Guest Column: The Business Of Racing, By Eric Trytko

With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.

Young riders coming up today, and even current riders, need to understand that they are no longer being paid to race. This is a major change in mindset, what they are paid to do is work as a marketing tool for their sponsors and patrons. For most of the history of athletics and motorsports, one of two things had to happen for you to compete, you either were either wealthy, or, you had to have a wealthy patron. Patron, another term for sponsor, is something that disappeared, for the most part, post-World War II on a personal level. Post World War II sponsorship came from corporations rather than people though that really didn't become visible until the 1960s with the Lotus Formula One team.

In today's world, corporations aren't racing for anything more than exposure. And that exposure is not so much about what happens on the racetrack, it's what happens with that sponsorship at the track and off the track. In fact, most sponsors don't care a whole lot about what happens on the track as long as their brand is visible, it's about what you're doing with your visibility and your hospitality on a race weekend. Then, it's also about, promotion pre-race and post race. On top of that it's doing appearances for the corporation when and where they choose.

Hospitality might be one of the most under-appreciated items by racers and fans. Many times sponsors are looking to market themselves and strike business deals with other companies and sponsors at the race track. If you look at successful Indy car teams like Penske, Newman Haas and Ganassi, or most of the top F1 teams, you will find that the hospitality at a race is another location like the golf course for business people to expand contacts and strike deals.

It would behoove any person interested in racing going forward to dedicate as much time, effort and passion to cultivating sponsors and patrons as they do training physically to go racing. Without cubic dollars you will not be able to compete unless you are the very exceptional person. And while every athlete/racer thinks they are that exceptional person, 99.44% of those people are not. What is important is to develop deeper relationships with people using any connections at your disposal to develop sponsorship.

All sponsorship is a personal connection with a person, or a corporation or a person within a corporation. Many many times a person leaves a corporation and that sponsorship disappears for the racer/athlete with that connection. You have to make multiple connections within a company, not just rely on one person, and do it with more than one company. Just because something doesn't work out today, does not mean it will not work out down the road if you keep working it, never put all your eggs in one basket.

Is this the ideal situation? No. But it is reality in 2012. In an ideal world we all like to see racers and athletes rewarded for performance and talent, but that is not, nor has ever been reality. People with money will always have more opportunities, unless those who don't are exceptional at finding sponsorship through their ability to market themselves.

Ant West, Yonny Hernandez and many others, including fans, have to realize that racing is a business. It's a business for the team, for the sponsors, and for the racers. To deny this is to be naive. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you can't secure the backing to get yourself a ride, then it matters not.


Eric Trytko is a writer, commentator and social media expert. You can find out more about him at Rumblestrip.net, or follow him on Twitter: @rumblestrip 

With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.Young riders coming up today, and even current riders, need to understand that they are no longer being paid to race. This is a major change in mindset, what they are paid to do is work as a marketing tool for their sponsors and patrons. For most of the history of athletics and motorsports, one of two things had to happen for you to compete, you either were either wealthy, or, you had to have a wealthy patron. Patron, another term for sponsor, is something that disappeared, for the most part, post-World War II on a personal level. Post World War II sponsorship came from corporations rather than people though that really didn't become visible until the 1960s with the Lotus Formula One team.

Comments

But it's something that's hidden

It's understandable that people don't know what's going on with sponsorship and riders paying for rides because it's not disclosed by the teams or written about by journalists. Even though it's common knowledge in the paddock... no one tells.

All we hear is that so-n-so signed a contract for Reallyfast Racing Team. The interview with the rider and team is all about how they're all excited and how they're looking forward to a great season etc etc. We're not told that so-n-so got the ride because he brought $2 million dollars of Repsol sponsorship along. We're not even told that the team isn't paying him to ride at all but the sponsor is. Or that no one is paying the guy at all.

It's as if it's a thing of shame. Or maybe it's an illusion that's perpetuated because if the young people watching knew the reality of the situation then no one would even start a motor racing career. They'd go play golf. After all who's been killed playing golf?

I would even say that many potential sponsors aren't even aware of the reality of the situation either. People who might be willing to jump in to support riders if they knew. Reporting the situation after the fact doesn't help. If you really want to help the sport then tell us the all the facts.

Until we're all given an accurate picture of the true state of affairs of bike racing then no one can support any changes made to reduce costs so that the truly deserving riders get the ride, not the ones with the most money.

Total votes: 72

Pay-for-ride

Good riders will continue focusing on their riding abilities. Pay-for-ride undermines the integrity of MotoGP, and Dorna have no interest in allowing the sponsors to control IRTA (teams and riders). Riders with certain credentials and certain passports are often more valuable to Dorna than they are to a snack foods sponsor (or whatever).

Dorna already put a damper on the pay for ride game by turning 250GP into Moto2. I don't know that Dorna were completely successful, but the amount of money necessary to field a decent team has been reduced. Now, Dorna are pushing for CRT (or strict horsepower restrictions) in MotoGP, and they are demanding that bikes should cost around 1 million euros.

Jarvis' info about expanding into Asia is also revealing. If MotoGP is to follow F1's lead, they will stop relying on heavily subsidized European TV contracts, and they will sell races to wealthy governments who need exposure. For the record, I don't think selling GP to autocrats is a terribly good idea, but it will generate more revenue for MotoGP and diversify the revenue stream.

MotoGP's new look is designed to release MotoGP from the sponsors grip, which, according to many in the paddock, began when the tobacco sponsors showed up. I don't think pay-for-ride is going to last very long, unless Dorna turns MotoGP into NASBIKE. If the entire show is fueled intentionally by sponsor money, MotoGP riders should continue working on their sales pitches.

Total votes: 79

the slippery slope

Of putting entertainment ahead of competition slides on. What you are describing is not racing or competition, it is reality TV where each sponsor only needs to supply a personality to participate and then relies on the 'sanctioning body' to arrange the rulebook such that their advertisement dollars meet some opaque exposure ratio to keep broadcasters happy and funds flowing.

It used to be that sponsorship was a desire companies had to to associate themselves with a winner for marketing purposes. Now all they want is a focus group polled personality that speak the lines given to them and competes on a contrived playing field so they can construct a narrative that feeds into their corporate image. As you say, they don't really care what is going on on the track, and that is a shame.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 70

Sorry Eric...

But racing IS a sport first. It's always been, and hopefully always will be. The ability to package and market it as entertainment is the business part.

The problem is the sport side is being undervalued against the business side. Money is more important, because most people involved in the business side don't really love our sport like we do. For them it's just that, a business.

Unfortunately, that's the truth.

Total votes: 72

99.44%?

or 99.54?

Total votes: 54

Agreed its a sport first, but

Agreed its a sport first, but without the money, nothing will move... You can have all the talent in the world, but you should also have the talent to attract people... without that its a big up hill...hiring managers to manage that is the first biggest step, cuz you can relieve of that and concentrate on the sport..

we are talking abt millions of dollars in R&D and world wide exposure... its not the back-road-racing of New Hampshire... Its not a bunch of friends racing for fun.. its a multi-dimension event with money at the centre... without money everything will collapse... amidst all the "nonsense", riders still manage to have a little bit of fun while riding the bike for 30 laps..

just my point of view.. with talent comes attention.. if you are really talented, you win races and get paid.. if you are a lost needle in the stockpile of hay, then you need to do something to get up there..

Total votes: 55

Dorna is failing the sport

I disagree with Trytko - riders are not there to sell the sport and thus gain sponsorship, they are there to provide the level of spectacle that should make the sport a highly-valued commodity and thus gain sponsorship at all levels. That is what Ecclestone has done with F1 - THE story nowadays is not the drivers (indeed a vast majority of the glitterati that surround the F1 circus when it comes to town wouldn't know most of the drivers' names) but the mystique that it is absolutely the pinnacle of high-octane - pun intended - entertainment. It is Dorna's job to sell that spectacle as entertainment and exposure to a level that will have sponsors scrambling for a spot before the cameras and in the photos that go around the world.

Dorna fails miserably to sell the sport; it has ridden on the coat-tails of Rossi for too long without taking the next critical step. It has a huge story to sell: about blazing speed, incredible skills, amazing technology and yes, danger - but it basically sells: 'come see Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa ride motorcycles!' Hell, the appearances of Paris Hilton at a couple of races probably got more general column-inches and particularly photos in the wider press world than any individual rider last year. Even a Rossi can only do so much.

When the F1 circus comes to town it is front-page news: gala balls, celebrity events, the whole razzamatazz. People who wouldn't know a spanner from a circlip are there to be seen; sponsors get a major frisson from their participation. When motoGp comes to town, it's big news for the fans - but for the rest of the country, it's a quirky side issue to life (perhaps Spain and Holland excepted).

If the profile of the sport were where it can and should be, I don't believe that sponsorship would be nearly as hard to get as it apparently is, and flowing from that, the teams would be able to command the sort of money that would allow them to hire the best - not just siphon off their bankroll.

Total votes: 64

Absolutely right

They need to do something soon... there is good chance that after rossi leaves, the ratings might dip down..

But do you think its also just people's perception? Car racing has been around for while, and people connect much more to it than bikes. Only people riding motorcycles connect to Motogp.. Do you think its in people's perception?

And i think they need better promotions, better marketing. I stopped watching F1 after Schumacher left. but this year i watched a couple of the race edits and was able to feel the excitement and wanted to watch the races again... Thats what dorna is supposed to be doing.. Dorna's race edits are lot of the times pathetic and boring and dull... does not show the real excitement at all...

and about broadcasting, i think they are doing a good job. For 100$ i have access to all the races from 2000. That is something which F1 does't do either. They show it on TV, so fans can definitely watch it live. But i think they can reduce the race pass alone. If one does not want the archives, and wants only the season race, he must be charged a fraction of 100$.

Total votes: 66

Dorna failed the sport

Dorna failed the sport.

Dorna believed 4-stroke 990s would promote MotoGP. They were right, and the first 5 years of MotoGP can only be classified as an overwhelming commercial success for the sport. The 990s were an incredible spectacle, and Rossi was an incredible champion.

Dorna's laissez-faire management style ended up biting them. Kato's death sparked an MSMA-led revolt against the 990cc formula and displacement-limited 4-stroke MotoGP racing. Ezpeleta admits he surrendered to the fuel-limited 800cc formula. Worse still, CVC acquired a majority-share of F1, and European courts forced CVC to sell prior to a sustained economic downturn.

Dorna failed quite miserably during the last 5 years, but, I'm not sure it's fair to classify their actions as a failure. I don't think it's fair regarding this issue in particular b/c Ezpeleta has expressed his dislike of pay-for-ride, and he has acted on his convictions during the creation of Moto2. Dorna cannot stop pay-for-ride, but they can stop its influence on the sport whenever they are willing to commit funding. Dorna already move riders from championship to championship with funding (Elias) and we know they sponsor certain riders for their commercial importance (Toseland). Dorna could easily front the money for Ant West, or any other rider with MotoGP experience who can help CRTs develop.

In that case, the premise of this article would prove moot, as well as comments about Dorna's failure in the present tense. We have to wait and see where the sport goes before we declare that Dorna is failing and riders should get off of the exercise bikes and into sales training. At the very least, we know Dorna have the ability and motivation to kill pay-for-ride. Whether or not they have the competence is up for debate, I suppose.

Total votes: 57

Talent still matters

"Ant West, Yonny Hernandez and many others, including fans, have to realize that racing is a business. It's a business for the team, for the sponsors, and for the racers. To deny this is to be naive. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you can't secure the backing to get yourself a ride, then it matters not."

Your story holds, but not for the really talented riders. The stories of riders not finding enough funding like Pasini, Gadea, West and Hernandez are riders that have shown that they will never be future world champions in any GP class. Makes it quite understandable why they find it harder to find funding. They are just not that attractive prospects for sponsors. So really we should not feel to sorry for them. Of course it would be nice to have full grids of bikes, but we need the best riders out there and they surely are not.

Total votes: 69

Re: Talent still matters

Ouch. I guess what you're saying is that the factory team owners will find the future world champions, not the directors of marketing at Red Bull, Repsol, etc.

Probably true, but I wonder about a guy like Casey Stoner: As I watched him crash his brains out on privateer bikes as he came up through the ranks, I honestly had no clue that I was watching a future world champion. Remember he didn't get the cushy rides like so many of the young Spaniards and Italians.

Total votes: 51

So for example

at Tech 3 Crutchlow and Dovi, both these guys are being funded by Monster - wasn't Dovi a long time Red Bull rider, so he's turned down their coin to pick up that of Monster Energy?
Or at this echelon are either or both get paid something by Yamaha?
Wasn't CE2s ride paid for by Yamaha USA for years??

Total votes: 54

Of Course You Have To Pay To Race!

Most of this article and these comments are self evident. It's not like West can't race anymore, it's just that no one is going to pay him or his team $250,000 anymore. Big deal! I have the same problem. No one will pay me anything to race motorcycles...but I can still go out and risk my life at a racetrack anytime I want. So can West. When I was a very poor young teacher, I could still keep my Bultaco together and go race an occasional MX.

And, I am not concerned/interested about the fact that F1 gets more and better press than Moto GP. Cars are a more popular way of getting around than motorcycles. The FIM or Dorna or whoever is presently pulling the strings doesn't have to do anything. This is motorcycle racing...it's not the United Nations. If any of these organizations collapse...or fans lose interest...or if some promising 15year old fails to understand the importance of self promotion....so what? Motorcycle racing will continue in some format, and the best riders and best mechanics and the best bikes will come to the front. It's not like "we" have to save something...or do something in a hurry because Rossi will retire some day. All of this will continue. There will still be motorcycles....there will still be racers...the tracks will remain...and the manufacturers will continue to be interested in exposure.

Let's see how it all works out. I would still like to see a $100,000 claiming rule. Then we might be able to figure out who is the best rider.

Miguel

Total votes: 64

Reading this reminded me

how much I appreciate David's eloquently-written articles.

Total votes: 55

It looks no different..

..from the movie "industry". Exactly the same parameters and expectations apply to the actors. Hollywood evolved into this financial structure, and has not changed in 80 years. I think we're going to have get used to it.

Total votes: 50

hmmmmm

Eric,

You do have a point in that a racer needs to be aware of his persona but I think go too far in saying that he is not getting paid to race. He is. If he didn't race he wouldn't be there. There's a difference between having to be aware of a situation and having that situation be your prime concern. A young racer should be concerned with results above all. His management/team structure should be responsible for everything else.

What is happening is that as the racing business model gets tighter the team managers are forcing people to take responsibilities that they never had a part in before. To expect a racer to pay for his ride means that the person in charge of the team's business/finances can't make a convincing argument to potential sponsors. Because of that failure they just tell the rider: you need to bring cash or don't show up. There will always be riders with a rich patron so will always be a stream of backmarkers to go through so the team can always muddle though with a mediocre rider and vague value proposition to sponsors. It is one way to go racing. It is not a way to achieve good results, which is back to what racing and racers are about.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 55

The Changing Business of Racing

Good points, well made Eric.

Change is upon the sport which I agree, must entertain first and foremost otherwise it loses attention, which in turn loses money that enables it.

I think the Internet and in particular social media now has huge potential in giving fans a much more intimate experience and relationship with the riders and teams (directly and via sponsor led activities)

This means - rather like the music industry - that income will come in different ways (many musicians now earn most of their income from tours, merchandise, guest appearances etc) and directly from fans.

Of course fans will only want to buy more additional stuff (including access and experiences) from riders who are talented (produce results), have charisma, are accessible and interactive via the social mediums.

The sport clearly needs new money as the stuff that used to work doesn't anymore - it must be flexible and able to adapt - or it will die...

Best wishes and thanks for a sharing your thoughts

-Glenn
http://twitter.com/#!/SoMotoGP

Total votes: 57

I don't think the current

I don't think the current economic model for filling the grid is any different than in the past.

Ant West undoubtedly has skills, but he's never going to be world champion, nor is he likely to ever have a bike on the podium. And that means he has to offer something to sponsors other than the promise of exposure via win or placements. If you were a sponsor willing to invest the hundreds of thousands of Euros required to even make the grid, you don't want to hear your rider saying, "Win? Fat chance!"

I think there always has been a caste system in racing. Buy-a-drive/ride deals are nothing new. The very, very few who have the talent to win AND who have demonstrated that via their rise through the lower ranks have a chance at being paid for their skills. But the racers who elicit these sorts of threads on bulletin boards seem to often be the seasoned mid-pack riders who we aficionados know and like, but will never be an Alien.

Racers, ultimately, are entertainers and professional pitchmen for major corporations. Winning is only one way to perform that task. And it is a high-wire act unlike any other in the world. Look, Ben Spies' ride is on the line, Yamaha says, and he friggin' WON last year ...

Total votes: 50

Podiums and media coverage

I'm loathe to quote wikipedia but it's succinct:
"...West enjoyed more success when, at the Monza round of the 2007 World Supersport Championship, he rode through the field from 18th on the grid to finish 3rd, while substituting for injured compatriot Kevin Curtain on his first visit to the track, on his first race aboard the Yamaha. Then, in the following World Supersport round at the historic Silverstone circuit, West secured victory in a wet race. He repeated this feat again at Misano. He finished the championship in 9th place, despite only contesting three of the thirteen rounds."

Sofuoglu's experience shows that SuperSport success doesn't necessarily translate to Moto2 success, but West has shown that with a moderately decent bike he is able to score well. He's no Valentino Rossi but last I checked there is only one Valentino Rossi!

Total votes: 49

Where does WSS rank on a global scale?

I'd put it behind the three G.P classes and WSBK. That's a lot of riders ahead battling it out in more competitive talent filled classes.

Total votes: 57

Ant West spent a year in

Ant West spent a year in MotoGP in 2008 on a Kawasaki with John Hopkins as his team mate and really struggled, usually running around the back of the field. He was generally a lot slower than Hopkins. I, for one, hoped he would do well, but it wasn't to be. Sure he was on an uncompetitive bike, but special riders get noticed because they do special things, even on uncompetitive machinery. Being good in the wet isn't enough. Most races run in the dry.

Total votes: 54

One more thought: I don't

One more thought: I don't believe Moto2 makes it any easier for a poor rider/team to run at the front than it was in the 250GP days. I think Moto2 exists because the companies that support GP racing have zero interest in two-strokes.

Total votes: 41

Sorry, this is madness.

Footballers do not pay to play. Cyclists on professional teams have minimum salaries and those salaries must be paid into a trust fund. Tennis players are paid, track and field athletes are paid. The very definition of professional sport is... that the competitors can make some money.

If in fact as Eric suggests it is down to the riders being able to raise money to compete, fine. But if they are paying for their ride, the team should be in the role of a service provider: the riders raise money, then each one hires a team, or recruits his own, to provide the necessary infrastructure. If the team doesn't provide an adequate bike, the rider sacks the team. If the rider doesn't obtain adequate results, he no longer attracts support, he drops out.

So why doesn't this happen? Because Dorna has perverted the system by making the teams the gate-keepers. That's why team managers are still driving flash cars why riders are selling theirs to lease a seat: the team gets an entry and the team decides who rides. If the team does a bad job... as several have demonstrably done... the rider gets sacked, and often doesn't get paid at all. But the team keeps its spot on the grid. So the team decides it needs a million € hospitality suite and kevlar pit-box panels and titanium pit-lane timing stands... and shops for a rider able to pay some of the bills. Meanwhile the manufacturers get in on the act by setting exorbitant lease fees or chassis prices.

There need to be checks and balances. The most obvious one is to allow a rider to buy a bike himself, turn up at any round with two mechanics and a 2-tonne van, and race if he qualifies in the first N (depending on class). If he qualifies, he gets start money. If he beats some over-priced teams, he should get enough prize money for him to turn up at the next round. Payment for performance, in other words.

The situation now is that only the teams and the organisers make money, essentially because the sport is in the process of imploding: the teams grabbed the power when money was easy, either because motorcycle racing was one of the few sports still immoral enough to take cigarette dollars, or because the teams were happy not to ask questions about the exact source of their sponsors' funds. Now it's gone, and in the classic scenario of a failing business, management has decided cuts need to be made... except in management. That usually keeps middle management (the teams) comfortable up until the factory doors close.

If the money doesn't come back (and it isn't likely in the next 5 years), the sport will simply spiral into irrelevance if it continues along these lines. Only Italians and Spanish viewers are going to be interested in watching a bunch of Spanish and Italian riders (the only ones with sufficiently rich sponsors) race each other. And even if those businesses can still find the money to pay the bills, the Spanish and Italians don't have much money to spend just now... it's going to be a bear market for exposure.

Total votes: 77

Footballers, cyclists and

Footballers, cyclists and tennis players don't require millions of dollars of equipment. If someone starts making free race bikes then maybe riders will be chosen purely on skill. Until then we've always got the Red Bull Rookies Cup. Now if only i could tell the riders apart.

Total votes: 69

Sorry, this is madness..

+ 1. Two thumbs up !

Total votes: 53

Another thing....................

Why is the future of GP racing entrusted to a Spanish company ?
Let's see , Spain, the progenitor of the manana syndrome, a poster child for European fiscal responsibility, ethical business practices and productivity......... is it 24% unemployment.....?

I'll post my reply from the " Ant West To Retire From Racing Due To A Lack Of Sponsors " thread to the question..

[quote] Where does all the money go

Submitted by dannyboy on Fri, 2012-01-27 19:18.
Site Supporter

Where does all the money go that is collected at the gate? I don't have any idea how that works, but it would make perfect sense to me that some of that money be divided up amongst the riders and teams. Maybe it already is, I don't know. Do the riders still get appearance money?
[quote]

In the back pockets of scumbags like Ezpeleta and his cronies
( here is an example of his " cost cutting "measures, I am surprised there hasn't been an outcry about this...

http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2012/Jan/120125a.htm )

and parasites like Eric Trytko...

http://www.motomatters.com/opinion/2012/01/27/guest_column_the_business_...

who " attach " themselves to a team in the guise of " producing a media image that will be appealing to sponsors and bringing in the dollars "........yeah right, I've got this bridge for sale................the best exposure is being sucessful and that will never happen as long as a disproportionate percentage of $$ are squandered on expenses ( media/PR parasites et al ) unrelated to making the bike and rider faster.

As so correctly pointed out by rick650

[quote]
Who are the Sponsors?
Submitted by rick650 on Sat, 2012-01-28 07:10.

I play a game of trying to associate a product or brand with the graphics on the bikes. Too often I am totally unable to do so which means that the marketing dollars invested have zero penetration for me.
I live in the more isolated Australian economy which helps explain this and also underlines why it is hard for West and other Australian riders to get local sponsorship dollars.
[quote]

Who & WTF are most of these companies emblazoned on the bikes ( not only a question in Oz either ), most fairings look like a beginning graffiti artists failed efforts.

Until Moto GP cuts it's ties with the Spanish bloodsuckers, it will only continue to degenerate. Ecclestone is not a saint but he's at least created a recognized global entity that pays its players.

Total votes: 67

Ecclestone vs Ezpeleta

Bernie Ecclestone makes Carmelo Ezpeleta look like Andrew Carnegie. There is plenty wrong with the way Dorna runs the sport, but you have identified none of them. More people watch MotoGP in Spain than watch F1. It is either the 2nd or 3rd most popular sport (depending on how you measure cycling), and regularly draws a large proportion of the overal TV audiences. Elsewhere in the world - New Zealand, for example - MotoGP is a marginal sport, of interest to only a few enthusiasts. Without media parasites and marketing types, the sport would be dead, or like sidecar racing, the hobby of a few obsessives, funded out of their life savings.

Total votes: 52

Parasites?

@Kiwi

The business of MotoGP is beyond my experience and expertise and I'm sure that I do not understand the forces at play or the probably subtle interactions that lead to the current situation.

However, I think it is a bit rich for you to paint the media/PR contingent as parasites when you are choosing to "parasitise" this site and David's (Eric's) hard work by not being a site supporter.

Maybe time to put your money where your mouth is?

Total votes: 60

The comparison with

The comparison with footballers, cyclists or whatever simply isn't valid in this case. Football teams, cycling teams and so on choose who they want to employ, then pay them. The reality is that no MotoGP team wants to employ Ant West. It's that simple. He has tried to get around that problem by bringing his own sponsorship, and failed.

I am not sure why people are getting so worked about the Ant West situation. Some of the comments attacking MotoGP are just bizarre. This situation is not at all unique to MotoGP, nor does it indicate at that MotoGP is in trouble. This has been going on in motorsport since its inception more than a century ago. It occurs in all motorsport at the lower end, from F1 to IRL, Nascar, touring cars, sports cars, WSBK and so on.

There are thousand of riders around the world who would like a crack at MotoGP. Ant West has had far more opportunities than most riders will ever get. He has not done enough for any MotoGP team to want to employ him. Tough, but this is competitive sport, and teams and sponsors want riders who produce results.

Motorsport depends on sponsors and entrepreneurs who are willing to fund teams. And the guy taking the risk and putting up the money for a team has every right to choose who rides for him. He also has the right to choose what car he owns, and the design of his hospitality suite. Exactly the same as football teams and cycling teams. We are not talking about office workers here, we are talking about elite competitive sport. Teams and riders must deliver, or they will fall by the wayside.

Total votes: 63

Re: this is madness

I think you are absolutely right: if the riders are now tasked with the role of bringing money as well as racing, they should be in charge. The system, as it stands, is perverted. You started by comparing this situation against other sports, but you know what it made me think of?

The music industry.

It was exactly the same story there, with labels and managers getting all control and most of the profits despite the fact it's the artists who are the essential part of the equation. The response in music industry was the rise of independent artist: people starting their own labels, creating their own studios, their own distribution systems... today large labels still exist, but there is also an alternative path that allows someone with enough talent and persistence to at least make living out of what they love doing, if perhaps not the fortunes reserved for the top acts.

I don't know whether music industry experience could translate to racing in any way... perhaps it wouldn't. The existing model won't change until there is a possibility of making enough money from just participating in racing rather than sponsorships, and that would require drastic restructuring of the whole system against the interest of most participating parties. Most parties except for riders and fans of the SPORT rather than business, that is.

Total votes: 52

The analogies to music and

The analogies to music and movie industries are spot-on, in my view. There are a few talented performers at the top who get paid, and a lot of people who might be as talented who ultimately, just for bad luck or timing or whatever, don't get those roles.

In the music industry, the major label control over indie music was almost complete - if you wanted to survive as an indie musician/label, you eventually sold to or through a major label. The only thing that broke the major label stranglehold on the industrial production of music was the computer. An indie artist could record digital-quality stuff in their bedroom, and huge numbers of people just started stealing the big-label stuff via Napster and torrenting. That's the reason we see things like SOPA popping up every couple of years; the labels and studios want to continue to see the recordings as product to be sold, but you can't make money selling things that are being stolen virtually risk-free.

The difference with racing is that of access. Anyone with a high-speed internet connection can publish music. That costs pennies a day. To race at the international level costs millions to build a bike and a team, and eventually you need a track to race on! Who is going to pay for that? The ticket-purchasers? Would ticket sales at 17 races cover just Rossi's salary?

Historic attempts to found breakaway racing series of all sorts have tended to run aground on economic shores. Simply put, racing WITH sponsors and manufacturers involved means more money for everyone - from mechanics to track owners to, yes, the riders. This is a business, just as every professional sport is.

Anyone (yes, even a non-Spaniard!) is free to start their own GP series. And you can write the rules of participation and involvement and compensation any way you want. You can limit the bike costs, the rider salaries, and ban outside sponsorship. You can make it a "real sport" where the only thing that matters is rider talent.

Give it a try. See what happens.

Total votes: 47

MotoGP is nothing like the

MotoGP is nothing like the music industry. The core of the music industry is the creativity of the artists. Their instruments are secondary and insignificant factors. The internet makes it increasingly easy, and relatively inexpensive for an artist to self publish.

In motorsport the "instrument" is all-important. It is just as much the star as the rider. A rider, no matter how good, cannot compete without competitive machinery. The machinery, whether bike or car, is very expensive to build and race. The machinery requires an expensive circuit to race on. It is expensive to transport from circuit to circuit. In short, it requires a lot of money and managerial skill to set up a race team. Far far more than setting up a band, or performing as a solo music artist.

It also requires a lot of skill and money to set up and promote an international race series.

There is nothing stopping a rider or driver setting up their own team. Nothing at all. Some have done it, although mostly with four wheels. It doesn't usually work. Setting up and running a team, a business, is an entirely different skill set to being a top rider.

Ask yourself why Rossi has no interest in setting up his own team. He has said so himself. It's because he has enough sense to understand that being a rider and being a team owner are two very different things.

And riders are not tasked with the role of bringing in money. Ant West was trying to buy a seat because no-one would hire him outright.

The fact is that there are hundreds of riders competing for just a handful of race rides in MotoGP. It is obvious that most of them will miss out. There are no such quota restrictions in the music industry.

For better or worse, international motor racing is very big business, and that is not going to change anytime soon. Or ever. The best solution for a rider is to be born with very good racing genes, with loads of talent. Then find a good mentor who knows how to open doors and find personal sponsors. But the most important thing is to be an exceptional rider. And there is just a handful of those in the world at any one time. It's tough for the rest, but this is elite competitive sport, not a job at the local office or factory.

PS. The music industry is big business too, but the barriers to entry for individuals are very low, more like golf or tennis for example. Just buy a set of golf clubs, a tennis racket, or a guitar, and you can be a participant. Even at the most basic level of motorsport, like karts or minibikes, the cost is already much higher than starting out as a musician. To compete in motorsport at the international level as a team is very expensive indeed, and requires business building skills way beyond the abilities or inclination of most riders.

Total votes: 51

Racing... A Selfish Quest!

All the posts beforehand make valid points! But the basis for racing (like everything else in the world) is competition and being the best... being Number-1. From the factories involvement to the sponsors to the riders and teams, they all want to be #1 which is dictated by talent and money. The riders must have the talent/skills to produce results in order to draw the attention of sponsors and Factories. With front-running results come media attention/advertising for sponsors to justify why they shell out BIG money for the riders to race every weekend. Hasn't it been this way since the beginning of motorcycle racing? One issue with Motorcycle racing is that the market is so small compared to other sports (for people other than bike racing fans) there are too many organizations involved that can't agree on a common goal to grow the sport. Dorna is working on the situation as best they can with the parties involved... it won't happen overnight. Carmelo knows this and is trying to make amends for dropping the ball with the introduction of the 800cc Era years ago! Carmelo should hand over money to develop new talent but so should the Factories to build the grid up. We don't hear of the terms of each rider's contract but should it matter? Formula 1 has country-government funded drivers with certain teams on the grid. There's a National pride of having a talented Brazilian or Russian driver on the grid to grow the sport in that region. MotoGP should do the same if the 'talent' is there especially since Dorna wants to visit these new regions/tracks with F1. Has there ever been a Japanese MGP champion on a Japanese bike? Where have all the talented Japanese riders gone? Why isn't Honda or Yamaha grooming Japanese riders? Riders must become off-track Media-getters with character and charisma. Nicky Hayden's style of Marketing/Sales/PR has sustained him throughout his career. Hayden's ability to keep the on-track/off-track attention of sponsors, engineers, management, and fans through his work-ethic (as the company-man) should be a guide to upcoming new talent. Karel's dad paid for his ride on the grid but he's putting in the work to show he belongs there! If a rider has the talent to even qualify to be in MotoGP, does it matters who pays the bills? If a racer is talented enough, somebody will step-up to pay the bills and if that racer is exceptional... he or she will have more than 1 offer on the table to choose from.

Total votes: 55

great thread.

Thanks for putting this on the forum. It gets at one of the points that keeps some older, entertaining ridders on the grid. It may also shuffle the moaning difficult types off more rapidly. If you don't help the sponsors sell, why should they pay you to crash and trash their very expensive toys?

Will Marlboro & Ducati profit more from having Val & Nicky -or- the current World Champion who begs off grip-N-grins at their hospitality?
(I'm not hating on Casey's riding talent, just playing devil's economist)

Young Racers would do well to make these relationships and manage their personal brands in the current racing economy.

The best rider for selling may not be the fastest rider under a set of rules. one design racing does that much better, but then the manufactures have little incentive to play, so here we are.

Total votes: 51

To the xenophobic kiwi

The sum of race day attendence for the four faces run in Spain comes out at around 350.000 which is approximately the population of Wellington. Also, the spanish National tv has been broadcasting motogp for more than 30 years. We love bikes in Spain. Its a cultural thing. A mixture of the national character, the good weather and of course our (relative) poverty has firmly implanted motorbikes in our lives. Spains weight in Motogp is simply down to our appreciation for the sport, much like rugby or sailing for new zealand.

What frustration or irrational hatred leads you to insult a whole nation I do not know, but the least I can tell you is that your attitude is far from the spirit of this site.
Live with your prejudice if you like, but at least show a mínimum of respect for other who have done you no harm (unless of course you are the illustrious A.West writing under a pseudonym)

Total votes: 55

Some details

First, my objection is not that Ant West was asked to pay for a ride, it's that everyone must pay to ride, outside of factory teams in MotoGP.

Second, cycling and football actually do have pretty big infrastructure costs: for cycling there are team cars, buses, masseurs, mechanics, drivers, coaches, directeurs sportifs, physiologists, media people, plus several bikes for each rider. It's not a Honda RCV, but it might easily be an FTR moto2 per racer. For football teams... there is the small matter of a stadium. But ask any team in the smaller classes what proportion of their budget is spent on the bike. It won't be big. An FTR costs about 70K €, and an engine lease is 56K €. Compare that to the salary of two mechanics and a data technician, plus the team boss and a PR person. Or the truck that carts it all about.

Third, the music industry analogy is not so bad when you consider the deals (legal and otherwise) to lock up radio play-time and record store shelf space. It was a major drama for the independent labels to get around that and most of them ended up sub-contracting that part of their business back to the majors. This is one reason many smaller artists are in favour of internet distribution and even creative-commons licensing... and guess what, the major labels are lobbying to block that. Remember SOPA?
Forget the name-calling. Ezpeleta is running a business and I wouldn't suggest socialized motorsport. However, that business is also the regulator of the industry made up by all the teams, which means a complicated web of deals and compromises... which means Dorna are not in a position to snap their fingers and change the cost structure of the sport. They are trapped by the situation they jumped into when the money was easy. The big question is whether they can turn things around before the whole thing self destructs. No one else can, so swearing at Carmelo is definitely not going to help.

Total votes: 57

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