Five Questions With Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO Dorna Sports

A conversation with the most important person in international motorcycle roadracing.

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO Dorna Sports
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO Dorna Sports (Left)MotoGP

Grand Prix Motorcycle roadracing has weathered many storms during the past quarter century, somehow standing tall, even flourishing, while often unpredictable circumstances threatened to alter its course. From the beginning, Carmelo Ezpeleta has stood at the helm—first as Dorna managing director, now CEO—routinely, methodically steering the world championship through uncharted waters. Prior to the final round of the series last fall in Valencia, Spain, I interviewed Ezpeleta at his office in the MotoGP paddock.

1. For the first time in the history of the premier class, there were nine different race winners in a single season. How do you explain this extraordinary development?
First of all, the results of the races could be whatever. We were lucky to have nine different winners. In any case, what is clear is that the class is very competitive. The technical changes we have made are part of that, especially the ECU and tires.

We started this process many years ago when we came back to 1,000cc. With engines coming from production bikes, CRT [Claiming Rule Teams] was a step, a solution for many of the teams that were suffering in a moment of crisis to have a possibility to participate.

When the manufacturers realized that CRT was working, they created the Open class—Honda made five bikes, Ducati created something, and Yamaha leased engines. The last step was when we were able to convince everybody to approve the ECU.

We had nine different winners, but, most importantly, some came from private teams for the first time in many years. Jack Miller’s victory in Assen was a very strange race, but in the end, there was the possibility to win.

2. FIM and Dorna have announced the World Supersport 300 Championship for 2017. What is the future for racing: production or prototype?
For most national championships, the route is for production-based racing classes. We run World Superbike, clearly a championship for production-derived bikes, and we saw that the factories introduced a smaller-capacity bike, so we included it.

There is a prototype route—Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP—through some championships like CEV in Spain, and now we think having 300, 600, and Superbike is the way in other markets.

In America, 300 is a class that manufacturers are selling to people, and it is cheaper than Moto3. Each market has its route, and we are working as much as we can to help MotoAmerica. We need to see the results and try to improve.

3. America has produced many world champions. Does MotoAmerica, led by Wayne Rainey, provide a clear path to the world championships?
For me, it is clear: For many years, even before we were established in 1992, to be 500cc world champion, which was the top class at that time, you needed to be an American, with some Australians.

This was because the AMA Superbike championship was producing a lot of people. For many reasons too complicated to discuss here, AMA Superbike disappeared. This has created a big problem. We need to rebuild all of these things.

I am in close contact with Wayne. We try to help MotoAmerica as much as we can with televisions rights and other things like that. If there are possibilities for riders, I think the way to do it is through MotoAmerica.

In the future, we need to do something similar in America to what we are doing in World Supersport 300. After we start here, we will see the result. Maybe, together with Wayne, we will try to do something for very young people.

4. Dorna and Valentino Rossi have grown up together. How important is this relationship to MotoGP?
Our relationship with Valentino has been very good, almost from the beginning. Valentino has done many things for us. What happens when Valentino retires? First, I think Valentino will not retire.

For sure, Valentino will be retired from racing, but he has shown that he wants to stay here. He has created the VR46 Academy, and this year he will have a Moto2 team. In the future, I think this will continue.

People who have been fans of Valentino now follow riders from his academy. Many of those people—maybe not 100 percent but many of them—have discovered motorcycle racing, and I think it will be difficult for these people to leave.

5. MotoGP now enjoys a powerful worldwide fan base. What are the areas for growth in the next 25 years?
During these past 25 years, almost 50 percent of the champions in the three categories have been Italian and Spanish. For me, the goal—and we are doing everything in this matter—is to help people from Asia and recover Americans. This is the goal for the near future.

America is so big. Even if we are not the most popular sport in America, I’m sure there are more American MotoGP fans than there are Spanish. The passion may be less, but the numbers are bigger. We need to do more to persuade these people.

We are now doing the Asia Talent Cup. We will also do a British Cup. My intention is to probably have something similar in America. In the future, I am sure we will have enough resources to do this.