Liberty Media hit with MotoGP warning: “Americans aren’t going to care... until…”

"Nobody here wants to watch subtitles"

Miguel Oliveira, MotoGP race, Grand Prix of the Americas, 14 April
Miguel Oliveira, MotoGP race, Grand Prix of the Americas, 14 April

Liberty Media have been dealt a warning that the American market won’t be easy to crack with MotoGP.

Liberty, who already own Formula 1, are completing a $4.2 billion takeover of MotoGP too.

The Americas MotoGP in Texas at the weekend offered a thrilling reminder of what the world’s top motorcycle racing series can offer.

But the US audience will need convincing, according to Roland Sands, the legendary high-performance custom bike designer.

“Americans aren’t going to care about Europeans going around in circles on motorcycles, until there’s a reason for it,” Sands told CNN.

“You’ve really got to build up characters, and you want this feeling of knowing who’s behind the helmet, and Liberty have done a fantastic job of not just doing that (with F1), but also telling the backstory of the teams. Now you feel like you’re in the know.”

One of Liberty’s greatest successes with Formula 1 was the Netflix series ‘Drive To Survive’ which was credited with greatly increasing the sport’s popularity.

But Sands has warned against a MotoGP version.

“If you’re going to do it for America the show’s gotta be in English, number one,” he said.

“Because nobody here wants to watch subtitles.

“You need character development, and you gotta make it a party, you gotta get it to a point where people are watching it in a bar.

“I mean now people will watch soccer here. They get up early in the morning and they go to bars, and they drink beer.”

Sands insisted that MotoGP needs to find a new Valentino Rossi to drive its growth in the US.

He asked: “What did Rossi bring to the sport? And why was he so fantastic and why did he help MotoGP grow the way it grew?

“It’s like, people cared about him, he was personable, he was funny, he celebrated, he gave people visual reasons to like him.”

Sands added: “We have to get the riders out there and get people introduced to them and explain why they should care about them, and then why the sport is so gnarly.

“It’s beautiful to watch, it’s incredibly intellectually deep, the reasons why the bikes work the way they work, why they don’t.

“It’s way more technical than any motorsport, right?

“And it’s also way more visible than F1 cars, because you’ve got rider style, it’s got all the makings for something that’s incredibly interesting.”

MotoGP’s Chief Commercial Officer Dan Rossomondo said in response to Sands’ concerns: “There’s a cultural attachment to global sports in the US.

“I look at how the Premier League has done, I look how F1 has done, and that’s a big thing, so we are global, and that’s a cool thing.

“People say, ‘your guys don’t speak English’, but that’s okay, I mean when was the last time you heard Lionel Messi do an interview in English?

“You haven’t. So, I think that’s part of the opportunity in the US.”

MotoGP legend Wayne Rainey now runs MotoAmerica, trying to bring through a star American rider.

Rainey said: “When I was world champion my neighbours didn’t know what I did; but I would go to Spain and I couldn’t leave my house, because everybody knew what I did.

“The US is 3,000 miles wide and we have all these different states, so it’s hard to get a foothold here.”

“When we introduced King of the Baggers four years ago, people were like, ‘what are you doing Wayne? I thought you guys were trying to raise future GP stars?’

“But it’s all about entertainment, right? We need entertainment, and now Baggers are here at MotoGP, strictly to help build the crowd, build the excitement, and in the end it’s about entertainment.”

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