Turkey's march towards holding a Formula One grand prix stepped up a gear yesterday, when F1 tsar, Bernie Ecclestone, and Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan attended a launch ceremony in Istanbul.

The circuit, which is designed by Hermann Tilke, the man responsible for the Sepang circuit in Malaysian - amongst others, is due for completion in 2005, when Turkey aims to host their first grand prix, after signing a seven-year contract last month.

Erdogan told Ananova: "Just think of the contribution that this event will make to this country's image and its attraction for tourists.

"I expect this project to be finished before March 2005."

Ecclestone added: "I'm very happy that we've done what we've been trying to do for 10 years: bring Formula One to Istanbul."

The deal comes following the countries first FIA World Rally Championship event this year, held in February - the Rally of Turkey, won by Citroen's Carlos Sainz was a resounding success.

Following the launch ceremony building work is now expected to begin on the F1 circuit with immediate affect.



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