Will Liberty Media turn MotoGP into two-wheeled F1?

04th April 2024
Michael Scott

When the news broke on April 1 that F1 owners Liberty Media were to add MotoGP to their portfolio, some keyboard warriors assumed it was an April Fool joke. Couldn’t be true. Against the rules. After all, when former owners CVC Capital Partners bought into F1 in 2006, the European Union Monopolies Commission obliged the company to sell its controlling interest in MotoGP directly.


But it was true. It confirmed growing rumours that the two-wheel series was on the market, including confirmation from Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. Paddock pundits weren’t quite sure how to react. Had the rules changed? Was this good for bike racing, or bad? And in the end, will it make any difference? 

Well, Liberty took over F1 in 2016, and while not everyone agrees that the series has improved post-Bernie Ecclestone, the numbers have. Particularly bums on seats (in this case, the sofa in front of the TV), while clearly focused social media targeting has grown YouTube subscribers from fewer than 300,000 to around seven million.

Another major success stemmed from Netflix’s generally well-thought-of “Drive to Survive” series. This not only attracted new fans but also reduced the average age, expanding the market significantly for sponsors and advertisers.

The improved penetration has been remarkable. An attempt two years ago by MotoGP to emulate the Netflix series with Amazon fell far short, stumbling for a variety of reasons including uninspired editing and difficulties in overcoming the predominance of Spanish conversation. Technical changes to F1 have not met with universal approval, but Liberty certainly brought a fresh approach, and can clearly bring much to MotoGP too.

Then again, Dorna has been successful without outside intervention since acquiring the rights in the 1990s. The Spanish company, led by charismatic figure Carmelo Ezpeleta, has prevailed over some major landmarks. Most notable, the switch from those wonderful but basically irrelevant 500cc two-strokes to the four-stroke MotoGP class in 2002; and Ezpeleta’s attack on the prevailing Japanese factories, to break their stranglehold on success.


This high-risk strategy introduced production-based so-called CRT (Claiming Rule Teams) bikes. These low-cost alternatives were ineffectual against full-race prototypes, but Ezpeleta threatened to turn the whole series over to them. Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki agreed to new regulations, including eventually control electronics, reducing their technical advantages. In an ironic twist, the pendulum has now swung towards the European factories that Dorna had attracted to the series, with Honda and Yamaha struggling to catch up, and Suzuki vanished.

During all this, successive owners CVC and Bridgepoint let Ezpeleta and his management team – increasingly nowadays including not only his son and daughter but also members of his extended family – get on with it, without any visible interference.

Liberty’s April 1 announcement valued MotoGP at almost eight billion euros, comprising a 4.2-billion enterprise value and 3.5 billion equity. President and CEO Greg Maffei stated that Dorna would continue to run the series, with Ezpeleta in charge.

But Liberty is hands-on in F1, and probably significantly they have acquired 86 per cent of Dorna, a significantly bigger slice than was held by Bridgepoint (39 per cent), which shared Dorna with a Canadian pension fund (31 per cent). It seems unlikely Liberty will not be taking an active interest in MotoGP.

This would be welcome in an area that they addressed in F1 – paying attention to issues that have made overtaking something of a rarity in the past couple of years. The major reason, on both two and four wheels, is aerodynamic. Over the past five years, the appearance of MotoGP bikes has changed radically as they sprouted wings, scoops and ducts that have cut lap times but left riders complaining of difficulty and danger of overtaking manoeuvres in the dirty air and shorter braking distances.


Ecclestone himself once made MotoGP fans laugh, with the assertion that bike racing was boring, “once you’d watched them all overtake one another for the first few laps,” or words to that effect. Those same fans find it boring when they don’t.

Dorna’s own technical team are looking to address this in the next round or regulation updates, which will come into force in 2027 if not earlier, but it will be interesting to see if Liberty come into the picture with some extra muscle.

The takeover will only happen at the end of this year, and one hurdle is potential opposition by the monopolies commission – but both Maffei and Ezpeleta have stated that the situation is different now from when CVC were forced to sell MotoGP when they took over F1. Said Ezpeleta to Britain’s Motor Cycle News: “Today we cannot speak of a motorsport-only market but of entertainment and show business, and in this respect, we are a very small part.”

The final outcome remains to be seen. Meanwhile, 2024 has started to offer entertainment and show business in spades. If Liberty can improve on that, more power to them.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

  • MotoGP

  • MotoGP 2024

  • Race

  • Modern

  • Liberty Media

  • F1

  • motogp-itv-2021-20-france-johann-zarco-gold-and-goose-mi-main-goodwood-14052021.jpg


    ITV to show MotoGP

  • ducati-motogp-teamorders-column-main.jpg


    Does Ducati need team orders in MotoGP title race?

  • sokol-circuit-motogp-main.jpg


    2023 MotoGP Calendar