What MotoGP needs now is Ride to Survive


Liberty’s takeover of Dorna offers big opportunities for MotoGP – most important is to change the governance of the technical rules and a TV series that replicates the huge success of F1’s Drive to Survive

MotoGP pack during race

MotoGP and Dorna have been sold by current major shareholders Bridgepoint, a UK-based private-equity firm, to Liberty Media, a US-based mass-media company


So, it’s finally happened: MotoGP has been sold. But will anything change? Because although Formula 1 owner Liberty Media has bought Dorna, it’s leaving the Spanish company in charge of MotoGP and World Superbike.

Liberty now owns 86% of Dorna. The remaining 14% belongs to the management, mostly the Ezpeleta family, which has run MotoGP since 1992 and will continue to run it from Spain. This suggests that the show will go on as usual, for the time being at least.

“We are not planning to change this sport,” says Liberty president Greg Maffei. “Our goal is to open MotoGP to a broader audience.”

MotoGP has been all about money since the 1980s at least

Liberty says one reason it doesn’t see the need for major change in MotoGP is because the championship is in a better place than was Formula 1 when Liberty acquired the car series in 2017, thanks to better action on the race track and decent funding of the independent teams. It says its other targets are to increase MotoGP’s visibility and increase fan engagement, largely through the power of social media, with which Liberty is very savvy in F1. And, just to be sure, there will be no MotoGP street races!

Liberty eased into F1 slowly, getting to know how everything worked before pushing forward with changes that have quadrupled the championship’s worth. It retained long-time F1 mogul Bernie Ecclestone as chief executive, then got rid of him after a few months and set up new offices. Might Liberty do the same with the Ezpeletas?

Some fans worry that Liberty will make MotoGP all about money. Well, MotoGP has been all about money since the 1980s at least. Other fans worry that Liberty will turn MotoGP racing into F1-style processions. Well, F1 hasn’t been a thrilling spectacle for decades.

MotoGP can be made better. And Liberty may be the people to make that happen.

When the Colorado company bought F1 it wanted to adjust the governance of the sport. This is one key area where Liberty could improve MotoGP, with the upcoming 2027 rewrite of the technical rules.

Jorge Martin leads a group of three riders in MotoGP race

MotoGP still allows close racing but there’s less overtaking due to recent technical innovations. This needs to change


The majority of MotoGP fans don’t like the technical road that MotoGP has taken in recent years, with downforce aerodynamics, ride-height devices and other new technologies that have made overtaking more difficult, creating less exciting racing.

This isn’t Dorna’s fault. The problem is that the manufacturers essentially decide MotoGP’s technical regulations – via a ridiculous rule that requires the manufacturers to agree all regulations unanimously – so the people who run the show have no real control over the most important aspect of a technical sport like motorcycle racing: the technical rules.

When mass dampers and ride-height regulators arrived in F1 some years ago they were quickly banned by those in charge. Such bans are impossible in MotoGP because of the current governance system. That needs to change.

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MotoGP’s next tech revolution? Sensors on riders!

MotoGP’s next tech revolution? Sensors on riders!

The rider accounts for around a third of the combined mass of a MotoGP bike. Engineers have tons of bike data but they need to know where the rider is sat and what he’s doing

By Mat Oxley

Motorcycle racing has two main pillars: entertainment and technology. Both are equally important, nearly. Nowadays, entertainment has to lead the way.

Motorcycle racing’s biggest advantage in the motor sport world is that it’s more exciting to watch than car racing. Therefore it’s essential that the rules are written to keep it that way, rather than to keep the engineers happy.

This doesn’t mean there will be no more engineering and technology. It means the opposite, because if there’s no show there will be fewer fans and if there are fewer fans there will be less money for tech. All that needs to change is that those in charge can control the engineering to keep the racing exciting.

That’s what needs to change in 2027: first, the governance of the tech rules and, second, the tech rules themselves. Ideally, a major reduction in downforce aero, a ban on ground-effect-type aero and a ban on ride-height and holeshot devices.

Fans want to see riders wrestling with their machines, not riding bikes that stick to the road like F1 cars. And they want to see overtaking, which means riders using each other’s slipstreams to help set up overtakes, rather than having to avoid the huge aero wakes created by current machines, which so often prevent overtaking.

Netflix recording F1 driver press conference for Drive to Survive

F1’s Drive to Survive documentary series – now in its sixth season – has had a huge effect on growing the championship


MotoGP is still very close, with most races won by less than a second, but there are many fewer battles than there used to be. In the last GP race in Portugal there wasn’t a single overtake among the top three after the first lap and the season-opening Qatar GP was led by the same rider from the fourth corner of the first lap all the way to the chequered flag.

Sadly, nothing can be done about this until 2027, unless Liberty really starts throwing its weight around. In the meantime, the company needs to start working on something less complicated but equally as important.

A year after Liberty bought F1 it did a deal with Netflix to shoot the first season of Drive to Survive, which covered the 2018 F1 season and was released in early 2019.

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Drive to Survive attracted new audiences to F1, because it is superbly conceived and directed to create human stories around the racing. Each episode is a self-contained story. This is in contrast to MotoGP’s efforts to replicate DTSMotoGP Unlimited and There Can Only Be One – which are more like highlight programmes. This is fine for existing fans, who are delighted to watch anything about MotoGP, but it’s not going to attract new fans, who need stories and characters to suck them in.

Therefore, this should be Liberty’s first job – to get the DTS team working on a Ride to Survive series. RTS will be better than DTS. Why? Because while F1 races don’t duplicate the drama of DTS, MotoGP races certainly would duplicate the drama of RTS, so this kind of show should boost MotoGP even more than it boosted F1.

Of course, the Liberty deal is not 100% done and dusted. It will have to be reviewed by monopoly commissions. When CVC Capital Partners bought F1 in 2005 to add to its existing property MotoGP it was told that owning the world’s two biggest motor sport championships was monopolistic, so it had to sell one or the other. It sold MotoGP to Bridgepoint, who have now sold to Liberty.

Liberty says it is “very confident” of passing these regulatory hurdles, because “the media landscape has changed over the past 20 years”.