Formula One grade circuit opens in Thailand

Wed Oct 8, 2014 2:55am EDT
 
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BANGKOK (Reuters) - The path was cleared for Thailand to host a Formula One Grand Prix in the future when a round of the Japanese Super GT series opened the country's first FIA Grade One circuit in Buriram at the weekend.

Plans for Thailand to host a Formula One race in 2015 foundered last year when a law was introduced banning racing in the historic area of Bangkok, scuppering the projected night race on the streets of the capital.

Thai authorities had reached an agreement in principle with Formula One's commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone in 2012 and the opening of the Chang International Circuit at the weekend means they now have a race-hosting facility.

More than 130,000 fans descended on the Hermann Tilke-designed track some 400km northeast of Bangkok for three days of racing and organizers said work would soon be undertaken to make it suitable for top class motorcycle racing.

"The Thai team has done an amazing job in an incredibly short space of time and their first event was a great success," Mark Hughes of Mrk1 Consulting, who helped with the development of the circuit, said in a news release.

"Being the first Grade 1 track in Thailand and only 25th globally, there is the inevitable speculation regarding F1 and Mr Ecclestone is fully aware of the track as are DORNA (organizers of MotoGP and World Superbikes)."

Thailand's neighbor Malaysia already hosts Formula One and MotoGP rounds at the Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur, while Singapore has held a night Formula One race on the streets of the city-state since 2008.

The Chang International Circuit is already scheduled to host Asian Road Racing Championship, Asian LeMans Series and Touring Car Asia events.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O'Brien)