Spanish dominance in Grand Prix racing has been a hot topic for many years. In question: An over-representation of Spain in each of the three categories of the World Cup compared to the other nationalities and the chances of success then increased tenfold. The numbers speak for themselves as of this season, a third of the riders on the grid are Spanish in the three categories and there is at least one Spaniard in the top 3 of each championship.
The situation wasn’t always like this, however, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Spaniards began to arrive at Grand Prix. Until then they were just a relatively invisible handful among the British and Italians who largely dominated the first decades of the World Cup’s existence. Few Spanish champions, like Ángel Nieto in the 50s and 125s in the 70s or Alfonso Pons in the 250s in the late 80s, shone without being taken away by their compatriots.
The real turning point came in the 2000s with the start of an unbroken hegemony. In 2000 and 2010, a third of the riders in the 500cc/MotoGP field were Spanish and the number has continued to rise in 2020 with ten riders out of 23 entered. Their dominance doesn’t just apply to the premier class, for example over the last 12 years more than half of the 125cc/Moto3 titles have been won by Spaniards (seven, ed.), with a record year in 2010 crowned by Marc Marquez. Five of the first six drivers in the championship were Spanish at the time.
Where does this numerical superiority, which continues to increase, come from? Questioned by Motociclismo, Dorna General Manager Carmelo Ezpeleta believes this is partly related to the structures put in place for motorcycle racing in Spain.
“The key is that [les Espagnols] They start very early, in very safe conditions and when they get to the big circuits they have an advantage that discourages the others. That’s the problem. And yet the Asian Talent Cup, the Rookies Cup etc. are works. […] There are more Spaniards racing, so there’s the World Junior Championships and what we do with Ohvale, for the rest we’re trying to see what’s out there. If we spot a foreign driver who is fast, we help him and not Spaniards or Italians.”he explained.
The basic role of Dorna
Carmelo Ezpeleta with Jorge Lorenzo.
La Dorna became the organizer of the World Cup in the early 1990s (1991, ed.), exactly when the Spaniards were beginning to make their debut at world level. The Spanish company plays a fundamental role in the arrival of drivers in Grand Prix with the development of several championships aimed at bringing out young talent, such as the aforementioned Asian Talent Cup and the Rookies Cup, but also the Honda British Talent Cup and by of course the Junior World Championship, formerly called CEV (Spanish Speed Championship).
The latter was established in 1998 and has proved crucial for many current top riders, almost all of whom have gone through it, such as Fabio Quartararo, who won it twice in 2013 and 2014. In 25 years there have only been five non-Spanish riders titled there, a sign of the hegemony that has been created in Spain thanks to all the championships and structures.
Although aware of this imbalance, Ezpeleta, who has directed Dorna since its inception, readily acknowledges that his company’s work must be guided in this direction, even if it means taking drastic measures where necessary: “We want more riders of different nationalities to come and we won’t stop until we reach [cet objectif].”
“Or you have to do it like in the Olympics and say that only a certain number of Spaniards will come. In athletics, only four Americans compete at the Games. The fifth, who runs fast, doesn’t join in. At the moment we have not applied this and we should talk more with the FIM about it.
However, the World Cup is still very far from considering the introduction of such quotas and can count on the efforts of some countries or pilots to facilitate the way for young people of other nationalities. Valentino Rossi at the helm, after a slower period, has greatly contributed to Italy’s rise to world level with his rider academy and the various teams he has been able to set up in CEV, Moto3 and Moto2. La Botte still holds the most world titles (79) ahead of Spain (55), all categories combined.
Today, the Italians are hot on their heels with a third of the Italians in MotoGP and a number that is getting closer in Moto2 (nine out of 35) and in Moto3 (eight out of 36). Until you benefit from it in the coming years?
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