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Turkey eyes benefits of Formula One

Daren Butler in Istanbul | August 17, 2005 17:39 IST

Turkey hosts its first Formula One Grand Prix this weekend and believes the event will generate serious money further down the road.

Sunday's race at the $70 million Istanbul Speedpark could eventually translate into $3 billion in additional revenues for an already booming tourism sector, industry representatives say.

"This event will make a big contribution to this country and for the economy," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference.

"People talk about the financial value but you can't put a value on it in terms of the publicity which it brings to the country."

Turkey expects to generate some $18 billion from tourism this year and events like Formula One are expected to provide a massive boost in terms of free advertising.

The arrival of Ferrari's seven times world champion Michael Schumacher and the rest of the Grand Prix circus is also being trumpeted as a major boost for the country's international sporting profile.

Istanbul hosted a memorable Champions League final in May, with Liverpool coming from 3-0 down at halftime to beat AC Milan on penalties, and Sunday's race will be watched by another huge global audience.

At the same time, officials are playing down security concerns fuelled by a series of bomb attacks across Turkey in recent months.

They say all necessary measures have been taken in a country used to holding international events from NATO summits to the Eurovision Song Contest. The Aegean city of Izmir is currently hosting the Universiade world student games.

"We are ready for Formula One. Every measure has been taken in terms of security, customs, health, power and telecommunications," Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said.


Sunday's race will provide McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen with a chance to close the gap on Renault's championship leader Fernando Alonso. The Finn revived his title hopes by winning the Hungarian Grand Prix last month, while Alonso failed to score.

Turkish attention is focused as much on the benefits of a global event watched in 200 countries and expected to attract 40,000-60,000 visitors and revenues of around $80-120 million.

The event provides an opportunity to attract investment to the largely residential Asian side of Istanbul where the track is located and which often loses out to the European side of the city in investment terms.

Sporting prestige is feeding into growing Turkish self-confidence fuelled by a booming economy and anticipation of the start of European Union membership talks on October 3.

As well as the Grand Prix, Turkey already hosts a round of the world rally championship and will also welcome the first MotoGP race in Istanbul in October.

Even if Turkey has no Grand Prix driver, there will still be a home interest on race day when Jason Tahincioglu does a demonstration run in a Jordan after trying out the car at Silverstone this month.

Tahincioglu, who races in the junior British Formula Renault series, is son of Turkish motorsport federation head Mumtaz Tahincioglu.


The undulating 5.4-km circuit has been designed by German architect Hermann Tilke, the creative force behind Malaysia's Sepang, Bahrain's Sakhir and the lavish Shanghai track.

The country has invested 300 million new lira ($220 million) in the track, surrounding infrastructure and roads and the preparations have drawn praise from the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

The Istanbul track features 14 turns - eight lefts and six rights, with the cars expected to reach speeds of up to 320 kph. The lap will run anti-clockwise, only the third race to do so after San Marino and Brazil.

The character of the track should be further enhanced by plenty of gradients, with the track built on four different ground levels.

"I haven't seen much of it but I know that it's quite hilly and apparently has long fast turns. And that sounds good for a start," said Schumacher.

Organisers have conducted a major publicity campaign in the build-up to Sunday's race.

Red Bull driver David Coulthard drove his racing car, with the Turkey tourism logo on the side, along Istanbul streets lined with Formula One fans and across the suspension bridge linking the city's European and Asian shores.

"This is going to be one of the most difficult tracks on the calendar," the Scot said of the new circuit. "It will be very challenging, partly because of all the changes of gradient."


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