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Saudi Arabia signs MotoGP deal as sporting push accelerates

San Marino MotoGP Reuters/Jennifer Lorenzini
LCR Honda's Alex Marquez and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Miguel Oliveira in action at the San Marino MotoGP on September 4
  • Saudi Motorsport Company and MotoGP rights holder unveil race plan
  • Middle East ‘is key market for motorsport,’ says rights holder Dorna

Saudi Arabia is planning to add MotoGP to its roster of events as it seeks to increase sport’s contribution to its GDP by 2030.

Dorna Sports, the rights holder for the motorcycle racing series, and Saudi Motorsport Company (SMC) have signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their plan to host a MotoGP race in the kingdom, they said on Monday.

The addition of Saudi Arabia to the calendar will expand motorcycle racing in the Middle East. At present, Qatar hosts the only MotoGP round in the region.

MotoGP will be staged on a newly constructed, multi-purpose circuit in Saudi Arabia, a statement said.

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

The FIM MotoGP World Championship is watched by more than 800 million people and broadcast live to more than 200 countries. 

The MotoGP plan follows the successful hosting of other global motorsports series in the kingdom over the past few years, including the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (since 2021), the Formula E Diriyah ePrix (since 2018), the Dakar Rally (since 2020) and the Extreme E series (since 2021).

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation and SMC, said: “We are excited to confirm the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Dorna today, which clearly outlines our shared goal of bringing MotoGP to Saudi Arabia. It makes perfect sense to add the world’s greatest motorcycle racing series to our growing list of world-class racing events.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, added: “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 percent of Saudi fans wanting 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.”

Saudi Arabia is committed to building its sporting reputation. The Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism have set an ambitious target for sporting events to contribute 0.6 percent of GDP by 2030, up from approximately 0.2 percent today. The strategy also aims to boost international tourism numbers.

Saudi’s first Formula 1 race was held in Jeddah last year, along with several world championship boxing matches and the Saudi International golf tournament.

In addition, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund is backing the breakaway LIV Golf series and owns Newcastle United Football Club. 

Hanan Alowain, partner for the government and public sector at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, told AGBI in May: “Saudi Arabia appears to have begun a new chapter in its sports tourism history. Countries like Saudi Arabia are advancing agendas to build a sporting culture that attracts domestic and international tourists. This requires a vast effort.”

According to consultancy PwC, government support and growing commercial maturity are helping to raise the Gulf’s profile in the sporting world. PwC estimates that the GCC states have spent more than $65 billion on sports development.

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