India unveils new race track
India on Tuesday unveiled a new $400 million Formula One track two weeks before it hosts its first Grand Prix, promising to wipe away disappointing memories of last year's Commonwealth Games.
Fears that the 5.14-kilometre (3.2-mile) circuit in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi would not be completely ready to host the race on October 30 were put to rest after a grand inauguration of the facility.
The Commonwealth Games, which were meant to showcase India's status as an emerging global power, instead left memories of unfinished venues and massive budget overruns.
"The Commonwealth Games forced us to bow our heads in shame," Manoj Gaur, chairman of race promoters, the private Jaypee group, said at a press conference.
"We took the Formula One project as a challenge. We decided that we will make the track so impressive that the shame of the Commonwealth Games will be forgotten and our pride will be restored in the world."
The track, named the Buddh International Circuit, is part of an ambitious 2,500-acre (1,000-hectare) sports complex that will include a motor driving academy to be set up in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz.
The circuit has been designed by renowned German architect Hermann Tilke and boasts the fastest straight-line speed of any F1 track in the world.
Indian Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan, a member of the Spanish Hispania team, showered praise on the facility.
"I have raced on all the major F1 tracks across the globe and I rate this track as one of the best in the world," said Karthikeyan, who hopes to get a drive before the 100,000 fans who are expected to attend the race weekend.
The fans will also be treated to other entertainment, including first-ever performances in the country by US heavy metal outfit Metallica and pop sensation Lady Gaga.
"We are trying to make the race a unique experience for the fans," said Gaur. "It is a question of India's prestige in the world. We have tried to make a small contribution to ensure that this investment is fruitful for all."
Gaur said tickets for the race were close to being sold out, except a few corporate boxes which range between 3.5 million rupees ($70,000) and 10 million rupees.
He also dismissed threats by some local groups of farmers to disrupt the race if their demands for better compensation in exchange for their acquired land were not met.
"We have worked here with complete co-operation from local people," Gaur said. "We are more than hopeful of hosting a peaceful race. It will be 100 percent successful."