Youthstream’s Giuseppe Luongo is the man at the top of a very efficient, hard-working company that has overseen the FIM Motocross World Championship for many years. On the eve of the start of the 2018 Monster Energy MXGP season in Argentina, we tracked Luongo down for a preview of what’s to come in global motocross in 2018 and beyond.
Racer X: Giuseppe, the 2018 MXGP season is upon us. Are you as excited as ever to go racing again?
Giuseppe Luongo: Yes, at the end of the championship we are always happy to have some rest and to be able to enjoy home and the family, but then the winter break always starts to feel long and we begin missing the racing and the paddock atmosphere. So, yes, I am very happy the MXGP season is about to kick off.
What do you think will make the 2018 season both special and unique? Venues? Rivalries? Teams?
I believe it’s a combination of all of that. For sure, what the fans want and remember are the rivalries between the riders, but in order to have this, the professionalism and the preparation of the teams is very important, and of course it’s essential to have venues with race tracks that are technically demanding with varieties between each.
What is the state of the sport, primarily MXGP, right now?
MXGP is very healthy. Despite the hard world economic crisis in 2008, MXGP has continued to grow each year. In five years the championships have doubled the sponsorship, the manufacturers are strongly present, and the level of the riders has rocketed. This is especially thanks to the investment we have done with the young, in particular with the European Championship, and on the race tracks, which are becoming more and more technical and different from one to another. In the meantime, the media coverage has developed a lot with classic media and newspapers, but especially with new technology and social media. Our challenge is to continue to make MXGP grow. It will not be easy to keep this trend, but we have a very good and motivated staff to continue with these achievements.
Are you and your team excited to begin the season in Argentina?
Yes, we are very excited because Argentina is one of the best organizers on the calendar. The venue is outstanding, the race track is simply awesome, the landscape is unique, and the local hospitality is marvelous. And on top of that, perfect weather is forecasted for the weekend, so all the ingredients are there for a fantastic start to the season.
2018 shows a very busy, eclectic, and global calendar. As far as tradition, setting and fan support, which venues and events are you the proudest of?
Frankly, I am proud of all the events on the calendar because it’s a combination between the classic motocross tracks and new, more modern motocross tracks. Events are being held in the country and in permanent road circuits with all the facilities, on classical European tracks and in very exotic locations like Indonesia and Turkey. So, I am not proud of just one event, I’m proud of the whole championship and all the organizers involved.
The sport truly is very global now.
Yes, it’s not only very global thanks to the great media coverage, which is really covering the whole world, but also with venues all around the world. Today MXGP is present all over Europe, in Russia, in the U.S., in South America, in the Middle East and in Asia, and China will join MXGP next year. This is exactly how a world championship should be. Last year we saw an unbelievable growth in motorcycling in Asia, which is now without a doubt the biggest market in the world. In terms of motorcycle market growth, it can be compared to the USA in the seventies and eighties.
Now there are so many young racers coming from all over the world, it’s very impressive. In your eyes, is the sport growing?
As I said above, yes, the sport has grown a lot over the last years, and this is thanks to many factors but especially to the very competitive European Championships: 65cc, 85cc, 125cc, and 250cc, where the best youth and talented riders compete on the same race track on the same weekend as the MXGP boys. Imagine a 13-year-old kid who enters the 125 European Championship racing on very technical and demanding tracks in front of the 20,000 or more spectators and live on TV, watched by all the industry, and then this kid continues his career to 250 European Championship and then after three or four years will make the jump into the MX2 World Championship. His preparation is perfect. His feeling with the track is perfect. He will be used to the crowd and media and all this tension, he will be able to control all of this pressure, making him stronger. This helps many youth grow, and this will push our championships up. And thanks to this success, more and more youth from all over the world see this possibility and enter the European Championship, launching themselves toward MXGP.
There’s not a U.S. round this year, but the 2018 Motocross of Nations is in America at RedBud. What is the future of America in MXGP after that?
As the MXoN will be held in the U.S. this year, in agreement with Davey (Coombs), we decided to put all our efforts into the Monster Energy MXoN and to concentrate on having the best Monster Energy MXoN ever. In the future, we would love to have MXGP events in the U.S., and this depends on many factors. First of all is the will of the American fans to have this event in the U.S. and then for sure the support from the American industry. Together with Davey we would love to have that, and we are working towards future MXGP events in the U.S.
Have you had much interaction with the MX industry in the USA?
We don’t have direct contact with the U.S. teams because we work closely with MX Sports, who has relations with the teams in the U.S., but with the industry in general, yes, because many of our partners are American, like Monster Energy, Fox Racing, Parts Unlimited/Thor, FMF, GoPro, and Fly Racing.
What’s your opinion of the ’18 Monster Energy AMA Supercross thus far?
It’s very interesting, and as always, it’s organized very professionally by Feld Motor Sports. By looking at the classification it’s very close and exciting, as many riders have still the opportunity to win.
Do you foresee more auto racing/road racing venues hosting MXGP events?
Yes, but not many because MXGP has to be a combination between many different types of tracks, and we want to keep this diversity because we think it is one of the important values of MXGP. Sure, the auto racing/road racing venues offer many possibilities and comfort for the teams and spectators, but we need to keep the balance of the race tracks.
A great rivalry has developed between Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings.
Yes, they are really two great champions with different styles and different ways to approach the race, but both are very talented performers. For sure, the next two or three years will be very interesting because Cairoli is aiming for his tenth title (and maybe more) and Herlings is pushing for his first MXGP title. And at the same time, we can’t forget (Tim) Gajser, (Romain) Febvre, (Gautier) Paulin, (Max) Anstie, (Jeremy) Van Horebeek, (Clement) Desalle… I believe the championship will be based a lot on the DNFs—the winner will be the rider who is able to finish every moto.
Who else do you see fighting for GP wins and maybe even the championship in 2018?
As I already said, in MXGP the first candidates are Cairoli and Herlings, but we certainly don’t have to underestimate the riders I mentioned above, and maybe some other young surprises. Again, the riders who are more consistent and who are able to get good starts have the best chance. I believe the MX2 title will be played between (Pauls) Jonass, (Thomas) Covington, (Thomas Kjer) Olsen, and (Hunter) Lawrence, and also in this class there are some young riders coming up from the European Championship who may add some spice.
When you look to the future of our sport, what do you see?
When looking at the future, it’s very important to see from where we have come from. I believe the future of our sport will be bright with a lot of changes, but without forgetting the roots from where we have come. Like everything, our sport will be developed more and more in the growing markets all over the world, first of all Asia, then the Middle East, then Latin America. I think we have to strive to keep the stability in Europe and the U.S., because those markets are very saturated and we have to fight hard to not decrease. Clearly Europe and the U.S. will remain the base of motocross, but we have to watch the other continents closely where the motorcycle markets are exploding. The good thing about MXGP is that it doesn’t belong to anyone, but to everyone—it can easily move to where the market and fans want it.
MXGP has done a good job in looking at modern society and modern sports culture and modern media and applying all of it to the sport of MXGP motocross. It is constantly evolving.
Thank you. Yes, we do all our best to develop our sport and to make it the most appealing possible to the fans, media and to the industry. Sometimes it’s very hard because when you make something new, not everyone can understand or agree in the beginning, but as I often say, “Time is a gentleman” and now after a few years we see our policy was the right one and for sure we will continue in this way.
What goals and accomplishments do you still want to achieve/reach, be it 2020 or even 2025?
Year by year, we always try to develop all our various departments: sport, racing, race track, hospitality, organization, social network, media, TV. This is very important because the moment we think everything is okay, that’s when you risk decline. Therefore, we confront every championship like the riders: We start with zero points, and event after event, we have to score our points. In saying that, for sure we have goals set for the following years, and mainly they are to cover the Asian market with more events—China and possibly Japan—to come back to the Middle East with an event, and return to Brazil. At the same time, we work very hard to expand our TV coverage, and this will remain one of our main goals. Same with social media; we want to invest more and more to permit the people at home to follow the whole event and to feel part of the MXGP world as if they were on site. And last but not least, we need to improve the fans’ welcome and comfort at the events with better infrastructure and services and dedicated areas for children, so that more and more families can come and enjoy the weekend experience of MXGP.
Last question: Can Thomas Covington become the first American World Champion since Bob Moore back in 1994?
Yes, I really believe Thomas has the talent and the strength to become the MX2 World Champion. He’s a very good boy and he has made a huge effort to leave the comfort of his home to come to Europe and the World Championship, where he has to work very hard to make his dream come true. He has the speed and the talent, now he just needs to be more consistent and try to not to have bad heats, and then he will succeed with his dream. We have a lot of respect for riders coming from far away and we have to thank Thomas and all the others coming from other continents who help us make our sport bigger and more well-known and reach more lovers of motocross.
(Sign up to watch every moment of the 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship at www.mxgp-tv.com.)