Interview: David Luongo talks MXGP, Van Doninck’s Argentina nightmare, MXEP, MXoN format and more

We might only be three rounds into the MXGP World Championship but a lot has already happened. In MXGP, Jorge Prado is in the form of his life whilst Kay de Wolf has won three from three in MX2 despite only having one GP name to his name before the start of the season.

There’s been a bit of everything in the first three rounds with injuries, great racing and announcement already confirmed for the future – an all-electric class will start in 2026 and known as MXEP.

We recently caught up with Infront Moto Racing CEO, David Luongo to discuss a wide range of topics.

GateDrop: With the likes of Tom Vialle now Jorge Prado and potentially the Coenen brothers going to America, are you afraid of a talent drain in MXGP or do you see it as a positive that it advertises the quality of GP riders to America?

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Luongo: We already had in the past Champion or talented riders that expressed the will to try the U.S experience and it never affected the MXGP World Championship. From Jean Michel Bayle, Roczen, Musquin, Vialle, all were fantastic riders and came from our pyramid of talents. The most important for me is to have created a great system where every year we see new talented kids joining the different European Championship. If a rider wants to ride Supercross, it is clear that he has to go to U.S, where the best championship takes place, then for Motocross, MXGP is the place to be. Maybe in the future, also some American or U.S based riders will experience the MXGP, our two way world has never been so close.

GateDrop: Jason Anderson has expressed a desire to race MXGP before he retires, is there anything that can be done to encourage more top Americans over so it’s not just one way traffic?

Luongo: Our work consists of creating the best and most demanding championship possible. As I mentioned above there are more and more bridges between the two sides of the oceans in regards to our sport. The MXGP World Championship has some of the most demanding tracks on the planet and I am sure some riders would like to try such tracks once in their career.

GateDrop: Triumph have joined the paddock this year and Ducati next year with TM returning to MX2. These brands stepping up is great for the sport so you must be happy with that? Can you tell us if you are trying to get Ducati to line up at many MXGP rounds this year with Cairoli and Lupino?

Luongo: The entry of those two iconic motorcycle brands is validating the work we have done the last two decades to raise the level of popularity and professionalism of our sport. Next year, the MXGP will give the possibility for 9 Official Manufacturers to be crowned World Champion, it is first of all a record in the history of motocross, but it is also a record in motorcycles too. Ducati has its own agenda for developing their bike and like Triumph, they aim to enter the MXGP once they will be ready to compete for the win. We are in contact, but we won’t put any pressure on their first appearance at a Grand Prix.

GateDrop: Whilst it is great that there’s more factory bikes, it would be even better to add more privateer setups – any progress on prize money coming back again to help increase the rider numbers behind the line, it could help attract even more teams to the amazing series?

Luongo: This is a debate that has been close more than 20 years ago, we, as promotor of this championship, are responsible of creating, promoting the MXGP. We build the platform for the riders to perform and to become stars. The riders are employed by the teams. Those major changes that have been made 20 years ago have allowed us and the organizers to improve significantly the quality of the venues, with better infrastructures and to invest in the TV production, the media and to make this sport more popular. The riders today have increased significantly (multiple times) their revenues, the teams increased significantly their staff, structures and the material that they transport around the world. We increased also the number of press and media attending the Grand Prix. All the system became more and more professional. Then, after the covid, we decided to reduce the entry fee for the wild card riders and the privateers to help them to participate to the Grand Prix in Europe. Another important matter is the fact that the MX2 and the MXGP categories are focusing on the top quality. We are talking about the best riders in the world. With this vision, we are happy with 25 to 35 riders depending on the region in Europe and Overseas. On another side, EMX classes which are most of the time with two groups and a full line up are growing the next generation of talents. All the best riders in the world have been riding those EMX65cc, EMX85cc, EMX125cc and EMX250cc and then moved up until MXGP.

GateDrop: The points for qualifying races took a lot of criticism but I thought it was a great idea and it really proved successful last year – how pleased are you with the change and do you hear less negativity about it this season?

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Luongo: The points on the qualifying race were our targets since the beginning as a race needs to be rewarded, but sometimes it needs just the good timing to be integrated. I believe it is a great input as it gives a fantastic value to Saturday. The majority of the fans want to see racing, and the organizer were suffering on Saturday with the old system. Since the time of the qualification race, we saw an increase of 50% of the Saturday attendance. Nowadays, other major motorsports promoters made the same move by racing on Saturday (MotoGP and F1), so we are very satisfied to have been pioneers in this matter.

GateDrop: It seemed there would be an AMA/MXGP hybrid motocross coming soon, maybe this year, but has that taken a back seat or where are we on that? Your relationship with Davey Coombs seems really good which is great given the previous FIM/AMA rivalry?

Luongo: The relationship with the American Motocross promotor, MX Sport and Supercross Feld are very good. We are in constant contact. I strongly believe that our sport is already too small to divide it in different parts with rivalry. For sure we have different targets as they are focused on American soil and we managed the World Championship but we share the same vision of making motocross bigger and more popular. In this vision both of us like the idea of creating a single and unique event, where the MXGP and AMA riders would participate together. It is not a secret and it is also true that it would probably be the most exciting and awaited Motocross event in the history of our sport. I don’t believe this event will happen this year or next one but it is definitely a project that both of us would love to create together.

GateDrop: There are 20 GP’s this year, which is a lot but still less than MotoGP/F1 – do you feel this is the right amount or could there be more (or maybe less as 20 means a lot of injuries). Will Australia/NZ get a GP or even Japan? Big established motocross markets that MXGP could be promoted in?

Luongo: It is a good number for now and a close future. The countries you just named in your questions would be very welcome in those 20 Grand Prix. Before talking about extending the number of Grand Prix, we prefer to focus on the quality of the 20 GP we can promote. Our good split would be 6 overseas and 14 European based GP. MXGP is very strong in Australia and Japan is the home of most of our manufacturers so it is clearly ones of the destinations we are working on, but not the only ones as we have at least 5 countries in talks right now.

GateDrop: Have you thought about getting someone like Daniel Blair involved in MXGP broadcasts or even YouTube given his talent and expertise in the US broadcast arena, he could be fantastic working with the brilliant Paul Malin in the booth or trackside and especially bring more eyes to MXGP from the US side?

Luongo: Every year we try to improve the quality of our production and programs around the Grand Prix. Last year, we launched the new Behind the Gate series which give a much more personal view on the Grand Prix and focus on the unique personality of the riders. We saw a great feedback from the fans. Today, our fans want more than racing, they want to know the riders better, their entourage, the way the GP’s are done and more contents around those topics. This year we renewed the Studio Show to bring it to a higher level and being able to be used for more content creation. We will also continue during some GP to produce our Behind the Paddock Show Live on MXGP-TV and the social network. Paul and Lisa are doing an amazing job and they might have more and more to do in the future, so we are very open to enthusiastic profiles.

GateDrop: Is it possible to get more interviews in MXGP tv after the race ie if Lucas Coenen wins the second moto, if he isn’t on the podium he doesn’t get an interview just the GP winner and podium guys. In Argentina he was very much the story of the weekend but no interview despite his crash with two turns to go out of the lead and riding with an injured thumb? Is it possible for the package to be more malleable based on story lines like the US who regularly will interview 4th place if it’s applicable or like last year Aaron Plessinger after he crashed out of the lead in Detroit?

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Luongo: It is something we could consider in the future. Those personal stories are often explained in the Behind The Gate program or in the post race press conference.

GateDrop: MXGP is the toughest motocross series in the world with the biggest variety of tracks. Are you proud of what you have achieved at this point and what are your next goals with the series?

Luongo: I am very proud of our champions, but not only MXGP ones. I am proud of the pyramid system we managed to create 20 years ago with the European Championships racing on the same tracks, the same weekends in front of the same crowd of the MXGP riders. It created a huge rise of the quality and the talent for the riders of our generation. A kid of 12 years old gets to ride Trentino or Lommel or Saint Jean d’Angely in very demanding conditions. Then the World Championship has to be the most technical and demanding championship in the World. The tracks are challenging, but also the weather conditions are too (temperature, elevation, humidity…). The World Champion is the best rider because he managed to handle all those challenges during the 20 Grand Prix. We have to always keep this idea in mind, give the most technical and demanding track but keep it the safest possible too. I believe the step we made 2 years ago with the creation of rider ambassadors program that meet with us and FIM twice during the weekend was very important and good for the sport. Then we need to continue to improve the infrastructure of the circuit to allow more people to join the GP weekend in better conditions. You probably saw the teams structures in Spain, they are more and more professional, and every year they are getting closer to the F1/MotoGP ones, so we need to continue to improve the paddock also.

GateDrop: We spoke to Tom Vialle at Paris Supercross and he said AMA National tracks get rougher than GP tracks (excluding Lommel), obviously the rougher track helps improve the skills of the riders – what would you say regarding to Vialles comments and will you react to it in 2024? (Maybe less track maintenance?)?

Luongo: As I said above, we are not competing with AMA American MX, we have our philosophy with regards to the racetrack, which I explained clearly above, and we will continue with our philosophy. One of the major points for us is to have the young European riders racing on the same tracks as the MXGP, this permits them to improve a lot.

GateDrop: You’ve announced the MXEP class for 2025… Stark don’t seem happy with that at all as they want to race with the regular machines. What would your reply be to that? Trey Canard is involved in the Honda E bike – what’s the chances he’ll race the series? If you haven’t already it would be worth reaching out to him!

Luongo: As I mentioned in our official communication, we are not in favour of mixing both electric and ICE bikes for the moment. They are two different products on the market as in all the other motorsports. But on another hand, the development of the last years allowed us to create a specific Electric category that will take place during the MXGP weekend. We will be able to all the potential of the GP weekend to develop this new category which will be a support race and will give a platform to the manufacturers to develop their bike and promote it. In 2026, I am very confident that many manufacturers will have a bike ready to compete in this category and I would be more than happy if Stark is part of it.

GateDrop: Brent van Doninck got injured in Argentina and we read his story about the bad hospital conditions… In the future will you aim to improve medical conditions at the fly away races so this can be avoided?

Luongo: What happened to Van Doninck is completely unacceptable, it was a series of problems and lack of communication prior to the event which allowed for this to happen. For sure we are extremely unhappy about this, the medical side of the event is not under IMR control and responsibility, but we will definitely use all our power to push the responsible parties to act professionally ensuring that something like this never happens again.

GateDrop: I hear Roger de Coster is pushing for a format change for the MXoN and wants the 250 class separate and each country to run 4 riders… this would help America A LOT considering it’s a BIG country… Hopefully you won’t change the format just to help them (laughs)…

Luongo: We understand from where Roger is coming from, and as you say a big country like USA with more riders would have more chance to win, but we have to analyse several points: first the costs of every team would increase by 25% (and the majority of Federations are not able to face this), secondly for many Federations it’s very difficult to find just 3 good riders (let alone 4), and thirdly the Motocross of Nations is very successful as it is, with the current format the final results are very unsure right up until the chequered flag of the last race, and the fans just love it.

GateDrop: You recently travelled to America and visited the Indianapolis SX. Was there any particular reason for the visit?

Luongo: I have never visited an indoor US Supercross, therefore I answered positively to an invitation from Feld and MX Sport. We had some few days together in USA, great meetings and then we took the opportunity to visit the HQ of the AMA and some tracks around Indianapolis…

Interview: Andy McKinstry/Jonathan McCready

Image: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing