News 3 Mar 2017

Qatar MXGP future uncertain following 2017 event

Contract expires on unique season-opening grand prix.

Source: Supplied.

Words: Adam Wheeler

Positive noises about the grand prix of Qatar were made in the first press conference of the year but the words could well end up being ‘lip service’ after talk and feelings at Losail pointed to the fifth and final year of the contract between Youthstream and the QMMF being the closing chapter. “We hope to continue here for many years to come,” FIM Europe president Wolfgang Srb optimistically commented.

“It is a great grand prix but the contract is finished this year and we don’t have any negotiation for the future,” revealed Youthstream president Giuseppe Luongo. “For sure we hope to go on because it is a very good grand prix and you can see the investment made; it is fantastic. It is a great place to start [the season]. From our side we hope to go on but we have nothing defined.”

QMMF president Abdulrahman Al Mannai strangely remarked that “MXGP is always exciting and we always look forward to it”, but then seemed less enthused in tackling any issue on the future of Qatar and MXGP: “We are evaluating the situation right now with the club and we will see. We will talk more and they are here now, we will see what happens.”

On Saturday night Tony Cairoli was asked how he felt about the prospect of Qatar fading away from the grand prix slate. “Hopefully it is not the last time because it is one of the best facilities; the paddock is nice and the track also,” he said. “I hope we can come back.”
Qatar has always mixed a relaxed and comfortable vibe for the paddock and riders not to mention that novelty of being a night race with the slightly odd vacuum of atmosphere and a crowd hyped as much as the rest of the people in the pitlane. The financial benefit of the fixture is a major assist to the promoters but the date is also a handy first stopping point for MXGP to continue east and hit some other important markets in Asia and beyond. Qatar might disappear from grand prix but other sites in the region are being considered. The FIM made a visit to Iran not so long ago and there was talk of interest in Kuwait over the weekend.

The desire to keep the contest in the Middle East was reinforced by Youthstream that could either be a tactic to further engage the QMMF or simply ignite the interest of other nations for a possible world championship. “For sure we will have a grand prix in this area in the Middle East because there are other organisers which are interested,” Luongo added in the press conference.