MotoGP rises over F1 as Asia shifts its loyalty

Call it the dwindling interest in Formula One or call it the rising popularity of motorcycle race. Call it what you will, but MotoGP is clearly taking a lead over Formula One in terms of audience, especially in Asia.
MotoGP rises over F1 as Asia shifts its loyalty
MotoGP in progress at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia (File photo)
Malaysia was a trend-setter two decades ago when it hosted a Formula One race in Asia here in Sepang. It has now decided to shift its loyalty to motorcycle race after it pulled out of the Formula One cycle last year. The MotoGP is the latest craze here as the F1 attendance declined. The audience for the motorcycle race here rose phenomenally to 161,553 in 2016 from 65,000 in 1999, according to Sepang International Circuit officials. This year’s MotoGP will be held here over the weekend.

“F1 was a great product before; now, it is not as good,” observed Razlan Razali, chief of the Sepang International Circuit. “We pay less for MotoGP, and I think the exposure the country gets is more or less the same as F1.”

Tourism Malaysia reportedly said the government spent around $75 million (more than Rs 500 crore) annually to host an F1 race. The cost for a MotoGP event is just over $10 million (Rs 72 crore), in addition to cheaper ticket prices for the motorcycle event.

In fact, Asia in general is likely to take a cue from Malaysia. India has also stopped hosting Formula One as the Buddh International Circuit in New Delhi felt the heat like Sepang. However, it may take some time before India gets to host a MotoGP as Buddh is the only circuit that could host the event, though with minor modifications.

There is also the challenge of accommodating large number of spectators during a Moto GP event which is estimated around 1,00,000. “Looking first at the supply side, at Buddh International Circuit we have the right basic infrastructure in terms of handling large numbers of fans and track design and length,” said BS Sujith Kumar,vice-prsident of FIM-Asia, the governing body for two-wheeler races in the region.

“MotoGP would require some safety-related changes, such as adjusting run-off areas and barriers and would want to be assured that 3-400 highly trained marshals and paramedics would be available. India has plenty of highly qualified and experienced race officials with F1 experience who can support their race direction team, so we are in a strong position. On the demand side, MotoGP and its global sponsors recognise the huge importance of India, with its young, increasingly affluent population. This is also a major attraction for the major manufacturers in the series: Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati and Aprilia, all of which are active in India,” he explained.

MotoGP bikes have highly tuned 1,000cc engines and there is a minimum weight limit of 157 kg.

It can be compared to Formula One insofar as the machines are race-only prototypes and cost millions of dollars. There are strict rules about electronics, engine durability and fuel consumption that contribute to the close racing that MotoGP is now so well-known for. Buddh has a long straight and bikes could touch speeds of 340 km per hour, according to insiders.

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