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And you thought going to Bahrain might be risky..
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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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

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!


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.


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

I’ve been to Iran – very friendly people.


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”


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?


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.


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

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

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


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.


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!


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”.


Bring it on!


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.


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.


[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.


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.


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.


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.


maybe they could make a track around the landmines…


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…


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


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

Who’s next? Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan ?


I’ve already cast my vote for Cuba.


So its only Brits who cant go.

Its not like it wouod affect the championship right 😉


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.

Christopher Snowdon

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)?


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


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.


No, Populous definitely did the Silverstone revamp


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.


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.


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


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!


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.

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