x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pole Position: Success of Indian Racing League is a tall order

The money involved in a new race series is incredible, but can the Indian league prosper where others have failed?

The sometimes baffling world of circuit motor racing can be broadly categorised into four groups. In order of technical sophistication, performance and cost: Saloon (Touring) cars, Grand Tourers (GT), Sports Prototypes and Formula (single-seater) cars.

Most amateur drivers start with used race car events where budgets for a season's racing typically start at about Dh90,000. They can then progress to faster and more expensive machinery as experience, skills and budgets permit. Where a race series is promoted, has decent hospitality facilities and is shown on television, drivers are able to deliver value to personal sponsors, thus helping to cover some of their costs.

In formula championships the costs are eye-watering: Formula Ford at Dh700,000, Formula 3 at Dh3.6 million and FIA GP2 at Dh9m.

Most of the promoted championships evolved over decades yet, now and again, we see bold and imaginative initiatives designed to fill a perceived gap in the market.

And there were quite a few that touched down in this part of the world, such as the Arabia 1 Grand Prix, which was announced at the Dubai Autodrome in September 2003. It didn't happen, but was shortly followed by the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. That kicked off two years later at Brands Hatch but was liquidated in 2009.

Formula X, owned by an investment bank, was touted as the new global concept for motor racing using a dual-purpose single-seater formula/sports car. After a demo race in Dubai in 2004, the funds ran out.

GP Masters was a series for retired F1 drivers. Following its inaugural event at Kyalami, South Africa, in 2005, the series was liquidated in 2007 after just three races.

And the Dubai-based Speedcar Series succumbed to the financial crisis in 2009 and ground to a halt.

There's a certain pattern here with these innovative race ideas, so it's intriguing to learn of the latest innovation: the Indian Racing League (IRL), which is based along similar lines to cricket's Indian Premier League. Organisers plan to sell nine franchises on an invitation-only basis that allows the licence-holders to run two cars in seven events planned for Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Chennai.

According to its website, all of the cars would be the same as the two-seater Yas Supersport SSTs, which you can enjoy driving on the Yas Marina Circuit for Dh950 a session. Professional drivers, preferably from Formula One, will be invited to share driving duties with mandatory Indian drivers in the 45-minute races.

Now fasten your seat belts - the organisers expect to sell each franchise for a one-off fee of Dh18.3m then an annual amount of Dh3.6m. So, when you combine that with all the operational costs, the IRL would easily break all records as the world's most expensive one-make championship. Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has agreed to help persuade the nation's cricket-lovers to take an interest. The world of motorsport waits with bated breath.

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