Motorbike firms upbeat as India to debut on MotoGP calendar in 2023

By Hugo Barcia

New Delhi, Oct 7 (EFE).- India is set to host a MotoGP race from 2023 for the first time, marking a milestone that major motorcycle manufacturers have been long demanding to promote their sales in a market where the number of two-wheeled vehicles exceeds 170 million.

“All of our manufacturers spoke especially about India, their interest in visiting the country. (…) Manufacturers see that it has a lot of potential,” Carlos Ezpeleta, sports director at Dorna, the Spanish company that has been organizing MotoGP for more than 30 years, told EFE.

“It is a market that buys a lot of motorcycles and manufacturers see that if they go with MotoGP they will buy more motorbikes in general and of their brand,” he added.

Earlier this year, Indian racing promoter Fairstreet Sports contacted Dorna to express interest in organizing a Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from New Delhi, and bring the best riders on the planet to India.

The final decision was announced by Dorna during the weekend, with Bharat Grand Prix – referring to India in Hindi – becoming a part of the 2023 MotoGP calendar, making it the 31st country to host a MotoGP race.

Despite India being the world’s largest two-wheeler market, with around 178 million motorcycles on its roads, very few people follow MotoGP, Fairstreet Sports operations head Pushkar Nath told EFE.

“Right now people are aware about Moto GP, but there is no such fan following,” he said.

To arouse that interest, they are designing a tour of some 25 cities that will organize activities and small motorcycle runs to encourage people to come to the Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place between Sep.22-24, opening the Asian tour.

The inclusion of India is in line with the recent expansion strategy of the championship into Southeast Asia, after Thailand in 2018 and Indonesia this season, all of which are countries where motorcycles are the main means of transport.

Ezpeleta expressed awareness of the lack of following for MotoGP in India, but considered it “a huge opportunity to grow” in a country of 1.4 billion people.

India sees the organization of the world’s top motorbike race as an opportunity to boost international tourism, create jobs, and promote the country as a brand.

“India will boost the tourism industry, as it now attempts to recover from Covid setbacks. A lot of foreign tourists, a lot of Indian tourists will come. People don’t only come for the race. They will visit the Taj Mahal also, which is one of the Seven Wonders and just one and a half hours away from the racing track,” said Nath.

According to the promoter, the average attendance at a MotoGP race is 150,000, with 22.5 percent of fans coming from abroad who spend an average of $920 over the weekend, more than double the $445 spent by local fans.

Moreover, Nath estimates that apart from the approximately 5,000 direct jobs that will be created for the race, another 50,000 jobs would be generated indirectly in sectors such as hospitality, catering and technology.

In total, the impact of an event like this is over $100 million, of which 21 percent goes to activities indirectly related to the race, according to the promoters.

The Buddh International Circuit, where the MotoGP will take place, earlier hosted Formula 1 races between 2011 and 2013, before a fallout between the regional state government of Uttar Pradesh and the organizers.

The authorities viewed Formula 1 as an entertainment rather than a sport, which significantly increased the taxes that organizers had to pay, adding to customs problems, leading to its exit from the country.

But these mistakes will not be repeated, Nath said, as the government recently recognized motorcycle racing “as a sporting event.”

“We were with the government and they (…) gave us the guarantee that there should be no problem,” Ezpeleta said. EFE

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