Organisers refuse to write off Indian GP future

By Alan Baldwin

GREATER NOIDA, India (Reuters) - Indian Grand Prix organisers have expressed renewed optimism about the prospects of their Formula One event despite fears Sunday's race will be the last at the Buddh International circuit.

The race near New Delhi has been dropped from the 2014 calendar, even though there are two more years on the contract, with issues of taxation and finance seen as major roadblocks to any eventual return.

However race promoter Sameer Gaur and Indian motorsports chief Vicky Chandhok, who had sounded gloomy only a few days ago, both told Reuters on Thursday that there was a new determination to continue.

"Such a massive facility has been made here, an investment of more than $400 million in the circuit apart from the licence fee. We have a contract so I see no reason why we won't come back," said Gaur.

"About the organisers' finances, I would say we had to prove in 2011 our credibility of making the circuit and holding the race. We did that. So the credibility is already there and I am pretty sure that we shall be doing the races.

"As far as I am concerned the (2015) race is on," he added.

Chandhok, father of former F1 racer Karun, said the turnaround had come after Formula One race director Charlie Whiting had carried out his circuit inspection this week and given it a ringing endorsement.

The last two days, he added, had seen a big change in attitude.

"There was a lot of scepticism until the day before yesterday," he said in his office at the circuit.

"But Sameer and I have been having a lot of chats on this and we even met with FOM (Formula One Management) this morning," he continued.

"He (Gaur) came by this morning and said 'Look, we are going to do 2015'. He said we've got to push 2015 and 2016 and he's even speaking of five years beyond."

TAX ISSUES

Chandhok said the fall in the value of the rupee in the last year and a half had been a big financial blow but organisers were not willing to write off their investment.

He and Gaur recognised there were tax issues to resolve with state and central government that affected the teams but talks would be sought to resolve them.

"There will be scepticism (about the race coming back) because of it not being on the calendar for 2014 but let's not forget the 2014 calendar would still have two races that may not run - New Jersey and Mexico," he added.

Next year's calendar currently has a record 22 races listed, compared to 19 this season, with asterisks against New Jersey, Mexico and South Korea.

Teams have expressed doubts about New Jersey making its debut, after being postponed from 2013, with the schedule making it the middle race of a triple-header on successive weekends with Monaco and Canada.

Austria is on for a comeback next year while Mexico is scheduled to return for the first time since 1992.

Both those races are in countries with a motor racing heritage and Formula One involvement dating back decades, however, and Sauber's Indian-born team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said India's situation was very different.

"We have been here three years now and we have not really established the sport that well," she told reporters.

"I always say that in India it's not difficult to get 100,000 people together...but I think it will be very difficult to come back here." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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May 11, 2014
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