March 27, 2015 / 6:28 PM / 4 years ago

MotoGP sees Qatar as key to Middle East

Honda MotoGP rider Marc Marquez of Spain rides his bike during the Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix at the Losail International circuit in Doha March 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

(Reuters) - Qatar will be part of the MotoGP world championship for years to come and will also have a say in any expansion in the Middle East, the sport’s commercial head said on Friday.

The Gulf state’s floodlit night race at the Losail circuit starts the season on Sunday.

“Qatar has become one of the traditional MotoGP dates,” the website quoted Dorna chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta as saying.

“We have an agreement until 2016 and we are starting to agree the new period. It is just a question to sign officially. We can already say that MotoGP will continue in Qatar for many more years.”

“Qatar is our organizer for MotoGP and WSBK (Superbike),” added the Spaniard.

“Anything we do in the Middle East will be in agreement with Qatar. If we have an approach from other countries in the Middle East it is something we will discuss with Qatar.”

Qatar has hosted MotoGP since 2004 and is currently the only Middle Eastern venue on the calendar, although Abu Dhabi has been mentioned in the past as a possible venue.

Qatar has also expressed an interest in joining Abu Dhabi and Bahrain in hosting Formula One but Bahrain, the first Middle Eastern country in that series, effectively has a veto on regional rivals.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer

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