MotoGP ready to step into void left by Formula 1 departure

Nine years have passed since the Buddh International Circuit said goodbye to Formula 1, which left India unceremoniously. F1 came to India with pomp and ceremony and the country’s elite graced the event, declaring that India had finally arrived as an international motorsport destination.

Despite the promise, the Indian Grand Prix lasted only three years until 2013 – two less than the five-year contract – due to logistical, financial, fiscal and bureaucratic hurdles. Apart from a few domestic racing events, BIC in Greater Noida has rarely smelled burning rubber since then.

But now Indian motorsport is seeing a new spark. Last weekend, MotoGP, the world’s premier two-wheel racing series, announced that it will come to India from September 2023. Dorna Sports, MotoGP’s international organizer and commercial rights holder, signed a seven-year deal with Noida-based Fairstreet Sports, the race promoters.

But can MotoGP succeed where F1 failed?

“We were not able to create an experience in F1. It was the first time an event of such a high level had taken place in the country. We, our authorities, were not ready for that kind of agreement or contract. We learned a lot there and made sure that if they (MotoGP) come here they only come to run the race,” said Fairstreet COO Pushkar Nath Srivastava.

A major factor that led Fairstreet to get MotoGP was that the same party runs the governments in Uttar Pradesh and downtown, unlike last time. That is expected to help solve logistical problems and get permissions and permissions quickly.

“This is one of the blessings for us. You can’t believe how fast we are going. Our dynamics change every day because government turns so fast. The government has also learned from it (F1 experience),” said Srivastava. “The state government has assured us all the aid on the track. They know that this event will create a lot of jobs. It is not a one-time event, but a seven-year contract.”

A major problem facing F1 in India was that the government did not recognize it as a sport. It was classified as entertainment, leading to tax issues. The center finally recognized the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), the sport’s governing body, as a National Sports Federation (NSF) in 2015. “It helps enormously. It was done by the current government, which means they had the vision. They have said that motorsport is now considered a sport and that it will bring sporting benefits,” added Srivastava.

This means that FMSCI, together with the promoters, will liaise with the ministries of sport, external affairs and internal affairs to obtain permission for foreign MotoGP staff, visas, equipment, etc. It will also ensure that BIC is homologated before the race on September 24. FMSCI will also contact the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM) to make changes to the track to host the MotoGP race.

“Today there is much more understanding of motorsport in India in terms of commissions, approvals, visas. India has made a lot of progress since then (F1 days), although much more needs to be done in terms of understanding the sport, its timelines and the need for much less bureaucracy,” said FMSCI President Akbar Ebrahim.

“It will also be greatly appreciated if cells with some window clearance are set up for international motorsport events. Whatever difficulties F1 was facing at the time, the people who dealt with it understood how to prepare for it.”

It is understandable why Fairstreet and FMSCI want to bring an event of the magnitude of MotoGP to India. Dorna may be more excited. With over 200 million motorcycles on the roads, India is one of the world’s largest motorcycle markets.

“India is an important market for the motorcycle industry and, by extension, for MotoGP as the pinnacle of the two-wheeled world,” said Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, who visited India last month and met UP chief Yogi Adityanath. The CM has assured that his “government will provide all necessary support to make this event a great success”.

Two-wheeled transport accounts for nearly 75% of vehicles used daily in India – a key focus for all MotoGP manufacturers. Honda, KTM, Yamaha, Ducati and Aprilia – all of whom will race next year – are producing two-wheelers for the Indian market. “MotoGP as a product is intended for India and vice versa. The competition is good,” said Carlos Ezpeleta, Dorna’s Chief Sporting Officer.

The event, labeled the ‘Grand Prix of Bharat’, is expected to boost trade and tourism and create an estimated 50,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly, and up to 5,000 jobs for the race weekend.

“What MotoGP will do to grow the two-wheeler industry is huge. Once the top of the pyramid enters, it will have a very large effect downstream. Once the event takes place here, other events such as the Superbike World Championship and the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) will come to India,” said Ebrahim.

“It will further strengthen the National Championship as Indian teams and sponsors will look for ways to compete upstream. It creates many opportunities in terms of jobs, participation of teams, engineers, mechanics, officials, service providers, marshals, recovery, medical and hospitality.”

Unlike F1, where the big push is focused on serving the US market, MotoGP is heading east with seven of the 21 races to be held in Asia next year. India’s will be the 14th race and will also be the 31st MotoGP host.

“The fact that India is the largest motorcycle manufacturer, MotoGP had to come to India. We are the country she wants, not only because of the number of people, but also because of the industries available and people who can embrace MotoGP. It’s fantastic that MotoGP is finally making its way to India,” said rally champion CS Santosh, the first Indian to participate and complete the Dakar Rally.

Santosh was initially inspired by greats like Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi before opting for off-road racing. “I will be there (for the race in India) for sure,” said Santosh, who went to Spain last month to watch the Aragon GP.

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