Auto racing, said Henry Ford famously, began five minutes after the second car was built. In about a year and nine days from now, the most frenetic format of car racing is slated to blast off in India, putting the country on the Formula 1 map.
Formula 1 Racing, considered the second most popular sport in the world after soccer, and certainly the fastest, makes its debut in the country on October 30 next year in Greater Noida, some 55 km from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. It will be the 20th field in the global F1 circuit.
As the track gets ready, enthusiasts like Gautam Singhania, chairman & managing director of Raymond Group, cannot contain their excitement. “This is really a good thing,” he says. “India will have its first Formula 1 track. It is quite interesting that India figures in the Grand Prix calendar for next year.”
Singhania has driven a Formula 1 car in France, a Ferrari 360 Modena in a road and track rally across Europe, and a Lamborghini Gallardo in Europe's CannonBall Run. He has also formed the first super car club in India.
“A large team of Tilke’s -- about 50 Germans — has been stationed in Noida since the beginning of this year to work on the track,” says Hughes. An FIA technical team and several F1 contestants will descend on this part of the world in December to check the progress. The construction is slated to end in May next year.
Hughes, who is from south of London, is a motorsport enthusiast himself — he rallies a 550cc Royal Enfield Bullet every Sunday. For the last 10 months, Noida has been home to him. “We got the full parcel of land in 2009 and had to move more than 4 million tonnes of earth to make this flat piece of land one of the fastest, most exciting circuits in the world,” he says. However, the F1 track closest to his heart is Brands Hatch, where he was once the operations manager.
JK Tyre, which has regularly hosted motorsports in India since 1994, is excited. The company believes that the F1 track in India will open up opportunities not only for motorsports but also other related businesses. “The world of motorsports will now look at India as a cost centre. A season of rally (six rounds of 12 races each in a single-seater car at level four) that costs Rs 1.5 crore in Europe will cost just Rs 5 lakh in India. With F1 infrastructure now available here, business will start pouring in. JK Tyre already plans to host an auto-cross in the parking lot of the F1 circuit, a drag race and other races much before October 30, 2011,” says Sanjay Sharma, general manager & head, motor sport, JK Tyre.
According to Sharma,JK Tyre will look at buying hospitality space and permanent branding around the Jaypee race track. One can expect to see deals happening in the next six months or so. The company is also thinking of investing in the infrastructure. The Delhi-based company, which has been into sports sponsorships, already spends about Rs 8 crore on motorsports in India every year.
So fasten your seatbelts and count the days.