Here's an interesting question: If you had to guess which country had the most MotoGP fans, which one would you choose? The first countries that spring to mind in association with motorcycle racing are always Spain and Italy, and as Italy is the bigger country, and what's more, MotoGP is more popular than even soccer, a sport which drives the Italians into a frenzy, then the answer must be Italy, right?
Wrong. Though the Italians and Spanish are clearly MotoGP-mad, they're not the biggest fans. According to Google Trends, which maps searches and news items from Google searches from around the world, the country with the most MotoGP maniacs is Indonesia.
In its advantage, the population of the Southeast Asian republic is around 240 million, as opposed to 40 million in Spain and 60 million in Italy, but as these statistics are based on searches on Google, what is important is not population, but internet penetration. According to the Internet World Stats website, Indonesia has 25 million internet users, the same number as Spain, while Italy has some 33 million internet users. And according to the Google Trends statistics, Indonesians search for "motogp" approximately 3 times as often as Italians, and search for "moto gp" some 40% more often than Italians.
Italy finished second in the MotoGP search stakes, ahead of their eternal rivals Spain, while Hungary was the country with the fourth largest number of MotoGP-related searches - possibly a reflection of the growing popularity of the sport there and the success of former 125 champion Gabor Talmasci.
Australians were the biggest English-speaking MotoGP fans, coming in seventh ahead of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The United States doesn't appear in the top 10, despite having a staggering 220 million internet users, so clearly, there's a lot of work to do for Dorna to popularize the sport.
MotoGP's huge popularity in Indonesia may help explain why Dorna is so keen to keep staging rounds in Asia, which would seem to suggest that the Sepang round is safe for the time being. But a return to Sentul, the track some 20 miles south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta which hosted races in 1996 and 1997 may yet be a profitable option.