In the "circus" of the MotoGP, Lucio Cecchinello is an institution. "LCR Honda Team Principal, Former 125cc road racing rider, all motorsports lover", according to his self-definition on Twitter, Cecchinello is preparing to start, with the usual mix of competence and pragmatism, the fourth season with electric motorcycles, as Team Manager LCR E-Team. Born in Venice in 1969, he was a very strong 125 class rider: after having stopped racing in 2003 with a palmares of seven wins, a fourth final place as best result and an unforgettable triumph at Mugello in his last season as a rider), Cecchinello has directed the team he founded in '96 ever since. As a manager, he immediately distinguished himself for his ability to discover talent (he launched a certain Casey Stoner) and for his ability to manage sponsors.
Lucio, how did your 2021 MotoE World Cup season start?
“In the transition from 2020 to 2021season, we found ourselves in a critical situation for the riders. We started in 2019 with Canepa and De Puniet, then in 2020 with Canepa and Simeon. I had chosen these riders who also participated in the Endurance World Championship because the races had never overlapped with the MotoE. In 2021, on the other hand, there was an overlap at the Misano GP, and I would have found myself fielding two substitutes in MotoE for that race.
Dorna's position from the beginning was to protect the championship profile as much as possible, which is why it demanded that all the riders enrolled in the MotoE participate in all competitions. Having riders racing in two championships but not taking part in the race of the MotoE because of overlap would have negatively affected the image of the MotoE, making it seem an unimportant championship to the media. This is why Dorna has imposed this contractual clause from the beginning.
We pointed out to Dorna that it was very important for us to count on our chosen riders. Furthermore, we thought that the profile of Canepa and Simeon, both winners in the Endurance World Championship, could add value to the image of the MotoE. Unfortunately, Dorna did not agree to accept riders who already knew they would miss races in the championship."
“While waiting for the situation to be resolved, I found myself waiting until early January with the tests scheduled for mid-March. At that point, I had to decide, and I chose two other riders. We have overcome this difficulty by focusing on two young people: Miquel Pons, who was very competitive in the CEV (the Spanish Championship) and Kevin Zannoni, who was equally competitive in the CIV (the Italian Championship).
We are very happy with their results (a win and a 3rd place for Pons, a 4th place for Zannoni). Miquel didn't take much to adapt because he had experience with large displacement bikes. On the other hand, Kevin suffered more coming from the CIV Moto3, not for lack of talent but for lack of time on track. It takes practice to get used to such a heavy, large and powerful bike in terms of torque. Indeed Kevin did a great job achieving good results in the last part of the season."
How important was the support of the team for the growth of Pons and Zannoni?
“If you want to aim high and do the races well, there is only one way, and that is to work hard to prepare for the races. Our riders are young and did not know some circuits; that's why we brought them both to Misano and Austria. We are committed and invested time and resources in these tests we carried out with our CBR1000RR.
I believe that the results have rewarded this commitment. Indeed the good results of the races at Misano are also the result of the test sessions we had done there."
What did you like about this year's MotoE?
“I see the MotoE in constant development in all respects: in the regulatory, technical, media and so on. Obviously, each of us has its idea and hopes that the evolution of the category will be faster, but some matters cannot be overlooked. Of course, theoretically, it could grow faster than what happened. Still, I also realize that the organizers and Energica have had to deal with the budget, pandemic, and teams' economic capacity.
For example, we know that the bike's weight could be reduced by changing the engine or with lighter batteries, perhaps equipped with a better cooling system that increases their efficiency. We could imagine having traction control and so on. But all this is easy to imagine for those who stay at home to see the races, but for those who build or manage the bikes, it is not at all obvious.
The bases to make the category grow faster are there, but you need a little patience; the news will arrive over time. We keep in mind that this championship started with the Jerez accident, which destroyed all the bikes; therefore, any new introduced thing must be carefully screened in terms of safety. Dorna and Energica have spent a lot of energy on this front. A significant effort has been made to improve the safety of the vehicles and during the charging phases."
So, will there be any news for 2022?
“We made specific requests to Dorna to try to increase the time available on the track: therefore more tests and more races. We have given some indications in terms of battery performance, showing that we could do an extra lap on all the circuits without having power drops already with the current cooling system. In addition, we have expressed our negative opinion on the Epole; already in the practice sessions, you can do a few laps, then if you can do just one in qualifying, it is too penalizing. And then we asked for the possibility of doing more races.
Compared to the bike, I don't know what will happen; I expect Energica to bring some news. I don't know if it will be big or small news, but even if it should be minor news, we must keep in mind that the whole world has just come out of two catastrophic years. Bringing important innovations that revolutionize the bike means higher costs, new spare parts in a period in which teams can hardly find 60-70% of the budgets they had before the pandemic.
I expect development will aim at extending the duration of the race by doing more laps. The message should be that we are working to increase the energy efficiency of the bike. These technical-sporting changes will have a very positive impact on the media because more races and laps mean more visibility for the sponsors and greater attractiveness for the category. We did not expect Dorna to propose such an interesting formula; we were surprised. We proposed more events, not just seven, and a more extended championship that didn't end in September but in November. In addition, we had asked to change the Epole to have at least three laps launched. Dorna's response was excellent because she listened to our requests and, in some cases, went even further, proposing fourteen races and qualifying in MotoGP format with Q1 and Q2."
MotoE World Cup 2022
The new format for MotoE events
How is the MotoE in the paddock of the world championship?
"The MotoE is gaining consideration but remains confined to a limited audience. We started with an attitude of distance for the insiders because, you know, 'we are the World Championship', but then the interest in the races was born immediately. I can guarantee that when there is a race on the displays in the various box, even the mechanics of the other classes look at it.
As long as my sponsors were able to enter the track before the Covid restrictions, they always went to visit the paddock of the MotoE with great interest.
Michelin has made a very interesting initiative to bring people into the paddock of the MotoE: he made in a stand where he explains the technologies that the French manufacturer is developing in MotoE and that he will transfer first to MotoGP and then to commercial products. This stand shows how waste such as orange peels or used tires become new tires for racing. Come on, compared to the beginning there MotoE is gaining his consideration among the insiders."
The media and television have a key role in getting the MotoE to the public; how is the situation on this front?
“The media discourse is not easy. Each tv broadcaster network makes decisions autonomously. As far as I know, the MotoE is part of the MotoGP package; therefore, the televisions already have the rights. I hope that the races will become of greater interest to the public because they are short, pleasant races, fought from the first to the last lap, they are sprint races, so the time in front of the TV is much more limited than in the other categories.
I think it also takes a little patience to give the public time to take an interest in the category. Therefore, it would be very important that media follow this category more, as they do with the others categories.
I'm sorry to see that often there MotoE is ignored when instead, there would really be a lot of content to be explored, not only for the sporting part but also for the technical one. Energica, Dorna, and Enel X are developing in MotoE technologies that will be in the homes of all of us in a few years. Still, sometimes it is easier for the media to tap into the gossip of the riders' private lives."
“The direction the world has taken is to move towards green propulsion systems of which the electric is the main one; it should be discussed more in our sport about it. The MotoGP public and fans of the internal combustion engine, including myself, can rest assured that there will still be motorcycles with combustion engines for at least ten years. However, there will come a time when national governments themselves will require manufacturers to change and move towards other types of more eco-sustainable products.
It is an epochal change. Even today, the two-stroke engine gives me goosebumps, but the same thing happened there too. At some point, it was decided that that technology had to be changed. The first country to ban two-stroke engines was Indonesia because you couldn't breathe in Jakarta so much was the pollution of the means of transport that there were mainly scooters and small two-stroke motorcycles. The same will happen for combustion engines. Personally, I am proud to participate in a project with a similar impact on people's lives and aimed at building the future for all of us."
MotoE World Cup 2021
Kevin Zannoni's season
MotoE World Cup 2021
Miquel Pons' season
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