The importance of Thailand’s hosting of MotoGP at Chang International Circuit was underlined in bold yesterday, when Dorna Sports announced that state-owned energy giant, PTT, will be the title sponsor for the inaugural race in October 2018. The event will be run and promoted as the PTT Thailand Grand Prix 2018 and is believed to have cost the company 80m baht, or 2.4m US dollars.
Thailand’s Ministry of Sport and Tourism is already a major sponsor, so this announcement signals clear evidence of the value being placed on Grand Prix motorcycle racing as a global showcase for the Kingdom.
At a time when TV viewing numbers for ‘boring’ Formula 1 are spiraling downwards, MotoGP is very much on an upward trajectory, with each round reaching more than 300 million households, or an estimated 1.2 billion people. In addition, the average number of paying spectators per race weekend is around 150,000.
Cleverly crafted technical regulations for MotoGP have helped to make it a better competitive spectacle in the modern era than it ever was in the ‘good old days’. While many old hands get misty-eyed about 500cc two strokes, there has never been a time when up to seven different riders are capable of winning a race. When it comes to attracting new fans to motorcycle racing it is wheel-to-wheel battles and the ability to watch every movement of the riders’ bodies that have enabled it to overhaul four wheeled racing in the fight for hearts and eyeballs and, ultimately, advertising revenue.
Chang International Circuit, which opened a little more than three years ago, has quickly brought global recognition to Buriram, in central north-east Thailand. It will host a round of the World Superbike Championship for the fourth time in March and is understood to have secured another two rounds of the Asia Road Racing Championship in 2018. MotoGP is sure to stress-test the province’s infrastructure first time out, but those of us who have been to races around Europe and the UK will know what to expect.
MotoGP will have an official winter test at Chang International from 16th to 18th February and the PTT Thailand Grand Prix 2018 will be held from from 6th to 8th October.