This year Gresini Racing faces numerous challenges at several levels. Carlo Merlini, sales and marketing manager of the team, outlines those in the MotoE World Cup and sets the goal of the season: to bring home the title of the category with Matteo Ferrari.
The Gresini Racing team has always had a certain feeling with new adventures. When Moto2 debuted in the World Championship in 2010, the Italian team won the title with Toni Elias. Nine years later, it happened again, with Matteo Ferrari becoming the first winner of the MotoE World Cup, the electric class of MotoGP. This year, a new challenge awaits Gresini Racing: the team founded and raised by Fausto Gresini returns to the main MotoGP class with an independent team, 7 years after his last appearance. This is the starting point for our interview with Carlo Merlini, sales and marketing manager of the Gresini Racing team for over twenty years.
“This year our challenge is on several levels”, explains Merlini, 52, from San Benedetto del Tronto in the Marche region. “The transition from Aprilia Ducati does not only represent a change of manufacturer, but the team's operational scheme has completely changed. With Aprilia, we were the ones who did all the race operations on the track, while Aprilia took care of the technical and commercial aspects. The team's organization, the hardware and the structures in the paddock, the registration to the championship itself was from Gresini Racing, Aprilia had all the technical and commercial aspects. For this reason, in the team's new structure, we found ourselves literally rebuilding the budget from scratch to carry out the MotoGP project and keep the Moto2 and MotoE one. Not a small commitment. In practice, we are back to what we have been for 18 years: a satellite team”.
How is Gresini Racing organized now?
“The management of the team is now in the hands of the Gresini family, with Nadia at the head of the structure as CEO and the sons in key roles. It was a very bold move. The other option would have been to sell everything: a much simpler way. But, in the end, feelings prevailed, and the de-sire to follow up not only a project and a company but also a name, that of Fausto Gresini, took over. Aside from the top of the company, the rest has remained the same, with a group of people who have been here for twenty years now. We made some grafts in the MotoGP structure because some Aprilia engineers needed to be replaced, but when we left Moto 3, we had some staff to promote, and we brought them into the MotoGP project.”
“For the MotoE, on the other hand, Giuseppe De Gruttola will continue to be the technical manager of the project. The drivers will be Matteo Ferrari and Alessio Finello. Important news for this year is the new sponsor: FELO. They are a Chinese company that designs and builds electric scooters; therefore, they have products perfectly in line with the MotoE and with the concept of sustainable mobility. Furthermore, from 2022, all Gresini Racing staff, including the MotoGP riders, will use FELO electric scooters to travel around the paddock, another step towards the zero-emissions goal.
Aldo Drudi, who has been our designer for over 15 years, has studied the new livery of the MotoE by combining the blue 2122 of the new Gresini Racing project with the fluorescent yellow of FELO. The blue 2122 was chosen in harmony with the new chapter of Gresini Racing; we chose the colour of the sky. The code is Pantone 2122, symbolically marking the transition from 2021 to 2022 and is common to all motorcycles, from MotoE to MotoGP. We called this new reality “The Next”, which indicates “the next”, what comes after, but it also brings with it what was there be-fore, the Gresini Racing identity as Fausto had created it.”
Let's go into the specifics of the MotoE 2022: are the innovations introduced this year in line with what you expected?
“ Yes, I would say yes. In the championship, there is an open dialogue between the organizer and the teams. The topics on the table are basically always the same: there is the contribution to the par-ticipating teams, there are the more organizational issues, the operations, and the changes of regu-lations. In particular, this year, the rules will have two important innovations: the double race for each round and the change of the format for qualifying from EPole to Q1 and Q2. This second modification serves to standardize the format with the other categories. I liked the EPole with the single flying lap because it guaranteed several seconds of visibility for the teams and sponsors. From the driver's point of view, I realise that it was a tough challenge: a single lap to decide the position on the grid, which is crucial in a single-make championship. Even we see a lot of overtaking in MotoE, it's not easy to make great comebacks because the bikes have almost the same performance.
As for the races, they have essentially doubled because there will be two races for each round. Personally, I think that the real growth of the championship will come when we double the rounds within the championship and not the individual races. When this happens, it will allow MotoE to touch new markets, new nations and give a better appeal to the category. However, the champion-ship organiser is doing a lot to promote the MotoE, a category in which he strongly believes and in which there is a lot of space for growth."
The teams of the MotoE World Cup 2022
Maybe this year there is a little lack of news on a technical level, what do you think?
“Indeed, yes, the evolution curve of the bikes has been substantially marginal, but I think this hap-pens every time you have a mono-manufacturer. When there is no challenge between various manufacturers, developing the bike is probably contained. The same happened in MotoGP when we switched from the Michelin - Bridgestone duopoly to the Bridgestone monopoly. I am sure that Bridgestone's investments after becoming a mono-builder have decreased compared to before.
In the single-supplier championships, the bikes have always been developed reasonably. Let's not forget that Energica had a very difficult start. We all remember what happened in Jerez in 2019, when Energica had to rebuild everything after it was destroyed, and it did it in a very short time from scratch. COVID's first year there was not easy either, with the championship starting in July. 2021 was probably the first regular year for MotoE. I think that Energica has done a great job, bearing in mind that it is also a small company compared to the big manufacturers; it is an excellence of the Motor Valley that kicked off the championship in so many difficulties.”
From 2023, Ducati will supply the electric motorcycles for the MotoE World Cup; what’s your idea about that?
“Ducati's was an important choice. We know them, they are our partners in MotoGP; this choice will position the championship on a higher level. I was personally present at the press conference of Domenicali and Ezpeleta; I had known the news for a few weeks. They gave a beautiful and very interesting speech about the future of electric mobility and Ducati's strategies in this area. Energica made a Racing version of a product they already had in production. I was very surprised that Ducati will develop the electric motorcycle in races and then bring it to production in a few years. This gives the idea of how the championship will be a platform for technological develop-ment to be applied to the series product."
Let's go back to the Gresini Racing team in MotoE: are you satisfied with the goals you have achieved so far, and what are your goals for 2022?
“In this business, you are never satisfied. Clearly, we want visibility for our sponsors, and this goes hand in hand with the results; of the three seasons in MotoE, 2021 was the most difficult for us, the one in which we have never actually been in the game for the championship. In 2019 we won the title; in 2020 we played it until the last round, while Ferrari had a difficult season last year. In any case, he was good at getting the third final place in the standings, gaining it inch by inch, thanks also to the vic-tory in the last race at Misano.
We have had three important seasons, with Ferrari always finishing on the podium in the stand-ings, which is, in fact, a guarantee, so I expect him to have another high-level season. Here, I hope to reverse the trend: we made first, second and third, so now I hope to get back to first place. This year, we also have Alessio Finello, a young rider we took from the CIV (Italian Speed Champion-ship) to make him grow; let's see how it will fit into a whole new category for him. In MotoE, we have seen that sometimes experience is important, but it is not enough; it also needs a certain spir-it of adaptation to learn a different riding style. So come on, Matteo is the key point, Alessio is the young guy who has to grow up, and FELO is the new sponsor: these are the elements that give us so much enthusiasm in 2022.″
Now the appointment is for the first test session of the season, from April 7th to 9th, in Jerez de la Frontera.
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