Bangkok, Thailand - MotoGP will make its Thai debut in October 2018 with the race to be hosted by the provincial city of Buriram, initially for three years.
The Sports Authority of Thailand on Thursday officially signed a deal with MotoGP owner Dorna Sports.
"Signing this contract makes Thailand one of the 19 venues for MotoGP racing,” it said. “it is provisionally set for the first weekend of October next year."
There will also be a winter test from 16-18 February, in place of the traditional winter test at Phillip Island in Australia.
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, a small city of about 30 000 people in the poor rice-farming northeast that has seen huge investment in sports and hotel facilities.
The motorcycling equivalent of Formula One will be run on 7 October at the F1-certified Chang International circuit near the town, designed by Herman Tilke and built by ChidChob in 2014 at a cost of $58.9 million (then R626 million), and could pour pour millions of dollars into Buriram, a huge sum for a province that was once among Thailand's poorest.
It’s expected to be linked up with the Japan-Australia-Malaysia triple-header, known as the ‘flyaway’ races; the most likely scenario would be for the Thai and Malaysian Grands Prix to be run on 7 and 14 October, with the Japanese and Australian rounds following two weeks later, on 28 October and 4 November.
The circuit has hosted a round of the World Superbike series since 2015, but has not found universal favour among riders.
Yamaha superstar Valentino Rossi side he wasn’t looking forward to racing at Chang. "I was in Thailand for Yamaha two years ago and the track is not interesting," he said. "It’s very boring, has not a lot of corners, just long straights. I think it’s not the best place to go. "And also where is the track is quite bad, it’s far from everything.