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Another F1 race circling the drain
The İstanbul Formula One Grand Prix, famed for its challenging curves and relished by F1 fans around the world, is in serious danger of being left off the racing schedule after 2011 amid worries over contracts and competition from other race tracks around the world. The race takes place at İstanbul Park, which was constructed by the Formula One Investment Co. (FİYAŞ). FİYAŞ belongs to the İstanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO); however, due to the difficulties of managing the racing track, İTO rented it to Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One Administration Ltd. (FOA).

According to the contract, either party has the right to give advance notice of their wish to cancel agreement, allowing the contract to be nullified three years after notice is received -- in 2011. Speaking to a TV station on Jan. 15, İTO President Murat Yalçıntaş confirmed that they had received notice, but he added that he believed this was a precautionary move by Ecclestone due to the instability brought about by the global financial crisis. He further noted that the notice did not mean that races would be cancelled immediately and the İstanbul race will take place as planned in 2009.

The general director of İstanbul Park, Can Güçlü, on the other hand, was not as optimistic as the İTO head. "We are afraid that 2011 may be the last year of the staging of F1 in İstanbul," Güçlü told Sunday's Zaman.

Stating that many countries, some of which are in a better economic condition than Turkey, are preparing their tracks for F1 and want to have a lucrative place in the calendar, Güçlü said: "There is serious competition from such countries as South Africa, Russia, Bulgaria and South Korea. South Korea has a highly developed economy and they place importance on sporting events. The [soccer] world cup was held in there in 2002. And Russia has already started constructing a race course."

He also emphasized that approval for India to host F1 races has been given, and will begin in 2011 -- when the contract for F1 in Turkey will finish.

Recalling that the Montreal Grand Prix in Canada has been cancelled and there is no longer a spot to hold races in North America, Güçlü noted that there is fierce competition among countries to organize F1 races and North America wants races back in the region.

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