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Tehran
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2011   |  8:42 am GMT  |  87 comments

The latest country to see motor sport as a vehicle for positive growth and international prestige is Iran.

Yesterday one of F1′s leading PRs issued a statement on behalf of the TSI Group, based in Tehran, which laid out details of a new facility, which is already under construction just outside the capital city. Called iLand, it is a multi-purpose facility with a 5km motor racing circuit at its heart.

The facility has not been designed by F1′s favourite architect Herman Tilke, but rather by a UK agency called Apex Circuit Design.

The press statement says, “The iLand Race Resort will comprise a 5.0km race circuit built in the style of the classic ‘naturally contoured’ circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), the Nürburgring Nordschleife (Germany) and Donington Park (UK). It is to be built on a parcel of land of 75 hectares that is 1,100m above sea level, with a natural topography range of 22m. It will be serviced by a country club, expo centre and road safety training school and will be linked to the wider nearby development through the iLand Central Business District. Initial groundworks have commenced for construction and Phase 1, the West circuit, is scheduled for completion in 2012, with full construction and operation anticipated in 2013.”

The circuit’s initial aim is to be granted an FIA Grade 2 license, which would allow it to host events up to everything bar Formula 1. So this would include GP2, Indycar and LMP cars.

There will also be a kart circuit capable of hosting international events.

It sounds great and I’m a big advocate of motor sport reaching new frontiers, but it is hard to imagine the international motor sport community going to Iran any time soon.

Current advice from the UK Foreign Office regarding Iran is that “British travellers to Iran face greater risks than nationals of most other countries. There is therefore a risk that British nationals could be arbitrarily detained, despite their complete innocence. Independent travellers, especially if going off the beaten track face greater risk than those in tour groups or business visitors.”

Furthermore, “The Iranian authorities have in many cases failed to meet their international obligations to notify the relevant Embassies immediately that their nationals have been detained. There have been occasional cases of independent travellers detained for more than a month without access to anyone outside the Iranian system.”

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87 Comments
  1. **Paul** says:

    Western F1 team members/fans held on charges of spying… then, after the usual TV parade, some government talks leads to them being set free by generous Iran.

    F1 in Iran? No thanks.

    1. captainj84 says:

      “Western F1 team members/fans held on charges of spying”…..mike coughlan will defo want to sit that race weekend out :)

      1. **Paul** says:

        /\ Brilliant ! lol !!

    2. No issues with F1 there – it’s only a Grade 2 certification.

  2. DMyers says:

    Firstly, I doubt Indycars will be heading to Iran any time soon ;-) Although you never know!

    Speaking of Bahrain, I heard on Radio 4 last night that there has been ongoing unrest there. Some doctors who had been arrested in March were released on bail yesterday after going on hunger strike, and the pro-democracy protesters who greeted them were attacked by the police. Are we seriously going to have a grand prix there net year? I now money talks to Bernie more than common sense, but F1 cannot risk it.

  3. Jess says:

    That would be nice

    1. Sebee says:

      Only if it’s close to their secret nuclear complex.

      1. Andrew Carter says:

        What do you think will power the timing loops? ;)

  4. Richard says:

    I’m glad that they’re not bidding for F1 from the outset. There have been too many new circuits in recent years that have gone straight for F1 without any real experience in motor racing. I strongly beleive that countries should be able to demonstrate some heritage in motor racing before being considered for F1. In Britain we have a dozen or more race circuits crammed with action every weekend yet we have to fight with Bernie to keep F1 here. We don’t want any more F1 circuits which are literally dusted off each year only for the race weekend.

    1. James Allen says:

      And then mothballed, like Istanbul.

      1. Neil says:

        That’s an interesting and relevant point Richard & James.

      2. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        Yep. and if you remember that nobody could afford to go the GP in Turkey…….how many do you reckon could afford it in Iran!!
        A ridiculous idea. No thanks, our sport does not need it.

      3. Schadenfreude says:

        Our sport???

        I`d of thought the recent deal between Bernie and Sky would be enough to prove its no longer OUR sport and just another asset of the bean counters. :(

      4. Shawn says:

        What if they get free fuel and all you can eat kabob’s!!

    2. Roman says:

      I definitely agree with that. Have a few years with other races to make sure that it will be an exciting track, then allow F1 there (if it meets specs and can attract the crowd).

    3. Doug says:

      Dear Richard,
      I lived there for few years, and believe me they don’t need practice and experience as they are naturally experienced by street race every day.

      1. Trent says:

        I visited the country for a few weeks in 2004. Obviously there’s been a regime change since then, but my overall feeling was that Iranians were amazingly welcoming and friendly, and that many of the perceived personal dangers to travellers are overstated.

        Having said that, the human rights record of the Iranian government is truly atrocious, and I don’t think it would be wise for F1 to be associated with that. Perhaps it’s a similar debate to the one over the 1985 South African Grand Prix – I believe many sponsors chose to remove their branding for that race due to the risk of publicity fallout.

      2. James Allen says:

        My experience on the whole is that the normal people in most countries are nice and friendly. But then there’s the saying, “All power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    4. Robert S says:

      good point!

  5. Alan Dove says:

    Tehran already has a kart track and it’s rather popular with the Iranian youth. The reason being it’s one of the only sporting activities men and women can do together. The women stay veiled and there is no actual contact. ABC News did a report on it several years ago it was quite fascinating.

    The video is no longer on the site, but the news item still remains http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=1467301

    Karting in general is quite popular in Iran.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for the insight

      1. bryan says:

        OMG what happens if you do make contact???
        A stoning? , bits cut off? gaoled for 25 years??

      2. Alan Dove says:

        There’s no actual person to person contact even in a shunt or very very unlikely anyway.

    2. cjf says:

      Do the women have to wear a darkened visor on their helmets to hide their faces?

      I wonder if Friday practice sessions would be allowed or if they would be moved to Thursday like Monacco.

  6. goferet says:

    Pwahahahahahah those Iranians are pretty smart.

    They must have figured with an FIA license in their back pocket, this would encourage more western tourists into the country = More bargaining chips/hostages to use in return for the lifting of sanctions.

    It’s amusing how the Iranian government never thinks anybody can see through their evil schemes.

    And oh, any driver or team personnel with Jewish heritage can rest assured that they wouldn’t make it back home from Persia.

  7. Jason C says:

    Next month: “Pyongyang International Circuit unveils new facility”

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      followed by: Cambodia, Namibia, Afghanistan……..

      1. Tyler says:

        Dont forget Darfur

      2. Michael C says:

        I’ve been living in Cambodia for a couple years. Much to my surprise, I once saw an article in a Cambodian tour magazine saying that Cambodia is very interested in doing a street track in Phnom Penh and they’ve actually contacted the FIA over the idea.

        Let’s just say it ain’t gonna happen.

        Bangkok, anyone?

      3. Davexxx says:

        My God, do you know what traffic is like in Bangkok?!! Yet they want an F1 race there. Bernie had better ensure a 2-week gap either side of their weekend in the F1 calendar, to give you time to get to and from the circuit…

      4. Chapor says:

        Sorry, but what is wrong in Namibia?

    2. ACB says:

      Why not Cuba? Excellent weather, rum, fine cigars, beautiful women and classic cars from the 50′s everywhere-what more could the ax-man want? “Viva de el Prix magnífico de La Habana.” (my appologies to those whose 1st or 2nd language is Spanish).

  8. Nathan says:

    This is actually hilarious.

      1. Tyler says:

        Agreed, I thought it was a spoof when I first read it. Lets hope this never comes to pass.

    1. Curro says:

      Formula 1 has a history of going to undemocratic countries and/or countries where human rights are not respected. Why not Iran?

      Obviously I know why not, but let’s not be hypocritical here.

      1. Jordon191 says:

        I agree with Curro. Let’s have it one way or the other. Bahrain is on next year’s schedule, a place where the military-elite have murdered hundreds of peaceful protesters in past months and have even killed dozens of emergency health care workers trying to save those wounded or killed by the government. I am an American citizen, and am ashamed to admit that the U.S. also is one of the worst human rights offenders in the world (100,000+ dead Iraqi women and children for starters), and yet we will host a race next year, and I am admittedly excited to go. So let’s cut the hypocritical BS about countries like ‘big old bad Iran’ . . .

  9. Quercus says:

    75 hectares (0.75 of a square kilometre) doesn’t seem very big and suggests that the track will be very convoluted.

    I’d be interested to know how this compares with the sites that house other purpose-built tracks. Donnington Park’s site for instance is ~250 hectares (~650 acres).

    1. Werewolf says:

      The entire “parcel of land” is only 75 hectares, just about big enough for Red Bull’s temporary buildings and a couple of transporters!

  10. Wayne S says:

    I had to check the date, I thought I was back in Apri.

  11. wayne says:

    Good grief, Iran has a 15% unemployment rate and 20% of its population live below the poverty line (these figures are provided by the Iranian Government so you can bet they are much worse in reality). I bet if you asked the Iranians people at large if they want this project or a university or a hospital they would almost exclusively vote for the latter. But that’s the point isn’t it – no-one will ask them and F1 should not take advantage of this situation as it arguably has in Bahrain where the populous clearly do not want or need F1 either. For that one brief moment early this year when Bharanian people felt they could speak freely they made it very clear indeed that they do not want F1.

    1. wayne says:

      Something changed with the purpose of this site James? An awful lot more moding goes on lately than it ever did in the past. I cannot see what was wrong with my closing sentence about F1 not taking advantage of opression and tyranny in exchange for cash. Feels very much like unnecessary censorship…. This post does not even indicate that it has been modded.

  12. Benson Jutton says:

    If Bernie wants it , then it will happen. If not, it wont. Simples.

  13. Craig says:

    It’s a shame they didn’t use Herman Tilke for circuit design. It might’ve stopped him inflicting his designs on the rest of us if he had been ‘detained’… preferably indefinitely.

    1. FaithHealer1 says:

      No, I’d hate that. I for one am really excited to see what he comes up with for the Tripoli International Circuit.

  14. gonzeche says:

    Don’t worry, Bernie will bring human rights to Iran and save us all!

  15. Neil says:

    I seem to remember this being mooted by Bernie in passing, some time back, but then again I could have simply imagined it!

    Like you, I like to see new regions involved, but have the same reservations from a fan’s perspective – while I’m sure the might of FOM could smooth passage for the teams and the requisite press entourage (oiling the wheels with a little of Sky’s fees, perhaps) I suspect it might be a little trickier for spectators to make the same journey.

    Nevertheless, is there anything to suggest that this couldn’t be a catalyst for a shift in practice for the Iranian security forces? I remain cynical, but a little hopeful too.

  16. iceman says:

    The main risk to foreign travellers in Iran seems to be the caprice of various arms of the Iranian state. If there was an F1 race in Iran, it would have to be with committed backing and involvement from the highest levels of government, and under those circumstances I don’t think it would be particularly dangerous. Lower formulae with less media attention and government support would probably be at greater risk.

    Can’t see it ever happening though.

  17. Neil says:

    Incidentally, which F1 PR released this for TSI? (Sorry for multiple posts)

  18. Baboy says:

    Iran, eh? Why not one in Tripoli while we’re at it? I’m pretty sure Iran could guarantee safety around the track, but I would not trust to go in a country where going off into the city a little bit will probably get me kidnapped.

    P.S.: Thanks for the chat at the end of the Fans Forum yesterday!

    1. James Allen says:

      Great to meet you, Thanks for your comment

  19. James F says:

    Has anyone done the “Throw in a North Korea event and Bernie’s got the making of a great “Axles of Evil” series”?
    Anyone?

    1. Benson Jutton says:

      Genius

  20. Nando says:

    James I suggest you get someone like George Galloway to give you a tad more balance to the government, while Iran obviously despicable in some areas we largely get a view set by western agendas.
    His talksport radio show is on tomorrow night at 10pm, this is the sort he might be discussing anyway.

  21. Werewolf says:

    This will make for interesting discussion, especially in the boardroom’s of the sport’s sponsors. It will also be dynamite for the political factions already opposed to F1 and its business practices.

    Perhaps Tehran is working on the future of a nuclear-fuelled F1, hence all the secrecy because the FIA isn’t ready to go public yet!

  22. John Wilson says:

    No Thanks James I’ll just watch this one on free TV. I’m sure Bernie won’t make us pay for this one

  23. This is a project we were asked to look at. However current British Foreign Policy says that business should not be done with Iran due to current trading restrictions. We were therefore concerned as UK and International company we would be on slightly dodgy legal ground.

  24. David Hodge says:

    And we will still only get the highlights on BBC although judging from the other comments, some of it might make it onto the news also but not for racing reasons.

  25. Christopher Snowdon says:

    Fair play to Iran, hopefully motorsport can have a positive effect there. But as for F1 going there, can’t see it personally, but Bernie does like to explore his options. Where next though, Narnia?

    James the company behind the track, Apex Circuit Design, have they a good track record (no pun intended)?

    1. Michael C says:

      So far as I can tell from 3 minutes on their website, Apex did the redesign of Silverstone and Singapore.

      1. James Allen says:

        No, Populous definitely did the Silverstone revamp

      2. Apex also lost the bid for Singapore. Their site is a little deceiving, as it includes projects they bid on as well as ones they actually did.

        I was about to comment on the impressive number of FIA Grade 1 circuits they had done, when I actually clicked on Singapore and saw that they lost the bid. Odd to have that on their site.

  26. terryshep says:

    This is obviously a pretty dodgy idea at the moment and one can’t see it changing in a couple of years unless something really dramatic happens there, in political terms.

    However, isn’t there ever going to be a first move by someone to thaw the current position? Maybe Formula One could someday be the first thing to break down the current barrier of suspicion and mistrust. Politicians don’t seem able to do it.

  27. Dramaqueen says:

    So its only Brits who cant go.
    Its not like it wouod affect the championship right ;)

  28. Ravi says:

    Wonder, who will actually go to Iran to take part in a race!

    Who’s next? Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan ?

    1. ACB says:

      I’ve already cast my vote for Cuba.

  29. Hesketh Bear says:

    An Iranian version of Donington. Sounds like a great idea :-0

  30. forzaminardi says:

    Sounds good. You might get arrested for no good reason and locked in a windowless cell for months before being forced to confess to being Salman Rushdie, but chances are they’ll have better toilets than Silverstone…

  31. Max Glover says:

    maybe they could make a track around the landmines…

  32. Well well says:

    Judging by the comments here and other sites concerning this, I would say the propaganda machine has worked.

    People actually believe Iran is filled with satanists. The new CCCP.

    The news and their government tells them so, so of course it is the truth.

    I have been in Iran, stayed there 4 months for my job. Different culture? Yes. Dangerous? No.

    People were sincerely happy around me, been invited many times to family diners so experienced their world from very close. They don’t hate “Western civilization”, they do have lots of freedom and prosperity, they just get on with their lives like you and me.

    Why the hate against people you never met and only judge by hearsay? And the hearsay coming from a propaganda machine?

    In contrast I have stayed in the USA. At the airport I felt I was entering nazi Germany and I have never met more disrespectful, fake and arrogant people as them. A few blocks further there were shootings and drug dealers, felt very unsafe. Also me being French got me lots of insults and negative comments (jokingly of course…right).

    So, forget the propaganda against a country because they do not allow the multinationals plunder their resources. 90% of what you hear about them is false.

    Yes, there are bad things happening there I am sure…just like in every country. But highlighting them like it is a daily occurence and everyone supporting it, is just false.

    It’s like saying American culture is about being KKK members who lynch blacks and gays (which still happens on occasion btw), and executing the mentally ill and underage (which has happened recently) and the USA government is filled with radical Christians who talk to god and their god tells them to slaughter people in other countries for oil.

    Anyway, open your eyes, do not let your judgement be clouded by propaganda.

    1. Tyler says:

      I totally see your point, and as an American could not agree with you more about the pretensiousness, arrogance and sense of entitlement in the U.S. (Contrast the crowds at the Tour de France with those at the recent Tour of Colorado…I saw someone hitting riders on the butt with a fly swatter…???..only in America)

      But I think the point is that an F1 or Indy race there would be seen politcally as an endorsement of the govt and its policies. I dont think the negative comments are directed towards the people. Mine werent.

      1. I hate to say it, but your second paragraph could also be applied to your first… where the USA would want big international events to endorse their government and policies (e.g. foreign policy).

        That’s the thing about spin and propaganda; spin it one way and Iran is evil and dangerous and seeking to justify their terrible misdeeds, but spin it the other way and the USA doesn’t have much to defend itself from the same charges.

        Imagine if you where from Afghanistan and you tried to fly to the US… who knows, you might end up in Guantanamo Bay held without any charges against you, with no contact for months outside American authorities. Sounds similar to the situation described above regarding Iran.

        That being said, before such events end up being held, I hope the FIA would carry out their due diligence a little more effectively than Bahrain to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent another egg-on-face situation like this year. If Iran turns out to be wrongly accused of an unstable, dangerous nation, then why shouldn’t F1 go there if they already go to China, Bahrain and as some on this site have mentioned before, Brazil and the USA.

        It’s hard to figure out who to believe these days.

    2. ACB says:

      [mod] We can trade anecdotes all day, you will find boorish louts everywhere; but what we should not overlook are human rights violations that are sanctioned by the Iranian government. The planners of this venue are hoping to gain FiA certification. Will the fans who were up in arms over the circus going to Bahrain this year have the same concerns for human rights in Iran? I hope so. BTW I have a family member who was born and raised in Tehran and returns every other year to visit, so I do have some understanding as well.

      1. And China? And Brazil? What about the USA’s prison in Guantanamo Bay?

        Human rights is a shaky issue, and it’s hard to figure out where acceptable is on this sliding scale. USA is almost universally accepted, but Bahrain is almost universally rejected. Where does Iran lie? China? Brazil?

        Or do you step back and just say “is this safe for the F1 circus or not”, and let that be your rubric? This is what Ecclestone thinks, and while I think it is a very blunt, cold way of justifying F1′s race locations, I can’t really think of an argument against it.

  33. Rich says:

    I really doubt that F1 could arrange an event in Iran even if Bernie did want it. Sanctions are so tight in Iran that teams and sponsors who have even the slightest connection with the US will get cold feet.

    I used to work at a large (European) corporation (and current F1 sponsor) that investigated doing business in Iran, but it never got the go ahead because of the feared repercussions from lost business with the States.

  34. Rob Newman says:

    Bring it on!

  35. Richard says:

    Well who would have though in the 1950′s we would go F1 racing in China, India & the Mid-east?

    I suspect a lot of racing tracks will last longer than the Govenments, dictatorships and companies that built them.

    Who knows in 50 years time we might be saying “I can’t believe we used to go racing in England where there is no sun to power the Solar-panels on the car”.

  36. Brandon says:

    Hey If we can have gps in such [mod] states as china, Bahrain, Singapore, and the USA then I see no reason that Iran wouldn’t slot in nicely. Things aren’t going that well in Bahrain at the moment either, unless the population going on hunger strikes, being tear gassed and arbitrarily imprisoned are positive things in your mind. Well, I guess that’d make you a conservative then!

  37. HFEVO2 says:

    Tehran hosting all motorsport events up to and including Indy Car and the American LeMans series ?

    Next thing we’ll have Ahmadinejad offering American teams free (indefinite)accomodation in the old US embassy. Just for old time’s sake, you understand.

    You can just see US racing teams going for that, can’t you !!!!

    This is the craziest idea I’ve ever heard of in 50 years following motorsport.

  38. JTP says:

    For anyone considered a “US person” in F1, please mind the US Treasure Department’s Iran Sanctions Program. Per the linked document, for US persons, “virtually all trade and investment activities with Iran by U.S. persons, wherever located, are prohibited.” Details: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran.pdf

    1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      You just gave Peter Windsor his best possible excuse for the failure of his F1 venture.

  39. boulay says:

    it’s quite simple, get the israeli government to buy a good team, perhaps williams or sauber for their pedigree the not only do you spike Iran GP but you can get Bahrain and other circuits who do not recognise Israel off the F1 fixture list. result all round…. would have solved the Turkish GP issue long ago as well.

  40. To be totally honest, after the tragic bombing in New Delhi recently, I thought you were referring to that (before I noticed the photo and started reading).

    I haven’t heard of any terrorist bombings or assassination attempts in Tehran lately, yet F1 is going to New Delhi in less than two months… but no comments about that. There were riots in London recently, yet there’s no issue with having a GP there. Drivers need armoured cars in Brazil, and Button’s Mercedes was attacked last year… but the Brazilian GP carries on.

    What is deemed safe these days?

  41. Stuart says:

    I am not allowed to – gays banned

    “Homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, [mod] even execution of the accused, is legal under the laws of this country’s theocratic Islamic government”
    ……wikipedia

  42. Mohsin says:

    Risky? As Malcolm has highlighted above your premise is not well thought out.

    I’ve been to Iran – very friendly people.

  43. PeterH says:

    Having been to Tehran twice in the last 12 months I really believe that they should focus on WRCC first before F1 – they could then use their normal roads, which in a lot of areas really could do a with less bath sized pot holes and a more even surface and that is just there main motorway!
    That said the people in Tehran are really lovely and they do like us Brits – Politics just gets in the way of that.

  44. Tyres says:

    It could be good or it could be bad! If you’re a true F1 fan then it doesn’t matter where it is, you’ll enjoy it anyway!

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