The Buddh International Circuit.
Who could have imagined? A name like that. So classic. So unique. And so perfectly exotic in what still remains essentially a European sport. The circuit we hope is our first step to change that.
There is no large Buddha statue looming at the entrance, however, nor red sandstone walls with minarets and turbaned horse mounted guards staring down at you. Instead, there’s vast open desert-like spaces.
Really vast spaces with new age materials and structures that are foreign to our land.
Serpentine guard rails and swooping grass lawns greet you from the moment you turn off the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway towards the Yamuna Expressway.
In the distance the main Grandstand is visible. It rests like a spaceship. Hovering over tiny mortal beings.
A strange shape etched by German modern-era-race-track designer, Hermann Tilke. Nothing about it reflects India’s diverse culture unlike the hibiscus inspired design in Sepang, Malaysia or the Bedouin tent inspired towers in Bahrain. But it does symbolize opulence in a Grand stand sort of way. Tickets to this stand cost thirty five thousand INR for the race weekend!
We duck into a tunnel that burrows under the Grand Prix calendar’s longest straight where champions Vettel and Co. are expected to reach a staggering 320kmph braking down to a mere 90kmph! This is between Turns 3 and 4. The tunnel leads to the main paddock parking.
Alighting from our bus we stand and gaze around in awe at what really is India’s most pampered stretch of road. Pampered with high grip run-off areas, cemented kerbs, safety fences, manicured landscapes, marshal posts, smooth surface and water bodies even!
It measures approximately 5 kilometers in length and about 20 meters at its broadest width. In F1 this means theoretically 4 cars can run abreast. It has 16 turns in all. Turn 5 and Turn 16 mirror each other.
Whilst Turns 6 through to Turns 15 are sections where eager Indian audiences can get a good long look at each of their helmeted heroes for a significant period of time as the cars dance their routine. There’s a violent splash of saffron, white and green through the grandstands of the circuit reminding us every second where we are.
Just incase the heavenly howling of those Scarlet cars from Maranello transport us elsewhere…
The Medical center has a helipad for emergencies. And the adjacent Paddock Club has private VIP parking. Passes to this club start at about 2Lakh INR per head for a weekend of hob knobbing with the biggies of Bollywood and chopper owners. And unlimited Champagne. If neither interest you and you’d prefer a picnic weekend with friends on a hill side stand like in Spa, Belgium you could. For a rather reasonable 2,500INR you could battle the elements and savor the sounds of those magnificent machines.
And even shoot a few blurry memoirs.
On a track walkabout the sheer size of this venue comes alive. Its like nothing we’ve seen before. It’s a surreal city by itself. Complete with state of art telecommunications and plumbing lines to spectator car parks the size of football pitches. The Madras Motor Sports Track, until now our only dedicated racing venue of International repute is dwarfed in comparison. Mercedes Benz has formed a driving academy at the Buddh. Soon big names will follow suit.
Race officials and Track marshals have been imported from Bahrain for our inaugural round.
They’re expected to groom local talent over the initial learning years.
The JayPee Sports group behind this exotic sounding venue and venture are a solid bunch. Their civil engineering skills are on par with the western world. One wishes the Buddh International Circuit is a first of many such ventures and that their standards in construction and delivery would set a benchmark in modern India’s rise.
The first ever Formula 1™ Indian Grand Prix is to be run over the weekend after Diwali.
An auspicious time for a first.
It’s the first time a small village town named Dankaur in Uttar Pradesh will be listed up there with another small village town called Silverstone, Northamptonshire where it all began 61 years ago.