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Saudi Arabia set to expand motorsport offering with MotoGP race

Dorna Sports, the commercial rights-holder for MotoGP, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Saudi Motorsport Company (SMC) with a view to staging an annual grand prix in the country.

The agreement was signed yesterday (Sunday) at MotoGP’s San Marino Grand Prix by Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and SMC, and Dorna chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta.

No date was given for when a Saudi Grand Prix could debut on the MotoGP calendar but the series said it is considering adding an annual race in the country as part of plans to further expand the sport in the Middle East. MotoGP currently stages an annual race in Qatar, its only event in the region.

A MotoGP race would add to Saudi Arabia’s motorsport portfolio, with the city of Jeddah having staged a Formula 1 event for the first time last year. Saudi Arabia has also hosted Formula E and Extreme E events, as well as the Dakar Rally.

The MotoGP event is set to be staged on a newly constructed multi-purpose circuit that will meet International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) and International Automobile Federation (FIA) standards.

The event could be held at a new circuit that is being constructed in Qiddiya, which has been earmarked to host Saudi Arabia’s F1 grand prix in the future. The F1 event is set to remain in Jeddah for the next four seasons while the Qiddiya circuit is built.

Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) in February reached an agreement for Riyadh-based football clubs Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal to play at its planned 40,000-seat stadium. Qiddiya will be a vast entertainment resort located around 40km from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. As well as sports venues, the resort will feature parks, attractions and other entertainment.

The partnership between SMC and Dorna will also see the establishment of a new talent development programme for young Saudi riders, designed to increase awareness of and accessibility to the sport.

Ezpeleta said: “As the leading global championship for two-wheel circuit racing, we are thrilled at this opportunity for MotoGP to expand its reach within the Middle East by adding an annual grand prix in Saudi Arabia.

“The region is a key market for motorsport and the demand in the Kingdom for events of this kind is growing with research showing that 80% of Saudi fans want to see more in their country. In the past few years, Saudi Arabia has shown its ability to stage major global motorsports events to the highest standards.

“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding codifies our shared intention to explore this opportunity further. We are confident that we will find an exciting and welcoming new home in the Kingdom and we look forward to further collaboration with the Saudi Motorsport Company to deliver on this joint ambition together.”

Image: MotoGP