Chandhok: ‘India doesn’t need MotoGP – MotoGP needs India’


MotoGP will hold its first race in India this weekend at the former F1 venue – Karun Chandhok explains that it's the series which is betting on the event, not vice versa

Indian GP Marc Marquez Honda

MotoGP is betting big on India

Getty Images

Amid much fanfare, visa confusion and general chaos, MotoGP heads to its first ever world championship event in India this weekend – but former F1 driver and self-confessed bike fanatic Karun Chandhok says it’s grand prix motorcycling which is betting on the vast bike-riding nation, not the other way round.

The former HRT and Caterham man, whose father Vicky was formerly president of the Indian motor sport association and was instrumental in bringing the short-lived grand prix to the country, tells Motor Sport: “I don’t think India needs MotoGP – it’s a country where all the manufacturers want to sell bikes.”

Held on a modified Buddh circuit which also played host to the F1 race between 2011 and 2013, the MotoGP event has already been blighted by visa delays and organisational chaos, but the championship and its stakeholders have high hopes of the grand prix’s success.

Indian GP 2

Buddh hasn’t hosted an international motor sport event since the 2013 Indian GP

Grand Prix Photo

Ten years after last of three Indian F1 GPs, Chandhok emphasises that the fervent passion for bikes combined with a solid MotoGP fanbase is something manufacturers and the series want to take advantage of.

“I think India could quite easily carry on being a cricketing nation and nothing else – it sort of controls world cricket through the Indian Premier League,” he says.

Related article

Chandhok explains why Indian Grand Prix won’t return

Chandhok explains why Indian Grand Prix won't return

Ex-F1 driver laments F1’s ‘lost opportunity’ in India due to the lack of government backing Karun Chandhok has told the latest Motor Sport podcast that a return of his home…

By Graham Keilloh

“So I don’t think the country needs MotoGP, but it would like to have it, and there’s the key difference.

“It is a bike riding nation, there are so many riders there. The sponsors want to be involved because there’s a consumer market, there’s a growing spending market – I think what they’ll find when they get there is there is a strong fan base.”

Outside of its traditional strongholds of Spain and Italy, MotoGP has struggled to draw in crowds worldwide – a lack of spectators has been noted at Silverstone and its F1 Drive to Survive-style Amazon series MotoGP Unlimited was canned after one season due to low viewership.

The fact that it’s MotoGP seeking to expand its audience which is more dictating events – rather than India trying to attract an international sporting round – was reflected in the championship’s announcement of the race.

“MotoGP continues to earn new audiences and fans worldwide – this makes it imperative for us to expand its presence to new destinations where fans and riders are growing every year,“ said Dorna Sports’ managing director Carlos Ezpeleta.

“India is key to our scheme of taking MotoGP to new frontiers – we look forward to gaining a wider fan base.”

Indian GP Jorge Martin Ducati

Martin gets into the spirit of things at a Buddh circuit which has been modified to meet MotoGP safety requirements

Getty Images

Having not held a world championship motor sport event for a decade, two have come almost at once – India hosted a successful Formula E event earlier this year, and now has the Indian GP this weekend.

The contract signed for the MotoGP event is for seven years, and Chandhok explains why he thinks it won’t go the same way as the F1 race.

From the archive

“It [the F1 event] was privately funded, the government didn’t put the backing in and the private promoter [the Jaypee group] at the time couldn’t justify paying for it,” he says.

“The cost of the rights fees and operation of an F1 race are significantly higher than MotoGP. It’s a different promoter now [Fairstreet Sports], and they they’ve obviously got the backing and budget they need to make it happen, which is great.”

Chandhok hopes that the international event will be a “catalyst” for a national champion to move up into the international scene – but that’s if the MotoGP heroes get there first.

Visa delays have wreaked havoc throughout the whole paddock, with some riders apparently only able to arrive just before FP1.

“We have been updated about the current issue of delays in the visa issuance process,” Fairstreet said in a statement.

“Close to 500 visas have been cleared and a large number will be done shortly. The dedicated teams are doing everything possible to ensure every rider, team, technical officials visa are issued at the earliest.

Indian GP atmosphere

With the huge number of bike-riders in India, manufacturers are keen to take advantage of a growing consumer market


“Please understand that this is not a reflection on our dedication and hard work. It’s an unforeseen technical glitch that’s part and parcel of the challenges faced during inaugural events like this.”

During its brief tenure, the F1 race was also subject to visa delays forcing people to join the paddock late, while a mooted 2013 World Superbike race at Buddh was cancelled due to “operational challenges”, which turned out to be a lack of properly trained marshals.