Lucas De La Fuente interview - Argentina
Posted on December 05, 2018
Lucas De La Fuente, it is a name many might not know, but the Argentine businessman has been around the sport for many years. Working with the Everts family, both in a friendship and also in business. De La Fuente, is also a key part in the promotion of the Grand Prix of Patagonia, the opening round of the 2019 MXGP championship, and a circuit that has brought much pleasure to the riders, teams and anyone involved in this event.
Considered if not the best GP of the season, the Argentinian round is right up there with places like Matterley Basin as a piece of motocross beauty. Circled by forests and in the middle of the very beautiful Patagonia region, its little surprised that the industry is happy to be returning in 2019, as a deal was recently made with Neuquén Province to once again budget the event.
We caught up with Mr De La Fuente, and asked him his thoughts on once again being involved and the future of the event.
MXlarge: How did you get into motocross?
De La Fuente: I was a motocross rider since the same time I was doing my university studies. I somehow got to know Harry Everts in Europe and we eventually became good friends and partners. I got direct interested in the business side of the sport and saw a big potential there. Then I became good friends with Stefan, and the three together transformed the motocross school in Spain into a very successful business. At the same time we started running with Harry the 125 world Championship team for the Spanish Federation. I help Stefan dealing with some sponsors during his lasts years of racing and after I had the crazy and unexpected idea in that time, of making the deal with KTM after his retirement. On that time we were worried with Harry on how Stefan retirement will be from achieving his 10 title to a suddenly stop. That’s how the KTM deal came thought. Remember the moment I came to Pit (Beirer) with this idea at the Namur GP, he was surprised but was full gas on the idea. Next Tuesday we were sitting in Austria working on the deal. It was a successful partnership for many years and I think it helped Stefan a lot for achieving his smart retirement plan. I still have a great relationship with Harry and Stefan and will be always thankful for the experiences we went through together. Also have a huge respect for what Pit has achieved on his business roll at KTM, he has a very clever and open view of the business and he found the perfect balance between passion for the sport and business.
MXlarge: I missed the first two years of the Grand Prix in Argentina, but went last year, and I was amazing how beautiful the area and track was. The way the riders rode the track, and it was clear it was a really special place. How was that for you the first time?
De La Fuente: When we started with the idea to run it here, we struggled to find a location. As you can imagine, it is a beautiful place, but to find a space that was big enough and could hole such an event, that wasn’t easy to find. The first stage was trying to imagine that, and I had visited Grand Prix’s, so I had an idea how I wanted to do it. We pushed a lot, we had options for different places in the province, but we knew with this location, when everyone comes, they already see something special, and you start straight away with a positive vibe.
MXlarge: How was the collaboration with Greg Atkins, who built the track?
De La Fuente: We sent Youthstream an idea of what we imagined and the location, and then Greg came here to Argentina. Straight away we were from the same character, we had a good connection straight away and we worked together. I have some ideas, he has his, so we put a plan, we build the track with our crew and then Greg came again and make the necessary adjustments and we all work together. I’m a strong believer in team work, and he is definitely part of our team. Even when he stopped working for Youthstream, he was still part of our team and this will remain like this in the future. Beside this, we are good friends and we have done many other projects together this lasts years.
MXlarge: What about the difficulties of getting the event this year?
De La Fuente: This year, as you have maybe read, the country is struggling with the economy. Our currency went down compared to the US dollar or the Euro, so everything is now more expensive. So we struggled with that, but we are very lucky, because we are located on Neuquén province, were they are doing a great administration and this put this area on a good situation. We are passing through a very interesting and challenging period right now with the oil and gas resources, and the province is very strong at the moment. They saw how important the event was for the area, the huge touristic impact it has and how well it was run, so for this year’s event, they will take care of the whole budget. Neuquén takes this event very seriously, even the Governor Mr. Omar Gutierrez is very active and on top of every detail concerning the organization. It’s not that they sign the cheque and they appear the weekend of the race, they put a lot of people and resources working together as a team in order to achieve the results.
MXLarge: What I found amazing from the event, is that you arrive in this little village, which is hundreds of miles away from a big city, but you have a very large crowd attending the event.
De La Fuente: Well, Argentina is a big country. From where we are here in Patagonia, its 2500 kilometres to the north, and almost the same to the south. It is incredible, because you have people coming from everywhere, driving more than 2.000km, and you have people flying in from Buena Aires. Motocross and Enduro, you have people riding this all over the country, a lot of hobby riders and we have a lot of small motocross and endure tracks in Argentina. For our country, this is the event to attend. People plan months ahead to make the trip and you see the spectators also hang around to enjoy the area. That is why it is the correct thing to do to run the event in this tourist area. People don’t just come for the weekend, they make a week of it.
MXlarge: I was surprised last year, I was sitting in a bar in the middle of Buena Aires and the barman asked what I was doing in Argentina, and when I mentioned I was there for the motocross, he knew all about it, which surprised me, as Patagonia is a long way from the capital.
De La Fuente: Well, it was at the beginning, when we decided to plan it here, many critics said why are you running an event like that so far from a big city, because a lot of people wanted us to run it in a big city. I was always convinced, that doing it this way, and you can make an event that moves the crowd to you, and if you have the right event, then they will come. It makes the event more interesting than near a big city.
MXLarge: Like I said, when I came last year, when I arrived at the facility, and I saw the nature and how the circuit was built into the nature, I was amazed, maybe the best motocross track I had ever seen. I guess that element of having a GP in the middle of the nature was an important journey for you?
De La Fuente: Yes, exactly, that was the plan, Patagonia is all about nature. The first locations were closer to town, but I put a lot of effort to find the right location. As you could see, it turned out well, but when we first found that location, it wasn’t like it is now, we put a lot of work into getting it to look like that. We wanted it close enough to the town, but not close enough to bother the town itself, and we wanted that feeling of the natures and to show the nice things of this location.
MXLarge: How is the relationship with Youthstream in organizing these events?
De La Fuente: When you got into the paddock, it is sometimes easy to hear comments about Youthstream, this and that, but I am a person who looks at the big picture. I think, they have done an amazing job in the lasts years. If you look at it from this side (promoters side), how difficult is sometimes making a deal with just one promoter , you can imagine what a difficult thing is to organize 20 rounds, all around the World. It is massive work to get the calendar sorted out, because every country has their restrictions, resources, etc. . . . I respect a lot the work they are doing and how the World Championship had developed, it is strong on the sport side, strong on the commercial side, I wouldn’t just look at the small details, or the negative points, but look at the whole picture. I understand when teams complain about budgets , overseas costs , etc. , but for example for an overseas promoter is also difficult and much more expensive than a race in Europe , but this efforts makes it a true World Championship , it opens new markets and at the end of the cycle , it benefits manufactures , riders and the whole industry . Youthstream achieved a lot for this sport and I’m very respectful to them for that.
MXlarge: As you mentioned, the regional government have taken over the full budget for this event. What about the future of this event?
De La Fuente: Well, to be honest, when we did the first year, I never imagined doing it for five years, but we did something good in that first year. It isn’t the biggest event in the country, but it is a middle sized one, which is run perfectly. Everybody likes it, and I don’t want to say we will hold it for the next 10 years, but we did a good job and this will be the fifth year, so already it’s a good point. I think if we can still make this event, this year, in difficult times, then that is a good sign for the future.
MXlarge: I understand that you are involved in many different sporting events. I know the cost of flying to Argentina is expensive and I can imagine having two rounds in Argentina would be something many teams and riders would love. Have you ever considered running two GPs in the same period?
De La Fuente: We always talk about projects and new possibilities, but it’s not on the plans for the near future. We are very happy having the chance to open the Championship in Neuquén , so we put all the energy on this event and we are very thankful for the effort that teams , FIM , Youthstream , journalists and people from the industry do to get here .
MXlarge: Last question. You have an amazing GP track, and a great GP, but you have also been to many GPs in the past. What event is your favourite?
De La Fuente: Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin in 2006. That was super good, and from the sport side with Stefan retiring and winning on a superb way. I wasn’t planning on going and arrived late Saturday. I was so impressed. I loved that track, the layout and the huge crowd.