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MotoGP cancels Indian round on 2024 calendar; Replacement announced

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

After much speculation, MotoGP announced the cancellation of the Grand Prix of Bharat from the 2024 calendar earlier today, with Kazakhstan taking over the slot left vacant by the Indian round in September.

Event promoters Fairstreet Sports put out a statement earlier in the day, acknowledging the cancellation of the 2024 running of the Grand Prix of Bharat, stating that the stakeholders, including MotoGP's commercial rights holders Dorna Sports agreeing on the weather in September not being conducive to host the event.

Pushkar Nath Srivastava, CEO of Fairstreet Sports, was quoted saying to local news agency PTI:

"It was mutually decided to shift the race to March next year. We are looking at the first or second week of March. All the stakeholders, including Dorna agreed that the September weather is not conducive for the race, and it is tough on the riders and marshals, as experienced last year.

"All payments were being made in between, and whatever is left will be paid by next month. So that was not really a factor in shifting the race to next year. We also thought of doing it in November, but that would have meant four back-to-back races, which would have been tough on the teams and riders," Nath was quoted saying.

He expressed confidence in the fans to turn up for the race in March, the alternative date for the event:

"We also expect more fans to turn up in March as the weather will be better."

India hosted its inaugural MotoGP race back in 2023, and the event was well-received by riders and fans alike, generating plenty of revenue as well as publicity. Drivers praised the nature of the Buddh International Circuit, and the races held were successful, providing plenty of racing action during the sprint race as well as Sunday's main race.

However, one pressing matter of concern was the heat during the race weekend, a point raised by several riders. The length of the main race had to be shortened by three laps due to the extreme stress on riders and their machines due to the heat, and the technical nature of the circuit.

Sprint race winner on the weekend, Pramac's Jorge Martin suffered from severe dehydration and had to be tended to by medical staff, while KTM's Brad Binder revealed of his tyres having fallen off the cliff due to the sheer heat. The hot air blowing from the exhausts of bikes further exacerbated the issue.

Despite rain earlier on the weekend bringing down the mercury, and some respite to the paddock, the race was still held in temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius. Instead, conditions were rather humid, with the rain having added to the humidity for the race, marking what was arguably MotoGP's toughest weekend.

A collective decision was taken by the stakeholders of the event to remove it from the October slot, and move it to a more favourable window, preferably November or a sea change, bringing it towards the opening rounds of the season in March.

The former was ruled out, as it would result in four back-to-back weekends, putting enormous strain on riders and transporters. The Malaysian round of the championship takes place between 25th and 27th October, while Thailand hosts the championship on the following weekend, between 1st and 3rd November.

A two-week break follows, as riders return to European soil, for the season finale at Valencia between 15th and 17th November. As is the case, four weekends of racing in succession simply isn't a viable option.

The region of the national capital experiences heatwaves in summer, with temperatures skyrocketing in the months of May, June and July, even soaring past the 50°C mark in 2024. It wouldn't be conducive to have a race in these months of the year, due to the unprecedented heat.

The national capital experiences cooler temperatures in the winter months of December, January, and February, temperatures in the 20s, ideal for a MotoGP race. However, MotoGP doesn't race in the winter months, due to the yearly break, and with the season opener only being in March, this is the next best alternative for the Indian round to take place.

Reports even suggest India hosting the season opener in 2025, with the Qatari round in Losail displaced from its traditional slot as season opener due to the holy month of Ramadan (28th February to 29th March). It could even be double delight for the subcontinent, if the regular pre-season testing venue of Losail is ditched for the Indian track, to ensure logistical efficiency.

Despite missing out in 2024, efforts are on to secure a slot in the first or second week of March 2025, with the event given a shot in the arm, as the ruling state government of Uttar Pradesh has signed on as promoters of the event, extending even greater support to ensure the event's safety and security.

They have also promised to fulfill various obligations and grant approvals, including sharing the payment of race fees in an agreement with fellow promoters Fairstreet Sports.

The state's chief minister Yogi Adityanath extensively promoted the event, from being the first ticket-holder of the event, to inaugurating the event, even waving the chequered flag, and presenting the winner's trophy to race winner Marco Bezzecchi on Sunday.

The event generated a whopping 930 Crore INR in business, with a strong footfall of over one lakh people for the event, from India as well as around the world. 58,000 spectators would be at the venue to witness Sunday's race, whilst the overall weekend figures stood at 1.11 Lakh.

While these figures pale out in contrast to other venues, and the BIC's staggering capacity of 1,10,000 spectators, promoters are confident of filling the empty seats in the following years, with stronger promotion for the event, and smoother processes behind the scenes.

Kazakhstan replaces India on the calendar

The Sokol International Circuit, located 76 km (47 mi) north-west of Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, will take over the slot left vacant by the Indian round. The country was expected to host the premier motorbike racing series in 2023, but was cancelled due to severe floods in the region.

The 4.4 km (2.7 mi) long circuit was designed by ace track designer Hermann Tillke, and currently holds an FIA Grade 2 certification, however, the track is capable of hosting MotoGP. Plans to construct the Sokol circuit were first laid out in 2012, and the circuit neared completion in 2019 before grinding to a halt due to political issues.

The Sokol International Circuit was expected to host the Kazakhstan round of the 2023 MotoGP season, however, the race didn't go ahead due to homologation works, as well as operational challenges posed by the floods earlier.

However, the circuit's organisers have confirmed their intention to take over the vacated slot of September 20th - 22nd, when the Indian round was supposed to take place.

This will kick off the trio of flyaway races towards the end of the season, forming part of a triple header with the Indonesian Grand Prix at Mandalika from September 27th - 29th, and then the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi from October 4th - 6th.

Despite their intentions to host the event, uncertainties still loom over the Kazakhstan round too, and in the event of a cancellation, the MotoGP calendar will be reduced to 19 races, with no further replacement in store.

Do catch MotoGP in action this weekend, as the paddock heads to the scenic Mugello circuit in Tuscany, for the Italian round of the 2024 MotoGP season.


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