Turkey To Stop Hosting MotoGP Races After 2007?

On the eve of the Istanbul round of MotoGP, tragedy has already struck. Turkish online newspaper Today's Zaman is reporting that the Turkish Motorcycling Federation will ask the FIM to cancel its contract to host the round. The problem is money. Though the Turkish round is relatively well attended, by flyaway standards - attracting crowds of around 38,000 on race day, 6,000 more than Shanghai, and vastly more than the 3000 that attend at Qatar - the costs of hosting the MotoGP round are still a long way from being recovered.

What's more, according to TMF Chairman Bekir Yunus Uçar, a lack of cooperation from the Turkish authorities does not help. Where track rental in most countries would come in at around $250,000, the Turkish Motorcycling Federation pays Istanbul Park 1.6 million Turkish New Lira, nearly $1.2 million. Then there are the problems with customs, with the Turkish authorities charging the teams exorbitant fees to clear the valuable bikes and equipment through customs. The Turkish federation simply cannot afford to keep hosting the event, according to Uçar.

This would be a tragedy for a couple of reasons: Firstly, the Istanbul Circuit is one of the finest tracks on the MotoGP calendar, featuring challenging turns with plenty of elevation changes, and the terrifying Turn 11, a flat-out, off-camber right-hander leading into a tight, three-corner chicane before the finish line. The track has produced some of the best racing ever seen, with last year's MotoGP race being a tightly fought affair, with Marco Melandri finally coming out on top, and the 2006 250 cc race going down in history as one of the finest motorcycle races ever. The tracks which are lining up to take Istanbul's place just don't have the same splendor.

Secondly, Turkey is on the verge of producing its very own home-grown motorcycle racing hero. Kenan Sofuoglu, impressive last year, is in with an excellent chance of winning the World Supersport championship this year. With the title could come a promotion to Superbikes, and a possible future in MotoGP. A Turkish rider would be a welcome addition to the traditional mix of Italians, Spaniards, Americans and Australians that comprise most of the MotoGP grid, and could help to boost the popularity of the sport in Turkey, and possibly throughout the Middle East, making the series an even more attractive prospect for sponsors.

Of course, one country's loss could well prove to be another country's gain, and the loss of Istanbul would make an Indianapolis round of MotoGP a near certainty.

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