Valentino Rossi called him the boss, and Carmelo Ezpeleta (Barcelona, 76 years old) is still at the foot of the canyon 30 years later. Neither the pandemic nor the constant adaptation required by the new times make him think of withdrawal, quite the contrary. As CEO of Dorna, the company that recruited him in 1991 to manage the exploitation rights of the MotoGP World Championship, he is already closing the last shreds of a new agreement with DAZN for the paid retransmission of the event and presents significant changes in the format. It seeks to renew interest in motorcycle racing among the general public, especially the new generations.
Ask. It’s been two difficult years, isn’t your rope running out?
Response. Complications rather encourage me to continue. This is a way of life, I have been with Dorna for 30 years, but more than 50 since I started in this world building the Calafat circuit. If I’m in good health and I can meet the challenges, I don’t give up.
P. After the economic shock caused by covid-19, is it a miracle to continue here?
R. No, because I think we have a very good base. The pandemic also served to unite us more, get rid of laziness and move this forward.
P. Marc Marquez is back. How important is it to have him?
R. Very important, very much. Like all great championships. If Marc recovers, Bagnaia emerges and if Quartararo continues like this we can have a super title fight again.
P. This is the first season without Rossi, do you miss him?
R. The time with Rossi was extraordinary, because he also fought with others, mainly Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo. Then Márquez appeared, and now it seems that people forget that Quartararo, as young as he is, is already a Knight of the Legion of Honor in a whole country like France. In any case, what we like is to see equality. At the Aragón GP last Sunday the top 10 were within three tenths of a second in the standings. This is how racing should be.
P. Sprint races herald a change of era, why has this decision been made?
R. We have always felt the need to improve. We have noticed that on Saturdays the circuits are not as full as they could be. There are two main objectives: first, to provide more shows on Saturday afternoons to circuits and television stations; second, to do an activation between the pilots and the fans on Sundays.
P. The pilots complained that they were barely informed about the matter. Shouldn’t they be more involved in decisions of this caliber?
R. It doesn’t hurt to say it, we programmed it wrong. We thought that the manufacturers and the teams would have informed the drivers, because we had been discussing it for two weeks. The mistake was that some riders found out about it through the press, and that makes us feel bad and we admit it. Then all the details were discussed and, for example, we did not plan to hold any warm up [calentamiento] before the races, but after talking about it we have looked for a way.
P. The World Cup is close and there is a lot of equality, but it has been a year since anyone won with an overtake on the last lap. What else can be done to improve the show?
R. I have been told many times. It is irrelevant. When they said this a few months ago, how many did Aleix Espargaró overtake in Assen? So they said, “yes, but it’s not on the last lap”. Well look, that’s because he broke up with the group. In the last corner he overtook two riders to be fourth… The show is more than assured.
P. Does the technological race benefit the show?
R. I don’t like to have the rules changed in the middle of the game if everyone doesn’t agree. Last year an agreement was signed with the factories for the technical and sports regulations, and it cannot be changed if there is no consensus.
P. Suzuki left. Are you already talking to a new factory?
R. No. Our ideal number of participants would be 20 (in 2022 there are 24 and in 2023 there will be 22). Unless a real factory arrives in good condition, we are not going to change the format.
P. How many races a year does Dorna want to consolidate on the calendar?
R. The maximum number agreed is 22, and we would like to reach them in this legislature. We are talking to many countries, including India and Saudi Arabia. Fortunately, there is much more demand than supply and, for this reason, we signed rotation contracts with some European races.
P. Is it worth going to countries that violate human rights?
R. We have been in Qatar for years, and I don’t want to take credit for it, but in these matters the country is much better now than it was 20 years ago. This is a first path, opening things allows you to improve.
P. One of the announced objectives is the desire to attract more female audiences. What measures are being studied?
R. It is not necessary to dedicate a show to women, it goes more along the path of participation. Today’s football has a larger component of women and so does Formula 1. Motorcycles are and should be of general interest. Fortunately, the number of women working in the paddock It has no point of comparison with the past.
P. But pilots are missing…
R. Here the mother of the lamb is competition. If you succeed you stay; and if not, you fall, whether you are a man or a woman. For me the solution does not go through exclusively female competitions. I am sure that María Herrera is as strong as her rivals and she can compete here. What happens is that many fewer girls start when they are little, but it is something that we try to work on in our promotional championships. To be clear, I give tremendous credit to the title of Ana Carrasco and the achievements of Laia Sanz or Cristina Gutiérrez. There is no reason to differentiate them from men. Michèle Mouton was runner-up in the world of rally in 1982 competing against the Flying Finns.
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