MUMBAI, Feb 2 (Reuters) - MotoGP is ready for a foray into India convinced it has a better future than Formula One in the world’s second largest motorcycle market, the sport’s commercial chief Carmelo Ezpeleta said on Monday.
India first hosted a Formula One grand prix in 2011 to positive reviews from the global community but was dropped from the calendar after the third race in 2013.
Problems over taxation, with Formula One classified as entertainment rather than a sport in India, as well as the considerable bureaucracy in bringing equipment into the country have been seen as obstacles to the race returning.
Calling India a “very, very important market” for MotoGP, Ezpeleta, the chief executive of Dorna Sports, which holds the television and commercial rights to the sport, was hopeful they had the right mix to be successful in India, which is the world’s second largest motorcycle market after China.
“It’s different, Formula One is another aspirational level. Motorbikes are something very popular in India and are much closer to normal people,” Ezpeleta told Reuters in an interview.
”We need to focus on different things here like we have no (local) promoter. But the cost of organising a MotoGP race is less than Formula One and we have a manufacturer in Mahindra who are participating in the Moto3 world championship.
“I think we are putting all our first steps right to be successful in India but nothing is easy from the beginning.”
India’s leading utility vehicle manufacturer Mahindra is entering the 2015 Moto3 world championship as a constructor and will supply motorcylces to four teams, including former MotoGP rider turned team owner Jorge Martinez’s Aspar team.
“We need three things to be successful in a country like India. First a manufacturer being part of the deal and in this case we have Mahindra,” Ezpeleta said.
“Secondly, we need to have Indian riders but unfortunately we have none presently and for that we have the Asian talent Cup. And finally we need to have a grand prix.”
Weekend MotoGP races feature regularly on television channels in India, which is crucial for the promotion and popularity of the sport in the country, feels Ezpeleta.
Although satisfied with MotoGP’s growth in recent years, Ezpeleta believes Asia has a lot more potential.
“We have a lot of demand for grand prix all around the world especially from Asia and we are talking to different countries here,” he said.
The 2015 MotoGP season will have 18 races and the target for the promoters is to increase it to 20 in the next two years. (Editing by Ken Ferris)