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F1 track plans back on course

March 23, 2005 10:38 IST

With Narain Karthi-keyan emerging as India's first Formula 1 driver, plans to build an F1 track in India have received a fresh lease of life.

The Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi on Tuesday said that the government would firm up plans of putting India on the world F1 map within six months.

When this dream becomes a reality, India would be among the 20 elite nations that boast of an F1track.

Although motorsport is not an Olympic event, Kalmadi has been championing the cause of India playing host to the F1 races for a long time.

Speaking at a meet organised by JK Industries to celebrate Karthikeyan's entry into the F1 circuit, Kalmadi said, "Three states have already evinced interest in setting up an F1 track. We hope to have one before the Commonwealth Games come to India. Plans should be firmed up in the next six months."

Kalmadi said he was in talks with the Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi government for putting up an F1 track in these states.

Talks of setting up the F1 track in India first surfaced in 2003 when former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu had expressed his desire to have the circuit in Hyderabad.

After Naidu failed to return to power in the 2004 Assembly elections, the new government did not show much enthusiasm for the project.

The entry of Karthikeyan into the world's most coveted motorsport and the subsequent F1 fever built up in the country, has led policy makers to revisit the subject. Sources in the racing circuit said that the cost of building an F1 track would be Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion).

Companies like JK Industries that have large sums of money committed in promoting motorsports in India also said that the a proportion of the funds would have to come from the corporate sector.

JK officials however said that it was too early to discuss any concrete plans at this stage.

Premium watch-maker Tag Heuer's president and CEO Jean-Christophe Babin who visited India last year had told Business Standard that it would do its best as one of the principal sponsors of F1 to bring the race to the country.

"We are totally committed to the Indian market, and it is a priority area for us. We have an excellent relationship with the F1 management. It would help our brand in a big way if a big showpiece such as the F1, with which Tag Heuer is associated, comes to India," he had said. Tag Heuer incidentally also sponsers F1 star, Kimi Raikonnen and golf icon Tiger Woods.

Apart from building a track, a typical F1 track would be more demanding in terms of support infrastructure like world class airport, additional star grade hotels etc, which in turn could be a challenge in itself.
BS Corporate Bureau in New Delhi/Kolkata
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