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Russia to Host Formula One Grand Prix Race From 2014

Russia will host a Grand Prix car race from 2014 to at least 2020 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi under an agreement signed today with Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone.

“I’m very happy not only to have Formula One in Russia, but now in Sochi I’m delighted to see all the facilities you’ve built for the Olympics,” Ecclestone told Putin in the Black Sea resort today. “I sincerely hope that Formula One is going to play a big part in what I can see happening in Sochi.”

The agreement is “very important, because we need to make use of everything that we’re creating” for the 2104 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Putin said. “Construction of the racetrack will give our athletes a training facility and attract the attention of young people.”

Putin is trying to polish Russia’s image and boost its prestige abroad by attracting major sporting events such as the Olympics and Formula One. He has also spearheaded a bid to host the 2018 soccer World Cup, and said today the “chances are very high” that the effort will succeed.

Ecclestone said in April that he aimed to bring the motor-racing series to Russia by 2012. Formula One currently has 19 races, with more countries vying for a spot on the series. Staging a Grand Prix puts race hosts “on the map,” Ecclestone said in a Bloomberg TV interview in March.

$100 Million Cost

Sponsors of the Sochi Grand Prix will include OAO Lukoil, Russia’s largest non-state oil producer, billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s Basic Element, OAO MegaFon, Russia’s third-largest cellular company, and Russian Technologies Corp., a state holding with assets from weapons to cars.

Construction of the race circuit will cost about $100 million, said Alexander Tkachyov, governor of the Krasnodar region that includes Sochi. The government will save money by incorporating new roads built for the Olympics for about half of the circuit, he said.

Tilke GmbH & Co. KG, an architectural and engineering firm based in Aachen, Germany, will design the circuit, and a construction tender will be held in April 2011, Tkachyov said.

Putin agreed to sponsor Formula One’s first Russian driver, Vitaly Petrov, who drives for the Renault SA team. In a March 1 meeting with Renault Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, Putin said the French carmaker’s “symbolic step” in hiring a Russian driver would stimulate its cooperation with Russian companies.

Renault, AvtoVAZ

Renault owns a 25 percent stake in OAO AvtoVAZ, Russia’s largest carmaker. Christian Esteve, then head of Renault’s Avtoframos factory in Moscow, said on Aug. 25 that Russia is a priority market for the carmaker. Renault, Nissan and AvtoVAZ plan to control 40 percent of the Russian market by 2015, he said.

Ecclestone told Kommersant last week that Russia will pay a yearly fee of about $40 million for the right to hold a Grand Prix race.

Construction of facilities for the 2014 Olympics should cost 185 billion rubles ($6.1 billion), according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s office. Forty percent of construction for the games will be completed on schedule this year, RIA Novosti reported yesterday, citing Taimuraz Bolloyev, head of Olimpstroi, the state corporation in charge of preparations.

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