The MotoGP calendar continues to expand. Today, Dorna announced in an unusually brief press release that the Sokol International Racetrack, 50 kilometers north east of Almaty in Kazakhstan, is to be added to the MotoGP calendar for 2023 for a five-year period. The Kazakh track is still in the process of being built, and so will face homologation and safety checks before the race will be confirmed as happening in 2023.
The race in Kazakhstan will take the slot vacated by the now defunct Kymiring in Finland, which failed due to its business case collapsing when Russia invaded Ukraine. That means it will be held in July, two weeks after the Dutch TT in Assen, and three weeks before the series resumes at Silverstone. Its inclusion will bring the calendar up to 21 races. The calendar is set to be published at the end of this week.
The reason for going to Kazakhstan is simple: it opens up a new market for MotoGP in Central Asia, and the fact that the country is an autocracy based on oil wealth means that unlike, say, Finland, the money to complete a circuit and pay the fee demanded by Dorna is not an issue.
Last week, Dorna also announced that work was underway to bring a race to India. Although Indian sources reported that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the promoter, Fairstreet Sports, the Dorna press release is careful not to make any mention of agreements or contracts signed. Dorna has also previously signed Memoranda of Understanding with circuits in Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and the Circuit of Wales.
India is a territory Dorna is very keen to conquer, however. A massive market, both in terms of viewership and motorcycle sales, having a race in the country would be a huge boost for the series. The race is currently scheduled to be held at the Buddh International Circuit, not far from New Delhi, if it happens.
Previously, problems with customs and local taxation have made it difficult to organize a race in India. When F1 raced in India, local authorities classified the event as entertainment rather than sport, incurring huge import tax liabilities. That also caused the cancellation of WorldSBK's proposed round there. MotoGP will only be able to race in India if those issues have been resolved. Paddock sources indicated to me that there were a lot of other issues to overcome as well.
Although Indian media suggested that a race could be held as early as 2023, that will not happen. The earliest India could join MotoGP would be 2024, when a major shakeup of the calendar is expected, including a cut to the number of races held on the Iberian peninsula. Italy could also lose a race, if attendance figures continue to be as dramatic in 2023 as they were in 2024. Saudi Arabia is currently set to join the calendar from 2024 as well, with other countries also interested in hosting races. On the face of it, MotoGP is set to make a shift eastwards, out of Europe and into the Middle East and Asia.
The press releases from Dorna appear below:
MotoGP™ lands in Kazakhstan in 2023
Tuesday, 27 September 2022
The FIM MotoGP™ World Championship is coming to Kazakhstan! 2023 marks the start of a new five-year deal that sees MotoGP™ touch down in a new region of the world as the stunning Sokol International Racetrack joins the calendar.
Located just outside Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, Sokol is a brand-new motorsport complex constructed in the heart of Central Asia. The region will be a new pitstop for MotoGP™ as the sport continues to expand around the world, engaging with new markets and fanbases.
Kazakhstan will also become the 30th country to host a motorcycle Grand Prix since 1949, a perfect landmark number to celebrate the ever-expanding history of the world’s first motorsport World Championship, and Sokol International Racetrack will be the 74th venue to host a premier class Grand Prix.
Dorna begins work towards future MotoGP™ Grand Prix in India
Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Dorna Sports is delighted to announce that work has begun on a possible future Indian Grand Prix, with the target of bringing the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship to the Indian subcontinent in the near future.
Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has recently visited India to meet with authorities and potential event promoter Fairstreet Sports. The visit began at the spectacular Buddh International Circuit, right outside New Delhi, which would be the target venue to host the possible MotoGP™ event.
Thereafter, the delegation also travelled to Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the region in which the circuit is located, to meet with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Yogi Adityanath and Industrial Development Minister Mr Nand Gopal “Nandi”.
Finally the visit ended with a presentation in New Delhi to local media and representatives of the motorcycling industry, which showcased the great expectation the country has for MotoGP™.
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta: "India is a huge country and market, and an especially important one for the two-wheeled industry and MotoGP as a sport. The Championship has a huge fan base there and being able to hold a MotoGP event in India would be both an incredible spectacle for our fans at the same time as allowing us to continue to grow the sport in the region, which is hugely important for our all our partners and the manufacturers in particular given the hundreds of millions of two-wheeled vehicles on its roads. We would love to be able to see this project through and bring these incredible MotoGP bikes to race in front of the Indian fans.
"At MotoGP we are committed to our fans and aim to make the sport accessible to all, regardless of where they are, who they are or their economic status. Motorcycles are an incredible tool for transportation and in many areas of the world they drive society, providing economic mobility and powering families around the world. Racing in India would be a reflection of our commitment to open the doors to the sport as widely as we can, and would be and an important achievement for the Championship."
Union Sports Minister Shri Anurag Thakur, during the meeting with Fairstreet Sports team, added: “It’s a historical day for the sporting and automobile industry and a befitting tribute to the Azadai Ka Amrit Maha Utsav celebrations, marking India’s befitting arrival in the global platform of motorsport. India could potentially be one of MotoGP’s biggest markets in terms of viewership as well as revenue.
"MotoGP is a critical asset thanks to the viewer loyalty that the sport enjoys and the competitive nature it embodies, already reaching nearly half a billion homes around the world. Dorna Sports, the sole commercial and television rights holder, produces the world feed television coverage of each Grand Prix throughout the season, from acquisition to distribution, as part of a 360 degree event management philosophy."
Mr Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh: "It is a matter of great pride for Uttar Pradesh to host such a globally prestigious mega sports event. Not only will the event boost the hospitality and tourism sectors, but it will also put UP on the global platform. Our government will provide all the necessary support to make this event a huge success."
Shri Nand Gopal “Nandi”, Cabinet Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh for Industrial Development, Export Promotion, NRI, Investment Promotion, said, "The event will not only be a boon to motorcycle racing fans but also provide a major impetus to the economy by generating an influx of foreign investments and ushering in advancement in the personal transportation industry which would transcend into global investments and a preferred destination for OEM’s in the state of Uttar Pradesh."