The news has been in the air for a long time, but finally it's starting to be something like official: The US will get a second MotoGP round at Indianapolis, which will run in September 2008, according to MotorcycleNews.com. No dates have been set for certain yet, but a provisional calendar could be announced at the Sachsenring MotoGP round in Germany next week, or else at the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Running at Indianapolis would also make huge commercial sense in the United States, as the US would have two races, on opposite sides of the country, at locations which are within a couple of hours' drive of very large population centers.
There are a few downsides to holding the second US GP at Indy. First and foremost for regular MotoGP fans is that the track layout they are expecting to use (which is basically the current track used by Formula 1 run backwards) is not particularly inspiring, very much as you would expect of a road track built to fit inside an oval. And that oval brings us on to another problem: At the Indy 500 race, attendance is usually close to 300,000, filling the vast grandstands which surround the oval. With Laguna attendance around the 50,000 mark for race day, the Brickyard's huge seating areas are likely to look very empty, despite a fair turnout. And thirdly, though September is a reasonably dry month in Indianopolis, it can see fairly severe rainstorms, which could make riding pretty difficult.
A second US MotoGP round will not mean that the calendar will be expanded to 19 rounds from its current 18, but rather that one of the current events will be dropped. Current favorite for the chop is the Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit, which is struggling financially. To add to the track's woes, it has been taken over by F1 head honcho Bernie Ecclestone, whose first act as owner of the circuit was to increase the fees charged to the MotoGP teams for testing by a factor of 10.
Dropping Istanbul would be immensely unpopular with both riders and fans, as the Istanbul Park circuit is one of the finest the MotoGP circus visits, the majestic and terrifying sweep of Turn 11 currently the fastest corner in MotoGP, taken flat out in 5th or 6th by the bravest riders. Most fans could easily come up with a list of other tracks which they would gladly see the back of, with Shanghai, Qatar and Sepang heading the list. But commercial realities dictate that Istanbul be the round to make way for Indy.