Giuseppe Luongo interview – MXGP, Red Bud, Herlings and Tomac!

Giuseppe Luongo has overseen another successful MXGP campaign and is getting ready, with help from MX Sports and Davey Coombs, the biggest race of the year at Red Bud for the 2018 edition of the MXoN.

But the boss at Youthstream took time out to answer some pertinent questions on the GP season, the potential return of Suzuki, smoother MXGP tracks, the chance of Eli Tomac racing MXGP and the speed of Jeffrey Herlings.

Gatedrop: The 2019 provisional calendar has been released. Are you expecting many changes for the final calendar?

Not many, but like every year there will be some changes up until the official final version is published in the middle of October.

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Gatedrop: The British GP is going to be in March, I would call that a risky decision, what’s the reason for having it in March and is that date 100% locked in? 

The date is still not 100 definite.  Yes, March is a risky period, but March is a risky period all over Europe if you take the last 5 years as an example.  Our idea is to change the period because despite Matterley Basin being one of the best circuits on the calendar we are not satisfied with the spectators’ turn-out, so we want to try bringing it towards the beginning of the Championship to create more interest.


Gatedrop: Youthstream and Redsand signed a five year deal for a GP in Spain but it’s not on the 2019 calendar, what’s the reason for that? 

The reason is with regards to the political financial support for the organizers; despite a lot of promises and a very successful MXGP event this year the political authorities are not financially supporting the organizer as expected, and without this support it’s difficult to continue with the event.  However, if this support does come then RedSand will be back on the calendar.

Gatedrop: The track in Argentina for 2019 is still TBC. What’s the chances that it will stay at the same venue? It’s very popular! 

For the MXGP of Argentina we have an agreement with a very good promoter, and the promoter indicatessuitable venues to us.  The MXGP of Argentina is very popular because it’s very well organized and the infrastructures are of top-class, this is clearly done by the local promoter, so if we change venue the local promoter will stay the same and the quality of the event is guaranteed.  The organizer wants to go to a venue that is closer to a big town and with bigger support from the local authorities, but it still has not been decided.

Gatedrop: I know Youthstream give the teams some funding for the fly-away GPs but it’s still tough for the private teams to make it. Have you got a plan in place for the 2019 fly away races which will see most the teams travel? Perhaps paying the full travel expenses for them? 

Over the last few years we have seen an incredible increase in the number of kilos the teams are transporting to the fly-away events.  Items that are not really necessary are being transported, therefore teams need to be more scrupulous in what they are transporting.  Over the last 10 years the kilos that are being transported has multiplied by 3, and this causes the costs to explode.  We have proposed to the teams to make a limit on the number of kilos they are allowed to transport and to give more help to the private teams, by doing this factory teams will divide their costs by 2 and private teams will practically have their freight costs covered by Youthstream.

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Cairoli v Herlings Pic: MXGP

Gatedrop: On the racing this year, you pretty much have got everything you wanted with things close between Herlings and Cairoli in the chase for MXGP for quite a while and Herlings’ injury making things interesting! Also, things are close with Prado and Jonass and the pair collided in Turkey to spice things up heading into the final two rounds! 

Frankly the level of racing has never been so high.  In MXGP there are two aliens and many very good riders, the speed we have seen throughout the year has been simply unbelievable.  Jeffrey is the fastest rider I have ever seen in my 35 years of career, and Tony made possibly one of his best seasons, but with Jeffrey like this it was simply impossible for anyone.  MX2 has been excellent too; the duo Prado / Jonass has put on a fantastic show, but also Olsen, Vlaanderen, Covington and Watson have also all shown their talent and collected podium finishes.  I’m really delighted with the level of this years racing, that has been in crescendo over the last few years which is a result of the pyramid with MXGP Academy at its base, then the various European Championships, MX2 and finally MXGP at the point.

Gatedrop: The tracks have been a lot smoother this year with some riders wishing it was left alone on Saturday nights like it used to be, what is the reason for more track maintenance and levelling this season?

We have always paid great attention to the race tracks’ maintenance, the race tracks must be the best possible for the show while maintaining the technicality and safety.  The influence of weather conditions, the quantity of water and the quality of the machinery at our disposal is fundamental to the right maintenance of the race tracks.  MXGP’s tracks are the most technical tracks in the world, this year in general we had much better weather conditions than last year and this generally made the tracks easier, but our goal is to have technically demanding tracks, this is how youth can grow and continue to increase the level of all the Championships.

Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: With some riders like Max Anstie and Jeremy Van Horebeek currently without rides, is that a worrying situation and is there any news on Suzuki coming back as a factory team?

Every year we hear the same story.  The number of places available with the MXGP Factory teams are always the same, so if some riders lose a place, another will take the place, so the number of factory riders always stay the same. Max and Jeremy are very good riders and I have no doubt that they will find a good team to support them, we are also working in this direction.  Concerning Suzuki, we are often in contact with them and they are always very interested in MXGP, but I don’t know when they will return.

Gatedrop: The MXoN is fast approaching and it looks like being a hugely successful event, is it a bigger task putting the race on in America? It also seems to have re-energised the Americans with their enthusiasm for the race and Tomac is racing, which must be positive.. plus Puerto Rico with riders like Pastrana and Windham coming out too!

Yes, it looks like the MXoN in USA will be a very big success, records are being broken: teams from all around the world are entered, pre-sales are the highest ever, VIP tickets have sold-out, the camping areas will be full, sponsors are all wanting their brands to be seen, industries are wanting to be present…. If the weather is good, all the ingredients are there for the event to be unforgettable.  The presence of the top American riders is for sure very important, and the American fans feel the importance to be there to support their team as it’s been too long that they haven’t brought the Chamberlain Trophy home.  Puerto Rico is a tasty cherry-on-the-tart for the fans and media, and everyone will be excited to see them racing.

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Tomac. Pic: Doug Turney

Gatedrop: Everyone is looking forward to seeing Jeffrey Herlings take on Eli Tomac at Red Bud, but what do you feel are the chances Eli will come to the world championship and take on Herlings for the full world championship in the future like Ryan Villopoto did, have there been any moves to make that happen that you know of?

I think it’s the dream of all MX fans to see the MXGP riders up against the AMA riders and for sure it will be very interesting, especially at the Nations where the enthusiasm and the atmosphere is different than a normal Grand Prix event, making it different for everyone.  Since Villopoto came to MXGP I think the times have changed and the riders on each side of the Atlantic are specialized in their own disciplines – Motocross and Supercross – and with the increasingly tough competition it can only be like that.  

I don’t personally believe Tomac will come to MXGP, he would have too much to lose.  To win in MXGP you have to particularly prepared for it, not only physically but also mentally, and on top of that you need the special talent and an extremely strong will. In MXGP you have to change country every week, with different languages, foods, cultures, types of tracks, hotels, weather, etc, etc, there is not one venue similar to another and not one track similar to the other.  To succeed in MXGP you have to adjust yourself each weekend, it must become your life, you have to breath it.  

And frankly I see it difficult for an American star who has their habits in their own country and who live a very organized life with tracks that are similar, with similar food at each venue, same language every weekend, same culture, they don’t have such significant changes in their hotel rooms to come to MXGP and succeed.  It’s different when an American rider comes to the MXGP world when they are young, like Covington, Sanayei or Weltin who live here and have grown up with the MXGP way, they like this life and they can succeed.