Maharashtra hatches plans for Formula One circuit

MUMBAI: If things go according to script then Mumbai fans could well get to see the likes of Michael Schumacher zooming around in their own backyard.Prominent politician Sharad Pawar, in conjunction with the Motorsports Association of India (MAI) president Nazir Hoosein outlined plans for a proposed Formula One racing circuit. This will be developed in the state in conjunction with the future development plans for Maharashtra.

An official release informs that with the Expressway already in place between Mumbai and Pune plans are afoot for the upgradation of the International Airport in Mumbai, and the construction of new International Airport in Pune. Therefore an ideal opportunity presents itself for the setting up of a Formula One Circuit between the two cities.

As reported earlier by Mumbai and Pune have already arrived on the international motorsports scene with the recent announcement of MRF India Rally 2003, a round FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2003 to be held here in December 2003, under the aegis of the FIA and MAI. Over 20 international teams are expected to take part in this exciting international motorsport event. The proposal is to include this event as part of the FIA World Rally Championship in the coming years.

Hoosein said, "The fact that Mumbai is the financial capital of India and is a major contributor both of corporate and individual direct taxes in India, will contribute in no small measure to the selection of the Formula One Circuit to Maharashtra."

The release adds that the infrastructural requirements of accommodation, road transport and communication are already in place for such a venture. The only thorn is the capability of the international airport, which hopefully will be upgraded in near future.

Formula One travels around 16 countries for as many races, and creates an enormous financial opportunity for the host country. The economic impact of a Formula One race is estimated at around $ 140 million for the local community and creates direct and indirect job opportunities to the extent of 75,000 people. Countries like Malaysia developed their tourism industry and generated tremendous employment opportunities after setting up of the Formula One Circuit the release states.

Meanwhile Formula One TV audiences have remained buoyant and stable since 2002, according to a mid season report. This was recently published by independent market research company Sports Marketing Surveys. The report has noted that interesting races, combined with no less than eight different winners of the Grand Prix, have meant that despite a slow start to the season, audiences have returned to last years levels. The new qualifying format contributed to more interest, with sponsors obtaining more exposure than last year.

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