Formula One: a brand new opportunity

 

 

The countdown to Turkey’s first Formula One race was well under way as Diplomat went to press this month. Excitement was mounting, for on this occasion it was not only the performance of the drivers but the performance of the track and the whole organisation that was about to be put to the test.

 

 

 

The thrill of speed, the flow of adrenalin, the challenge of sustaining perfection. A throbbing fantasy world of split-second decisions and steel nerves. A clash of technological giants that climaxes in bitter disappointment or sweet champagne? Or merely a bevy of noisy vehicles notching up dusty laps of a repetitive track?  Perhaps not everybody can be a Grand Prix fan. But few would deny the contribution which Turkey’s new-found place on the Formula One map will make to the country’s international profile and prestige.

 

Formula One is considered the apogee of motor sports; it is also reputed to be the sports activity with the largest audience in the World. Turkey’s first-ever encounter with the chequered flag, due to be held at the Istanbul Park Track on August 19-21, will be the first sports event in the country with the potential to gather 130,000 people together in one day and reach a total audience of up to 2.2 billion in 223 different countries.

 

Driven by profits

 

The annual race may or may not make a profit for its organisers. But besides promoting Turkey and Istanbul, it will encourage plenty of economic activity. A survey carried out by the American Economic Research Company Incontext for the International Federation of Automobile Sports (FIA) between the years 1996-1999 showed that a total of 2,100,000 paying spectators had watched the eleven races from the grandstands. Foreign visitors accounted for 77% of the audiences. The average visitor spent approximatelyUS$229 per day, or US$325 per day when accommodation and international transport is included.

 

The Turkish organizers hoped that 40-50,000 foreign guests would attend the Turkish Grand Prix, spending tens of millions of euros. Although the World Cup and the Olympic Games are the largest international sporting events, both take place only once every four years, whereas Formula 1 events are held for 9 months every year. The opportunities for promotion and advertising have led countries to compete fiercely for the right to stage the event. In Malaysia, it is claimed that the unit price of export products rose by almost 10% after the arrival of Formula 1.

 

Getting a date

 

The Turkish Federation of Automobile Sports (TOMSFED) has been given sole responsibility for the sporting aspects of the Turkish Grand Prix. The campaign to bring Formula One to Turkey was led by TOMSFED, supported by the government and backed by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) and the national Union of Chambers (TOBB). Originally the Istanbul event was pencilled in for July on the draft calendar. But when the schedule was finalised at the FIA meeting in Paris on October 13, 2004, August 21 became the official date of the Turkish Grand Prix.

 

The foundations of the Tepeören-Tuzla track had been laid on September 10, 2003. Covering a total area of 2,215,000 square metres, the track has been designed by Herman Tilke. It is a counter-clockwise route 5,378 metres long, and 14-21.5 metres wide, with six right bends and seven left bends. The cars are expected to reach a maximum speed of 320.58km/h. The track is notable for its undulating terrain, with a steepest lengthwise slope of 8.145%. There is accommodation for up to 125,000 spectators.

 

High-speed construction

 

TOBB President Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the company Motorsporları ve Organizasyon A.Ş. (MSO), has compared the task of financing and constructing the Istanbul Speed Park Track to the work involved in building a medium-sized dam. Nevertheless, the job was completed in little more than a year compared to 4-5 years for the typical dam.

 

According to FIA director Charlie Whiting, inspections have shown the track to be extremely safe for both audiences and pilots. Security, connecting roads and technical matters were among the issues covered by the inspections. He declared that the track would be one of the best in the world. Who wouldn‘t want to be in pole position?

 

 

(DIPLOMAT  -  August 2005  -  Ankara)