India Ready to Host F1 Racing: MotoGP Bharat Promoter
21:50 14.10.2023 (Updated: 11:51 16.10.2023)
India recently hosted MotoGP, a motorcycle race, at the Buddha International Circuit in Noida city in Uttar Pradesh. The first race was held on 24 September.
India has a lot of fan following for motorsports, as the first-ever MotoGP in the country was witnessed at the Buddha International Circuit (BIC) by a total of 111,000 people during the race weekend.
Apart from this, the successful completion of the event also keeps the hopes of the fans alive that they will in future witness F1 cars driving on Indian soil.
In an interview with Sputnik India, chief operating officer of FairStreet Sports and the visionary behind MotoGP Bharat, Pushkar Nath Srivastava, shared his experience with bringing the first-ever motorcycle race to India, key takeaways, and future plans.
Sputnik India: India successfully hosted MotoGP recently. What efforts did it take for you to bring the event to India and what are the takeaways?
Srivastava: It took a lot of efforts to bring MotoGP to India. At least 200 people in my team and 700 people of the vendor team worked together for the successful completion of the event.
Though MotoGP was hosted in September this year, we started to work on this project around three years back, after the Indian government categorised motorsports as sports and not entertainment.
We got in touch with Dorna Sports
and explained to them how MotoGP can be conducted in a better way, and since motorsports in India has been classified as sports so there will be a lot of sports benefits
However, Dorna team said that they would like to meet the government first to have a better understanding before taking a step further. So, they were invited by the Uttar Pradesh State Chief’s office and then they understood that the government was more ready than us. That’s when the preparations for MotoGP Bharat started in September last year.
Sputnik India: India's representation in motorsports is very low; however, there is a lot of fan following for it. How do you think the country's representation can be increased and what special infrastructure or training is planned to take motorsports to the next level?
Srivastava: See, now we have the infrastructure, as the track is ready. However, the track was there earlier also, but it was not for bikes. In order to make it ready for bikes, a lot of things were done, like increasing the runoff area, putting a lot of gravel, putting a lot of C-type foam barriers so that in case of accident, there is no risk to life.
Well, if we talk about India’s representation in motorsports, yes it is less, but the fact which we have to consider is that India is the largest bike manufacturer in the world. During the pre-COVID times
, the production was around 21 million bikes, and post-COVID it is around 18 million.
Along with this, another interesting fact is that there is a close to 10 percent segment which is purchasing 250 cc-and-above bikes, which means people are buying bikes for more than transport. This segment is about to grow rapidly, and when we say that this segment is growing, it means India's representation is also increasing.
However, in order to boost it, we now just need to conduct similar and smaller races along with making racing affordable. I think we should bring a culture of Europe to India where we ask people to take their bikes and race on tracks during weekends. It is important to understand that racing should be done on tracks and not on roads, because if you race on a track, you have a lot of medical facilities and you race under supervision.
Apart from this, in the last few years some tracks have been developed in Chennai, Pune, and Hyderabad. However, they are not as per MotoGP standards, but people can use small tacks in multiple cities for training.
We are planning to start an awareness drive where, we will be calling a motorsports enthusiast and sharing the experience with them. We are also planning to bring one MotoGP bike, so that if anyone wants to experience, a trained driver can give him a pillion ride and he can get a real-time experience. So, we are trying to develop sports tourism and experience in the country.
Sputnik India: How did the Uttar Pradesh government, especially state chief Yogi Adityanath's assurances, help the successful conduct of the event?
The successful conduct of MotoGP was not at all possible without government support
. At any point of time, we never felt that we are doing it on our own, we always felt we are doing it in collaboration with the government.
All the government departments were always there for our support. All the approvals came in time. Uttar Pradesh state chief Yogi Adityanath ensured that the event should go in a very smooth way. The government also conducted a CEO roundtable.
I think that the state chief has a different vision, because when we took the event to him and informed him that this is the first such event in the country, which is coming in Uttar Pradesh, he was very welcoming.
Basically, MotoGP is nothing but a prototype race, where basically factory testing bikes are running on track. Earlier, people used to modify their bikes with spoke wheels, alloy wheels, seats, lights, etc., but now there are bikes from various brands which are already giving a similar feel without modification. So, aesthetics, performance, lubricants have evolved along with the bikes.
So, I think the government’s vision is to give facilities to the brands which are producing such bikes to test them here and then send them to commercial launch.
Apart from this, the government has also ensured that this sport is coming to India after a decade, so there should be no issues even in regards to visa or approvals or anything.
They have monitored us like anything to make sure that the event is successful, as there was chaos in the world, like how India will do it, but the government support made sure that everything was in place at the right time.
Sputnik India: After the successful MotoGP event, do you think India's wait for F1 will end after 10 years too?
Srivastava: See, when we were preparing for MotoGP and were about to start the track development, we integrated with the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), F1 body and MotoGP governing body, both. We made sure that we don’t disturb the Buddha International Circuit so that F1 and MotoGP both can happen.
So, I can say that we are ready as soon as F1 is ready to come to India.
Sputnik India: How will this put India on the map of sports across the globe?
Srivastava: I think we are already on the global map for the motorsports. I am saying this because the race was telecasted in more than 200 countries by more than 19 broadcasters, and our social media analyses were amazing. As per our race weekend date, the race was watched for around 70 million minutes on the Jio platform, including digital and OTT both. There were around two billion engagements. Apart from this, India was in the top three countries along with the US and UK where MotoGP was searched.
Therefore, the response was thrilling and moreover, it is really exciting to know that around 60 percent engagement was from the 18-40 year age group.
Now, MotoGP has already announced their calendar for next year and we are again on the calendar during the September. So, we will try to make better arrangements as compared to this year, because it's always about learning and doing things better.
We will also reach out to people across the country and try to bring them here to give them the experience of motorsports.