Motorcycling: MotoGP to make Thai debut in October 2018

The grandstand and starting line of the Chang International Circuit, Thailand's first FIA Grade 1 approved motorsport race track, in the northeastern Thai province of Buriram on May 17,2017.
The grandstand and starting line of the Chang International Circuit, Thailand's first FIA Grade 1 approved motorsport race track, in the northeastern Thai province of Buriram on May 17,2017.PHOTO: AFP

(AFP) - MotoGP will make its Thai debut in October 2018 after it was confirmed on Thursday (Aug 31), with the race to be hosted by the provincial city of Buriram for three years.

The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) officially signed a deal with MotoGP owners Dorna Sports to hold the race from 2018, according to a statement released by the SAT.

"Signing this contract makes Thailand one of the 19 venues for MotoGP racing... it is provisionally set for first weekend of October next year," the statement said.

Winter testing will be held Feb 16-18, it added.

The motorcycling equivalent of Formula One will be staged in Buriram, a small Thai city in the poor rice farming north-east that has seen huge investment in sports and hotel facilities.

Securing MotoGP is a personal coup for Newin Chidchob, a 58-year-old veteran of Thailand's bear-pit politics, who has pulled in rich contacts to build first-class sports facilities in his hometown of Buriram.

In 2014 he unveiled the US$58.9 million (S$80 million) Formula One-certified circuit in the 30,000 population town.

The Thai junta has agreed to subsidise a chunk of the cost of the rights to host the event.

The motorcycling extravaganza could pour millions of dollars into Buriram, a huge sum for a province that was once among Thailand's poorest.