MotoGP: Modified BIC gears up for the vroom of bikes

- September 19, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

World champion riders all set to race in India’s first-ever motorcycle Grand Prix at Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida as the track gets ready and modified for bike riders in the nick of time

Track for the MotoGP that will be hosted at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on September 22-24

The Buddh International Circuit’s (BIC) expanse of gleaming asphalt in Greater Noida is geared up for a fresh lease of life with technicians moving around in electric scooters and giving final touches to the track ahead of the Grand Prix of India MotoGP World Championship that will be held on September 24.

The event was called MotoGP Bharat till IndianOil stepped in as primary sponsors, getting it renamed to IndianOil Grand Prix of India just a couple of days ago.

The motorcycle race will witness the likes of Italian Francesco Bagnaia, French Fabio Quartararo, and Bagnaia’s compatriot Enea Bastianini, who finished first, second and third respectively in the MotoGP 2022 World Championship.

Bagnaia is also the leader in the current season, which involves 20 races with the Indian leg being the 13th. The Italian is followed by his Ducati team-mates Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi.

The circuit located at a distance of 50 kilometres from central Delhi, and which had been lying in a state of disuse with only some go-karting, testing and similar such events happening there, is buzzing again following renovation worth Rs 30 crore.

The safety cars and bike arrived over the weekend along with the racing bikes.

The track, which was specifically made for the Formula 1 races that took place from 2011 to 2013, has been modified for motorcycles and also retains the licence from FIA, which governs Formula One.

It means that the BIC joins a select few tracks like Circuit of Americas in United States, Red Bull Ring in Austria and Lusail International Circuit in Qatar, which can hold both F1 car and MotoGP races, if F1 ever makes a comeback to India.

“The track area is the same. But it is being homologated (certification for allowing race). It is the run-off areas we have worked on more. Asphalt has been reduced for bikes and we have put in more gravel. Bikes are faster on the straight line, so when they crash, they go through the gravel much quicker than the cars. So, to slow them down we had to do that as per the specifications provided. It is better they hit more gravel than asphalt. That’s one of the main changes,” said Amit Sandill, racing director of Fairstreet Sports, that is organising the race in collaboration with DornaSports, which organises the race worldwide.

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Sandill, who hails from Delhi but was brought up in Bengaluru, has owned and run race teams. He has been involved with the sport at the international level for 16-17 years.

He lists out further changes like barriers to lessen the impact of accident as a motorcycle rider is more prone to accident than the F1 car driver.

“There are new barriers – hi-tech barriers. We have imported them down, and installed them. I think there are 1800 metres of new barriers. The previous ones here were for cars. For motorcycles you need to have big foam barriers. Also, there is air fence barrier, which is a big balloon type barrier in rectangle shape and is full of air. That is very effective. In parts of track where we see that the run-off is less, we put these bigger and better barriers,” he tells Patriot.

The F1 car is considered one unit because the driver is in the car, and inside a protective cage. In comparison, the biker is totally exposed and apart from the protective gear there is nothing else. The bike is considered two units because the biker can fall somewhere and the rider can somewhere else.

Sandill says MotoGP will give the track a new life.

“This will be an annual affair. We have a seven-year contract right now [with Dorna] and extendable as we want it,” he adds.

The race event, spread over three days with September 22 having practice and September 23 having practice and qualifying, has several categories of tickets.

The cheapest is worth Rs 800.

Not surprisingly, they were the quickest to be lapped up and get sold out. The Rs 10,000 is the other category that has been sold out.

However, there are still tickets in the Rs 2,500, Rs 6,000, Rs 8,000, Rs 15,000, Rs 20,000, Rs 25,000, Rs 30,000, Rs 40,000 and Rs 1,80,000 categories.

Sandill explains the possible reason behind the Rs 800 ticket sellout.

“There have been decent sales. India is a biking community and is the biggest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, around 18 million,” he says.

“And who do you see on motorcycles here. Youth and common man. So, it creates a lot of interest. When they come here and actually experience this, they connect with it more compared to F1.”

Fairstreet Sports, which is holding its debut event, began talking with DornaSports in September 2022, says Pushkar Nath Srivastava, the Chief Operating Officer of Fairstreet Sports.

“We had been racing in World Cup Superbike race as Team India since 2013-14, and have been connected with Dorna from that time. Our company was Fairstreet then, and Fairstreet Sports now. After that we regrouped in India. We worked on it for two years. We started talking to Dorna, parent company, in 2022, exactly a year ago,” says Srivastava to Patriot.

The head of DornaSports, Carmelo Ezpeleta, came to India and talked to the present government following Fairstreet’s discussion with DornaSports.

“We had to modify it and get it certified in one year,” adds Srivastava.

Amit Sandill

It explains why work on the track stretched to the 11th hour, getting ready in the nick of time.

“To search for ticket sales [agency] and broadcast partners was also a big task. Modification cost was around Rs 30 crore. Seats have been painted. Team buildings are up and so are the lifts,” Srivastava says further before talking about future plans.

“Next year, we are opening this race to Indian companies and Indian riders and hoping someone may come in.”

The coming race weekend, which will also host the Moto2 and Moto3 races besides the MotoGP, will feature 41 teams and 82 riders in all. There are 11 teams and 22 riders in MotoGP, 16 teams and 30 riders in Moto2 and 14 teams and 30 teams in Moto3.