India set for Formula 1 race

India has moved one step closer to hosting its first ever Formula One race.

updated: September 19, 2007 16:07 IST
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New Delhi:

India has moved one step closer to hosting its first ever Formula One race. That after IOA President Suresh Kalmadi met with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and was handed two draft contracts to that end.

Two alternative sites have been identified and a date has been fixed. Now what's needed in the immediate future is the money that will turn that draft into a proper contract that can seal the deal.

The F1 group has turned its conditional offer for a Formula One race in India into a more concrete reality.

They've handed the Indian Olympic Association drafts of a Race Promotion Contract and a Circuit Right Agreement. The plan is for Delhi to host a race in early 2010, possibly March.

The immediate order of business for the IOA is to select one between Greater Noida and Sohna, the two sites shortlisted by Herman Tilke, the F1's chief architect who visited Delhi last fortnight.

Kalmadi says that will happen within the next month after negotiations with the two state governments.

"These were the biggest sites, they were not marshy sites, they were good land. So for us the cost of construction will come down. You see the F1 track in China is built on marshy land. So the costs went up. That is an advantage for us. And also there will be good local labour which won't be costly. So we'll be able to manage it in reasonable rates," said Suresh Kalmadi, President, Indian Olympic Association.

So, after India's first Formula One driver and team, India's first Formula One race looks to be on track.

There is a huge market for the sport in this country, but is it enough to support what is going to be a multi-million dollar venture? Since the eventual signing of the contract depends upon its payment, Kalmadi will have to be at his persuasive best.

But the IOA boss says getting the contract in hand was far tougher than getting the money organised. For a start, the cost of acquiring title rights mentioned in the draft contract will be anywhere between Rs 80-160 crore.

Then building the track, let alone to international specifications, will cost a further Rs 400 crores. Then each of the 12 teams competing need Rs 147 crore to cover the cost of the seven jumbo jets carrying race equipment, close to 3000 personnel, security staff and other transportation costs.

Kalmadi says work has begun on locating sponsors but wasn't willing to give out any other financial details.
"Key not just how you utilise for those 10-15 days, key is how you use it for 365 days in the year. Lots of car companies can use it as a test track, there is formula one, two and three, also motorcycle formulas, companies like Toyota etc can use for their own races also. So I assure you we'll break even quite soon," said Kalmadi.

The costs are likely to run into several thousand crores. That's the gap between the draft contract and the IOA eventually signing on the dotted line. But then, according to Kalmadi, that's the easy part.

What might be a bit tougher is the juggling act the IOA will have to perform considering Delhi hosts the Commonwealth Games later the same year.