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Turkey guaranteed a GP until 2021 as Bernie takes over

NEWS STORY
21/04/2007

The Turkish Grand Prix is secure until 2021, following a new deal announced at the Istanbul Park Circuit.

Following widespread speculation, it has been confirmed that Bernie Ecclestone has taken over control of the circuit which hosted its first F1 race in 2005, having set up a new company which will take over the operation of all events at the track, not just the F1 Grand Prix. The announcement came on the first day of the MotoGP meeting at the circuit.

The circuit will still be owned by FIYAS, a company backed by the Turkish government, with Ecclestone paying an annual lease fee.

"F1 needs to be in this part of the world," said Ecclestone. "Our contract here for F1 is one of the worst that we have and my board of directors have often wondered why we did this deal.

"It is like going to China," he continued. "Everyone thought I was stark raving mad to take F1 to China but we needed to be there and that is also the case for Turkey."

He then revealed that Turkey is guaranteed a Formula One Grand Prix until 2021, "I did this deal myself," he admitted.

As it is, the Istanbul circuit is widely regarded as one of Hermann Tilke's better tracks, and after just two years is already proving hugely popular with drivers and fans.

However, other than financial problems, the future of the Turkish Grand Prix was thrown into doubt following a podium incident after last year's race when Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who presented the winner's trophy, was introduced as 'President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'. Following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, when Turkey took control of the north of the island, the so-called Turkish Cypriot "state" has only ever been recognised by Turkey.

Angry that its political neutrality had been compromised, the FIA imposed a fine of $5m jointly on both TOSFED and the Organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix (MSO).

While MSO paid its share of the fine, TOSFED claimed that such a levy would bankrupt it, resulting in the FIA having a change of heart.

Paying reference to the incident yesterday, Ecclestone insisted that there would be "no problem finding the right person to present the winner’s trophy" this year.

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