MotoGP isn’t just about the rider and the bike

I stepped completely out of my comfort zone this weekend and experienced the MotoGP for the first time. I was lucky enough to be given access all areas for the Moto3 free practice races learning about rider sponsorship within the sport.

Every sport has sponsorship, regardless of how big or small. Sponsorship is fast becoming a vital part of modern sport. Paid Instagram posts, clothing items and league matches are all areas where companies can capitalise on promoting their name through athletes, but what about the personal sponsorship for those athletes that aren’t necessarily always in the spotlight? 

Jakub Kornfeil is a Grand Prix motorcycle racer from the Czech Republic currently racing in Moto3 as a rider for Prüstel GP. Along with the team sponsors, Kornfeil is sponsored directly by various companies, one of which is Cushing IP and Co Ltd.

I attended Silverstone with the company director, Peter Cushing to learn more about the impact that his sponsorship has on both him and Kornfeil. 

Walking around the paddock it is clear to see the impact that sponsorships can have, especially with the riders from MotoGP having every inch of their bikes and hospitality logoed up.

As I learnt more about the sport, I started to understand the importance of rider sponsors as Mr Cushing explained how his sponsorship could help Kornfeil as much as “ensuring he has more leg room on the plane and time to relax on his journey to the races”.

At 26, Kornfeil is surprisingly the oldest rider on the grid for Moto3, nonetheless his personal sponsorship is just as important to him as it is to anyone as he tells me after finishing his first practice race: 

Every sponsor is very important, we appreciate every sponsor that comes to our side and tries to help us, and for sure without the sponsors it cannot be possible to make the whole year. I am incredibly happy for every single sponsor that I have to help me.” 

Jakub having a team talk during one of his pit stops

It was interesting to learn about the big variation between team and rider sponsorship and how the money is used, when I spoke to team principle Florian Prussel: 

“Rider sponsor means that riders handle them themselves, but the team sponsors have different contracts and the money goes directly to the team. Whereas personal sponsors, the rider feels the direct benefit. The other thing is the management of the rider to handle all of the sponsors as one which is very different to the team.”

Before FP2 I learnt first-hand how focused Kornfeil is as I watched him go into his preparation phase in the pit just moments before he mounted his bike. The bike tyres were getting warmed and the air was filled with a distinctive petrol and leather smell, but Kornfeil sat quietly in the corner gathering his thoughts.

Jakub gathering his thoughts before FP2

During this time, the final alternations and checks were being made to the bike and I started to realise the importance of a good relationship between the bike and rider, something that Kornfeil elaborated on after his race:

 “It is the most important thing to have confidence with the bike, there are some riders who don’t care if they have a good bike or a bad bike, but me, I am very sensitive so I need a really good bike for being fast.”

I ventured out onto the service track to watch the second practice and was totally in awe of the rider’s fearless attitude as they slide around the various bends and head onto the Hanger straight at over 200mph. When you start to think about it, it is probably one of the most dangerous sports out there, however, like any sport, this is their life and sponsorship helps to make their dream a reality. 

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