INTERVIEW-Motor racing-India company says on track for 2011 race

NEW DELHI, April 15 Wed Apr 15, 2009 9:31am IST

NEW DELHI, April 15 (Reuters) - Construction of India's Formula One track would not be affected by the global financial meltdown and it would be ready for its inaugural race in 2011, according to the head of the construction company building it.

"The progress is very nice...I'm absolutely, absolutely confident (it will be completed)," Samir Gaur, managing director of India's JPSK Sports Pvt Ltd, who are building the track, told Reuters. "The track will be ready in 2011."

The company has been floated by Jaiprakash Associates, a diversified group with market capitalisation of $2.8 billion that is controlled by Gaur's family.

Jaiprakash is India's largest builder of dams with interests in hospitality, engineering, construction and energy.

The track would be located around 50 km from the capital New Delhi and near Greater Noida, a fast growing satellite town.

There had been doubts whether work would be delayed due to the financial crisis, especially after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said last October the inaugural race had been postponed from 2010.

"The race was pushed back from 2010 because of the Formula One calendar," Gaur said. "From what we understand, they had scheduled an India race only in 2011."

The funds for the track have been secured and work would progress as planned, he added.

Gaur's company acquired the rights to hold F1 races in India after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) took the initial steps to bring a grand prix to the country.

"The design stage is in progress and regarding construction, the investigations of the site have also started," he said.

GROWING AMBITIONS

Cricket-mad India has a huge Formula One following and the nation's ambitions in the sport have grown along with its economy.

Narain Karthikeyan became India's first Formula One driver when he raced for the Jordan team in 2005 while Indian liquor and airline billionaire Vijay Mallya owns the Force India team.

Gaur's company has ambitious plans to build a sports hub around the 200,000 seater track, with plans for a 100,000 capacity cricket stadium, an 18-hole golf course as well as a 25,000 capacity hockey stadium and a sports academy.

"It is going to be a sports destination," he said.

"The facility would be spread around 500 acres.It will have the Formula One track and the buildings. It can accommodate around 200,000 people."

Track construction is estimated to cost up to $364 million.

"The figures vary, but the track construction will not be less than between 15 billion rupees to 18 billion rupees (up to $363.78 million). This is just a ball-park figure.

"I'm expecting the track to be completed in April 2011," he said. "We plan to run trial events between May and July so that in October I think we can fix the calendar for the race."

India has no immediate plans to emulate Singapore by staging a night race. "There is no plan for a night race right now," Gaur said. "We want to see the outcome of the first race after which we will see if we can do a night race." ($1=49.48 rupees) (Editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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