Minisite Gear

Experience the pulse of the Americas with Minisite Gear: Your go-to destination for digital news and analysis.

Sport

Liberty Media: The model that relaunched Formula 1 seeks a replica in MotoGP | Motorcycling | Sports

When Liberty Media bought Formula 1 in 2016, it spent a total of 7.1 billion euros. Currently, the magazine Forbes He estimates that the value of the championship doubles that figure less than a decade after the purchase. The success of the American company, with the numbers in hand, is overwhelming, and the acquisition of MotoGP for 4.2 billion euros now seeks to replicate the same model in the highest category of two wheels.

According to the joint official statement from Liberty and Dorna, a Spanish company that has exploited the commercial and television rights to the motorcycle world championship since 1991, little will change for now in the company’s organizational chart. The headquarters of operations will remain in Madrid, with offices in Barcelona and Rome, and Carmelo Ezpeleta will continue to lead the event manager, which will maintain its independent status within the American conglomerate. “This is the ideal next step for the evolution of MotoGP,” comments the head of the event. “We couldn’t wish for a better partner to expand our fan base around the world,” he adds in the note. The agreement, which took months in the kitchen and requires approval from antitrust bodies, allows MotoGP management to consolidate a long-defined route.

With recent changes in the sport, such as the introduction of racing to pique On Saturdays, MotoGP has been looking to improve the spectacle for a couple of years by further increasing the competitive tension. Engaging a new batch of young fans, in addition to redoubling the commitment to improving its reach in the United States, have been the two priorities of the championship management after overcoming the financial challenge imposed by the pandemic. “Carmelo and his management team have built a great sports spectacle that we can bring to a broader audience,” says Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media. “We do not plan to change the sport, it is a magnificent discipline that works and has a great fan base,” added the new owner in a call to present the agreement with investors.

The alliance between Liberty and Dorna – which will maintain 14% of its shares –, as indicated by all the actors involved, fits perfectly for both companies. The success of Drive to surviveThe Netflix series that opened wide the doors of F1 to a new audience, wanted to be replicated by MotoGP executives with a failed series, Unlimited MotoGP, on Amazon. Despite the disappointment, the Anglo-Saxon accent in the championship has continued to increase with the hiring of Dan Rossmondo, former NBA manager, as the competition’s commercial director just a year ago. This year, the Trackhouse team, owned by singer Pitbull, has returned the colors of the American flag to the asphalt in alliance with Aprilia. The announcement of the sales agreement comes precisely two weeks before the World Cup lands in Austin, Texas, the only stop in the United States since 2013.

“MotoGP is much better than F1 at the time, and to a large extent it has been replicating changes that we have made,” Maffei stressed. The low cost structure for teams and brands, even for fans who want to get closer to the races, has been one of the elements most highlighted by Liberty Media, which has also highlighted the greater competitive equality on the track. The main objective of the new owners is to improve the stories around the sport and its drivers, and balance the territorial balances to reach new countries and increase the impact in key markets. South America and the United States were cited as the main targets for the expansion of a championship that wants to round up its number of grand prizes to 22.

David Hill, advisor to Formula 1 broadcasts since 2017 and right-hand man of media magnate Rupert Murdoch, summarizes in the book The formula the paradigm shift that has turned the four-wheeled category into the fastest growing sport in the last decade. “The work of the production teams had been chasing the cars around the track, but the stars are the drivers, not the cars,” he says of the guidelines he recommended to transform the sport into a kind of reality television. Rossmondo expressed himself along the same lines during his introduction to the universe of motorcycles: “MotoGP is a global sport that combines technological innovation with the skill, physique and talent of the riders. “They are the real heroes of the show.”

Although the new calendar has pushed the runners to their limits, they have largely accepted and assumed the physical and mental demands in order to redirect their sport. MotoGP, increasingly blended with Formula 1, a closed and exclusive circus where technology defines results even above talent, has seen how the proliferation of electronics and aerodynamics has completely transformed its prototypes, closer now. to a NASA aircraft than to a street motorcycle. Although they do not have a vote in the matter, it seems that the voices of the protagonists have been heard. “Looking to 2027 we want to reduce aerodynamics, making the motorcycles again more similar to those that can be seen on the street,” announced Carlos Ezpeleta, sports director of the event. Before the start of the course, Marc Márquez, eight-time world champion, charged against the dominant current in the development of prototypes. “I hate this direction and the rules that allow it. We look like Formula 1. We have more and more aerodynamics and I don’t like it, but we have to adapt,” declared the Gresini team driver, a Ducati customer.

It seems that the intention of Liberty and Dorna is to follow a continuous line and avoid a direct confrontation with the drivers, such as that expressed in Formula 1 by Max Verstappen after the landing of F1 in Las Vegas last year. “99 percent entertainment, one percent racing,” the three-time Red Bull world champion urged the organizers of the four-wheeled competition. A year ago, Carmelo Ezpeleta summarized Dorna’s future plans regarding the MotoGP World Championship in three points. “Fresh ideas, greater scope and a commitment to take the sport to new heights,” said the veteran Barcelona executive, who has been leading the event for more than three decades.

In 2024, when the 75th anniversary of the world championship is celebrated, the World Championship has more stops (21) and races (42) than ever in its history, and equality on the track is evident despite the decline of Japanese factories. Even so, up to 15 different drivers reached the podium and there were eight winners from six different teams throughout the past year, a figure that contrasts with the tyranny of Red Bull and Verstappen in the ‘Great Circus’. It remains to be seen how the transformation of the competition will continue when the operation closes at the end of the year and what the background plans are for Liberty Media, which has affirmed its desire to retain the championship in the long term. It is worth remembering that in Formula 1, the previous boss Bernie Ecclestone remained in office for half a year until he was rudely removed by the new owners towards the facelift that MotoGP is now rehearsing.

You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes in Facebook and xor sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

_