F1 India circuit is on track!

5.141 km Jaypee circuit in New Delhi, India

The Formula One circus will land in India come October 2011. We went to see how work was progressing on the brand new Jaypee circuit and spoke exclusively to VP Mark Hughes

The most populous tourist route in India runs from Delhi Airport to Agra, location of the Taj Mahal. It’s a tricky journey of about 180 kilometers, and like most roads in India, is one-way – unless of course there is something coming in the other direction. Driving it is not for the faint-hearted, which is why most tourists either take the bus or have a private taxi, in which they sit in the back with their eyes closed.

However, that is all about to change with the introduction of Formula One to India. A new circuit, under construction in Jaypee Greens, Greater Noida, just outside the main city of Delhi and on the way to Agra, will be served by a brand new, six-lane highway. It is being built and paid for by the Jaypee Group, developers of the F1 facility, to make life a bit easier for both the racing fraternity and the local community at large.

Last year's Commonwealth Games may have made substantial changes to the face of New Delhi with stadia, housing, a nice new International Airport and an extension of the Metro, but the Jaypee organization is building a 165 kilometer motorway!

With the monsoon rains not quite clear yet, there has been a slowdown in the work, but the circuit construction goes on and, as I was to discover during my recent trip, whilst rain slows things down, it doesn’t stop them. After a tour of the site with Sameer Kumar, the manager of public relations for Jaypee Sports International, I caught up with Mark Hughes, vice-president of operations for JPSI, to discuss the project, his plans and how things were going.

CAR ME: There’s been a lot of talk about the Commonwealth Games projects running a bit late. How are you getting along?

MH: Despite the monsoon, which tends to make things a bit stickier when trying to get around the site, we’re absolutely on schedule. Most of the groundwork is done and the buildings in the main pit block, media centre and grandstand areas are well above foundation level. It’s difficult to make out the shape of the track in places as we still have to access the site with equipment and materials, but it’s really starting to make sense to an outside observer now.

We’re on schedule for October 2011, when India will host its first Formula One Grand Prix, after which we expect to be hosting International events throughout the year – maybe with the exception of the monsoon months.

What groundwork have you done so far?

We’ve shifted 4 million cubic meters of earth and rock to build up the banked corners and provide elevation to the track. The full track will be 5.14km long and rise and fall over a height of 14 meters from our ground level to the highest track surfaces on the bankings.

It’s a spectacular circuit – and you don’t need to take my word for it: the computer generated plan showing the shape and contours of the track was sent out to a select few of the F1 teams for comment, and after a few very minor modifications – an opening of a corner here, an extension of the run-off area there – we’ve had resounding approval. It’s going to be one of the most exciting tracks to race on, and with the elevations and the positioning of grandstands, it’ll be one of the easiest to watch.

The track is a Tilke design so what can we expect in the way of recognizable features?

Like all tracks, and especially the newer ones, our circuit is unique. There will be a few observers who comment that this corner is like Spa, and that straight is like Le Mans, and that hairpin is like somewhere else, but there are strict guidelines and safety parameters to be met for Formula One, so there are limits as to what we can actually do.

Having said that, we did start with a clean sheet of paper and a flat piece of land. What you see in the drawings and designs combines the requirements of the Formula One standards with our own requirements for the circuit during the rest of the year when F1 is not here.

The circuit runs clockwise, and with the drop and climb between turns 3 and 4, there’s potential to reach over 300kph before the braking point for turn 4. That’s pretty quick, by any standards. Some of the corners will be under 100kph, so we think we have just the right balance between really fast straights and the trickier turn complexes. Turn 10 is a 200kph parabolic loop, and can be seen from almost anywhere else on the circuit.

You mentioned your own requirements. What else will be happening?

Oh yes, there’s a lot more going on here! The circuit will be a fully operational part of the Jaypee Sports complex.

We have a CIK Karting Centre which will be suitable for international karting events, as well as training of youngsters in the feeder part of motor sport, a Race and Drive School, two fully independent circuits within the facility, separate pit lanes and garage blocks to service each track configuration and all the usual facilities to support corporate and manufacturer event days.

Jaypee International Race Circuit is not just only about Formula 1 – we expect to host other international racing series when the time is right and will be looking at bike events, as well as all levels of car racing.

There are not many places in India where petrolheads can really get to use their cars, and there are some very expensive cars in this country.

We’ll be offering garage and storage facilities for those who prefer to keep their Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Astons, Jaguars and Porsches at a safe and usable location rather than risking them in transit from home, just to get the opportunity to drive on a track such as this and explore the potential of the cars. We’ll look after the cars and make sure they are ready to run, on site, whenever their owners want to take them out for a spin.

The full track will be just over five kilometers long – that’s what the Grand Prix will run on – but the North and South circuits are 2.96km and 2.13km respectively, and we can trim a bit off the North circuit to run separate activities if ever we need to.

There is plenty of space for testing, demonstrations and displays and there are conference facilities for both large and small groups, a restaurant and retail spaces within the complex. Formula One will be the anchor, but there’s an enormous ship behind it!

When do you have your dry run, and will there be anything running before the F1 circus comes to town?

There will be some private vehicles running on the circuit in order to test all of the systems and so on, but there won’t be any cars driven in anger, until the F1 teams arrive.

On a personal note, and given your experience with BIC in Bahrain and as a consultant at YAS Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, how does this project compare with what you’ve been involved in before?

Every F1 track is slightly different and one of the things I love about the work that I do is the chance to understand and work in so many different cultures and environments.

In the Middle East, for example, the early teams were predominantly expatriate, and over time we developed and trained local staff to take over. In India, I have a clear remit to develop and train local talent straight away, as part of the build-up to the event.

There is a wealth of people here who have worked on major events such as the Indian Premier League in cricket, the Commonwealth Games, the annual Auto Expo, air shows, fashion shows and the like, so I have CVs from people with some extremely relevant event experience in event management.

In addition to the people, working for a purely commercial organization, as opposed to a government-supported organization, is totally different. This means that we have to work to develop strong ties with all government departments and get their support for what we are doing. It’s all very exciting and challenging, and I’m really enjoying the project. CarMiddleEast.com

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