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September 3, 2009

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Ecclestone upbeat over Indian GP

FORMULA One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was confident India's first grand prix in 2011 will go ahead as planned despite exchange control obstacles and an unsupportive stand by India's Sports Ministry.
In January, the ministry rejected a request by race promoter JPSK Sports to remit US$36.5 million in foreign currency to Ecclestone's British-based Formula One Administration.
"We are waiting for the circuit to be constructed," Ecclestone told the Press Trust of India news agency yesterday.
"The foundation stone will be laid in late October. I will be in India to lay the foundation stone," he said.
"It's (the race) been on for a long time. There's never been any doubt. The contract was signed a long time ago."
Interest in Formula One has zoomed upwards in India after Force India's Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella finished second to Ferrari's Kimi Raikonnen at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday to record the Indian team's first points in 30 starts.
But Sports Minister Manohar Singh Gill made his stand clear, dismissing Formula One as "expensive entertainment". "That's his view. The rest of the world thinks it is a sport," said Ecclestone.
Cricket-crazy India is trying to shed its tag of being a one-sport nation and interest in Formula One grew when Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian driver in the series in 2005.
Liquor baron Vijay Mallya bought into the Spyker team two years ago and renamed it Force India but there is no Indian driver currently in Formula One.
Meanwhile, Franck Montagny has held informal talks with USF1 to drive for the new US-based team next season.
The Frenchman, who made seven starts in 2006 with the Super Aguri team, exchanged emails with one of the team's principals, Peter Windsor, L'Equipe daily reported yesterday.


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