Wed, Jun 07, 2017 - Page 16 News List

MotoGP set for Thailand debut in Buriram next year

AFP, BANGKOK

Valentino Rossi, left, and Danilo Petrucci on Sunday race through a corner during the Italian MotoGP at the Mugello Circuit in Scarperia, Italy.

Photo: EPA

Thailand’s sports authority said it has secured rights to host a MotoGP race next year, after years of lobbying to bring top motorcycle racing to the kingdom.

The Sports Authority of Thailand said on Facebook that MotoGP owners Dorna Sports gave them the green light after talks on Saturday in Florence, Italy.

The motorcycling equivalent of Formula One is to stage a grand prix in Buriram, a provincial Thai city in the impoverished rice farming northeast that has been transformed into a sporting hub.

“The talks took three hours and concluded with Dorna Sports being willing to give Thailand rights for three years beginning in 2018 up to 2020,” said the statement, which was published on Sunday.

It said the first race weekend would be held between Oct. 5 to 7 next year, but there has been no official confirmation of the deal from MotoGP or owners Dorna Sports yet.

The sports authority said it expected to receive “written confirmation” shortly.

A Thai debut for MotoGP would be a personal coup for Newin Chidchob, a 58-year-old survivor of Thailand’s bear-pit politics who has enticed deep-pocketed contacts into building sports facilities in his hometown of Buriram.

In 2014 he unveiled the US$58.9 million Formula One-certified circuit in the 30,000 population town.

The motorcycling extravaganza could pour millions of US dollars into Buriram, a huge sum for a province that was once among Thailand’s poorest.

Thailand’s junta has earmarked millions of US dollars to win the hosting of MotoGP in partnership with private sponsors.

Thai sports authorities also want to stage Formula One, but political instability has so far hampered efforts to secure the motor sport jewel in the crown.

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