Turkish Grand Prix Hopes Pinned on Ecclestone Talks

Formula One motor racing may return to Turkey if talks next week between the sport’s supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the operator of Istanbul’s Grand Prix track are successful, a local executive said.

Vural Ak, who in October bought rights to the racetrack for $125 million for 11 years, will discuss the proposal with Ecclestone at a Federation Internationale de l’Automobile meeting starting on Dec. 3 in Istanbul, he said in an interview.

Ak, chairman of Turkey’s largest car rental company, part owned by Mitsubishi Corp. (8058), is seeking to resurrect the Turkish Grand Prix after it was dropped last year for failing to draw sufficient crowds. The 5.3-kilometer (3.3-mile) track held its first Formula One race in 2005, following more than $250 million of investment by local and national government bodies.

“We are hoping to have a positive decision by Ecclestone next week,” Ak said by phone today. “I have guaranteed minimum 50,000 viewers to Formula One’s race day of Sunday. But I expect about 80,000 audience on the Sunday of the main race.”

The Istanbul Grand Prix could be added to next year’s calendar for June or August, he said. The counterclockwise track saw its last race in May 2011, when current champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull took first place after leading from pole. Team mate Mark Webber came second.

Ak’s Grand Prix plans coincide with a drive to expand his car-rental empire. Ak and partner Mitsubishi are investing 750 million euros ($946 million) over four years to triple the number of vehicles to 80,000 in the fleet of Ekim Turizm Sanayi & Ticaret AS, also known as Intercity Rent-a-Car.

Ak plans to have and initial public offering of the company’s shares in 2013 and is in talks with potential investment banks to manage the IPO, he said.

Ak owns 53 percent of the company, while Mitsubishi Corp. has 36 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance Co. Ltd. (8593), a unit of the Japanese conglomerate, holds 11 percent, Ak said.

The company, which controls 25 percent of the Turkish market for car-fleet rentals according to its website, intends to increase sales 10 percent this year to 250 million euros, Ak said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ercan Ersoy in Istanbul eersoy@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.

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