September 7, 2016
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko
MotoGP has revisited Austria in 2016 and with a whole host of circuits lined up for 2017, it’s hard to not be excited by the sports’ future. However, in this article, I will be going to ten countries all over the world that would benefit massively from having a MotoGP round, even if they don’t currently have racing facilities! This is a pure speculation article about how the country would benefit and what it would do to the sport! Enjoy!
Naypyidaw, Myanmar (Burma)
Unique. Extraordinary. Bizarre. Just three words that could be used to describe the rather ominous city of Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s brand new (literally) capital city. Having been freed of the strict military regime, this country is rapidly on the up, both in terms of tourism and economic growth. The city replaced Rangoon (now Yangon) as capital in 2005, when the military decided to build a brand new city. However, this phenomenon is remarkable compared to any other city in the world. It is completely derelict. 20 lane highways are empty; 800 brand new hotels with no one in them; shops are open just like they are in the UK and USA, just with no people going in them.
I have recently booked a holiday to see this sensational city. However, with its massive roads lying lifeless and Myanmar’s massive scooter population, sometime in the future will these empty streets and hotels be packed with bikes and bike fans alike from across the planet? Would it be an idea to host a race here? Motorbikes are hugely popular and like many other Asian countries, MotoGP is one of its main sports but there is no race here. What better way to showcase your country’s talents by proposing a race in a championship that is watched by millions, and is still going from strength to strength each race.
Naypyidaw could finally benefit from tourism once a year, which would then lead on to promoting the rest of the country. MotoGP could target a potentially massive market, encouraging more people to get involved in the sport. This is purely speculation, but it might just be an option.
Nestled in the mountains of Western Asia, Lebanon is laid next to the beautiful Mediterranean. It is straight in at number one country of all time. However, ‘beautiful’ may be the last word you would expect me to describe Lebanon as. Blitzed by war through the 80s, 90s and even in the mid-naughties, the glamour of the Middle East went up in a cloud of desert dust. The scenes that were born unto our television screens were appalling. Lifeless bodies and limbless children, scattered across the former jewel in the crown of the French. Holes are still in buildings in the country today; a sombre reminder of what this country went through to become what it has blossomed into thus far. The Cedar on the flag of Lebanon represents resilience and strength; both of which ooze from the same pavements people gave their lives up on.
Now though, the city of Beirut is once again proving why it has been known for many years as the “Paris of the Middle East”. With over 800 rooftop nightclubs, endless restaurants and sublime five star hotels, there really is no other city like it on earth. Towering above it all is the shell-ridden Holiday Inn Beirut, which was shut after a mere two years of business as the Lebanese fought terrorist group Hezbollah for control. However, this could all be set to change.
Beirut is fast becoming the tourist hotspot it was in the 50s. Famed for its 24-hour lifestyle and the sophistication that accompanies it, it is a building site once more; this time however, it’s not because a bomb decimated a building. It’s because people love Beirut. The World’s tallest building is currently being built there and is set to reach a staggering 1215m when it is finished. ‘The Cedar Project’ which was proposed in 2009 looks like it will happen again, with new investors wanting to create the £8billion floating Cedar tree just off Beirut’s glamourous Zaitunay Bay.
On top of all this is the number one ‘New 7 wonders of the World’ – Jeita Grotto, located around 10 miles north of the Lebanese capital. Stunning caves that are over 120 metres from top to bottom, it is hard to think of a better country to host a world class MotoGP race in. The economy of Lebanon is prosperous; the government is democratic and stable and the money is swarming in from all over the world. The average wage for a Beiruti is over £55,000. The only thing putting off a circuit construction is the geographical location of the country; to the East, war torn Syria lays in heaps of rubble and streets of blood.
Another reason why Lebanon should become a motorsport nation is because it’s been recognised before. In 1999, plans went through to host a F1 race for 2005 and 2006, but as so often is the case, politics got in the way. In other words, Lebanon was yet again targeted by neighbouring Israel. However, now in the downtown area of Beirut, there is the Grand Prix of Beirut, where the streets are shut for amateurs to have a go around the city. As well as this, Red Bull F1 went there to do some stunts. So maybe, Beirut will be on the calendar in the not so distant future.
But why should the best city in the world for three years running (2009, 2010 and 2011) have to suffer for something out of their hands? Let’s go to Lebanon; lets meet the most hospitable people on Earth and let’s try something new. Beirut: The World’s most iconic city, dragged through terror and shining to the world.
“Where” I hear you ask. Montenegro is a European country next to Croatia and Albania in the south and Bosnia and Herzogovina and Serbia in the north. Kotor (not it’s capital) is a city in the centre of Montenegro overlooking a bay, something that you expect to see only in films. One of the most picturesque places on Earth, it is hard not to consider it as a holiday destination. But why would MotoGP consider Montenegro?
It is a politically and financially stable country, meaning that not only is it safe but it also has a potential to help invest in a multi-million-pound facility. It also has desire to host MotoGP. In 2006, Sports Klub bought official rights to show MotoGP live in Montenegro and Macedonia, and is also home to many of the PR stunts from Moto2 teams, such as the Sportsmillions outfit, and the Idemitsu Kalex team.
A country that is gradually getting more involved in the sport and one that is on the up, Montenegro might not be very appealing now, but in the future we could finally see a return to this area of Balkan Europe.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
MotoGP has hardly touched the Caribbean market. It is rapidly becoming a major holiday destination. San Juan, the capital city, is one of incredible surroundings, but also one of big business. In fact, in 2014, Puerto Rico was home to more than 10% of the Moto3 teams and riders’ personal sponsors. This shows that it is a country that is on the up, and in neighbouring Dominican Republic, MotoGP is fairly popular. I have a feeling that with a growing interest and the whole fact that it is a very different country to the ones currently in MotoGP, it may be one for the future.
In 2005, MotoGP arrived in China, only to leave three years later. I find it absolutely incredible that one of the most important countries in the world doesn’t hold a MotoGP or World Superbike round for that matter.
The track itself wasn’t hugely popular by fans or riders, but it was a circuit that gave China something to cheer about and it also gave MotoGP strong roots in Far East Asia. Now the track is home to only F1, and that isn’t something to shout about all the time.
If MotoGP was to return to China, then surely it would be to Shanghai, where the circuit has already been tried and tested. It’s a circuit with some great straights and corners, and one which offers a lot of shoulder to shoulder racing.
With coverage of MotoGP extending to Norway recently on VIASAT, it might be an idea to invest in the Scandinavian country as a host to the series. With a big following of motorsport fans from Rallying all the way through to MotoGP, Norway’s tourism and economy might be big beneficiaries of a race in the country.
With Norway also being outside the European Union, it might encourage other countries who aren’t part of it to get involved in the sport, however, the British GP will still go ahead despite Brexit. Norway has had only one or two riders in its history, but that might all change in the future. Like I said at the start, this is purely speculation of what countries would and should host a race.
However, it looks almost certain that if MotoGP does go to Scandinavia, then it will be to Finland and the under-construction Kymi Ring.
It may well be returning in a few years at Kyalami, but at the moment South Africa is suffering from a major motorcycle drought. No WSBK, no MotoGP, and with only their National Superbike series being shown on TV, it may be a big opportunity for MotoGP to revisit one of the best countries in the world.
This, coincided with the success of Brad Binder, might just be a big winner for not only the country but for the MotoGP paddock. Last visited in 2004 at the Welkom Phakisa Freeway circuit, South Africa is crying out for MotoGP or WSBK to return!
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
It has hosted F1 since 2009, and now it is hosting other series and making its way in the four wheeled world, but not in MotoGP. In fact, it hasn’t even been mentioned as a future circuit or country to host a round.
With its incredible skyline and powerful wealth, without doubt there is potential for MotoGP to move to the “Westernised” part of the Middle East.
There is a lot of money, and a lot of oil in this part of the world and it could prove crucial if MotoGP was to go to the UAE. Whether it will or not, we will just have to wait and see.
Baku has been in something of a building boom for the last five years. With the construction of the Fairmont Hotel or the ‘Flame Towers’ and Azerbaijan hosting the Eurovision song contest, it’s fair to say that Baku has been well and truly placed on the map of places to go.
This year, it hosted a round on the F1 calendar, albeit under the ‘Grand Prix of Europe’ banner. So, does this mean that maybe in the next five years we will see MotoGP head to Azerbaijan? Azerbaijan may only be 67th in terms of GDP, but its development rate is competing with Belgrade in Serbia. The future looks promising and if a race was to be put there, then it would just add to the glamour already in MotoGP.
South America has been craving a big return to MotoGP or WSBK for a long time now, and where else but to start somewhere different. Paraguay is landlocked between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina but despite not having any attractive beaches, it still has a regularly good amount of tourism. With the four-wheeled world expanding all over South America, it is time MotoGP did too.
With Yonny Hernandez putting not only his country Colombia on the map but in fact the whole of South America, Paraguay would be a pretty good country to start in. A prospering, cultural capital city and political stability are key to attracting investment, something that Paraguay has. Could it be a hotspot for MotoGP fans in the future?