MotoGP commits long-term plan to India, first race likely in 2023


PTI, Sep 21, 2022, 5:38 PM IST

Image Courtesy: Reuters

New Delhi: In a massive boost for motorsport in the country, the MotoGP organisers on Wednesday announced that the biggest two-wheel racing event could come to India as early as next year. An MoU, which promises seven races in as many years, was announced, but MotoGP organisers Dorna Sports and Indian promoters Faristreet Sports did not set a date for the first race, which is being branded as ‘Grand Prix of Bharat’. If 2023 doesn’t work out, both parties aim to conduct a testing event the same year before the inaugural round in 2024. Dorna will announce the 2023 calendar soon.

The MoU was announced in the presence of Dorna Sports MD Carlos Ezpeleta and Indian promoter Fairstreet Sports (FSS) COO Pushkar Nath and director Amit Sandill. The round when it happens will also include races in the junior category — Moto2 and Moto3.

PTI had reported last week that a race was on the cards in the winter of 2023. The race venue will be the state-of-the-art Buddh International Circuit, home to the defunct Indian Grand Prix.

Once the stakeholders can decide the dates, the rack track will be homologated by the world governing body FIM, which is seen as a formality since the track has already hosted an event of the stature of Formula 1. Formula 1 departed after three seasons due to financial, tax, and bureaucratic hurdles but Ezpeleta expressed surprise that India, the world’s largest two-wheeler market, has not hosted MotoGP yet.

”Honestly from Dorna’s side, it is surprising the call has not been made before. MotoGP is a product meant for India and India is a country meant for MotoGP. The match is a good one,”Ezpeleta said. ”We had not been approached for MotoGP in previous years but with the support of the Indian promoters, all the parts boxes have been checked. ”All the major manufacturers that are part of MotoGP have shown a lot of interest in coming to India,” he added.

Though the official statement clearly mentioned the race will happen in 2023 but Ezpeleta said getting all the pieces together to host a race of this scale is always a complicated affair.

Around 5000 people including riders and staff work during a MotoGP round. Ezpeleta claimed that a MotoGP weekend generates economic activity of 100 million euros.

”The MoU is for seven years which can start as soon as next year. Putting together a MotoGP round is a huge job. A pre-season test of machinery and tyres have to be tested at the venue.

”We publish our calendar season before. We are working out the dates on whether we can make 2023 possible or whether there will be a test for the first event in 2024. It is complicated to organise, many pieces will have to fall into place,” said Dorna Sports MD.

Formula 1 could not have a long future in India due to financial, tax, and bureaucratic issues. The event was taxed as the government back then did not recognise it as a sport. Custom clearance of tonnes of equipment was also an issue.

Fairstreet Sports COO Nath said two-wheel racing is now recognised as a sport by the government and getting a single window clearance will not be a problem. The Indian promoters claim to have the backing of the state government and central government. Nath and Co. had a meeting with UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur before the announcement. Since it is an event of a huge scale, there will be financial and operational challenges. MotoGP organisers expect FSS to overcome them.

FSS will be paying Dorna millions of euros per year to host the race.

”I don’t know the logistical challenges that you have had here. It is surprising that other countries have been able to host MotoGP and a continent like India has not. It was surprising for me. For us it was a no-brainer to have a race in India,” said Ezpeleta.

Asked if they expect some financial support from the government to ensure the event’s long future, promoter Nath added: ”We are self-sufficient to host the event. The government has been very supportive.”

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