Chief sporting officer of Dorna Sports, Carlos Ezpeleta
India is getting ready to host a MotoGP race for the first time ever in September this year at the Buddha International Circuit. Forbes India spoke with Carlos Ezpeleta, chief sporting officer, Dorna Sports, to know more. Founded in 1988, Dorna Sports became the organiser of the Championship now known as FIM World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) in 1991 and has been the exclusive commercial and television rights holder since then.
Based in Madrid, Spain, with premises in Barcelona and a subsidiary in Rome, the group is a leader in sports management, marketing and media, and has seen continued growth over the years, expanding its focus from solely MotoGP to include other leading motorcycle racing championships across the globe. Edited excerpts from the interview: Q. Why is India such an important destination for MotoGP? India is one of the strongest emerging economies in the world and most definitely an important destination for MotoGP as it is the biggest two-wheeler market in the world with a rapidly increasing affinity to premium motorcycles. We are very bullish about India and especially the motorcycling industry as MotoGP will create significant inroads to build the image of a professional racing platform and culture that can potentially be the perfect jumpstart for Indian riders/ teams in the foreseeable future. Another crucial aspect that makes India a very important destination is that India has a MotoGP fan base of 54 million which is a higher number than all of Europe put together. So yes, India has a bright future for MotoGP. Q. How is Dorna planning to push Indian talent and development of motorsports in India? There is no other sport that invests as much as Dorna does into developing talent specifically in Asia where we have invested heavily in the past 10 years with the Asia Talent Cup, which provides a chance for the most talented young riders in Asia to take their first steps on the road to MotoGP and are promoted to World Championships and that too free of charge. This is an asset for young Indian riders who want to make a future in MotoGP. Also, now with the MotoGP Bharat, there is a direct stepping stone for the Indian riders. In the long term, we want to have a strong national series with FMSCI in India which will also be a great opportunity for young budding talent. Q. What interest have the corporates/government shown? Tell us about the sponsors onboarded so far. We came to India in September last year for the curtain raiser event and we were overwhelmed with the warmth and hospitality extended to us. Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mr Yogi Adityanath personally met us and expressed his keen interest and vision to get the MotoGP IP to his state which continues to make significant progress with global initiatives. We signed an MoU with the state during the Global Investor Summit which was a resounding success as well. Corporates too have been making a beeline to be a part of MotoGP’s maiden entry and as per Fairstreet Sports, promoters of MotoGP Bharat, the response has been extremely positive with a gold rush for sponsorship slots. Q. How are the preparations going? The preparations are in full swing as it’s a behemoth task for a global event of this size and scale. Teams from across technical functions from all over the world are working round the clock to be race ready. The focus is to spruce up the Buddh International Circuit, set up all the intricate backend global norms for the race which include tech, civil, backend, to name a few aspects. The scene at ground zero BIC is that of awe and fast action with the teams working seamlessly 24x7. Q. What changes did you have to make to the tracks? Buddh International Circuit was created for F1 over 10 years ago. MotoGP race has specific requirements and it has to be tailormade for super bikes, which ride at speeds of over 350 kmph. Multiple technical, civil and tech changes are being carried out on the circuit and track which will be one of the very best tracks in the world circuit. Safety is of paramount importance and a dedicated team of track experts from India and around the world are on the job and are confident about the work at hand, which is expected to be completed soon for trials. Q. What activations are ongoing/have been planned to create a buzz about the event in the country? Several activities are ongoing and will happen prior to the main event. Some of them are: Road to MotoGP Bharat: This essentially is a multi-city event wherein we are engaging with rider groups, KOLs, influencers and other amateur riders and organising an event that involves a city ride of 25-30 km loop/rally that culminates in a half-day programme which has a host of activities like Meet & Greet with local biking groups, performances/ music shows, stunts, activations and fun games with giveaways like MotoGP Bharat merchandise, free tickets, goody bags et al. This has been quite a hit with the biking community with an average of 400-500 riders turning up in Tier 1 cities and about 900 who turned up in Delhi. Currently we have covered Delhi/NCR, Lucknow, Hyderabad and now are scheduled for Ahmedabad and Jaipur this weekend, followed by Kochi, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Chandigarh. We plan to cover 20+ cities prior to the GP Race in September. Motofluencer: We are running a contest by inviting and engaging with moto enthusiasts and other key moto influencers to create the most engaging UGC moto-content and have thrown them a challenge to create shareable content. The five most engaging ‘Motofluencers’ will get an exclusive pass and enjoy the privilege to be a part of the paddock and other restricted access race/ track zones. Women riders: There has been a significant rise in women riders and we at MotoGP Bharat respect the spirit and passion of these new breed of riders. We have been focusing on felicitating female riders across our events and have taken up a special initiative to onboard the leading women riders/ influencers to share their ride experiences. A special initiative to form a training school for female riders is under discussion too. VIP village/fan zones: For the race weekend the plans are huge, and the idea is to create a destination over the weekend. Leading brands and event agencies are being actively engaged as the preparation work continues to go on at a very elaborate scale. This would indeed be a weekend that will see a lot of engagement, experiences, and action apart from the high adrenaline race on the track.