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The making of Indian GP

Sameer Gaur (MD of Jaypee Sports International) explains the circuit layout to Bernie Ecclestone during the F1 boss’ recent visit to India.

India will have first-hand experience of what Formula One is all about when the country hosts its first grand prix at the Jaypee Group International Circuit on October 30. It’s just under six months to go for the big date and thousands of workers are sweating it out day and night in Greater Noida to complete the dream project.

The F1 circuit is part of a sports city being constructed 35 kms outside New Delhi on a 2,800-acre site with areas set aside for the Formula 1 track and a 100,000-seater international cricket stadium. The budget is 350 million dollars.

Sameer Gaur, Managing Director of Jaypee Sports International, sheds more light on how the Jaypee Group took a plunge into the challenging world of Formula One.

The beginning

It was around two years back. We got an opportunity to meet the famous German circuit architect Herman Tilke and his team, who were in India hunting for a suitable land for the proposed Indian GP (after signing a pre-agreement with the Indian Olympic Association in 2007). In the same time, we were constructing the Yamuna Express way and a lot of real estate developments in Noida. Tilke was impressed with our land bank. He said the area was quite plain, close to the airport and has good connectivity to New Delhi. That’s how everything started. Being a developer, the F1 project turned out to be a big advantage for us. Modesty aside, building a circuit is simpler than dams and power projects. Jaypee Group has always been interested in sports. When everyone in India was getting involved in cricket, we thought why not get into a unique sport such as Formula One.

An uncharted territory

When we signed a deal with the Formula One Management, a lot of people said it was a big gamble. Yes, it’s. F1 is a new sport to Indian market. We have set up a team of experts from different countries. Hospitality is of a paramount importance in F1. We are also building hotels. Our people have handled precision operations such as hydro-power, so I think it won’t be a big problem in handling F1. We are confident that it will be successful. All the big-budget projects take a little bit time to reap profits. In this, I think it will take two to three years. Apart from Formula One, we are planning to conduct other events. World Super Bikes and MotoGP have also shown interest. But out concentration is solely on F1 for 2011.  The circuit will also be used as test track and can host corporate events. There are a lot of buzz about F1 coming to India. People are really excited to get involved in it.

Bernie’s recent visit

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was extremely happy with the progress of the track. He came after the Commonwealth Games. People were skeptical about F1 after the CWG mess. But F1 is a location specific. Our concentration is at one place. It’s Jaypee Group who is calling the shots in everything, so there won’t be any delay. Bernie told us to be on vigil and not to get complacent. We are well aware that it’s not only Jaypee group’s; but also India’s name is in the stake. We are on schedule. Recently, the penultimate inspection was conducted by FIA race director Charlie Whiting. He was very pleased with what he saw. The second layer of the asphalt will be laid soon. The final inspection is scheduled for June end.

Government cooperation

Reserve Bank of India was very helpful in giving us the clearance for the foreign exchange and letter of credit. The government of India and Uttar Pradesh government have been very supportive. We have already started dialogues with customs, home departments and tourism ministry.

Ticket prizing

I can assure the ticket pricing will be such that every Indian can come and enjoy the race. Ticket sales will begin in April. (The organisers have recently announced that they have tied-up with bookmyshow.com for selling tickets).

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