Interview: David Luongo on a historic MXGP season, bringing mainstream TV coverage to the UK and more

The past two MXGP World Championship seasons have been very tough due to the uncertainty of the pandemic but Infront Moto Racing have done a tremendous job running the MXGP series.

The 2021 season was just unbelievable with three riders going for the title with Jeffrey Herlings coming out on top ahead of Romain Febvre and Tim Gajser. It’s a season we won’t forget in a hurry as it produced some amazing battles.

We caught up with Infront Moto Racing CEO,  David Luongo to discuss the season and much more.

GateDrop: David, could you have imagined a better season? Especially under the difficulty of Covid-19. The drama and excitement was incredible!

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Luongo: The last two years have been very challenging for everybody in the world. Our main objective since the beginning of the pandemic is to deliver a complete season for all the riders, teams and partners. We work very hard to maintain the jobs of everybody. On the sport side, I believe the fans had a lot of pleasure. Sport is very important for social reason as it gives dream to the fans! On this aspect, I cannot be happier than today. For sure the 2021 MXGP season was the most intense, exciting and disputed of the history.

The level reached by all the top MXGP riders was phenomenal. Not only for the top three but many other riders had their good time, Cairoli, Prado, Seewer were also part of the show. From the Grand Prix of Germany, the intensity rose weekend after weekend, and the last 5 races in Trentino and Mantova were just epic. The fact to have two riders with the same amount of points at the last race of the season was historic. The winner takes it all at the end and it was a unique feeling. Jeffrey Herlings deserves his title after a long season of 18 Grand Prix. It was also very emotional to have the last GP of Antonio Cairoli on his home soil. It was definitely a moment to remember of our sport! 

GateDrop: Does the age rule in MX2 seem validated now with the depth in MXGP right through the field?

Luongo: The MX2 age rule is integrated in a global vision of riders’ development. This choice is totally confirmed by the unprecedent number of great riders in MXGP. Cairoli, Herlings, Febvre, Gajser have been World Champions in MXGP and Prado in MX2. We never had this level of quality in the MXGP class and next year Renaux will join them to battle for the title. But the MX2 age rule allows also the development of the lower class like the EMX250, EMX 125cc, EMX85cc, EMX65cc. All those categories are the base of our pyramid of talents. They participate to grow the future stars with the dream of being part of MXGP! The MX2 is the last step before the top guns and has to remain like this. 

GateDrop: Just on the age rule, would you consider having an under 25 age rule in MX2 just to give some riders a bit more of an opportunity and allow for injuries etc? If the EMX250 champion (like Lapucci) is 23 he could then race MX2? 

Luongo: We are happy with the limit of 23 years old. The average talented riders are ready at 23 years old to move up to the MXGP class. 

GateDrop: Have you considered using the live commentary in the highlights package – it can add to the excitement? 

Luongo: We try to improve all our contents at every Grand Prix. It is very important to have the feedback from the viewers to continue to deliver a very good package. We will consider the idea. 

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GateDrop: What you guys offer on MXGP.tv is superb but has it been looked into trying to get mainstream coverage in the UK? If BT Sport could show the racing live like they do MotoGP, it would help generate more interest although it’s probably not easy to put into place! 

Luongo: I totally agree with you. We work closely with the broadcasters to improve the visibility of the MXGP worldwide. The last couple of years, we managed to sign great deals mainly in Europe with Eurosport, L’Equipe La Chaine (France), Rai (Italy) but also in the USA with CBS Sport Network and in Asia and South America where the demand is increasing very. Our OTT Channel, MXGP-TV.com is growing by 20% every year since 2011 giving to the fans the best media experience possible with more than 7 hours of Live broadcasting per weekend! In the UK, we still have a margin of progression and we work hard to bring the MXGP on mainstream channel, BT is one of them. 

GateDrop: Some US media still say MXGP isn’t a real world championship – what do you say about that?

Luongo: Honestly I don’t see which are those “medias”. It is more like a little number of polemic people. The big majority of the American fans respect the MXGP World Championship a lot. Saying that is like saying that the MX National is not an American Championship! It is nonsense. 

GateDrop: Antonio Cairoli has been a huge part of MXGP and a great ambassador for the sport on and off the track – you must be sad to see him retire! 

Luongo: We can have our hats up for Antonio Cairoli. During all his impressive carrier, he has been a great ambassador of our sport. It is very special for us because, he also made his whole career under the promotion of Youthstream and then Infront Moto Racing, so we were next to each other during this wonderful journey. He helped the motocross to develop a lot especially in Italy and I have no doubt that his carrier allowed a lot of Italian kids to start MX. We can already see it from the different European Championships. He will always be welcome on the GP. 

GateDrop: The season ran into November this year with Covid but it has been mentioned, you might want a longer season in the future…is there a chance the MXGP series will regularly race into October/November like the F1 and MotoGP calendars do now? What impact would this have on the future MXoN? 

Luongo: We don’t want to close any doors. It is sure that a longer season has a lot of positive aspects. We would have more time between the Grand Prix from March to November. In case of injuries, the riders would have more time to recover and the MXGP would be on the media for a longer period which would help the sport to grow faster. On the other hand, our main target now is to come back to a normal situation. We will see what we can do in the future. 

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GateDrop: There has been some debate about the one/two day format among the top riders. What do you see as the future? The two days allow more opportunity for fans to see the riders but is there a compromise that would see the qualifying race ditched and timed qualifying take priority on Saturdays for riders who prefer one day and can you confirm the 2022 format? 

Luongo: There is nothing better than racing! The MXGP Grand Prix is a two-day event format. It’s in the roots of our sport. The big majority of the fans come to the GP’s comping with family already from the Friday. The support classes are very important for the development of new talents and need also visibility on Sunday. Meanwhile the big majority of the fans want to see the top guns. The qualification race is also very important for the organizers on the Saturday and for the popularity of the GP. 

GateDrop: Next year’s calendar looks superb, a great mix of old school and new tracks plus flyaways back! 

Luongo: We built this calendar in collaboration with our organizers. It is complete and shows a kind of comeback to normality. I have to say that we were missing the overseas for 2 years and their exotic aspects. In the same spirit of the past years, we will work hard to make it happen. 

GateDrop:  While the calendar looks great and I have to say Riola is a great addition, has it been looked into to get even more deep sand tracks in the future? It’s great seeing the best riders in the world glide and wheel tap over the big bumps! 

Luongo: The World Championship has to be a great mix of all the grounds possible. We faced very different tracks this year, for sure Riola was a great addition on the sand track but the comeback of France and Germany brought back also some hard ground tracks. The World Champions have to be the best and the most complete riders. 

GateDrop: Will we ever see a “Ryder Cup” style event with team Europe v team USA?

Luongo: Never say never.

Interview: Andy McKinstry/Jonathan McCready

Pic: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing