Following recent announcements that both Singapore and Abu Dhabi are keen to gain a foothold on the MotoGP calendar in the coming years, India has now put itself forward as the latest candidate to host a round of the premier class.
India is scheduled to stage its first grand prix in F1 late next year, and the Jaypee Group that is charged with building the circuit in Greater Noida, 50km from Delhi has now entered into negotiations with MotoGP commercial rights-holder Dorna with a similar aim for 2012.
Motor racing is an increasingly popular sport in the country, with the likes of Force India F1, Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan having done much to boost its recognition of late amongst a nation of traditionally cricket devotees. Affluent young people are believed to be the most likely to take an interest.
“Yes, we are in touch with Dorna,” acknowledged Manu Bhaskar Gaur, executive general manager of Jaypee Sports International, according to the Times of India
. “The racing track we are building is designed to host both F1 and MotoGP.”
“It is good news for racing enthusiasts,” underlined Pankaj Dubey, national business head at India Yamaha Motor, which pulled off a coup by attracting record-breaking MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi to the Delhi Auto Expo earlier this year. “Yamaha is already known for motor racing globally, and if there is an Indian edition of it, we would ensure that our bikes race on the track.”
Rivals Honda and Ducati are similarly bullish about the prospect of an outing in India. N K Rattan, marketing and sales head at Honda's Indian two-wheeler subsidiary HMSI, contends that 'the entry of MotoGP should further enhance the fun-biking culture in India', with Honda already holding racing activities at a circuit in Chennai. Ducati APAC CEO Mirko Bordiga, meanwhile, has confessed that 'we see a lot of potential in India'.
The news follows hot on the heels of the ground-breaking confirmation that Indian brand Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) is likely to join the 125cc class in 2011 as a bike manufacturer [see separate story – click here
], whilst Bangalore-based Ten10 Racing has joined forces with the San Marino-based WTR Team to launch WTR-Ten10 Racing Team, with the intention to field one Indian rider and one Italian.
“This is part of our global branding strategy,” revealed Mahindra group vice-chairman Anand Mahindra of the first Indian corporate company to throw its hat into the ring in top-level international motorcycling circles. “MotoGP gives us access to a global platform wherein we can showcase our design, technology, engineering and IT capabilities – [and] the construction of the racetrack in Noida gives us hope that MotoGP will come to India.”