Liberty Media: The model that relaunched Formula 1 seeks a replica in MotoGP | Motorcycling | Sports


When Liberty Media bought Formula 1 in 2016, it spent a total of 7.1 billion euros. Currently, the magazine Forbes He estimates that the value of the championship doubles that figure less than a decade after the purchase. The success of the American company, with the numbers in hand, is overwhelming, and the acquisition of MotoGP for 4.2 billion euros now seeks to replicate the same model in the highest category of two wheels.

According to the joint official statement from Liberty and Dorna, a Spanish company that has exploited the commercial and television rights to the motorcycle world championship since 1991, little will change for now in the company’s organizational chart. Carmelo Ezpeleta will continue to lead the event’s management company, which will maintain its independent status within the American conglomerate. “This is the ideal next step for the evolution of MotoGP,” comments the head of the event. “We couldn’t wish for a better partner to expand our fan base around the world,” he adds in the note. The agreement, which had been in the kitchen for months and requires approval from antitrust bodies, allows MotoGP management to consolidate a long-defined route.

With recent changes in the sport, such as the introduction of racing to sprint on Saturdays, MotoGP has been seeking to improve the spectacle for a couple of years by further increasing the competitive tension. Engaging a new batch of young fans, in addition to redoubling the commitment to improving its reach in the United States, have been the two priorities of the championship management after overcoming the financial challenge imposed by the pandemic. “Carmelo and his management team have built a great sports spectacle that we can bring to a broader audience,” says Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media.

The alliance between Liberty and Dorna – which will maintain 14% of its shares –, as indicated by all the actors involved, fits perfectly for both companies. The success of Drive to Survivethe Netflix series that opened wide the doors of F1 to a new audience, wanted to be replicated by MotoGP executives with a failed series, MotoGP Unlimited, on Amazon. Despite the disappointment, the Anglo-Saxon accent in the championship has continued to increase with the hiring of Dan Rossmondo, former NBA manager, as the competition’s commercial director just a year ago. This year, the Trackhouse team, owned by singer Pitbull, has returned the colors of the American flag to the asphalt in alliance with Aprilia. The announcement of the sales agreement comes precisely two weeks before the World Cup lands in Austin, Texas, the only stop in the United States since 2013.

David Hill, advisor to Formula 1 broadcasts since 2017 and right-hand man of media magnate Rupert Murdoch, summarizes in the book The Formula the paradigm shift that has turned the four-wheeled category into the fastest growing sport in the last decade. “The job of the production teams had been to chase the cars around the track, but the stars are the drivers, not the cars,” he says of the guidelines he recommended to transform the sport into a kind of reality television. Rossmondo expressed himself along the same lines during his introduction to the universe of motorcycles: “MotoGP is a global sport that combines technological innovation with the skill, physique and talent of the riders. “They are the real heroes of the show.”

Although the new calendar has pushed runners to their limits, they have largely accepted and assumed the physical and mental demands in order to redirect their sport. MotoGP, increasingly blended with Formula 1, a closed and exclusive circus where technology defines results even above talent, has seen how the proliferation of electronics and aerodynamics has completely transformed its prototypes, now closer to a NASA aircraft than a street motorcycle. The protagonists, without any say in the development of the championship, resign themselves for now without being as forceful as Max Verstappen, very critical after the landing of F1 in Las Vegas last year. “99 percent entertainment, one percent racing,” the three-time world champion urged the organizers. “I hate this direction and the rules that allow it. We look like Formula 1. We have more and more aerodynamics and I don’t like it, but we have to adapt,” declared Marc Márquez, eight-time world champion, during the tests prior to the start of the current season.

A year ago, Ezpeleta summarized Dorna’s future plans regarding the MotoGP World Championship in three points. “Fresh ideas, greater scope and a commitment to take the sport to new heights,” said the veteran Barcelona executive, who has been leading the event for more than three decades. In 2024, when the 75th anniversary of the world championship is celebrated, the World Championship has more stops (21) and races (42) than ever in its history, and equality on the track is greater than ever despite the decline of Japanese factories . It remains to be seen how the transformation of the competition will continue when the operation closes at the end of the year and what Liberty Media’s underlying plans are. It is worth remembering that in Formula 1, the previous boss Bernie Ecclestone remained in office for a year until he was rudely removed by the new owners towards the facelift that MotoGP is now rehearsing.

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