Ezpeleta: "The Rossi-Marquez controversy didn't benefit MotoGP at all"

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta feels that the controversy between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at the end of the 2015 season didn't benefit MotoGP at all.

Ezpeleta: "The Rossi-Marquez controversy didn't benefit MotoGP at all"
Start action; Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Te
Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Sports Chief Executive Officer
Start: Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing leads
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team and Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Carmelo Ezpeleta, Chief Executive Officer DORNA
Start action
Start of the race
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing leads at the start
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Second place Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team passes Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Jorge Lorenzo, Moto GP Rider
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Moto GP Rider
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing

In this exclusive chat with Motorsport.com, the Catalan businessman talks fast, loud and clear, not shying away from any questions, regardless of how awkward they are.

At the end of last season, MotoGP was in the spotlight for several weeks as a result of the conflict between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez - an episode that, if he could, Ezpeleta would erase.

Would you say that MotoGP is in its best ever moment?

"I think so, but I hope there are even better times coming. All the initiatives that we have carried out to make the championship more fun, competitive and sustainable have paid off. Next year, with KTM's arrival and the new commercial system, we'll improve even more."

What part of that success is the management and what part is what happens on track?

"What happens on track is the most important part. The success is the result of the work done a long time ago. Right now it's 25 years since the union between Dorna, FIM, MSMA [manufacturers' association] and IRTA [teams' association]. It's the celebration of a way of working.

"When we arrived all parties were fighting between them, it was a different world. IRTA was angry with the FIM and they didn't quite believe us. Then we tried to convince everybody about the method we needed to implement. It's easier to succeed if you get everybody to agree."

In your push to make the championship more sustainable, which measures are you applying besides the ones already implemented, like standard electronics?

"A new commercial system has been established. From 2017, each manufacturer that makes its bikes available to other teams at a maximum price of €2.2m will receive a €2m bonus. And the satellite teams will get another two million so they can pretty much pay the entire cost of that leasing."

Is the USA still MotoGP's unfinished business?

"Our handicap in that sense is that the championship takes place on a bad timezone for the USA. If we didn't have a race from 1995, and if it took 10 years until we returned to Laguna Seca, it was because there weren't any tracks that were homologated. We did very well there, and that led to landing in Indianapolis and Austin.

"What happens is that the manufacturers have a representative per country, and on the first year they focused all their efforts on Laguna Seca, which was an incredible event in terms of repercussion.

"But when we arrived in Indianapolis they divided the budget, and that made the event less sustainable. That's why we think it's best to have just one grand prix and focus all our efforts on Austin, rather than having three."

What do you tell people who criticise the championship because they see it as a fight between Spaniards and Italians?

"People need to have longer memories. I take notes about everything and I have been writing down who won since we arrived [in 1992].

"There are 20 Italians, three Germans, seven Australians, four French, one Swiss, one Hungarian, four Americans, seven Japanese, 22 Spanish, two from San Marino and one from Great Britain.

"During the 15 years before our arrival only the Americans and the Australians were winning. It's all cycles that keep changing, and nothing is a coincidence.

"Why were there Americans? First, because the Japanese manufacturers' main market is the American one, and they were interested in having riders from that country.

"In the end, it's about your product being popular and that the guys riding are very good. There is no one in the world who believes he is better than Marquez, Lorenzo, Rossi or Pedrosa.

"Where are they from? They are from where they are from. In athletics, why do Jamaicans win? It's just that there's a guy there who teaches them how to run. And in such a small country people dream of being like Bolt.

Is Rossi racing for two more years the best news you could have?

"Well, maybe not the best because it would mean that when he retires we would have a problem. Valentino is a fantastic rider. Forget likeable, high-profile or whatever. The most important thing is that he's very fast.

"And then, on top of that, he is a guy who loves being here, and we love to have him. Renewing his contract for two more years when he's 37 means that he feels he can stay competitive.

"He's riding the bike now, but I think he will stay involved, with the VR46 Riders Academy. It's good news that he keeps on racing, but we have to think that this must go one when he stops, regardless of whether he stays in a team or whatever.

And aren't you worried about how the fans will react when Rossi is not there?

"I can't think of that, I have to focus on doing the best job possible. He can stay as long as he wants, knowing that no one is eternal. As long as he's here, then perfect. The day he's not around we'll to find other elements and make them work.

"There are things you can do regardless of Valentino being racing or retiring. Why can't people support him when he stops? Enzo Ferrari hardly ever raced and the colour red and the prancing horse are two of the most important symbols in F1.

Does the fact that neither Rossi or Marquez ended up happy with how the end of last season was handled mean that things were done properly?

"I don't think what happened was good for MotoGP. In that situation, and how things stood, the popularity levels would have been the same. Maybe it depends on the place, but in those that usually follow us not much would have changed. That didn't help us, at least not the way I would have liked."

But you can't deny that the shockwave generated a lot of attention...

"In my opinion, it didn't benefit us at all. If I could have avoided it, I would have. Everybody saw what happened, we must draw conclusions and work from there. I don't think we need that kind of publicity, even if we were the centre of the world for a few days."

And what do you think about the consequences of all that? Of the booing, for example?

"I don't care at all about the booing. You can't mistake managing a championship with wanting to control the public's opinion. That was an spontaneous reaction from a few people, some against and others for, and they are entitled to do it as long as they don't cross certain lines.

"I can't make a man forget something that was important for him because he felt aggravated or wronged. He and his fans make decisions and I can't do anything to change their minds.

"What I don't want is certain boundaries to be crossed, or that things are taken to the track. Aside from that, if they whistle, too bad. They jeer Messi in the Bernabeu and Ronaldo in the Camp Nou and they just move on."

Do you mean to say that riders have a very thin skin?

"Fame has good and bad things. When the Valentino thing happened, people insulted me from both sides and I had to accept it. First because there are people who think we took a side, and that does worry me. Then we decided to stop being part of the sanctioning body.

"There were people who thought we penalised Rossi unfairly and others who thought the opposite. That's why we stepped aside, so people could not accuse us of anything.

"There are those who believe I'm close friends with Valentino and that's why we benefitted him, and there are those who think the Spaniards benefited because of nationality issues.

"I don't have a choice but to bear with it because I can't control it and because it has always been like that. Thirty years ago the riders already hated each other."

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