The MotoGP calendar continues to expand. Today, Dorna announced in an unusually brief press release that the Sokol International Racetrack, 50 kilometers north east of Almaty in Kazakhstan, is to be added to the MotoGP calendar for 2023 for a five-year period.
The Kazakh track is still in the process of being built, and so will face homologation and safety checks before the race will be confirmed as happening in 2023.
The race in Kazakhstan will take the slot vacated by the now defunct Kymiring in Finland, which failed due to its business case collapsing when Russia invaded Ukraine.
That means it will be held in July, two weeks after the Dutch TT in Assen, and three weeks before the series resumes at Silverstone. Its inclusion will bring the calendar up to 21 races. The calendar is set to be published at the end of this week.
The reason for going to Kazakhstan is simple: it opens up a new market for MotoGP in Central Asia, and the fact that the country is an autocracy based on oil wealth means that unlike, say, Finland, the money to complete a circuit and pay the fee demanded by Dorna is not an issue.
Last week, Dorna also announced that work was underway to bring a race to India.
Although Indian sources reported that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the promoter, Fairstreet Sports, the Dorna press release is careful not to make any mention of agreements or contracts signed.
Dorna has also previously signed Memoranda of Understanding with circuits in Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and the Circuit of Wales.
India is a territory Dorna is very keen to conquer, however. A massive market, both in terms of viewership and motorcycle sales, having a race in the country would be a huge boost for the series.
The race is currently scheduled to be held at the Buddh International Circuit, not far from New Delhi, if it happens.
Previously, problems with customs and local taxation have made it difficult to organize a race in India. When F1 raced in India, local authorities classified the event as entertainment rather than sport, incurring huge import tax liabilities.
That also caused the cancellation of WorldSBK’s proposed round there. MotoGP will only be able to race in India if those issues have been resolved. Paddock sources indicated to me that there were a lot of other issues to overcome as well.
Although Indian media suggested that a race could be held as early as 2023, that will not happen.
The earliest India could join MotoGP would be 2024, when a major shakeup of the calendar is expected, including a cut to the number of races held on the Iberian peninsula.
Italy could also lose a race, if attendance figures continue to be as dramatic in 2023 as they were in 2024. Saudi Arabia is currently set to join the calendar from 2024 as well, with other countries also interested in hosting races.
On the face of it, MotoGP is set to make a shift eastwards, out of Europe and into the Middle East and Asia.