Thailand MotoGP Contract Signing Means Provisional 2018 Calendar Is Nigh

The news that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta is on his way to Thailand to sign a contract with the Buriram circuit to host MotoGP from 2018 signals that the publication of a 2018 provisional MotoGP calendar is imminent. The Thai round of MotoGP is the final piece of the puzzle needed for putting together next year's Grand Prix schedule.

The 2018 calendar will consist of 19 races, with the Thai round being added to the Pacific flyaways held in October. The series kicks off on 18th March at Losail in Qatar, a week before the Formula 1 season opener in Australia. To prevent the risk of night dew forming and making the track surface treacherous, the race is to be moved a couple of hours earlier, with the race set to start at 7pm local time instead of 9pm.

The 2018 schedule will look very similar to this year's calendar, the races following much the same sequence. Thailand will be added to the three existing flyaway races in the Pacific region in October. The plan, understands, is to split the races up with a break of one weekend between the four races. It is still uncertain how the back-to-back weekends will be split up, whether the split will be three and one, or two and two.

Sepang has an agreement with Dorna to be the penultimate race on the calendar, and the last race of the flyaways. The Malaysian circuit is also believed to be keen not to be paired with Thailand on back-to-back weekends, as they fear that having the two events too close together will eat into their attendance figures. A similar effect has been seen at Brno, where ticket sales have fallen since being paired with the Austrian round at the Red Bull Ring, just 300 kilometers away. 

There are still a few question marks left in the calendar. The locations of two races are yet to be confirmed. The demise of the Circuit of Wales project leaves the British Grand Prix without a definite home at the moment, though the choice will be between Silverstone and Donington Park. Silverstone is the current favorite to get the race, as the facilities at Donington are not up to hosting MotoGP. The paddock and garages are simply not large enough to house MotoGP's ever expanding trucks and hospitality units. However, Donington's new owners MSV are known to have an interest in hosting MotoGP.

The other unknown is the location of the German Grand Prix. The Sachsenring has historically been a very popular location for the event, with crowds regularly exceeding 90,000 on Sundays. But the circuit has struggled to make money, in part due to the high costs for erecting temporary grandstands around the circuit. Attempts to offset the costs by raising ticket prices caused attendance to fall sharply, dropping from 93,000 in 2016 to 77,000 in 2017. According to German-language publication Speedweek, the ADAC, who own the rights to the German Grand Prix, are considering a switch to the Nürburgring in western Germany. Attendance at that race was poor in the past, but that was during the 1990s, when the popularity of the sport was at a low. Crowd sizes everywhere have grown enormously, and with successful German riders like Jonas Folger in the sport, attendance should be greater.

Preseason testing kicks off on 28th January in Sepang, with two more tests set to take place before the first race in Qatar. There will be a test at Buriram in Thailand, to provide the teams and Michelin data for the track, and then the series will head to Qatar, for a final test ahead of the first race. With the season expanding to 19 races, at least one of the preseason tests is due to be dropped, but that will only take place once MotoGP has raced in Thailand. 

Below is the press release from Dorna:

Thailand poised to join the MotoGP™ calendar
Contract set to be signed on Thursday in Bangkok

Thailand is poised to join the MotoGP™ calendar from 2018, with Sakon Wannapong, the Governor of Sport Authority of Thailand, and Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Sports CEO, set to sign the contract on Thursday 31st August in a ceremony in Bangkok chaired by his excellency General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand. Pongpanu Svetarundra, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, will also be in attendance for the historic occasion.

Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta will fly to Bangkok this week to finalise and sign the contract, with the Grand Prix to be held in Buriram from 2018 until 2020.

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With the addition of Thailand next year, then Finland the year after, will teams get an extra engine to deal with the extra km's they'll be running?

I'm sorry, I still am puzzled why there's four GPs here? Yes I accept the money base is there, along with the many teams and sponsors. When they were always packed I can understand but in recent years we have gaps in the grandstands on race day, something never seen before. 

So either the grandstand seats are now prohibitively expensive or the circuits are not reaching capacity. If the latter is the case then surely the time is right to have two races and alternating the tracks annually, or by tender. When there are emerging markets forming an orderly queue and others apparently preparing to homologate their circuits in the near future there must be a will to take advantage of the rising popularity of MotoGP and take it further afield.

Accepting 20 rounds would probably be an absolute maximum and skimming Spain down to two then you could add Finland (David, this is to be added in the future anyway isn't it?), taking it to Africa again with possibly Kyalami and maybe another American round, North or South. 

Spain has a special place in the MotoGP fabric, but, with demand at a very high watermark, it should not limit taking the show to new markets in the near future.


Yes Funsize, I agree. Keep Jerez & Catalunya if they fix it I am not keen on Aragon. Valencia is too tight for MotoGp umpteen 2nd gear corners, meh. Maybe Jerez every year & swap around among the other circuits. That could enclude tracks that we don't go to now. Heaps of other circuits in Espana, as far as I know. If Dorna want to take the show to some new venues & we know they do. Plus the riders do not want to be doing twentysomething rounds. Therefore some tracks must be cut.

Yes I agree PitBull, lets go back to South Africa! remember the first round of the 2004 MotoGp world championship ? Of corse you do. Started in the RSA didn't it. One of the greatest races ever!!! I would love to get over to watch some races in South Afrika. Finagle knows when.

I do not plan on going to Thailand. Hope the Thai people get some benefit from this deal done by the Generals.

I hope Donington does upgrade "The paddock and garages" & everything else that needs doing! Then the facilities will be newer & hopefully better than Silverstone or at least as good. Then the two can compete for races & Silverspoon will have to deal with the bumps or market forces will operate.

This series goes from strength to strength..I feel I know the reaosn why buy would anyone like to make a commnet on their thoughts also?


I confer with the previous remarks regarding the 4 rounds in Spain,something has to give to allow new venues to host their GP`s.Dorna must be making extra allowances to the Spanish circuits  to make the GP`s cost effective to the spanish fans,after all,Spain is not a wealthy european nation.

I had the pleasure of attending Cattalunya this year and was surprised to find the ticket prizes well below those in both Australia and the UK.Does Dorna absorb the extra cost to appease the Spanish sponsors and public?