Heading into the 2019 MXGP World Championship it promises to be another exciting season. 2018 saw some brilliant battles between Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings, with Herlings ruled out for round one of the championship this year through injury, it adds an unknown factor to the series.
With regards to Youthstream, they’ve recently been bought over by Infront and they’ll be trying to take the sport to a new level.
We caught up with Youthstream President, Giuseppe Luongo regarding a range of topics heading into 2019.
Gatedrop: It’s recently been announced that Infront has bought over Youthstream, how did this come about and in what way is it positive for the sport?
Giuseppe Luongo: Youthstream and Infront have known each other since Infront managed the SBK, and since then Infront followed the growth of MXGP with interest until 1 year ago when we started to talk about the possibility of the acquisition of Youthstream. It’s very positive for the future of MXGP because it will permit it to grow, especially in terms of TV coverage and marketing, which is important not only for us but also for the teams and manufacturers. The value of a sport is based on its television and media exposure, Infront is a world leader in media and marketing, it’s what Infront is expert at and it’s what MXGP needs to make the next step.
Gatedrop: Do you see things changing at the races with Infront having control or will they mainly focus on the television, marketing and global promotion?
Giuseppe Luongo: Frankly I don’t see changes in terms of format, technic and sport. Sure where I believe there will be improvements will be in the social media, TV and marketing.
Gatedrop: Herlings has picked up an injury which means he’ll miss the first round at least. With him being so dominate in 2018 there’s a strange feeling going into this season I would say, but the unknown factor makes it exciting!
Giuseppe Luongo: Yes, it’s a big shame Herlings is not at the first MXGP in Argentina, but we hope he returns to good health as soon as possible. This will give some uncertainty to the Championship which always makes things interesting. Sure, the races will be very tight in Argentina, as Herlings will not be there, there will be many riders who will try to take the win.
Gatedrop: The MXGP World Championship gets underway in Argentina this weekend, I believe that it almost didn’t happen at the same track again. Can you give us an update on how a deal was struck and is the GP likely to continue at this track or could this be the last one?
Giuseppe Luongo: In Argentina, like in many overseas countries, the MXGP events are fully financially supported by the government, there were (and there are) negotiations to bring the Grand Prix to another venue close to a very big town to make it easier for travel and to have the possibilities to increase the crowd. But on the other hand we are also very happy about the actual venue because the scenery is marvelous and the race track and organization is perfect. Concerning the future, sure we will continue with Argentina, but at this moment I’m not sure if we will stay in Neuquen or if we will go to a new venue, anyway this will be agreed together with the local organizer, government and Youthstream.
Gatedrop: There’s been some talk about the MXGP of Valkenswaard and that perhaps 2019 could be the last GP there. Is that something that’s true? And has Lierop any chance of coming back?
Giuseppe Luongo: The return of Assen depends a lot on the success of the Monster Energy FIM MXoN, but frankly I think we will succeed and sure Assen will be again on the 2020 calendar. Concerning Valkenswaard, we are very happy about the organization there, but at the same time as the World Championship is developing more and more and we have more and more requests for MXGP events in Europe and also out of Europe for the future we have to start thinking about for countries like Italy and Holland (where we currently have more than one GP) to possibly reduce. This decision will depend very much on the success Valkenswaard has based on the crowd and quality of organization. Concerning Lierop, there has been no request from their side.
Gatedrop: In 2018, there was a lot of track maintenance which meant we didn’t get to see the tracks get as rough as we’ve seen in the past. Is the plan to continue this or is there a possibility of doing less track maintenance again so the tracks can develop and get as rough as they used too?
Giuseppe Luongo: Sure, we will continue to make the track maintenance, especially for safety reasons, and also to have a good show, but at the same time we want the tracks to be very technically demanding and allow them to develop over the whole weekend. We need the right compromise because we want all the World Championship and European Championship riders to improve their skills, and a technical track is very important for that.
Gatedrop: Jorge Prado has said he’s not sure if he’s ready to move to the 450cc in 2020 and if he wins the MX2 World Championship again this year due to the current rules he won’t be able to race that class again. Will you consider changing the rules again to allow Prado to race MX2 in 2020 if he doesn’t feel ready for the 450cc? I’m sure the last thing you want is him heading to America!
Giuseppe Luongo: This a pressure we are receiving but sure we will never change a rule for the advantage or the disadvantage of one rider, the rule with the title and age limit works very well and proves it’s the best way to give access to the young riders. We believe Prado, with a good preparation, will be very very competitive and ready for the podium in the MXGP class, but sure the decision regarding his future belongs to him and his team.
Gatedrop: As a global championship it seems, Australia, New Zealand and Japan would be great places to visit with strong motocross markets and opportunities for MXGP to increase their brand there, are any of those countries close to securing a GP there?
Giuseppe Luongo: Yes, frankly it’s a long time that we have been dealing with the 3 countries, and negotiations go on, but I have to say now we are particularly close to finalize the deal with Australia, which will be fantastic because it’s a great land for MX.
Gatedrop: Regarding the MXoN at Assen, will there be track changes to allow for the bigger crowd?
Giuseppe Luongo: Yes, there will be a track change to practically double the possibilities of the crowd and also give the opportunity for the crowd to move around the track, so there are big changes foreseen to increase the show and the visibility for spectators.
Interview: Andy McKinstry/Jonathan McCready