x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pole Position: Pitfalls of life in motorsport's fast lane

The last-minute cancellation of India's i1 Super Series highlights the difficulty in trying to set up a motorsport competition from scratch.

You may have heard organisers of the i1Super Car Series recently decided to postpone the nascent international race series. So we have to wait another year to find out how India's most talented young drivers will fare in identical cars to some well-known professional drivers; a rare occurrence indeed.

Of course, there is more than enough disappointment to go around, not least those nine young Indian drivers who were about to go "professional" for the first time. They would not have got rich, but there's a massive difference between nagging a father for money to go racing and being paid to do it. The former F1 and international drivers who signed up, including Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Vitantonio Liuzzi, would no doubt have been paid more, but to them I suspect it was just a nice little earner in their off-season.

The last-minute postponement, announced just one week before teams were due to get on flights for the first race in Doha, illustrated just how incredibly difficult it is to launch a new race series. In terms of complexity and risk management, I suspect the task would stretch a professional project manager planning the Olympics - seriously.

You wouldn't believe how many variables have to be dealt with and how many agreements negotiated. Motor racing is often termed a black art as, outside a set of detailed FIA sporting and technical regulations, nothing seems to get documented.

As the organiser of the i1 Super Series initiative, Darshan M, the chief executive of Machdar Motorsport in Bangalore, is masterminding nothing less than a revolution in Indian motorsport and should be applauded. He and his team have great experience in the media, entertainment and sport sectors in India, particularly cricket, and engaged some very experienced motorsport managers to assist with the project.

Even so, he could surely not have anticipated being directed by the government in Uttar Pradesh not to run the five-event series finale at the new F1 circuit in New Delhi due to a local election. The knock-on effect of this show-stopper was dramatic, taking the series out of the "off-season". This meant that most of the professional drivers and race mechanics required would no longer be available, even though the cars had been purchased, the drivers had all tested them at Yas Marina Circuit, the media were involved, circuits were booked and the races were inscribed on the FIA's international calendar.

But on the plus side, the city-based franchisees who signed up to this Indian Premier League-style race series sighed a breath of relief as they can now spend more time planning to exploit their investment. Marketing, branding and education at the city level is the key to their success, of course, not just the racing.

We signed a distribution agreement with Radical Sportscars in January 2004 yet ran the first Gulf Radical Cup event two years later. We announced Formula Gulf 1000 in April 2010 and the first race was held in October 2011. I share Darshan's frustration.

Pole Position is written by Barry Hope, a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.