Carmelo Ezpeleta is to the motorcycling kingdom, what Bernie Ecclestone is to car racing – the ultimate ringmaster.
The 61-year-old Barcelona-born Ezpeleta is the CEO of Dorna, the commercial rights holder of the MotoGP.
Ezpeleta has now set his sights on India and is presently in negotiations with Jaypee Group over staging a MotoGP race at the Buddh International Circuit in the near future.
During this weekend’s Qatar MotoGP, the Spaniard took time out for an exclusive interaction with HT. Excerpts from the interview.
There’s talk that the World Superbike Championships will enter in 2013. How soon before MotoGP makes a foray into India?
We know that the World Superbike Championships is in negotiations with the Jaypee Group. We have also been in communication with Mr Sameer Gaur, talks are on, but we can’t pinpoint an exact date yet. We’ve been in talks with Mr Gaur since the end of 2010. I visited India last year and in a few months we will have a notification.
The Madras Motor Sport Club (MMSC) is being upgraded to a Grade 2 circuit, which means it will be fit to host a MotoGP race. Is that circuit also in the running for a MotoGP race?
We haven’t had any communication with them. Normally it’s the circuits that approach us, we don’t approach them. At the moment, there’s been absolutely no contact with them.
How does the presence of an Indian team, Mahindra Racing, help in MotoGP entering India?
The race in Valencia (where Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb helped clinch the team’s first pole position) was a day Mr Anand Mahindra enjoyed a lot. The result was great for the team. If there is an Indian driver in MotoGP it will make the sport grow in that market.
Can other Indian manufactures follow Mahindra’s lead? Also, can Mahindra progress from Moto3 right up to MotoGP?
MotoGP is very complicated sport with high level technology, of course, other Indian manufacturers can do it, but they need to make a big investment like Mahindra did. As far as, Mahindra progressing is concerned, why not. Moto2 is mono-engine series (all Honda engines) so that’s unlikely, but MotoGP is different. It all depends on the investment they are willing to make and the resources at their disposal.
Earlier the MotoGP market was predominantly a European one. How has that changed over the years?
The sport is a more global one now with races across the world, from America to Australia. Next year we have 18 races, less than half of those races are in Europe.
In your time, what’s been your best and worst moment on the track?
I’ve been in-charge for 19 years and have organised over 320 races. Best moments? There are many. It’s not the best moments that I remember, it’s the worst. Every time there’s been a casualty, like Marco Simoncelli (at last year’s Malaysian MotoGP), it’s been a testing time for all of us. I remember these incidents more than the good moments.
How did Simoncelli’s death affect you, and the series?
On a personal level, it affected me greatly. For the series, it showed that despite all the improvements in safety standards we’ve made over the years, there’s still more that we can do. You can’t completely eliminate the risk factor, but we’ve tried to minimise it.
The writer’s trip has been sponsored by Mahindra Racing