To say that F1 has conquered new ground in recent years – broken new boundaries, even – is indisputable, with a particular boom in Middle and Far Eastern nations wealthy enough to afford Bernie Ecclestone's extortionate race-hosting fees, but the latest potential future addition to the calendar really does take the biscuit...
A press release has formally confirmed that the Tehran-based TSI Group is overseeing the construction of a huge multi-purpose facility called iLand Race Resort close to the Iranian capital – at the heart of which will be a 5km racetrack, to be designed by the company behind the recent updates at Silverstone, UK agency Apex Circuit Design and taking inspiration from 'naturally-contoured circuits' such as Spa-Francorchamps, the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Donington Park.
According to The Daily Telegraph
, the project – on which building work began three years ago – will, in a similar vein to new F1 venues in Abu Dhabi and Korea, also feature 'housing for 50,000, shopping malls, water parks, hotels, an international-standard 18-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor fun parks, equestrian facilities, auto mall, motorcycle dirt tracks, an Olympic-standard sports complex and an international-standard kart circuit designed by Schreiner Consulting in Austria'.
The initial intention is to gain an FIA Grade 2 licence – which would allow the track to host the FIA World Touring Car Championship and FIA GT Championship – possibly with a view to upgrading that at a later date, with the Telegraph's
Tom Cary musing that 'F1 has already shown that if a state is prepared to fork out the big bucks to host a grand prix, then it is prepared to suspend moral judgement...'
'The directors of TSI Group and their iLand resort, a 1,700-hectare resort city currently under construction in Parand City on the outskirts of the Iranian capital of Tehran, are pleased to announce their plans for the exciting new iLand Race Resort development,' read the statement, published by SPEED.com
. '[The circuit] is to be built on a parcel of land of 75 hectares that is 1,100m above sea-level, with a natural topography range of 22 metres.
'Initial ground works have commenced for construction and Phase 1 – the West circuit – is scheduled for completion in 2012, with full construction and operation anticipated in 2013. The aspiration for the circuit is initially to attract an FIA Grade 2 licence and to accommodate regional and international race events and Iranian corporate entertainment, education and motorsport activities. The circuit development will be contained within an economic free zone and is only 5km away from Tehran Iman Khomeni Airport.”
Cary, however, goes on to raise 'the issue of security for F1's multi-national community', pointing to current Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice that 'British travellers to Iran face greater risks than nationals of most other countries...there is therefore a risk that British nationals could be arbitrarily detained, despite their complete innocence' and warnings that 'there have been occasional cases of independent travellers detained for more than a month without access to anyone outside the Iranian system'.
But is that enough to dissuade Ecclestone from taking the sport there? Watch this space, as they say...