Dorna Sports, the organizer of the MotoGP World Championship, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Motorsport Company (SMC), a commercial entity set up by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) national governing body, to add the kingdom to the calendar of the motorcycling series.

The agreement was signed yesterday (September 4) at the San Marino Grand Prix by HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the SAMF and the Saudi Motorsport Company, and Dorna chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta.

If borne out, it would see MotoGP expand further into the Middle East, with Qatar currently hosting the only round in the region.

In addition, Dorna and SMC intend to create a new talent development program for young Saudi riders.

The addition of Saudi Arabia to the MotoGP calendar would be a continuation of the country’s efforts to attract major motorsports events – and those of sports in general.

It has hosted a round of the prestigious Formula 1 motor racing series since 2021, Formula E since 2018, the Dakar Rally since 2020, and the Extreme E all-electric series since 2021.

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Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia has also hosted major boxing bouts, become the majority owner of English soccer’s Newcastle United, and funded the embryonic LIV Golf Investments and its Invitational Series.

The country’s continued investment in sports has been criticized by many as an exercise in sportswashing allegations of human rights abuses.

Prince Khalid said: “It makes perfect sense to add the world’s greatest motorcycle racing series to our growing list of world-class racing events. We look forward to working with Dorna to deliver on our shared commitment to bring the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing to Saudi Arabia and to continue to provide more opportunities and initiatives to enrich the lives of all our residents.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of Dorna Sports, added: “As the leading global championship for two-wheel circuit racing, we are thrilled at this opportunity for MotoGP to expand its reach within the Middle East by adding an annual Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia.

“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% 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.

“The signing of the memorandum of understanding codifies our shared intention to explore this opportunity further. We are confident that we will find an exciting and welcoming new home in the Kingdom and we look forward to further collaboration with the Saudi Motorsport Company to deliver on this joint ambition together.”