SINGAPORE : Now that Singapore has established itself as a premier venue for Formula 1, get ready for the biggest and fastest thing on two wheels.
MotoGP, the motorbike equivalent of F1, is set to make its debut here as early as 2011 when Singapore’s first permanent race track is completed. Speaking from his Madrid office in Spain, MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta told TODAY that his company Dorna Sports, which holds the commercial rights to MotoGP, has signed an agreement with a Singaporean company to stage a round of the 18-leg world championships here, when the planned track is completed.
The 61-year-old Spaniard, who is to Moto-GP what Bernie Ecclestone is to Formula 1, also said that Singapore is an important part of the sport’s growth plans, as it is a key financial centre in the middle of an important region of the world.
Although TODAY is unable to name the Singapore promoter, who sealed the deal in Madrid about two months ago, due to contractual sensitivities, Ezpeleta said: “Yes, I can confirm that we have signed an agreement with a promoter to stage a round of the motorbike world championships in Singapore.
“But it depends when the permanent track you are going to build will be completed. I understand it will be up in three years’ time, so you can have a race there as early as 2011, if not 2012.”
Matching Formula 1
MotoGP motorbikes can reach top speeds of about 340kmh, compared to 370kmh for F1 cars, and Dorna claim they have an average television audience of about 350 million viewers across 200 countries for each race.
In terms of economic impact, organisers of the MotoGP event at Laguna Seca, California, say the annual event there contributes about US$100 million (S$146 milion) into the Monterey area surrounding the track, which is on par with spill-off revenues generated by F1 races.
But unlike F1 – with some Grands Prix held on street circuits, including Singapore – MotoGP hold all their races on purpose-built racing circuits.
Teo Ser Luck, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, said at last month’s F1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix that the permanent circuit in Changi is on track to be completed in 2011. Although 20 hectares have been allocated for the project, he also said the Government is willing to consider releasing more land should there be a need.
And despite the difficult economic climate, Singapore Sports Council chief executive officer Oon Jin Teik said that plans for the track will go ahead. “The Changi racetrack is a major component of SSC’s overall motor sports industry development plan in Singapore and it is intended to be funded by the private sector,” said Oon.
“The current financial climate will have an impact on the types and number of bidders that we will be able to attract. Nonetheless, it can only serve to improve their quality and proposals. Weaker players are unlikely to participate while stronger ones will need to put together even better proposals that will enable them to secure financial backing. Based on the feedback we’re receiving, potential investors are still upbeat about the project.”
Friendlier Ticket Prices
In their regulations for 2008, the sport’s world governing body, the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), has stipulated that tracks hosting MotoGP races must be at least 3.5km long.
But Ezpeleta would like to see them longer than that. “We prefer a race track with a length of at least 4km to 4.5km, but safety is our top priority,” he said.
“It would be good also if the track could hold at least 70,000 people, but I am leaving that to the promoter in Singapore to decide.
“Asia is important to MotoGP’s growth and Singapore is at the centre of it, that is why we want to hold a round there. But like I said, my agreement with the promoter in Singapore is subject to the track being built.”
There is an added attraction to MotoGP, as ticket prices are far more affordable. At the Malaysian MotoGP race earlier this month, a seat at the main grandstand cost about RM230 (S$95), compared to about RM1,800 for the same seat at the Formula 1 race there in April this year.
But Ezpeleta, who has an “unwritten agreement” with Ecclestone to ensure their events don’t clash, said: “If Singapore’s F1 race is in September, we will have no choice but to plan a MotoGP race to be held there in early 2011.” –