While Hungary paved the way for former Eastern Bloc countries to join the F1 revolution, and Russia finally looks set to pick up the baton from 2014, perhaps the most intriguing future grand prix rumour is currently stemming from further south, in Croatia, where motorsport stirrings are gathering pace.
According to the Vecernji List
newspaper, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone are both showing interest in the Balkan state as a possible F1 venue of the future, following news that a motorsports complex is to be constructed close to the A2 motorway and the village of Bistra, not far from national capital Zagreb. The story claims that around €250m, provided by private investors, has been earmarked for the project as the Croatian government and Bistra mayor Kresimir Gulic press ahead with their campaign to attract more tourism to the country.
Six years ago, Gulic developed a ski resort up in the mountains above Bistra and Zagreb, backing his dream with a deal to play host to rounds of the Fédération Internationale de Ski [FIS] World Cup. Now, with the support of both president Ivo Josipovic and prime minister Jadranka Kosor as well as World Motor Sport Council member Zrinko Gregurek, he is turning his attention to motorsport, with the aim of building a circuit complex that could play host, not only to F1, but also to other series, including international level karting.
According to respected F1 insider Joe Saward, Guliæ has acquired 450 acres of land in the valley surrounding Bistra, and has signed a contract with pilloried F1 track designer Hermann Tilke to develop a circuit that would sit alongside both a karting facility and open-air concert venue. The topography of the region should ensure elevation changes within the layout which, if construction goes to plan, could be ready for action in 2014. The remainder of the complex, which includes plans for a hotel and additional sports facilities and should be able to play host to as many as 150,000 race fans, should be completed by 2016.
Ironically, the weekend saw thousands of Croatians march on Zagreb demanding that the government stand down amid accusations of corruption and financial irregularity.