MotoGP

Better than Drive to Survive?

Announced last year, MotoGP Unlimited is the two-wheeled World Championship’s hopes at snaring a new audience and repositioning itself in the mainstream having seen the success Formula 1 has had with Netflix’s Drive to Survive

Until very recently, little was known about MotoGP Unlimited – its name only revealed to the press in an invite to the premieres of the show in Madrid and Paris last month.

Produced by Spanish company Mediapro, MotoGP Unlimited is MotoGP’s most comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary and follows the 2021 season events – so while last year’s action is well-known this review does contain spoilers from the docuseries.

There is a sense from MotoGP promoters Dorna Sports that they need Unlimited to do well. While MotoGP remains hugely popular across the globe and is continuing to expand into new markets, the series enters a new era in 2022 as it moves forward without its talisman Valentino Rossi.

With a grid made up of largely fresh faces, the timing is right for a new generation of fans to get excited about MotoGP. But those new fans must first be beckoned. Certainly in the UK, access to MotoGP coverage is hard to come by. You either have to pay for a BT Sports subscription, pay for Dorna’s video pass (unlikely you’ll know that exists if you are a casual fan) or make do with one-hour highlights on Monday evenings on ITV4 after each race weekend.

Poster MotoGP: Unlimited in Amazon Prime Video

Photo by: MotoGP / Instagram @motogp

Contrasted to F1’s UK coverage, which is on the more popular Sky Sports platform and is also covered extensively on Channel 4 on free-to-air television with a comprehensive highlights package, it’s easier for F1 to reach households. 

And the success of Drive to Survive has energised a new generation of fans to get involved with F1. 

This is where MotoGP Unlimited comes in. From the outset, its Drive to Survive influences are clearly there to see. It’s a tried and tested format that needn’t have been tampered with just for the sake of it. 

Across its eight episodes, which run for around 45 minutes each, the 2021 season is detailed closely and a host of stars are followed. As you’d expect, world champion Fabio Quartararo is a main focus, as is 2020 champion Joan Mir, Marc Marquez and his injury comeback, as well as Maverick Vinales’ whirlwind year and Valentino Rossi’s farewell. 

But MotoGP Unlimited also casts its eye over the likes of Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia, his relationship with his brother Pol, as well as Ducati duo Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia, and Pramac rookie Jorge Martin, and the bosses of Petronas SRT as it year unravelled.

Following the season in chronological order through its eight episodes made sense, essentially turning the 2021 campaign into a television series. This means there’s little jumping around and creating confusing timelines. If you’ve never watched MotoGP before, Unlimited makes it easy for you to understand what’s going on, especially with its helpful bits of info about how rules in MotoGP work. 

Maverick Vinales

Maverick Vinales

Photo by: MotoGP

If you are a diehard fan, you’ll likely pick up on the odd bit of mismatched footage. In episode five, which focuses on Vinales’ relationship with Yamaha souring, some shots supposedly illustrating the German GP are actually of Assen. But this happens on very few occasions and will pass by casual observers. 

Unquestionably the highlights of Unlimited are the behind-the-scenes moments with Marquez as he continues his injury comeback, while its handling of Vinales’ suspension and subsequent split from Yamaha is utterly compelling. 

This coincided with the madness of the Austrian GP Brad Binder won on a wet track on slick tyres. Instead of following the South African that weekend, MotoGP Unlimited shows that race from Vinales’ perspective as he watched with his family. His reaction to the drama of the race was juxtaposed by the frustration at his own situation. The series’ ability to accurately display complex character of Vinales will undoubtedly endear him to new fans. 

And that’s something that is likely to happen in general with MotoGP Unlimited if it gets the marketing push it deserves. All of the riders in the spotlight of Unlimited come across incredibly well, wholly authentic and genuinely likable. You can see the dedication they have for their craft and how, at times, this conditions their reactions and emotions. 

Atmosphere

Atmosphere

Photo by: MotoGP

This is particularly evident with Aleix Espargaro. Known for his fiery outbursts when things are not going well, Unlimited doesn’t shy away from showing that and nor does it opt out of showing the family man behind the helmet. 

In turn, Unlimited also didn’t fall into the trap of hero-worshipping Rossi. His final year was disappointing and the series repeatedly shows clips of team members expressing their frustrations at the matter. But how it covered off his final race was touching and respectful. 

That respect extended to how Unlimited handled the tragic death of Moto3 rider Jason Dupasquier at Mugello. Drive to Survive more often than not goes for shock value when depicting crashes. Unlimited didn’t once show footage of the crash, and focused on the concern in the garages amongst the teams. Unlimited also shows the effect it had on the MotoGP field, with Marc Marquez revealing that he won’t race again if a rider dies on race day.

This gives the riders true humanity and is something that remains throughout the eight episodes. None of them play up for the cameras (the first episode starts with an amusing and rather embarrassing moment of Quartararo and Bagnaia having to ask for help getting dressed up for a prize gala) and you never get the impression that any of them are holding back. This is something that is helped by the oddly controversial decision to let the riders speak in their native tongues. When it was first revealed Unlimited wouldn’t be wholly in English, like Drive to Survive is, is caused a stir on social media. 

F1 drivers in general speak better English than MotoGP riders, because MotoGP is a European-based series. I speak to them on weekly basis and I can tell you forcing them to speak in English the whole time would have seriously diluted what they ultimately revealed on Unlimited.

Race start

Race start

Photo by: Dorna

This authenticity extends to how races are shown. Unlimited has taken the action shots straight from the world feed, thrown real commentary over them, and simply lets the racing do the talking. Behind all of this, a host of journalists from across the globe offer their insight.

Unlimited is not without its flaws. While ample coverage is given to Jorge Martin and how he recovered from his horrible Portugal crash, he is the only rookie featured. Given Luca Marini is Rossi’s brother, and the fact Enea Bastianini scored two podiums, perhaps they merited some more coverage. Honda’s bike troubles aren’t really explained too much, nor is KTM’s, and Andrea Dovizioso only makes an appearance in the background briefly of one episode. 

However, these are creative decisions that don’t actually detract from the series as a whole and ultimately won’t really matter to the casual and non-MotoGP fans Unlimited is aimed at. 

Despite following the 2021 MotoGP season intently, each episode of MotoGP Unlimited creates a feeling of wanting to see what happened next. While its inspirations are obvious, MotoGP Unlimited doesn’t feel like a Drive to Survive clone. 

In many ways it rights the wrongs of Drive to Survive and improves on the formula to create hands down the best MotoGP documentary there’s ever been. Unlimited has done what it needed to in terms of how it portrayed MotoGP, and thus should succeed in opening up the series to a new fanbase.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Photo by: MotoGP


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