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Bulgarian Formula 1
20.11.2009   Fri, Sep 18 2009 10:00 CET byNick Iliev

CROWDED OUT: With races in Hungary and Turkey already on the Formula One calendar, will Ecclestone f

Bulgaria received approval for a preliminary contract allowing it to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix race, with the Dobroslavtsi airfield to serve as the construction site for the long-anticipated F1 track. The newest developments come just two months after Formula 1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone met the Bulgarian Motorcycling Federation (BMF) officials on July 10-12.

"We received the contract from Formula 1 on September 13, where the most recent conditions from Bernie Ecclestone were put forward. The conditions are identical for all the nine European races," BMF president Bogdan Nikolov was quoted as saying by Dnevnik daily.

The contract awards Bulgaria the right to host a race in 2011/15, with an option to extend it further still. The first Bulgarian Grand Prix is envisioned in September 2011, Nikolov said, and would be staged before or after the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He declined to disclose more details about the contract, saying they were highly confidential.
According to the Bulgarian organisers, one of the advantages of the Bulgarian Grand Prix would be the low ticket price, which will average at about 100 euro for a weekend pass. 

"Any procrastination in the negotiations might dissuade Ecclestone, even if there are issues we would like improved. The important thing is that we have been offered the contract. I have done my job, this is as far I as go, now we have to come up with the actual company which will sign the contract," Nikolov said.

The company will be responsible for the development and management of the track, which will be hosted by the airfield at Dobroslavtsi, near Sofia. According to the BFM, the Sofia city hall and the head of the organisational committee of the Bulgarian Grand Prix, former interior minister Roumen Petkov, will have to agree the commitments of each side to the project.

Petkov himself told Dnevnik in a separate interview on September 9 that "the talks with [prime minister] Boiko Borissov and [Sofia chief architect] Petar Dikov have been positive and I believe that we will receive the airfield for our purposes. We have the full support of the Sofia Municipality."

The idea is that the Dobroslavtsi airfield is the most convenient site for the purpose, as it sprawls over 320ha and has the required potential for re-development. 
Not everyone is as enthusiastic about the location, with Georgi Yankoulov, president of the country’s other motorsport body, Bulgarian Motorsport, arguing that Varna was a better choice.

"Formula 1 is not just about building a track. You need the proper infrastructure for it, such as adequate hotels, an airport, good roads and service. The Black Sea city of Varna seems the most appropriate choice should Bulgaria get to host F1 races," he said.

But Petkov, who said he was grateful for the Cabinet’s support in providing the land, remains unshaken in his opinion that Sofia’s proximity to other large cities, including Belgrade, Athens, Thessaloniki and Bucharest, could supply a substantially larger pool of spectators.

While supportive of the project, the Government said that it could not commit any public funds toward the construction of the track and will offer only the land. "In a crisis, we cannot expect the state to make financial commitments, that is not serious and not possible," Petkov said.

"Make no mistake, if we miss out on this opportunity, Bulgaria will never again have the opportunity of hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix. This is a massive challenge for the country, and it is up to us to prove ourselves in our capacity as a sports nation," Petkov said.


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