How to waste public funds

Construction of the planned new Hungarian MotoGP racetrack is behind schedule

The new Hungarian MotoGP track construction on the outskirts of Hajdúnánás will cost more than HUF 60 billion. The construction is not proceeding according to the original plans, although the company responsible for the project has tried to convince locals otherwise. The project will be delayed by at least six months, but the government’s decision to reschedule certain investments could also affect the construction of the track. We spoke to the landowners concerned, who told us that they do not consider the new date (2024) to be realistic either, as construction has still not started and land acquisition has not been completed.

In order to build the circuit, the state has to expropriate 500 hectares of land, but landowners have not yet received any official document on when and for how much they will have to sell their property.

Landowners kept in the dark about new Hungarian MotoGP track to be built on their farmlands

After the failed Balatonring project in Sávoly more than ten years ago, the current government is once again trying to build a MotoGP track in Hungary. The 500-hectare circuit will cost HUF 65 billion, in Eastern Hungary, near a small town called Hajdúnánás. The first upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix will take place in 2023.

In August, 2021 Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that the MotoGP track being built outside Hajdúnánás “has been decided to speed up significantly in order to be able to organise races on this track in 2023.” In December, the Hungarian government decided to cut spending by 755 billion forints because of the public deficit. The company in charge of the MotoGP track could also feel the effects of this decision, as the investment spending of HUMDA Hungarian Motor Sports Development Agency Zrt. was reduced by HUF 15.75 billion.

At least six months delay

Based on official communications, this did not seem to have any impact on the project, with the MP of the electoral district, István Tiba repeatedly saying that “contrary to rumours” the project was proceeding according to schedule.

However, a story published by at the end of April revealed that there is a six-month delay in the works, and the government has already notified the international organizing company Dorna Sports. This means that the 10-year period will start from 2024 instead of 2023.

In addition, the government announced that they would cut spending by rescheduling public investments, totalling HUF 861 billion, in view of the upcoming economic crisis. As construction has not yet started in Hajdúnánás, this project might also be affected. The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to our questions on this issue.

The majority of owners accepted the purchase offer

In mid-May, we also contacted HUMDA Zrt, the company responsible for the project, who said that the acquisition of the real estate for the project site is underway.

Their reply showed that 90 parcels of land are affected: 48 of them claimed new lands in exchange for their territories, and 42 were cash compensation claims. HUMDA added that the purchase offers were still being sent out, but that most of the property owners had accepted them.

Although according to the company, the acquisition of the properties is progressing well, there is a significant delay compared to the original schedule. In October 2020, the mayor of Hajdúnánás stated that the expropriation procedures would be completed by the end of spring 2021. In May 2021, István Tiba, the ministerial commissioner for the project, told Cívishír that “we hope that the concrete works can start in September-October”. However, this has not happened to date.

This area will also be affected by the construction of the track. Source: Átlátszó/ Zita Szopkó

The landowners, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that most of the letters containing the pruchase offer had been sent out in April, but that no payment had yet been made. “Obviously, even if it goes ahead, it will still not be done by 2024, because a lot of things would still have to happen here” – one local resident added.

It is understandable that the future of the project is of concern to many, as a delay would affect several landowners. According to our information, some have already sold hundreds of animals because they were told they would have to move in the autumn. This happened last year and the acquisition of land has not been completed since then.

With all this in mind, it’s no wonder that there are already rumours in the city that the MotoGP track will be among the delayed construction projects, although we have not found any evidence of this.

István Tiba, Lajos Kósa, Fidesz MPs of the region, Tibor Szólláth, Mayor of Hajdúnánás, Henrik Hermann, President of the Hungarian Motorsport Association, Gábor Talmácsi, world champion speed bike racer and László Palkovics (ITM) at the MotoGP press conference in Hajdúnánás on 20 June 2020 (source: Facebook/Tibor Szólláth)

Opposition calls for the revision of the project

Ádám Steinmetz, MP of Hungarian oppositon party Jobbik, stated to Atlatszo in January that he thinks it is impossible “to organize races here in 2022 or even 2023” and he does not consider it realistic to build the track by expropriating and concreting over good quality farmland. Especially because there is another, partly finished motor racing track.

It was more than ten years ago when the construction of the first Hungarian racetrack, the Balatonring in Sávoly failed. The cornerstone of the track was laid in 2008, but construction stalled two years later because the Spanish investor was not given a loan by the state-owned Hungarian bank. The investment, which altogether would have cost 80 million euros (approximately 22 billion HUF) stopped in 2010, by which time roughly 30 million euros had already been invested in the project.

While land acquisition is currently underway, some tenders related to the project have already been published in the public procurement notice. The larger works are likely to be tendered at a later stage.

Written and translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, more detailed Hungarian version of this article can be found here.

Cover photo: Plan of the MotoGP track in Hajdúnánánás. Source: public forum presentation