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APRIL 18, 2005

What chance of a Grand Prix in India?

The news last week that there is interest in holding a Grand Prix in Chennai, India, was interesting but it is unlikely that it will lead to an event because of political battles that have been waging between the country's motor sport authorities for the last six years.

The problems began in 1999 when the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) decided that it no longer wanted to be represented by its former president and one of the founders of the club Nazir Hoosein. Hoosein is a close ally of FIA President Max Mosley and, according to Indian reports, played a key role in getting Asian clubs to vote for Mosley back in the 1990s when he was creating his powerbase at the FIA. Hoosein's downfall at the FMSCI was followed by a decision from the FIA in 2000 that the sporting power in India should be awarded to a new organisation called the Motor Sports Association of India (MAI), which Hoosein set up in Mumbai, in opposition to the FMSCI. There is much controversy over how this was done and the government of India still refuses to accept that the MAI is the rightful holder of the sporting power for India.

Hoosein has been unable to represent India at the FIA as a result but a deal was arranged which resulted in him sitting on the World Council as the representative of the People's Republic of China.

In 2003 the FIA tried to put an end to the problem and threatened to throw the FMSCI out of the federation. A compromise was struck with the MAI issuing permits to allow the FMSCI to run events and both bodies being empowered to issue competition licences.

This political in-fighting means that organizing any F1 race in India will not be easy because the Indian government will presumably not back an MAI event and the FIA cannot really afford to allow the MAI to be upstaged by an event backed by the FMSCI. Thus even if the FMSCI (which is based in Chennai) comes up with the cash to build a suitable track and pay the race fees to Formula One Management there are still going to be problems over such a race.