Sepang to host two MotoGP races in future?

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Sepang could host two MotoGP races in the near future in a bid to cash in on booming interest in South East Asian markets like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

MCN can reveal that Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis has already spoken to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to explore the option of the Sepang circuit featuring twice on the calendar after the record-breaking success of last month’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

A record crowd of 77,178 fans attended last month’s Sepang race, which was a massive 10,000 up on the 2011 attendance.

That figure also eclipsed the race day attendance at Silverstone (66,230), Mugello (64,165) and Valencia (61,856) and was only a fraction behind the likes of Le Mans (80,205) and Catalunya (79,351).

The total weekend crowd figure in Sepang of 125,816 was a huge 20,000 hike on the total three-day attendance in 2010.

The surge in interest in Sepang is further confirmation of the soaring popularity of MotoGP in South East Asia both on and off the track.

AirAsia has become a valued commercial partner of Dorna recently and last season was the title sponsor of the Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi and the Phillip Island round in Australia.

Malaysian rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin established himself as a regular frontrunner in the new Moto3 class last season and he created history in Sepang last month by becoming the first Malaysian in history to score a Grand Prix podium.

As well as Khairuddin in Moto3, two Indonesian riders will compete in the 2013 Moto2 world championship, which will only generate additional interest in MotoGP.

Dorna and Yamaha and Honda are desperate to have more MotoGP races staged in growing markets like South East Asia, particularly in Indonesia where more than six million new bikes were sold in 2012.

The dilemma is there is no circuit built in Thailand or Singapore to host a MotoGP race and the Sentul track in Indonesia, which last hosted a Grand Prix race in 1997, needs to undergo major development to get FIM homologation.

Jarvis believes the obvious solution is to negotiate a two-race deal with Sepang until the championship can be expanded into Indonesia and other South East Asia countries.

Yamaha has put in huge effort to tap into the South East Asia market, notably in Indonesia where the Japanese factory has sent Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies and Valentino Rossi for numerous personal appearances.

Jarvis told MCN: “Interest in MotoGP in South East Asia has really taken off and it is vitally important for the sport and the factories to be as visible as possible in that region.

The attendance at Sepang last month was a perfect illustration of how popular MotoGP has become in South East Asia, and I think a second race there would be welcomed by all concerned until existing tracks like Sentul can be upgraded, or new tracks become available for MotoGP to race on in that part of the world.”

With 50% of next year’s 18-round MotoGP calendar taking place in just three countries (4 x Spain, 3 x USA and 2 x Italy), Jarvis said it was imperative that MotoGP was taken to a much wider global audience.

He said it was crucial that MotoGP raced in India, with motorcycle sales showing phenomenal growth of well over 10 million units per year.

Dorna had been negotiating for several months with Buddh International Circuit officials about a race in India in 2013. But World Superbikes clinched a cut-price deal before Dorna took control of WSB back in early October.

Jarvis added: “Bike sales are showing tremendous growth in India and it is very important that MotoGP is racing there at the earliest opportunity.”


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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt