A Track-Side Recap Of India’s First MotoGP Grand Prix At The Buddh International Circuit, Uttar Pradesh

Shaun Pais steers us through his track-side experience at India’s very first MotoGP Grand Prix in Uttar Pradesh.

Motorcycles have always played a very central role in my life. From going to school sitting on the tank of my dad’s beat-up Suzuki Shogun to growing up and riding exotic superbikes to some of the most remote places in India and abroad, there’s always been one thing that’s clear to me – everything’s better on two wheels.

However, the mass-produced motorcycles in India often leave much to be desired by an enthusiast like me. Over the years, we’ve seen that change to a large degree. The Hero Honda Karizma when it launched back in 2003 gave us a taste of what larger capacity motorcycles looked and felt like. Ten years later in 2013, KTM gave us the Duke 390 which packed in frightening power and technology at a price point that still impresses. The Himalayan 411 and Impulse / Xpulse 200 showed us that we didn’t need racetracks or brilliant roads to have fun.

But still, we are far from what could be called an enthusiast’s market because let’s face it, at the end of the day, motorcycles in India are sold for weekdays and the commuting that comes with it. Not for weekend shenanigans filled with highway touring, track days, and trail bashing. And that’s why, India hosting the crème de la crème of motorcycle racing in 2023 came as such a welcome surprise.

The Track Beckons

Say hello to MotoGP. The purest form of motorcycling on earth. 22 of the planet’s fastest two-wheelers being ridden like absolute spaceships. By some of the fittest humans going circles around the planet’s quickest racetracks. Every year, they do it in the rains of Argentina and the cold of Australia. And this year, they did it in our very own Uttar Pradesh’s sweltering heat too.

Words can’t accurately describe the experience and honestly, pictures or videos don’t even come close. But here’s me giving my best recreation of what the race weekend was like.

Red Bull was kind enough to invite me along with a few other influencers to the Buddh International Circuit to experience the very first Grand Prix of India firsthand. Red Bull is known for helping people jump out of the sky without parachutes and perform stunts in F1 cars on a helipad, so you’d expect this to be pretty vanilla for them, no? Wrong. The smile plastered on our faces told a very different story every time an in-line 4 beast blitzed us. Trust me, that’s a lot of blitzing!

The Race Is On

The MotoGP weekend is split into three days. Day 1 is the most laid back and usually has all the riders getting familiar with the track and doing media interactions. Don’t be dumbfounded if you spot Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo casually tottering around on their Dios and Ola scooters as if they were in Vagator, Goa. I’d recommend always going for the first day and just soaking everything in because it’s such a novel experience. Besides MotoGP, there are similar events for the smaller Moto 3 and Moto 2 motorcycles. These usually are stepping stones to MotoGP and you’d find most of the current MotoGP riders today graduating from the smaller classes.

Day 2 is where things get serious. The revving of bikes gets louder, crowds at the BIC increase and you see everyone around the paddock sporting their ‘no nonsense’ look. It starts with free practice to get the motorcycles warmed up and soon we have racers pushing limits during the qualifying round. This is the first time that a MotoGP race has been held in India, so one would assume the lack of data and familiarity would have the racers taking it a little easier, but there was no slowing down this lot. The final event of the day is The Sprint – a race that’s similar to the main race but with half the laps. So you see all the racers pushing harder, braking later, and giving everything they’ve got for those 11 hot laps. Jorge Martin on his Pramac Ducati was the fiercest rider and ended the evening by clinching the top spot, making him the favourite for Day 2.

Day 3, here we go! Red Bull says that drinking their energy drink gives you wings. They weren’t kidding when they had the Soul Flyers – a flying team jump out of a plane with their wingsuits and land at the BIC all before the races could begin! The final race events then kicked off with the Moto 3 and Moto 2 races flagging off. For the final race, we snagged the most mesmerising location from where we could see the entire track! We all watched with bated breath as the racers went neck-to-neck, trying to outwit each other and setting new records in the process. The race ended with Marco Bezzecchi from the Mooney VR 46 racing team being crowned champion of the inaugural MotoGP Bharat after he built up a sizable lead to separate himself from the chasing pack. It’s important to note that Marco was one of the few victims to crash at the infamous T1 on the previous day’s Sprint. Would Bezzecchi have clinched the top prize at the Sprint too had he managed to keep the rubber side down? I guess we’ll never know…. Fun fact: Francesco Bagnaia a.k.a Pecco, the current World Champion, learnt the tricks of the trade at Moto 3 while racing for our very own Mahindra Racing! This is the first time that a MotoGP race has been held in India, so one would assume the lack of data and familiarity would have the racers taking it a little easier, but there was no slowing down this lot.

Walking The Track

Before Day 3 officially began, I was lucky enough to walk along the track with my auto-journalist friends. And here’s when you realise that the camera angles just don’t do enough to showcase the landscape changes. Steady inclines, sharp declines, and that long 1.06 km straight – we walked by it all. We even closely inspected the infamous turn T1 where quite a few racers crashed during the Sprint. The Buddh International Circuit is quite the marvel and you don’t realise the scale of things till you see it in person.

At The Finish Line

Was this a perfect event? Not even close. The visas for the teams came in frighteningly late. The connectivity to the BIC still isn’t perfect, the marketing for the event was almost non-existent and the turnout had the potential to be so much better. But it’s a start. A start to the resurgence of motorsports in India. We’ve got plenty of passionate enthusiasts who are ready to stand in the heat just for a glimpse of our idols as they fly by.

After finally experiencing a MotoGP weekend in person, I’m now confident that watching it on a screen will never do it justice. The smell of unburnt fuel and rubber, the deafening harmony of screaming engines, and the feeling of the wind gushing by you when a motorcycle passes by at 350+ kmph is unparalleled. You miss out on all of these at home. Those who were at BIC over this weekend know precisely what I’m talking about. For those who weren’t – get your butts out there next year. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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