MotoGP continues its expansion eastwards. After adding Hungary to the calendar this year, Dorna announced that it has struck a deal with the Bulgarian Motorcycling Federation to stage a round of the series from 2012 onwards. The deal would see Bulgaria host the round for five years at first, and was struck in conjunction with a TV deal for the terrestrial broadcaster BNT to air the 2009 season of MotoGP. No details of which, if any, track the series would run at were released, but the series would visit with all three classes, MotoGP, 125s and the new Moto2 class.
While any expansion of interest in MotoGP must be welcomed, the experience with the Hungarian round must surely act as a salutary lesson. Uncertainty continues to cloud the Hungarian round of MotoGP, with disputes continuing between the Hungarian authorities and the Spanish construction company over both who is to blame for delays in the construction of the brand new Balatonring circuit, and the current status of the project.
The difference, though, is that Hungary was awarded the race at very short notice. The Balatonring round was announced only a year before the race was due to start, a hard enough task in even the most ruthlessly efficient countries. But despite having three years to prepare, the job could be even more difficult in Bulgaria. The former Eastern Bloc country is currently being threatened with a subsidy stop from the European Union, after continually failing to tackle the corruption that is rife throughout all levels of Bulgarian politics. Unlike Hungary, which is relatively well run for a former Soviet satellite state, there is little sense that things are likely to improve in the short term, and so however desirable more races in Eastern Europe may be, question marks remain over the feasibility of the project.
But Bulgaria isn't the only target that Dorna has in its sights. Rumors also persist of further expansion even further east. Both Bernie Ecclestone, boss of Formula 1, and Carmelo Ezpeleta, the head of Dorna, have expressed their enthusiasm for a race to be held in Russia. Up until the onset of the global financial crisis, that looked very possible. But with the collapse of oil and gas prices, Russia has seen its income slashed, and at the moment, staving off internal unrest is higher up the local agenda than hosting prestigious racing series.