Giuseppe Luongo interview - These Times

Posted on September 23, 2020

Here we are heading into the ninth, tenth and 11th rounds of the 2020 MXGP and MX2 championships this weekend in Mantova and to be honest, there was a period back in April when many thought the series was finished after those first two rounds in England and Holland. 

Due to hard work from Infront and an amazing attitude from the teams, riders, sponsors, media, fans and other industry people, we are able to enjoy motocross again, even in these tough times.

Yesterday we caught up with Infront Moto Racing President Giuseppe Luongo about the championship so far and what he expects from the coming months and next year.

MXLarge: It has been a tough year, and obviously we are all grateful Infront have been able to get the season not only underway again, but really made it a special championship under the circumstances. What has been the toughest thing to deal with since we returned in Latvia a month or so ago?

Luongo: The most difficult is having to deal with uncertainty every day because all plans and agreements you make one day can change the next.  We are in close contact with political and medical authorities everywhere, we fulfil the protocol and naturally we respect all the restrictions which are forever changing, but the problem is that these rules change frequently and differently for each country and naturally we have to adapt, and this makes things very complicated as it’s very difficult to plan anything.  Clearly the biggest difficulty is the finance because making events without spectators cannot financially stay up.

MXLarge: Both Latvia and Faenza gave us these special three races in a week and made the championship very tough. What have you enjoyed most from watching these triple headers and would it be possible in the future to maybe have a week of Motocross, with a festival feel with three GPs in a week?

Luongo: The racing was fantastic and the show on TV was , and with the great images of the racing and the noise of the bikes when you watch it on TV you don’t realise there were no spectators and you forget all the problem. The racing was really unbelievable, each podium was very different, and the Championships are very open, this is great for the up-and-coming races.  Even if the triple headers are very nice but I have some doubt that financially they can be viable (in the future) because 3 events at the same venue will cost us and the local organizer like 3 events, but I don’t think we will have 3 times the spectators. In principle we are open to all new ideas but once things return to the normal running of the Championship everything will return back to normal also because we have every year more organisers than the maximum number of events on the calendar.

MXlarge: Many people have enjoyed the one-day format, but I do understand Saturday racing is good for the crowds and crowds on Saturday are good for the promoters. However, have you though at all about any changes in the 2021 schedule due to the positive talk about Sunday only racing?

Luongo: When things return to normal, the normal format will return.  Saturday is very important for the local organisers and the for TV, and even if the MXGP and MX2 riders don’t realise it but it’s much better for them also because they have time to see the track better and to set-up their bike.  Sunday is also very important for the European Championship and for the Women World Championship riders to have at least their 2nd race in front of the big crowd, it’s necessary for their own skills and for their sponsors.  Keeping the weekend format is also it’s a question of image; MXGP is the greatest off-road sport and like MotoGP for road race and Formula 1 for cars it’s important to race over the whole weekend, it’s the same for the Motocross fans who like to come from the Saturday to visit the paddock, have the chance to cross their idle, if there was only Sunday racing this would almost be impossible because the riders would come 1 hour before the practise, then they would be too busy and then they would go home immediately after the races.  Our sport lives thanks to the fans and the thousands of amateur riders and we need to give them the big respect they deserve and to take care of them.

MXlarge: Obviously not having crowds has been tough and even some rounds where crowds were allowed it was a small attendance. Did you expect this, or had you hoped that it would be easier to attract?

Luongo: We had been allowed 3,000 spectators in Latvia, and we had them on the Sundays.  In Faenza we were only allowed 1,000 for the last Sunday, and nothing for the events before.  What we see is that on the Sundays (and for Latvia also the Wednesday) we reached the numbers that were allowed, but not on the Saturdays.  The problem is that some people are scared about the virus, some about the complications of travel, some about the limited number of spectators (to come and not be able to get a ticket).  Concerning spectators and travel, it is a very difficult moment, and we thank those spectators who did make the effort to come and we hope they enjoyed the races.

MXlarge: No doubt, Infront is a business and all business try and succeed under whatever the conditions. What are the positives for Infront to come out of these tough times?

Luongo: The positive is that thanks to everyone’s great work we have managed to save the championship and once the pandemic is over, we are ready on the front line to start with the gas wide open.  But clearly this year from a financial point of view it’s a catastrophe, financially it would have been better to stop everything after the 2 first events, but if we had chosen to do this many teams would have closed, many riders, mechanics and staff would have lost their salaries, so therefore this year IMR’s first objective was to save the Championship and the people who work there, but clearly this cannot continue forever.

MXLarge: The coronavirus cases continue to rise in Europe. Do you feel as though the calendar will have to change again, or are you confident the last change of Argentina being postponed will be the final change?

Luongo: This is a good question; I will feel positive about the 2020 calendar on the 8th of November 2020.  At the moment I am answering your question I can say that everything is confirmed; before we spoke every three or four days with organisers and political and medical authorities in every country, now we do this every day, and today I am able to confirm all the events in Mantova, Spain, Belgium and Trentino, but frankly I don’t know what next week will hold for us.  I can assure you that working like this is very frustrating and it is for everyone, but it’s the only way to go on and it is like this that we will go on and we will fight to make the Championship strong and credible as it is until the last event.

MXlarge: Antonio Cairoli continued to amaze us. Just when you think the younger riders have his number, he shows us again what a legend he is. You have seen them all, from the 1970s until now. What can you say about Tony to the past greats?

Luongo: You know, it’s very easy to talk about how great Tony is, his career and his results talk alone.  Tony is a fighter and he will never give up until the end, he is very clever on the bike, and he is the without any doubt the rider with the most experience and you see race by race he compensates his age and some little injuries he has with his experience, intelligence and wisdom on the bike, it will be very interesting and it would be great for Tony if he were able to win his tenth title which will bring him to have the same number as Everts (but more titles in the major class), but whatever he does, if he wins or not, it’s out of any doubt that Tony is by far one of the greatest riders in the history of Motocross and he is a great example for many kids who love our sport.  it’s complicated to say now if he will succeed with his ten titles or not because the classification is very tight, practically there are 7 riders within 50 points, and all are very fast and capable of winning.

MXLarge: The unfortunate injury to Jeffrey. Again, some bad luck for the young Dutchman. Again, a great rider with four World titles and 90 GP wins. Can you also give your opinion of him and the situation? 

Luongo: It’s complicated to talk about Jeffrey, because Jeffrey is everything, in my opinion he is the most determined and fastest rider I have seen in the 40 years of my career, and when he goes fast nobody can stop him, maybe only Jeffrey can stop him.  But sometimes there is a combination of silly mistakes and bad luck because if you see in his young age, he has won 4 World Championship titles and he has lost at least another 4 due to this.  One year he crashed with an 85cc, another time on the sighting, and now in the free practise, therefore as I say its’ complicated because when he’s focused and is going fast (and when he goes fast he goes unbelievable fast) everything’s looks to be under control, then in situations where he is going slower to check the track or something else the problems come.  So, I don’t know if it’s just bad luck, a lack of concentration or a combination of both.  I have a lot of respect for Jeffrey for his riding and also for his behaviour and I really hope he returns as soon as possible in good health, because with his young age he still has a lot of records to break.

MXLarge: 2021, what can we expect and has the damage of 2020 caused some minor changes to next year, or is its full speed ahead?

Luongo: 2021 depends on the Coronavirus.  We are ready for 2021 to go full speed ahead, but we need to see what is happening and what we are allowed to do.

MXlarge: Of course, this is a difficult question, but do we have any new news on 2021 as far as new countries or new circuits?

Luongo: As I said above, if the situation returns to normal, 2021 will be a full calendar with 14 races in Europe and 6 overseas, we have the confirmation of all the organisers plus we have another 2 or 3 new which we are in close negotiation.  But everything depends on the evolution of the COVID/19 over the next few months.

MXlarge: I know you have huge respect for the paddock people and their efforts in 2020. We owe Infront a big thanks, but also a lot of other people.

Luongo: Last but not least, allow me to thank all the manufacturers, the teams and riders and everyone involved in the paddock for their full support and the respect of all the new protocols, I know it’s very difficult for everyone to work under these conditions, but everyone has played the game and thanks to this behaviour we will be able to finish the Championship and naturally I would like to thank the FIM staff, the organisers’ staff and our staff involved at the events for making a wonderful job under very difficult conditions.