Sebastien Tortelli addresses the controversy that surrounded the inaugural Grand Prix of Mexico.
Here I am back from Mexico after a difficult and controversial GP. After all that has been said and done it is important for me to give you my perspective and clarify some points.
As you know, there are always two sides to a story so here is mine.
Let's go back:
About 3 years ago I met Nico Espana, event promoter of SX, MX and freestyle. The idea then came to create the "World Celebrity MX Race", a friendly MX event that would gather top retired and actives racers from the world.
In October 2010, this race was born with names like Stefan Everts, David Vuillemin, Damon Huffman, Doug Dubach, Jason Thomas, Sean Hamblin, Pedro Gonzales, Antonio Balbi ... and myself. The race was a success and all racers went back home happy after their Mexican weekend.
Then the idea of a GP of Mexico came. Mexico is a land still untouched in the field and thus represents a potentially lucrative market for the development and the growth of the sport. Obviously the challenge was big given the economic, social, cultural and geographical situation.
Organizing a GP is a year of work, preparation, planning, budgeting... therefore I did many trips to Guadalajara during this past year.
For the final preparation I arrived on site 10 days prior to the event. There I discovered a rather nice track while recognizing that the circuit would be difficult, technical and physical. (5,500 feet in elevation, 90 degrees Farenheit) The date of the GP was not ideal but for logistical reasons with Brazil this date was best suited for the riders and teams. I remind you that it is a World Championship and in order to keep its authenticity it must have exotic GP’s and go out of Europe!
The biggest and most obvious problem we encountered was the management of water on the track. When you hire locals for 1 week to water the track they show up the first 4 days but not the 5th! Not easy...
Now let’s talk about the facts.
YES, the conditions were not perfect and we had two very dusty corners (a water truck rolled over and another one broke down!) The FIM therefore gives us an extra 1/2-hour in order to fix the trouble area.
The crew worked hard and we solved the problem in the time allowed by the FIM. Meanwhile the riders had already made up their minds and put on their shorts without even bothering to do a sight lap to judge the state of the track, which was at that time ridable and safe. (I personally rode during my career in worse conditions than those for a GP). If they want no dust or mud or ruts they should consider Moto GP!
YES the track was challenging (for reasons already mentioned) but it is a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP! Not every track can be to everones liking but as a GP racer your job is to perform on any type of track and situation as long as your safety is not in danger (which in my opinion was not the case).
YES there were 15 doctors and six ambulances all weekend; never would the FIM validate a GP without medical crew on site!!! This would be a liability issue for the FIM, Youthstream and the Organization, if not correct. The FIM will not allow a bike on the track until all medical personal are present. So for those who believed the rumors: you are obviously very naïve…
YES Mexico is not the safest place on earth, so we had 60 security guards and armed police forces patrolling on-site all weekend. But again, when you’re in such places you don’t do stupid things as some did!!! Guys were complaining because they were robbed only to find out that they’d left their backpacks exposed with their passports inside on the back of their rental cars!!!
Well, what do you want me to say to that other than, “You’re stupid!”
The TV coverage
YES it was bad and poorly filmed. I agree it is really bad to miss any race starts but it was not the responsibility of the organization, rather the responsibility of the local TV.
Now the riders
The disappointing finding of an irresponsible and unprofessional attitude of the majority of riders made the situation worse. Not one rider came to me to personally discuss the situation or attempt to find a solution. Most of them know me; I never had the reputation of being irrational or irresponsible so I was very hurt that none came to me.
The MX2 lap times sessions were fine and the dust problem occurred only for the MX1. The extra half hour that the FIM gave us was plenty of time to water the 2 corners and be ready for them. Instead of racing, they all went on strike...
A second MX1 race the most disputed since the start of this championship, a headline on the National newspaper and National TV announcing the cancellation of the GP therefore a shy crowd showed up on Sunday.
The racers presented a bad image of our sport in a country that needed help to grow it, just like the French soccer team did when they went on strike during the last World Cup in South Africa!!!
At the end of the day, the best racers won as usual because in order to become a champion, or to be a champion, you must have the ability to overcome what comes your way. Either you like it or you don’t.
Some riders came to me Sunday night telling me the track was honestly fine - even if it was not the best - but they had to stick with the group!!!
The bottom line is that this GP was the perfect excuse to make a point of the different issues they are dealing with in this tough economy… but the show must go on!!!
Thanks for reading,