(Adds comments from CIE executive on investment, expected returns, paragraphs 12-13)
July 23 (Reuters) - Mexico is to return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015 after a 23-year absence, Alejandro Soberon, president of live events company CIE, confirmed on Wednesday.
“Start your engines, F1 will return to Mexico next year,” Soberon was quoted as saying on the BBC’s website (www.bbc.co.uk).
CIE announced to the Mexican stock exchange on Tuesday it has signed a five-year contract to host Formula One races but that the deal was still subject to final negotiations.
The race will be held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone earlier told the Forbes magazine website (www.forbes.com) that the deal had been agreed.
“We have got Mexico past the post,” he was quoted as saying.
Forbes said that the plan to revive the race had the backing of a powerful management team, led by two key figures.
One is Tavo Hellmund, the creator of the U.S. Grand Prix and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and Soberon, whose CIE company is the world’s third largest live entertainment business.
Team members include Carlos Slim Domit, who sits on the FIA’s decision-making body the Senate, and is the son of Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.
There are two Mexican drivers currently on the F1 grid, Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber and Force India’s Sergio Perez who have both been bankrolled by Carlos Slim, said Forbes.
The return was originally planned for 2014, but the organisers could not update the track in time.
CIE’s Chief Financial Officer Jaime Zevada told Reuters in a telephone interview that the company would invest $50 million to complete upgrades, which include expanding seating to 120,000.
Zevada said the company could expect to see a profit of about $10 million to $15 million on the investment during the five-year contract.
The circuit, which had hosted grands prix from 1963-70 and 1986-92, is likely to be reconfigured from the layout last used when Nigel Mansell won in 1992.
Changes to the ultra-fast banked right-hander at the end of the lap, Peraltada, and resurfacing to reduce its notorious bumpiness, will be undertaken to comply with FIA regulations.
No date has been fixed for the race. (Reporting by Tony Goodson and Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Martyn Herman)