Getting ready for the big show

Enthralling the crowd…Daniel Ricciardo burns rubber as he spins his Red Bull Formula 1 car on the Rajpath during the ‘Speed Street 2011', a promotional event, in New Delhi.-KAMAL NARANG

The inaugural Airtel Grand Prix of India, scheduled to be held at the newly-built Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida on October 30, is expected to enthrall thousands of F1 fans and motorsport professionals in the country, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

For many, it is a dream come true to see Formula One cars roaring off the grid with mind-boggling speed. And for someone like Narain Karthikeyan, to drive in a Formula One race at home is long term ambition coming to fruition.

The inaugural Airtel Grand Prix of India, scheduled to be held at the newly-built Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida on October 30, is expected to enthrall thousands of F1 fans and motorsport professionals in the country.

“Till last week, more than 50 per cent of the tickets (of the roughly one lakh that went on sale) were sold. We are sure it will be a full house,” said Askari H. Zaidi, Senior Vice-President (Corporate Communications), Jaypee Sports International (JPSI), the company that owns the circuit.

The enthusiasm for the sport could be gauged from the spontaneous gathering of thousands of people who wanted to have a glimpse of an F1 car in motion. F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo drove a Red Bull car on the Rajpath in New Delhi as part of the build-up for Grand Prix of India.

“I have never seen anything like this before, but I am sure that the Red Bull has set millions of pulses racing as India waits for the lights to turn green at the Grand Prix later this month,” said Ricciardo, who drives for Hispania Racing Team (HRT).

India's Narain Karthikeyan, who also drives for HRT, is even more excited. Whenever asked about India hosting a Grand Prix race, the country's first F1 driver has struggled to express his feelings while interacting with the media on several occasions.

“I never thought it would be a reality, I never thought I would be racing in India. I get goose bumps as I talk about it,” he said.

The other Indian F1 driver, Karun Chandhok of Lotus, has expressed his hope of racing in the Grand Prix of India.

As for the preparedness of the venue, the track and the buildings at the BIC are almost ready. “We are in the final stages, like cleaning up and carpeting etc. The equipment testing is also going on. We will conduct a media visit to the track in mid-October. Anyway, we have to hand it over to the organisers by October 18,” said Zaidi.

JPSI is planning a car show by Mercedes which will coincide with the media visit, and it will be “a sort of test event”.

Chandhok's tweet on September 26 confirms the BIC's readiness to host the race. “Just spent morning at Buddh International Circuit — place looks AWESOME with a month to go for the Indian GP!!!”

There have been questions about whether the 5.14km track and other facilities will be ready in time for the race. However, JPSI has met all the crucial deadlines.

The homologation of the track, conducted by the FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting, was completed almost a month ago and the medical facilities also got the approval of FIA's expert team.

The track will obtain the Grade-1 certificate a week prior to the Grand Prix which, according to experts, is the common practice for new circuits.

At JPSI, everyone is charged up to meet the high expectations. “The kind of queries we are getting, the response on Facebook and Twitter and the Red Bull show the other day... people have come out with positive reaction,” noted Zaidi.

“All the facilities will be of world standard. Nothing less will be acceptable,” he said.