MotoGP rides its way to India; fans gear up to witness action at Buddh International Circuit
In a significant boost for the stagnant Indian motosport scene, the country will be hosting a maiden MotoGP World Championships race, labelled as 'Grand Prix of Bharat', at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida next year.
The MotoGP organisers said on Wednesday that the most extraordinary two-wheel racing event could come to India as early as next year, which would be a massive boost for motorsport in the nation.
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'.
Both parties intend to hold a testing event the year before the first round in 2024 if 2023 doesn't work out. Dorna will shortly reveal the 2023 calendar.
The MoU was revealed in the presence of director Amit Sandill, CEO Pushkar Nath of Indian promoter Fairstreet Sports (FSS), and MD Carlos Ezpeleta of Dorna Sports. When it occurs, the round will also feature Moto2 and Moto3 junior category races.
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.
Despite the official announcement that the event will take place in 2023, Ezpeleta claimed that organising a race of this magnitude is never an easy task. During a MotoGP race, 5000 people—riders and staff—are employed. Ezpeleta asserted that a MotoGP weekend creates 100 million euros' worth of economic activity.
"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.
A long future for Formula 1 in India was impossible due to administrative, tax, and financial problems. Because the government at the time did not recognise the event as a sport, it was taxed. Another problem was getting tonnes of equipment through customs.
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."
Meanwhile, MotoGP fans in India expressed excitement over the announcement and took to Twitter to share their views. Here's a look at some of the reactions:
(With inputs from PTI)