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Tilke 'approached to design new Thai track'

24 January 2013

Newin Chidchob, a prominent figure in the Thai political scene, is reported to have approached Hermann Tilke's design company to discuss the construction of a new F1-ready race track in Thailand.

Thai Rath, a Thai-language daily newspaper published in Bangkok and distributed nationwide, reported on Thursday that Newin wants to build the circuit estimated at a cost of two billion baht (around 170 million pounds sterling, or US$270m) in his home town of Buri Ram, 400km to the north of Thailand's capital Bangkok.

Newin is a former leading opposition politician in Thailand who was banned by the courts from politics for five years in 2007. He is currently the president of Thai football club Buri Ram United.

The reports - also carried by the leading Bangkok Post newspaper - say that Newin has already contacted Tilke directly about designing the international-standard FIA-certified racetrack, one that would be able to stage a full F1 Grand Prix event.

The track would be located near to Buri Ram United's stadium, with Newin reported to be hoping for completion of the 200-acre site as early as the end of 2014.

Thailand is already set to hold a maiden Grand Prix event in either 2014 or 2015, with a night street race in Bangkok having been agreed in principal by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

"It will be a city race like that in Singapore and Monaco. It will be a night race like the Singapore Grand Prix," the governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, Kanokphand Chulakasem, said in September 2012.

The street track is expected to incorporate Ratchadamnoen Avenue, first suggested as a suitable location for motor racing by Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh who is the only Thai driver to have ever raced in F1 - for Maserati, Gordini and Connaught in the 1950s.

However, at the time the sanctioning fee and contract were both still to be agreed, with Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa suggesting that the Thai government would likely pay up to 60 per cent of the annual fee while the remainder would come from private companies such as Red Bull and Singha Beer International.

It's not clear whether Newin's latest track building initiative in Buri Ram is more a case of local and regional political manoeuvring, or whether it's arisen because of problems with the original intention of holding the race on the streets of Bangkok.

The street race was originally expected to be part of the 2014 calendar, but in December Ecclestone told the Wall Street Journal: "They say 2014 and I say 2015, but it is serious and it is good."


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