Motor racing: India not giving up hope of Formula One return

MUMBAI (REUTERS) - India's motor sports federation is optimistic the tax problems that have jeopardised the country's Formula One race will be resolved and the home Grand Prix will be back in 2016.

Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters on Wednesday that the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi will not be hosting a race next year after being dropped from the 2014 championship.

Problems over taxation, with Formula One classified as entertainment rather than a sport in India, as well as the considerable bureaucracy governing the import of equipment have been seen as obstacles.

The Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) is waiting for a final clearance from the sports ministry for recognition as a national sports federation and hopes that will pave the way for the race's return.

"It's unfortunate but once the government gives the recognition I am very hopeful that Mr Ecclestone's concerns will be satisfied," Akbar Ebrahim, the chairman of racing at FMSCI, told Reuters on Thursday.

"The good thing is that the International Olympic Committee has recognised the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and made it a full member.

"So once we have the recognition the drivers are no longer going to be considered as entertainers but as athletes."

Crediting race promoters Jaypee Sports International for building a stellar circuit in India, Ebrahim was hopeful that the FMSCI would be recognised after the country's general elections are over in May.

"The required paperwork that was asked for by the government of India has been already submitted a month back," he added. "It's a priority.

"This recognition is not just for F1 but it is beneficial for the grassroot level of Indian motor sports, too."

Ecclestone said in November that a deal had been done for the Indian Grand Prix to return in 2015 and for six years beyond that if tax problems could be overcome.

A Jaypee spokesman declined to comment when contacted by Reuters, but a source at the promoter said the problems should be resolved and Formula One would return to India.

India first hosted a Grand Prix in 2011 to positive reviews and have staged three races to date.

Former Formula One driver Karun Chandhok rued India's loss of a glamorous sporting event.

"I'm not surprised, unfortunately. The situation hasn't changed from the government's viewpoint despite the Jaypee group's best efforts," he told Reuters from London. "It's a sad but predictable outcome.

"With the IOC recognising FIA, the recognition for the sport body in India should be pretty automatic.

"The teams and the drivers really enjoyed coming to India. But unfortunately the Indian government did not embrace Formula One or really understand its penetration and reach worldwide.

"It's an opportunity lost."

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