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Status of World MX 2013 – Giuseppe Luongo interview

Giuseppe Luongo is the president of Youthstream, the company that oversees the FIM World Motocross Series. To understand better the MX GP’s, we asked Mr. Luongo to give us a ‘state of the union’, and more, on World MX.

Supercross.com: Each year in America, our president gives a ‘State of the Union’ on the condition of our country. As president of Youthstream, can you give us a ‘state’ of the World MX Championships as the 2013 season has begun?

Giuseppe: Certainly. The first vision now as we look forward to 2013 and beyond – we see an increased number of riders in all the championships. The top echelon of our sport is the MX1 and MX2 World Championships. But for us, it is just the top of the pyramid of things we support and want to grow, to make motocross and motorcycling as best as we can. We have multiple levels in this pyramid – all the way down to mini’s.

Let’s look at the first two MX GP’s. They are far away from the home ‘base’ of where most teams and riders are – most are based in Europe. Yet we have a very high level of entries. Both the rider entry for the first two overseas Grands Prix, Qatar & Thailand, was fantastic.

I am very happy because we are building better and better harmony between the teams, the riders, the fans, the sponsors, the FIM, and ourselves.

Giuseppe and Ursula Luongo

Obviously, in many parts of the world, there are economic problems. However, we look at these as opportunities.

Sometimes, in both motocross, but almost any business, people are happy when things continue to run smoothly and as in – with no innovation. But ultimately, with no innovation, things usually become stagnant.

With the economic situations changing globally, and, also in almost all individual markets and countries – we really have new, changed markets. We must adapt. We must embrace change. We must innovate. Or we risk becoming stagnant.

With a little bit of imagination, and an open mind, and not be so linked only to our past on the continent of Europe, people are beginning to see a more global and worldwide view of the FIM World Motocross Championships. And everyone is seeing it as a great opportunity.

Our primary championship series is called “The World Championships”. We now have an opportunity to move forward, grow, and be present on almost every continent, and in almost every growing market. This is our future of where we want the sport for all to be viable and successful.

An MX GP in Qatar is a good example. In the months and weeks leading up to the event, people were saying ‘Yeah, but why Qatar? Why the Middle East?”

I can answer that easily. Qatar is one of the most important countries in The Middle East. It has the highest per capita standard of living in the world. It is growing in leaps and bounds. For someone that has never been there, I understand whey they would wonder. But if you get the opportunity to visit Qatar, you will definitely have your eyes opened.

The Middle East is currently over 400 million people, and growing. At the Qatar GP, we had two days of live coverage of the event all throughout The MIddle East, and on the day of the GP (Saturday) we had live TV coverage across the world.

The GP of Qatar was already a huge, huge success without even having a motorcycle get onto the track yet. I can’t stress that enough. It was, and is huge. We have brought the culture of our sport, at the highest level, to a new place in the world. A place where they are developing, and specifically want to invest and develop motorcycling. Not only to have events, but also to develop their own young riders so that in ten years or so they may be able to compete in the world championships. They are very passionate. Already their young riders want to grow up to be the next Tony Cairoli or Gautier Paulin.

The motorcycle manufacturers are excited as well. We are opening new markets together, and, the manufacturers will now be able to sell their products in markets they never have before.

When there is big change, not everyone is happy. Some feel like they win, some feel like they lose. I can tell you that in the past, many people – riders, teams, sponsors, fans and more would have complained. But now, they are all aware of not only the economic conditions worldwide, but of the opportunities worldwide. Everyone is excited about the growth, change, and future direction we are all heading.

It’s even more than that. It open’s up new places and opportunities for sponsors, and all the stakeholders involved in the sport.

So, to wrap up what I feel is the State of the Union of our sport and motocross, it is doing very, very well. And I’m positive that it will continue to develop in a tremendous way. As we look at all the pieces coming together, the World Motocross Championships are in very good health. And we will continue to grow, develop new opportunities, and innovate.

Really, you have two choices. When things are difficult, people can choose to complain, and place blame on others. It’s the fault of this person, or that person, or this company, or that company, or the government. The list is endless. For many, it’s the easiest way to go – they never recognize their own faults – it’s always the fault of someone else.

At the same time, some people make the second choice when there are difficulties. They will ask “Why are there these difficulties? Could we of made some mistakes ourselves? And what positive opportunity can we make out these difficulties?”

Another way to say it, or look at it is – some people see the glass of water half empty – they view things as bad. And some see it half full – there are good things happening, and there is also opportunity right in front of us.

Supercross.com: The World Championships, under your stewardship, are always trying to improve, change, and grow. This year has new, big changes – MX GP’s in Qatar & Thailand as you mentioned, along with the SuperFinal concept. What about in two years, or three years. What do you think we will see then?

Giuseppe: This year, and next year, are key years for the Motocross World Championships. Over all the years of the World Championships, everyone has always wanted to see improvement for the sport, and for it to be more professional.

For us (Youthstream and the MX World Championships) you will see important changes, some as you mentioned, this year and next. We have the new format – the SuperFinal, which is absolutely loved by television. And when I mean television, I mean all aspects, from the time slots, to the amount of coverage, to the action that the new format brings, the networks, and their advertisers. It even expands into other platforms, such as our digital media outlets (video distribution, social networks, etc.)

Why this change? Again, to achieve what we all want – growth, more professionalism, more opportunity for everyone involved. Everyone.

How will we do this? It’s by creating more of a ‘show’. And that’s part of what the SuperFinal helps to bring. A better show, a bigger show.

The international pageantry of World Motocross

At the same time, we want to respect the heritage and history of motocross. It is an endurance sport (at the world championship level). We want to respect the culture of the sport as well.

We have created this new system, which we believe helps to bring a bigger, better show. I can compare it to an opera. When you go to the opera, it starts slowly, but it finishes with an ‘explosion’ … something which literally brings the viewers to their feet. An amazing show.

For our events, we want something similar – not so much that they start slowly, but it can be considered that way because we start on the first day with practice, qualifying races, etc.

With the SuperFinal format, you have the first race of MX2 and MX1, and then, you have the grand finale – an explosion. We must view it this way because that is what the fans, and media outlets, desire. It’s part of the era, the generation we live in. If we continued to stay the same, and remained stagnant – there would be no growth, no opportunity. We feel that motocross is the most exciting sport in the world, and we want it to remain so.

We have so many younger people that are literally telling us what they want in the presentation – whether it be TV, Internet, social networking, and more.

Another change is the number of races outside of Europe. Europe has always been the traditional ‘home’ of the World Championships.

But let’s take a look at the recent opening GP in Qatar. The number of mainstream newspapers, and television, not just in Qatar, but in the entire region – the coverage was amazing. Three straight days. That type of coverage goes to people that have had little exposure to motocross in the past. It is new to them. The region has over 400 million people now.

Another area of opportunity, and to help make a difference in the future is the Youthstream World Academy. We are working on various continents such as Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America with John van der Berk and our Director of the academy. And this is done not only to assist young riders to grow and for their future, but also to help develop trainers locally. If we can develop trainers on the local level, then these riders will have what they need to develop every day. This helps with the goal of within ten years, riders from every continent will compete at the highest level in the world championships. We don’t want riders from Asia, Latin American, the Middle East, and Africa to just be able to line up and race – we want them to be able to compete with the best. This makes for a truly global, world championship.

These changes are just a small example of the bright future the sport has, and there are tremendous opportunities as well.

Supercross.com: When you go to a new venue, such at Qatar or Thailand, what do you and Youthstream go thru in the months and weeks leading up to the actual race?

Giuseppe: You’d probably be a bit surprised. For example, the MX GP of Qatar – we started seven years ago working on that. And there are other places in the world where we have been dealing with for two, three, four years, and you’ll see in the next year or two the results of that. We might have India coming with an MX GP in one year, we might have Argentina coming with an MX GP in two years. We have, and continue to develop, relationships everywhere in the world. And not just with organizers, but with the Federations, sponsors and potential sponsors, … so we start relationships that we foster for years. That is key.

For example, on the MX GP of Qatar, we started our relationship with Mr. Nasser Khalifa Al Attiya, the President of the Qatari Federation, who by the way is a very important person, especially in this part of the world, over seven years ago. He runs all the motor sports in Qatar, including MotoGP. We’ve always kept in communication, keeping him updated on the what is happening with the World Motocross Championships.

Then two years ago we decided it was the correct time to work even closer together and to start on having a Grand Prix in Qatar for 2013. Then we signed a contract. We have both myself, and other Youthstream staff that came to inspect the venue, and to make sure that our technical staff, especially those linked to the construction of the track, and all the infrastructure that would be coming, would understand the tasks. As the weeks and days lead up to the event, they were on site every day. One of the most important things done was the completion of the track, which is done in co-operation with the Federation and their staff.

It was very similar with the Grand Prix of Thailand.

Qatar was an amazing success – again, even before the first bike went on the track for the first practice. Qatar is modern, clean, safe, and there are venues for many things to do in the city of Doha that are equal to any place in the world. Anything you want or need – they have in Qatar – it is a fantastic country.

Everything starts with human relationships. If we build those correctly, then we can work on the projects together and be successful. You can live life with the correct attitude, and with respect for all.

I’d like to explain a bit about the people & the passion of Youthstream. There is a reason why we all do what we do.

My belief is that when you have a company, the company must serve the people. To make those people involved in the company, and their families, to be able to live thru the company. It is not for the company to become ‘rich’ off of using it’s employees and staff. I want to tell you – I’m not against making a profit for our companies. We want our companies to succeed.

But first, you must have the correct people in your company, and that thru their work, they are able to live well. They must ‘profit’ from their work, and be able to help their families. This isn’t about sports, or business – it’s again about the human aspect that we feel is so important in so many ways. If the people in a company struggle, then the company will struggle. And then all the ‘good’ people in the company will leave.

If you use, or abuse people, you can have your company make a big profit in a short time. But it will not last. It is not sustainable. If you talk to any of the people that work at Youthstream, no one wants to leave the company. There are here, and they stay, and they are happy because of many reasons. We have a tremendous support system. We have great communication and respect for each other. The families of most are involved and happy as well.

And for sure, all these people involved, they have a huge, huge passion for motocross, and especially the World Championships. They make good money, and in a way, we are all a little bit like gypsies – because we literally travel all over the world.

If you are driven only by money, you will only survive in this sport for a short period of time. It is not the reason to do our work. Even those of us at the top, we work 15, 16 hours days. And the people that work on the track – they sometimes easily work 18 hours a day.

So for that, and any of the work required that is demanding, you must have passion. At the same time, the company must take care of them, their families & homes, and respect them.

When you put all this together, it then becomes something you can also enjoy. People are happier. And when they are happier, they produce more results in all areas of life. When you love what you do, your quality of life is better.

We put the product of the Motocross World Championships ahead of the company (Youthstream). If we develop the product (the Motocross World Championships) correctly, then the company will have success. It cannot be the other way around. And, if we develop the Motocross World Championships correctly, everyone – the fans, the sponsors, the teams, the riders – everyone will benefit.

 

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