HRC team principal and Communications/Marketing director Livio Suppo has announced he is to leave, just a day after Marc Marquez won the 2017 MotoGP title.
The Italian joined Ducati in 1999 and played a pivotal role in the factory’s MotoGP team from its debut in 2003 to 2009, including the historic 2007 title victory with Casey Stoner, rising to the role of MotoGP project director.
He then joined HRC as Communications and Marketing director in 2010, also becoming team principal from 2013.
Suppo is widely credited with securing Stoner’s move from Ducati to Honda for the 2011 season, when the Australian won his second world title.
When Stoner retired at the end of 2012, Marc Marquez took over his seat, winning the premier-class crown at his first attempt and adding further titles in 2014, 2016 and 2017 – when Honda also won the constructors’ title and Repsol Honda the teams’ title.
“I took this decision as a life decision, if you know what I mean, after 22 years in this paddock,” Suppo began. “This paddock gave me a lot and HRC gave me a lot, I had many good days here and also some very bad memories when some riders passed away. But overall I can be more than pleased and thanks to Nakamoto-san who asked me to join this company. I’ve really enjoyed it and really enjoyed this season with Kuwata-san. It’s been very successful.
“I thought that at the end of the day it was the right decision to leave now because I still have one more year on my contract with HRC, but at the moment HRC has everything under control for next year. Riders and sponsors under contract, so most of my job is done for next year.
“So anyway inside me I wanted to change my life and I prefer to do it now in order to allow HRC to organise themselves for the future. It would have been more difficult for me to do next season’s important job knowing that at the end of the season I want to leave.
“I think it’s the right time after a season in which we finally won the triple crown. I’ve been here for 22-years and I wanted to leave at the top. It’s not easy because this has been my life for so many years. But I’m sure it’s the right choice for myself and my family.
“I really wish all the best to HRC. They have two fantastic riders, very strong engineers so I’m sure they will continue to be very strong in this championship.”
What is the best achievement in your career?
“The best achievement in my career honestly speaking still remains the 2007 title with Ducati. The Ducati MotoGP project was my idea. I wanted to push the company to join MotoGP. I pushed the company to switch to Bridgestone. So that remains something special. At the end, it’s the only European company to win the title since MV Agusta.
“This for sure has been a pinnacle, but I also remember something very nice when I received at home my first HRC business card. Because HRC has been for me always a kind of dream – as I think it is for most of the Europeans – because you don’t know much about them, how many people, just that they are very strong. And I grew up with this image.
“There have been many great memories and that’s why I think it is good to leave now. At the end of the day this job, as you all know, is very demanding. To travel so much is super tough. When I saw next year’s calendar I was like, ‘wow, one more!’ And after so many years you miss the weekends at home. At the end of the day if you don’t have weekends it’s difficult to have a social life with family and friends. This is really the main reason why I have taken this difficult decision.”
Will you stay connected to Honda?
“No, at the moment I need a cut. 22 years in this world is wonderful but really demanding. Especially at this level. So at this moment my target is to refresh my mind and try to think about something different.”
Would you have taken this decison even if you didn’t have a family, a daughter?
“I honestly think if I was alone I would have taken this decision maybe even before, because I’m a strange guy. I’ve always done my things with my stomach. I took the decision to leave Ducati, or even before when I left Benetton I didn’t know what to do. But it was time for me to change, and I changed.
“Then in Ducati when Nakamoto-san asked me to join HRC it was a very difficult decision because as we all know Ducati was half of my life and I gave a lot to that company. But again I felt it was the right time to move because after eleven years it was time to change.
“Now it is eight years more here, a lot of satisfaction because I remember when Nakamoto asked me to join he told me, ‘we must wake up HRC’. Because from Valentino left until 2011 HRC won only one title, with Nicky. I think we did a good job because at the end of the day from 2010 until now we have won five riders’ titles and six constructors’ titles.
“So I’m really proud of it and again it’s like all the effort you need to achieve these kind of things now I feel like the batteries are empty. So I need to recharge and this time I want to recharge in a different way.”
And then come back?
“Never say never. At the moment I honestly don’t think so.”
Honda are yet to decide their new team structure, having only just been informed of Suppo’s decision.
“After this very successful season Livio Suppo has communicated to us he has decided to leave HRC to face new challenges,” said HRC director Tetsuhiro Kuwata. “Livio joined HRC in 2010. Together we have achieved five MotoGP [riders’] world titles and six constructors’ titles. We wish to thank Livio-san for the dedication and expertise and passion that has always established his work and wish him all the best for the future.”