Exclusive interview: Oscar Gallardo, Director of FIM CEV Repsol
Various nations have particular sports which they have a great focus on – and in which they encourage and develop young talent. For some it may be cricket or tennis or football – for the Spanish, perhaps motorcycling stands out above all other sports – and the rewards of the vigour, investment and passion with which they develop and support talent are there for all to see in their frequent and impressive dominance at a world level. This is probably the best context in which to consider the past and the future of the FIM CEV Repsol Championships.
Oscar Gallardo is the Director of FIM CEV Repsol and is a central figure in its development across the years – and at Round 1 of this year’s Championship at Valencia we were lucky enough to get some time with him to take us through that history and to look at what makes CEV Repsol such a success on home soil and such an important competition in a wider perspective.
When it first began in 1998 the CEV – “Campeonato de España de Velocidad” – was very much a ‘domestic’ championship, developed by Dorna and taken over from the Spanish Federation (RFME). Its basic premise was that it was a series above all to develop Spanish talent (although it never restricted entrants by nationality), covering various championship categories, and run exclusively on Spanish tracks. It was back then made up of 125cc, 250cc and Supersport 600cc categories.
“At the beginning the spirit was really to develop Spanish riders” Oscar begins, “but then we thought to do the same for riders from all over the world – to help them develop too – and now as you can see the CEV Repsol Championships have riders of many, many nationalities.”
More recently it has become more and more international – not only through the growing diversity of its entry list, but also through expanding its calendar to take to tracks outside of Spain itself – and of course, also through the very visible ascent of its stars and champions into the world championships. It’s a highly competitive series across its four classes, and is massively enjoyable to watch (If you think it’s good on TV, seriously you should grab a cheap plane ticket and go see it live and enjoy seeing spectacular racing – and tomorrow’s MotoGP stars – close up…)
Oscar continues “Nowadays it has riders of so many different nationalities, and has so much riding talent in it. There is such quality in the riders – between 70% and 80% of MotoGP riders come from the CEV Repsol. It is in some ways a school for these riders. We have so many riders that have gone up to the MotoGP World Championships – It is great for me to follow them from the beginning and see them move up.
“And it is a great Championship for teams too – thanks to smaller budgets it means they are able to compete and to help riders show their potential.”
The CEV Repsol championships have seen a considerable number of names moving up into the FIM’s world championships, especially through the Moto3 category – now justifiably renamed as the Moto3 Junior World Championship – and has in many ways become something of a de facto ‘feeder’ series to MotoGP (along with the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup). CEV Repsol’s Moto2 and Superbike categories have also been reclassified as European Championships – again establishing more of an international theme to the series. This internationalisation and synergy with MotoGP is doubtless partly due to the influence of Dorna – rights holder to both, but very probably also a genuinely organic development arising from the success of the very international rider list.
The internationalisation and growing popularity of the FIM CEV Repsol championships is not down solely to the diversity of its riders though – credit also has to go to Dorna for embracing more and more the opportunities afforded by online distribution of coverage. Whilst some countries broadcast the series (you can get it here in the UK on BT Sport for instance) – a crucial pillar has been delivery via Youtube to countries where it is not readily available on television. Beyond that Dorna also licence websites to run special highlights packages as streaming content (something which we’re pleased to be delivering this year).
To promote international riders and develop international audiences, more and more you have to move away from traditional, linear models of TV and old media distribution – and the embracing of video via Youtube and independent websites is an ideal way of doing this; reaching out to wherever people may be in the most convenient and available format you can utlitise.
“The Championships were originally broadcast only in Spain” explains Oscar, “but now we have many viewers worldwide – and this is something that is really important to us. The growth of viewing figures has been continuing year by year, outside of Spain too – the figures continue to grow and grow and we have more and more people around the world following the Championships.
“And of course it’s so important for the fans and followers of international riders to be able to see the races on television and on the web, and we work hard to make sure that it’s possible for them to follow the Championships. And we are really happy with how this is working too – very happy with the results so far.”
One essential part of getting talented riders – of whatever nationality – involved is making the various categories affordable. Basing the championship largely in one country is obviously a cost effective base to enabling participation; the other key component is the affordability of the actual machinery and what it takes to keep it serviceable and on-track. Nonetheless the Championship has recently started to take a couple of its rounds to France and Portugal…
“We try to show the Championship races outside of Spain, through television but also by running some races outside of Spain, but in reality for us it is still good to be solidly based here… The Spanish circuits are good quality circuits, many of the teams are from Spain and based in Spain – and for the riders too, it is good to be based in and working mainly in the one country. It makes it easy and affordable for them to travel around with the Championship – Barcelona, Jerez, and so-on.”
So does Oscar see that aspect of taking races to other countries expanding further or have they struck the right balance? “At the moment we’re happy with how things stand” he says. “It’s certainly not our goal right now to look at expanding it further in that way. It may depend on requests by teams and riders, but for now everyone is pretty happy with how the Championship works so we’ll continue like this, and we’ll see in the future perhaps.”
On the ground, a key aspect to the success of the FIM CEV Repsol Championships is its great accessibility policy for fans – with an excellent free and open paddock system that keeps the events busy and buzzing on race days. It was great to see at Valencia during the opening round this season, and it’s an ideal way – certainly while the Championships remain at this kind of scale – to bring fans and riders together in a way that’s sadly impossible for championships on a global scale.
“We really like this aspect of things” Oscar says, “and because we are less popular than MotoGP for example, it is easier for us to be able to have the ‘open paddock’ and for the fans to get close to the riders and teams. You always have to remember that really the paddock is a place for the riders and teams to work of course, but at this point in time it is good that we are able to share it with fans.”
Taken overall, does Oscar think the classes have now developed in a fairly stable position for the foreseeable future, aside of course from minor technical changes?
“I think the classes are pretty settled for now. We don’t have any plans to change any of the classes. There are sometimes minor changes, like the introduction of Moto3 ‘production’ – with less tuning – small things like that which are done to help give the opportunity for teams and riders on smaller budgets, to help make competition more affordable for them. But largely, yes, I think the classes will remain much as they are.”
A single-spec category such as the Kawasaki Cup is of course another model of approaching affordability for riders and teams. Running to a standard specification – and on maintaining and preparing that alone instead of being focused on technical development programmes means that more limited budgets go purely on racing.
“It’s a cup for amateur riders – and yes it’s also a cup that is based on running on lower budgets because it’s a single make and you have limited options: it makes for good racing… the spirit of the cup is for fun and for racing and it’s a fantastic opportunity for these riders to be here and to be a part of the CEV, and to be together with these other classes and with these future stars.”
In Spain, the races of this year’s FIM CEV Repsol can be viewed live on the Movistar MotoGP channel which will broadcast all the races scheduled in the Moto3 Junior World Championship, Moto2 European Championship and Superbike European Championship categories. BT Sport (Great Britain) and Eurosport via Eurosportplayer (France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands) also offer coverage of the Moto3 Junior World Championship, Moto2 European Championship and Superbike European Championship with live broadcasts of each of the races through their digital network. In Italy, Sky will broadcast live both of the Moto3 Junior World Championship and Moto2 European Championship races. In other countries, all the races can be seen live on the Championship’s Youtube channel.
And don’t forget to check Vroom Magazine after each race weekend for the official video highlights of the Moto3 Junior World Championship, Moto2 European Championship and Superbike European Championship categories.
Interview & photos: Gareth Bouch for Vroom Media.
Thanks to Oscar Gallardo, Jordi Mateu, Dorna Sports.