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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Formula One Was A Turkish Delight

McLaren boss Ron Dennis believes Istanbul's new grand prix circuit can be the benchmark for Formula One after its successful debut on Sunday.

"This is a fantastic racing circuit and it is a sort of new Spa," he said.

Formula One's commercial supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, also likened the Istanbul Park track to the formidable Belgian venue that, more than any other, "sorts the men from the boys".

Spa has its plunging ride down to Eau Rouge, whose kink catapults the cars back uphill in a gut-wrenching challenge that drivers try to take at full throttle. Istanbul's anti-clockwise offering also offers high-speed changes of gradient.

But, unlike Spa, Istanbul is a thoroughly modern facility and a far cry from the next Italian Grand Prix at historic Monza. Dennis said there is room for both sorts on the increasingly crowded calendar.

"Is Istanbul a trend? Well, I hope it is a trend that good circuits are made because I think everyone knows that some of the new circuits are not particularly challenging," he added.

"This shows it can be done. All the drivers have eulogised about the circuit and there are couple of corners that are really difficult that people have made mistakes on, and isn't that great?

"That is what Grand Prix racing should be, a challenge."

Turkey is the third new circuit in the last two seasons, with Bahrain and China making their debuts last year. Both also earned rave reviews for their facilities although they lack the hilly terrain that so characterises Istanbul.

They, as well as Malaysia, have also lacked the atmosphere and passion associated with the ageing circuits in the sport's European heartland.

Plenty of seats were empty on Friday and Saturday in Istanbul but race day told a different story with a crowd of at least 90,000.

Leading up to the inaugural race, there were rumours that Tarkan was to perform at an opening ceremony, but the audience had to make do with the Turkish Prime Minister and Mike Tyson.

"I believe we can hold our heads high," said PM Tayyip Erdoğan. "There may be small problems but these shortcomings will be overcome next year and we will be even more successful. This will be the world's premier grand prix."

Article courtesy of The Australian | Pictures courtesy of BBC Sport

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