou in Sardinia next weekend. Francis is very well known to the motocross fans as he is not only he voice of the Paris supercross, but also one of the most experienced announcers in the sport. He will also have a large number of guests from the motocross World, so that is an exciting new aspect for the sport.
Of course the Saturday Studio Show presented by former GP and MXoN winner Paul Malin will continue to have a long list of guests like legends Stefan Everts, Joel Smets, Antonio Cairoli, present riders like Jeffrey Herlings, Tim Gajser and Jago Geerts will also continue to be heard and Infront also have many other ideas throughout the season to keep the series fresh and exciting. Invited guest from America, Australia and many other countries around the World will also join Paul on a regular occasion. Below is the interview with Mr Luongo.
MXlarge: Obviously a new year and a great start in Argentina. As always the huge crowd arrived and the best motocross riders in the World got to show their skills. What were some of the highlights for you from last weekend?
Luongo: Yes, it was a great start. It was a very big success, many spectators and great racing. The political authorities present were very happy and the highlight is that they confirmed that they would like to continue with the event in Argentina for many more years to come.
MXlarge: We saw a full gate for both MX2 and MXGP with a large number of South American riders appearing. Some were very fast, some not so much, but it was really nice to see them involved. I was told that the cost for the wild cards was 300euro and for that they also got three paddock passes. Firstly, is that true and also a question about why you think gates have been down in many of the major championships, like in Australia and Great Britain?
Luongo: We have made several changes which were necessary to give more appeal for the participants and for the public. Everything in life has to evolve, and it’s our duty to make the Championship evolve with the times. It’s normal many Championships are suffering from the difficult economical moment around the world because we don’t have to forget that not long ago we have come out of a pandemic which effected the whole world, and the occidental world is involved in a war which is bringing very high inflation and other increases in costs. So, clearly when you look at the global situation, especially in the Western world, it’s very difficult, but thank goodness for the World Championship there are other continents where the economy continues to grow and who provide good hope for the future.
MXlarge: What was your opinion of the new wild-card riders and what impressed you about this new concept?
Luongo: The idea of the wildcard riders, as shown in Argentina, was successful. Now we will see with the next races in Europe, but I think it will also be successful as it will bring more tough racing and also the fact of having a good start will become even more important.
MXlarge: Speaking to somebody from Infront on the weekend I was told that maximum entries for Wild card riders and regular riders would be 52. Can you confirm this?
Luongo: This can be even more because it depends how many permanent riders there will be at every race, but frankly I don’t think at this moment in the world there are more than 50 riders who can race at MXGP level.
MXlarge: Points for the MXGP and MX2 qualification. I have to admit, I was a little confused by the points and it will take some time to get used to. I am sure making this decision wasn't easy, as you are very strong on keeping the tradition of the sport, so this was a big change in some ways. What did you think of the first time this new system was used and why did you make these changes?
Luongo: It’s actually not very difficult to understand, maybe it has not been explained well enough: - Saturday’s qualifying race points only count for the World Championship classification. - Sunday’s MXGP and MX2 race points count for the World Championship classification and for the Grand Prix result. So it’s very easy, and the people who mix this up are creating the confusion. It’s very important to keep the roots and tradition of the sport, we just made a small evolution which was necessary for the growth of the sport, but we keep the principles of the sport which is the format of 2 races, the public in the paddock, two days format and keeping the stars close to the fans.
MXLarge: There will be a Saturday paddock show as of Sardinia. I heard it was the idea of Jeremy Seewer. Is that correct and also can you give more details about this and what you hope it does for the weekend?
Luongo: I don’t know if this idea came from Jeremy Seewer, but it was discussed and agreed in the meeting with the manufacturers where everyone agreed to keep the fans as close as possible to the riders, and we agreed to try to make more animation in the paddock. Next weekend we will see it in action, but the goal is that after the qualifying race to bring the top three from each MXGP and MX2 and some other invited riders also from the European Championships together with some guests and with the presenter, Francis Magnanou, to have interaction with the public, naturally with animation, music, etc. The fans will love it, and I believe the riders too.
MXLarge: I am not sure if I am correct, but from watching many different series in our sport, I would think the MXGP television coverage, worldwide is the best and biggest package in the sport? We always see the large number of countries able to watch MXGP and I know from experience, often sitting in a bar on a race weekend, be it in Europe, Australia or Asia, we see MXGP on television. How tough is it to get so many television stations involved and is there anything you want added in the future to make it even more impressive?
Luongo: From the first race I organised in 1983 I always thought that every sport for who does it and for who follows it are the best, everybody thinks their own sport is the best, which is right for each of us, but in terms of business value; the business value of each sport is different and it’s made based on the media and especially TV coverage of each sport which gives visibility and as consequence business value to the sport.
A sport without media and TV coverage may be a great sport for those who love it but it has zero commercial value, so by understanding that and keeping that in mind from the beginning of my career we have always given the maximum effort and investment to bring the most possible media and TV coverage to the Motocross World Championship, and we have succeeded quite well.
In the first contract with FIM, the FIM required us, as promoter, to have at least 10 minutes of highlights coverage per Grand Prix event (so this shows that there was no TV coverage), today there are hundreds of hours of TV coverage worldwide, we have live / delayed and highlights in every continent, and we were the first World Championship sport who had live-streaming already since more than 10 years ago - with this our goal was to give the possibility to every Motocross fans in the world to follow our championships, and today MXGP-TV.com has become an essential tool for everyone, not only for the fans but also for the industry and other media.
Again, to reach this level has cost us a lot of work and a lot of financial investment, because the revenue does not cover 25% of the whole costs we have for the TV, but we see it as an essential part of the success of the World and European MX Championships. Thanks to this high TV and media coverage and high business value the professional riders today make 10 times more than the professional riders of 15 years ago, and between the various championships today there are more than 50 professional riders who earn well their living thanks to Motocross, 15 years ago there were less than half.
The same is for the media and all the other people involved in the Motocross World and European Championships. Just to give you an idea: in 2004 the passes we gave for the professional people working in the paddock (teams, media, industry, sponsors) was roughly 800 and today this number is between 2500 and 3000 per Grand Prix event. And I talk to you about statistics and numbers, not opinions.
MXLarge: With Paul Malin I feel we have the best motocross voice in the sport. In the past Paul has also done the Studio Show on Saturday and also his track walk. Obviously we have the Saturday Show in the paddock on Saturday evening now, but will we see any changes to the broadcast in 2023 or the near future? Will we again see people like Jason Thomas join Paul, or maybe other people?
Luongo: Paul is fantastic and it’s obvious his passion for Motocross is fully intact. With his knowledge and speech capabilities he brings extra value to the live broadcast. For sure we will continue to have other guests to give the maximum information to our fans who follow from around the world. The drone has increased the quality of the broadcast and offers the fans a better view of the whole track, but our desire remains to have the live onboard camera and we are working very hard to find the solution based on the technology and naturally on the safety, I am hoping we will succeed with this very soon.