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India on course for 2010 grand prix, says Mallya

HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - India will start construction of a Formula One circuit near New Delhi in October and is on track to host its first grand prix in 2010, Force India team owner Vijay Mallya said on Friday.

Force India team owner Vijay Mallya attends a news conference in Mumbai in this February 6, 2007 file photo. India will start construction of a Formula One circuit near New Delhi in October and is on track to host its first grand prix in 2010, Mallya said on Friday. REUTERS/Adeel Halim/Files

“The news is quite positive,” the drinks and aviation billionaire, who is also chairman of the Motorsports Association of India (MAI), told a news conference at the German Grand Prix.

“I happened to be having lunch with the CEO of one of India’s biggest banks and he confirmed that they had sanctioned a facility to the developer of the Indian track,” he added.

“He has actually bought the land and on October 1 construction of a brand new track will begin.

“So for the first time now I think I feel very confident to be able to say to you that there will be a brand new track and that we will have our first grand prix in 2010. It’s just outside New Delhi,” said Mallya.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi announced last September that Formula One Management had approved two sites on the outskirts of New Delhi with the IOA to make the final choice.

The Hindustan Times reported in November that JP Associates had signed a 10-year contract to develop a site at Greater Noida, 50km to the east of the capital.

FIRST PODIUM

Mallya, who bought the Spyker team last year and renamed it, has said he wants Force India to be in a position to claim their first podium finish by 2010 when they can expect to be racing in front of a home crowd.

The British-based team have yet to score a point this season and Mallya said on Friday the Hungarian Grand Prix in August would mark a cut-off point for the development of this year’s car.

“Beyond that I have decided we will now concentrate on the 2009 car,” he said. “We have at least shown to ourselves and our fans in India that we are capable of improvement.

“So Hungary is the last stop for us in terms of development for 2008 and then all the focus is on 2009 where we should hope to score some points,” he said.

Mallya said the team would have a bigger budget from next season and had also added two senior engineers to the design team with possible further expansion.

“We will add as many as we need to,” he said. “We have three wind tunnels running now...so we are giving it all we can”

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