There are plenty of reasons why the last eight years the European countries have dominated at the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations, but to me, the system at the MXGP championship is the main reason. Of course riders need to keep working hard, and it seems that the MXGP and MX2 riders are working at a level at the moment that is producing a similar domination that the Americans had from 1981 until 2011.
Many years ago, Giuseppe Luongo had a plan, and his plan was to get the Grand Prix riders on a level that would see them regain the mantle as the greatest motocross riders in the World. Last weekend in Redbud was another step, in many ways a step back in time, when names like De Coster, Robert, and Hallman ruled the World, and taught the young American riders how to race at the highest level. What you can be sure, as his series continues to grow and improve, Luongo doesn’t feel his job is done, and he continues to improve what is already a very impressive series.
We got to sit down with the Youthstream president, and he gave us a great insight into what the present means to him, and what the future holds for the MXGP championship.
MotoXAddicts: I can’t even begin to imagine how proud you are after last weekend’s performance by the Grand Prix riders. Can you explain how you felt as the weekend went on?
Luongo: Clearly, I was very worried about the weather conditions, but in the mean time I know our staff, the FIM staff and the Red Bud staff had worked very hard and very well on the preparation of the track, and I knew the track was prepared for all kinds of weather conditions for all the participants. Right from the free practice I saw there was quite a big difference between the top Grand Prix riders and the American riders- when I say ‘American’ riders I don’t want to say American Nationality but I want to say riders racing in the American Championships- then, the races on Saturday confirmed this observation.
Was there some big emotion from you?
For me the big emotion did not come by who won, because for us what is important is to organize the greatest event. As always, the 2018 MXoN was full of emotion on the track, also the fans created an amazing atmosphere, and, as always, the racing was unpredictable right up until the last laps of the last heat. What Herlings, Coldenhoff, Cairoli, Prado, Lawrence, Paulin and Lupino did was really remarkable – and yes, I am extremely proud of them!
I have spoken to you many times, and we have talked about your goal, and the goal you set yourself when you decided to return in 2004. We saw it slowly unfolding, first with the big improvement of the MXoN, and the improvement of the GP riders. For me there was a moment in Italy in 2009, when Josh Coppins passed Chad Reed in a wave section at the MXoN, and I realized that the tide was turning. Did you have any, or many moments like that, where you saw the change coming?
I was confident that these improvements would pay-off since day 1 when we decided to organize the European Championship with the GP, to make our tracks more technical, and naturally to continue with the 2-day format. I was heavily criticized about that at the time, but it was just a question of time, and the evolution slowly, but surely, came. I felt we were seeing the fruit ripen when riders like Febvre, Gajser and Herlings came up into the MXGP class and gave an extra boost to the big boys.
The MXGP championship is clearly the toughest and most diverse championship in the World, and your system is working really well. Can there still be improvements?
For sure, when you think to be on the top and you start to relax, that’s when you start to decline. We need to keep making improvements and fine tuning, we need to keep our eyes open and be ready to adjust whenever necessary – for example, we see in the European 250 Championship there are more and more older riders who are not competitive in the MXGP class and they return to the EMX250 class, this on a long term will compromise the growth of the youth in this class, therefore we are thinking about putting an age limit in this class and creating a new European 2 stroke class (250cc, instead of 300cc) like this all these older riders who are still good riders but maybe not good enough for MXGP have a good Championship to go to, this will allow the talented youth to prove themselves in the EMX2 European Championship before moving up into the MX2 class.
How can the American riders and tracks turn this around, so they can maybe be like they used to be?
Clearly every Championship has its own particularity, and in USA it’s even more complicated because there are 2 Championships that have to live together (MX and SX). Both Championships are excellent – SX is a great show in the towns, but MX is the roots and the soul of our sport and it’s fundamental for the Motorcycle market and the formation of the youth; these aspects are very important to keep in consideration. I don’t want to tell them what to do in USA because they know their own market better than I do, but I am a true believer in the formula which we use for the World Championship: to make each event over 2 days, with riders who are able to stay on the bikes for more than 2 and a half hours over the weekend, to make tracks that are very technically demanding, and to include a serious youth 125 and 250 Championship on the same track and on the same weekend as the World Championship. I believe currently things are very SX-oriented in USA and the riders training and tracks are very much in align with SX and possibly not enough MX.
I hear that supercross is the reason Team USA are not winning. I don’t agree, but what is your opinion on it?
No, clearly the SX is not the reason. Supercross is a great show and it’s essential in US. As I said above the reason are many others, maybe the reason is that many people were pushing SX so much that they forgot that all the SX riders come from MX, and MX is crucial for the health of the motorcycle market – so therefore it’s important to find the right compromise between the two. I believe MX has a huge potential in America, and the AMA Motocross Championship, which is very well organized by Davey Coombs, has great potential.
As you know, there was a time that the AMA riders dominated the GP riders, and the MXoN was more or less a showing of their power. A great era in the sport. Can you see them coming back?
For sure – the past is past; the present is present and the future is unpredictable. As I said above America has a huge potential, it’s the biggest Motorcycle market in the world, there are thousands and thousands of amateurs, and the possibility is definitely there. I think it’s just a question of making the right choices and a bit of fine-tuning, and for sure the American riders have a great chance to be back on top at the MXoN, people should not count them as goners as with a few minor adjustments they’ll be back.
The Motocross of Nations continues to produce amazing drama. Obviously 2016 was full of drama, but last weekend with Holland going 1-1-1-2 and DNF, DNS, and France winning with so much drama about their team. Also Italy looking likely to win it late, Australia being in contention. What did you enjoy most about what you saw?
This is the MXoN – unpredictable and full drama. And this is why this event is unique and why we all love the MXoN. I enjoyed every race, because all were full of emotion including the MXGP qualifying on Saturday, what Jeffery did in this race is something unbelievable which I’m sure will remain in the history of our sport. MXoN translates to: excitement, atmosphere, amazing racing, crazy fans, awesome!
Despite the rain, it was a big success. What is the next plan for USA and MXGP?
First I want to say a big thanks for the great cooperation and great organization to the Coombs family and the Ritchie family because thanks to this close cooperation we made together the event was a real success. After this successful event we have already had several requests for MXGP / MXoN events in USA, but we intend on continuing our cooperation with MX Sports and we are thinking about returning to US with the MXoN in 2022 or 2023, and MXGP is surely in our plans too, but if we come back with MXGP to USA we want to come back to a venue and a situation where the event can be at a level close to the MXoN in Red Bud, because now the world has seen the quality of the MXGP and MX2 riders and when you add the top 5 or 6 American riders it can be the same level of racing as the MXoN at Red Bud. When we have the feeling that this can be a reality then for sure MXGP will return to US