Grand Prix racing is to return to Finland after an absence of 38 years. Today, Dorna announced that they have confirmed the five-year agreement signed with the KymiRing circuit. The Finnish circuit is to host a round of MotoGP from the 2019 season onwards.
A deal had been signed between Dorna and the KymiRing in 2016, which gave the circuit a five-year contract to host MotoGP. The original plan had been for the circuit to be completed in time to host a race in 2018, but time constraints have pushed that back a year. While progress is being made on the circuit, there is still much work to be done. Finnish Twitter user Jyrki Hämäläinen posted a picture of the work being carried out at the circuit taken on the last Sunday of July:
The track will be a stark contrast to the previous circuits which hosted a Finnish Grand Prix. After two years at Tampere, the Grand Prix circus visited the Imatra street circuit between 1964 and 1981. That circuit was most famous for the spectacular leap riders had to make crossing the railway line which transected the street course. In contrast, the KymiRing will be a purpose-built circuit 110km north of Helsinki. The track will be 4.6km long, and feature a total of 18 corners, 9 left handers and 9 right handers, all with varying speed and radius.
The addition of the Finnish round of MotoGP will bring the 2019 schedule up to a total of at least 20 rounds. The Chang International circuit in Buriram, Thailand is scheduled to join the MotoGP calendar in 2018, though there are still loose ends to be tied up before that is confirmed. The addition of Finland would make 20 rounds in 2019, with the possibility of the calendar expanding to 21 races if a suitable track in Indonesia is completed, and that track can reach agreement with the Indonesian government to allow it to proceed.
It had looked like one, or maybe even two Spanish rounds could drop off the calendar. But with Jerez having already been resurfaced, living up to a requirement from Dorna, and Barcelona having committed to resurfacing, those two tracks look set to continue on the calendar for the foreseeable future. The regional government in Aragon are keen for the Motorland Aragon circuit to continue hosting a race, and the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia also wants to continue to host MotoGP. So it looks more like the calendar will be expanded, rather than races removed.
To compensate for this expansion, preseason testing will be dropped. For 2018, the Phillip Island test will be replaced with a test at Buriram, to allow the teams - and more importantly, Michelin - to gather data at the circuit. But for 2019, testing will be reduced to two preseason tests, at Sepang and Qatar. There is pressure to cut down preseason testing to just the single test at Sepang, following the Valencia test at the end of the season, but the manufacturers are resistant to that idea.
The calendar expansion is also unpopular with the riders and the teams. The vast majority of the riders have previously expressed a reluctance to see the calendar expanded beyond 18 rounds, and team staff - many of who are married and have children - are even more opposed. The reduction in testing is one way for Dorna and IRTA to meet the concerns of the teams.
Replacing testing with more races would also be more financially favorable for the teams. The teams receive a subsidy from Dorna for races, but not for testing. That may prove to be the argument which helps persuade the team owners and managers, if not the team staff.
The official press release announcing the deal appears below:
Finland confirmed to join MotoGP™ calendar in 2019
KymiRing ready to put the Finnish GP back on the map
The Finnish GP at Kymiring is set to join the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship calendar from 2019, with the first event of a five-year contract set to bring Grand Prix motorcycle racing back to a country with an incredible history in motorsport. The date of the venue’s inclusion was confirmed at a Press Conference at Helsinki Music House, where almost 50 representatives from the media gathered to hear the details of the project. The Press Conference was attended by key personnel involved in the return of the Finnish GP, including Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Sporting Manager Carlos Ezpeleta, Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport Sampo Terho, Chairman of the Board of the Directors of KymiRing Kari O. Sohlberg, Chair of the Finnish Motorcycling Federation Tapio Nevala and KymiRing Project Manager Timo Pohjola. That followed a visit to the track on Tuesday, to see the venue taking shape.
KymiRing motorsports complex, in Iitti, is currently under construction as it prepares to host the return of the Finnish Grand Prix, with considerable economic impact expected in Southern Finland as a result of hosting MotoGP™. Around 100,000 spectators are anticipated at the event, with the circuit in a strategic location as the only track of its kind in Northern Europe – making it a perfect addition to the MotoGP™ calendar.
Sampo Terho, Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport: "This is a fantastic announcement for Finland, a country passionate about motorsport and with an illustrious racing history. MotoGP will have a fantastic impact, both economically and in terms of exposure for the entire country and region. It also ensures our continuing role in the history of motorsport, and we are eager to write more chapters of that history together in the Finnish GP."
Kari O. Sohlberg, Chairman of the Board of the Directors of KymiRing: ”MotoGP is one of the most popular sports in the world. The five-year contract made with Dorna Sports has significant impact not only on Finnish motorsport but on the whole of Finland. Finland has a good reputation as an organizer of big international events. A good example from the sporting side is the WRC Finland, Neste Rally held last weekend. Good reputation, the Imatra GP and legendary drivers and riders in addition to long term personal relationships have for sure been major facts when Dorna Sports has made the decision to bring back the Finnish GP.”
Timo Pohjola, KymiRing Project Manager: “This is something we’ve wanted for many years and now it’s true. I think the layout is based on Finnish racing experience – Finns love motorsport and that’s why we want to make a special layout and track for MotoGP, something new. We are the only international circuit in northern Europe and that’s why so many other countries are interested in KymiRing. The first Finnish champion was Jarno Saarinen, then in Formula 1 we had Keke Rosberg and Mika Hakkinen and so on, but motorcycling has always been very popular in Finland.”
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO Dorna Sports: “It’s a big pleasure to announce the agreement we have with KymiRing and the works are now underway. We will propose to the FIM to have Finland on the MotoGP calendar for 2019. This is a great day as it's so many years since the Imatra GP here in Finland and we are very proud to announce this new venue. Finland has been a traditional place for motorsport. It has had number of fantastic riders in MotoGP in the past. I remember Jarno Saarinen and recently Mika Kallio, and many other people have raced. Finnish people understand motorsport very well and I think KymiRing will be hosting incredible events in the future. The layout of the circuit is very nice, it’s fast and it’s safe, and we’re very happy to announce this today.”