India's first foray into the high-tech, high-cost world of F1 is poised to come another step closer today [Tuesday] when the wraps officially come off the new Buddh International Circuit.

The first Indian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place next weekend, and organisers hope that the unveiling will finally lay to rest the sort of speculation about the circuit's readiness that plagued last year's Koran GP debut. Doubts have been raised over whether the 16-turn, 5.14km Hermann Tilke-designed venue would be ready to welcome an F1 fraternity already jaded from back to back races in Japan and Korea, but recent images suggest that the circuit and infrastructure is waiting for its appearance on the world stage.

Concerns are not unexpected, given India's recent record with the Commonwealth Games, which was plagued by reports of unfinished accommodation, dirty conditions in areas that had been completed and general shoddy timekeeping and workmanship. Only emergency government intervention saved a project allegedly rife with corruption, but the F1 circuit - and the sports village that is planned to surround it - has largely avoided such problems as the result of being a privately-funded programme.

Both Bernie Ecclestone and members of the FIA have praised what they have seen of the Buddh International Circuit, and commented on the way in which Jaypee Sports International, the company set up to build the track and manage the race, had controlled the development, starting from the moment that 80-year old company founder Jaiprakash Gaur signed a $200m contract during his first formal meeting with Ecclestone.

According to the Indian media, the Jaypee Group will host members of the F1 fraternity at a 60-acre golf and spa resort, before the completion of the remaining attractions at the Greater Noida site, which will include sports facilities such as a cricket stadium, hockey stadium, tennis courts, squash courts and shooting range, and public amenities including apartments, offices and shopping malls.

At this stage, however, the investment represents little more than a $400m gamble, with only a fraction of that amount set to return in the shape of ticket sales. Undaunted, Jaypee is confident that the venue can be made to work - and profitably - having modelled itself on the success of Sepang in Malaysia.

"We've taken a long-term view on this," MD and CEO Sameer Gaur explained, "People will want this address. We're in talks with MotoGP, as well as other car and bike racing competitions for use during other parts of the year.

Gaur also revealed that his company expects to secure a deal for Mercedes-Benz to open a motor racing academy at the circuit, while racing enthusiasts will be able to drive the circuit on trackdays.

Early predictions suggest that 60 per cent of tickets have been sold in advance of the F1 race weekend, despite prices not exactly being cheap for all, and India appears to have grasped 'F1 fever', after 2000 eager onlookers turned out to see Daniel Ricciardo test a Red Bull showcar on one of Delhi's main thoroughfares.

The success of what is still regarded as 'an elite, aspirational endeavour' will only come once it is firmly established on the F1 map - witness the swift rise and fall of Turkey for confirmation that not all new venues are guaranteed to last - and there are still groups opposed to the race and the circuit, which they feel infringe on their lifestyles.

Landowners, already angry at not having been paid a fair price for their land, are now planning protests after feeling that other promises have been broken by the Uttar Pradesh government, which initially acquired 7200 acres for its urbanisation drive. While landowners expected housing projects and jobs, they were naturally incensed to find that some of the land had been sold to Jaypee for the development of both the Yamuna Expressway and Buddh International Circuit.

"We gave up our land in the hope that industries would come up and provide employment to our people," one local resident told the Indian Express newspaper, "After taking away our livelihood, the administration has not provided our children with any alternative sources of employment."

With the race weekend also set to feature the first Indian concert appearances of both Metallica's and Lady Gaga, its supporters currently appear to outweigh its opponents.

"F1 will put Noida on the map," Anshuman Magazine, chairman and managing director of CB Richard Ellis India, predicted, "It will change its perception to a more desirable location."


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