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MotoGP riders poised to launch union with Guintoli as leader

 The MotoGP grid seems to be finally making big steps towards unionising, with Sylvain Guintoli tapped to lead the organisation  

The MotoGP grid seems to be finally making big steps towards unionising, with veteran rider and past World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli believed by The Race’s sources to be the man tapped to lead the organisation.

It’s understood that formal plans are now afoot following a closed-doors meeting between the entire MotoGP grid at the Catalan Grand Prix, with riders then approaching ex-Suzuki MotoGP test rider Guintoli to lead it.

The Frenchman, who also works as a presenter for TNT Sports in the UK and still competes in the Endurance World Championship, is understood to be set to attend next month’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang to start working on a concrete plan for how the new organisation will function.

There have been consistent calls for a union for some time, with the introduction of sprint races at every single round of the 2023 championship without rider consultation prompting an immediate discussion at last year’s Austrian Grand Prix.

“As we go forward more, the more we need a federation for the riders,” said Gresini Ducati rider Fabio Di Giannantonio.

“IRTA [the International Race Teams’ Association] and [series organiser] Dorna decide things for us but we are the guys who go on track.

“We are the guys who are suffering arm pump, injuries, and a lot of other things – but we cannot decide anything.”

Formula 1 already has a similar organisation, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which has run in its current guise since 1994 following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola that year.

It acts as a trade union for F1 drivers, currently chaired by the retired Alex Wurz, with Mercedes driver George Russell serving alongside him as a director.

And numerous issues have showcased the need for greater unified representation. The lack of safety alterations at the Portimao circuit prior to the crash that left Tech3 rider Pol Espargaro with serious injuries this year was cited as yet another example of the need for better rider representation.

“What do you want me to do, kill them?” Aleix Espargaro retorted when asked by The Race what action the riders could take if MotoGP’s safety officials refused to make the changes they call for.

“There is nothing I can do. We can say what we feel, and then there’s nothing more that we can do.

“The wrong thing would be to be quiet, and we have said many times in the press conference, in the safety commission, to you guys [the media]. But in some things, there is no reaction.”

The decision to go ahead with formally starting up a union isn’t likely to be embraced by the series’ bosses, with race promoter Dorna’s CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta strongly opposed to it back when the sprint race plan was first announced.

The veteran race organiser uncharacteristically lost his cool in a press conference as he insisted that until it is raised directly with him by the grid, the need for a union remained a non-issue.

“This is maybe something you have taken from the opinion of some of the riders and then created a necessity to talk about,” he insisted in August 2022. “But I didn’t see any rider talking about the necessity of the union.

“I don’t have any opinion against it, but the close relation for the riders with the championship is better than in any other association in other or similar sports.

“It’s an argument for the press but it is not a reality.

“If they need to create something, they need to talk to me and not to you.

“You are [the ones] asking if they need a union and the answer is whatever it is.”

 

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