In what can be termed as perhaps the most ambitious venture ever undertaken in the Indian Motorsport arena, Machdar Motorsport took curtains off the i1 Super Series, aspiring to become the pinnacle of motorsport in India, confirming that cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, would be the brand ambassador for the series.
As revealed by AUTOCAR INDIA earlier here,the i1 Super Series will be run using Radical SR3 race-cars built in the UK with present and past Formula 1 drivers getting behind the wheel. Based on Premier League/IPL format, seven Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Cochin and Chandigarh will be represented on the grid via nine franchises. Coming with a 15-year contract in place, these would be sold via closed invitation only and promoters claim that top industrialists, Bollywood and cricket stars have shown keen interest. Each franchise will come in at a base price of US$ 5 million, with an additional US$1 million pay-in required every year. This excludes the running costs like procuring and maintaining the cars and drivers' fee.
In case the owner wants to surrender the franchise for some reason, the promoters have included a provision of buying it back- something which should go a long way in inducing confidence in prospective buyers' mind. This also confirms the fact that the promoters are willing to stick their necks out and are in this for the long haul. However, the team owner will have to wait for three years in case he wants to sell or transfer the franchise to a third party. Also, we are hopeful that there will be some provision for additional team sponsorship and advertising allowing for promotional space on the car. Although expecting to earn profits early-on would be a long shot, it would atleast allow the owners to recover some of their investment, going a long way to give it some semblence of a business model.
This sort of confidence stems from the fact that Anjana Reddy of the Deccan Chronicle Group has lent the financial might to the project, leaving little doubt that requisite funding will be on hand to power through the i1's nascent stages. The operations team also brings some experienced names to the table, most prominent being Robin Webb, most known for his involvement in the A1 GP series and his present role of consulting competition director at Superleague Formula.
As each franchise is set to field two cars, a grid of 18 cars looks imminent, with the promoters hoping for a combination of an Indian and a foreign driver in each team. Practically though, finding nine Indian drivers at the required level may be a tall ask, so expect more global faces to fill up the seats. As of now, we believe that Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen and Mika Hakkinen are confirmed to drive in the series, with some more faces from the current F1 grid joining the field. The promoters have not revealed the driver line-up officially citing that they are still in negotiations with some of them.
The series will adhere to the FIA Sporting Code and classified under ‘Restricted International’ category (since it is a closed invite event) spanning across Middle and Far East in addition to India. The series will debut at new Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on December 11th,2011 and visit Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Dubai, Malaysia and Thailand before culminating at the Madras Motorsport Track in Chennai on 25 February 2012 with two races being held at each round. The total prize money for the championship has been pegged at US$ 2 million. The calendar was planned to fit in the series into what typically is the off-season period in International motorsport.
In short, the aspirational i1 promises a whole lot and the promoters look like they have long term plans to sustain the business model as well, including a broadcast tie-up to be announced shortly. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out, starting with the official drivers' announcement expected to happen next month.
Proposed Race Calendar (Subject to FIA approval)
|18 Dec 2011||Buddh International||New Delhi|
|08 Jan 2012||Yas Marina||Abu Dhabi|
|15 Jan 2012||Losial International||Doha, Qatar|
|22 Jan 2012||Dubai Autodrome||Dubai|
|05 Feb 2012||Sepang International||Malaysia|
|12 Feb 2012||Bira||Thailand|
|25 Feb 2012||Madras Motorsport||Chennai|
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