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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Formula One Makes Tracks for Moscow

Moscow racing fans have good reason to get revved up.

The city has a good shot at hosting a Formula One Grand Prix once a car racetrack is completed by 2004 in southern Moscow, Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said Friday.

"We're very, very happy with the venue," Ecclestone said. "I'm quite sure that a really super Formula One circuit can be constructed."

When the circuit is built, "we'll be here," he promised.

Ecclestone flew into town to meet with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov about the $100 million project and discuss Moscow's chances of hosting one of the 17 racing events of the Formula One Grand Prix.

British design company TWR Group struck a deal with the Mayor's Office in December to construct a racetrack in the suburb of Nagatino. Under the deal, TWR is responsible for covering 25 percent of the costs of the project on its own or with foreign investors. The remaining 75 percent is supposed to come from Russian investors.

Ecclestone, a man of few words, gave little away Friday about his talks with Luzhkov, telling a news conference only that he is satisfied with the outcome of the meeting and with the site picked for the circuit.

"[Muscovites] should be very proud with the track once it is constructed," the 70-year-old Formula One chief said, sitting under a portrait of pre-revolutionary industrialist and patron of the arts Savva Morozov in a conference hall at the Metropol Hotel.

Ecclestone said chances are good that Moscow will win a slot on the Grand Prix calendar even though it is competing with eight other venues for the spot.

"We will either have to lose or add a race. We will not add any new races," he said.

Ecclestone's visit comes amid an uproar in a handful of European countries that host Formula One races over an EU ban on tobacco advertising, funds that the sport heavily relies on. When the possibility of losing tobacco dollars reared its head in the late 1990s, Ecclestone said he saw no problem in dropping Grand Prix hosts in Europe since a number of other countries were eager to participate in the races.

But on Friday, he insisted that any EU ban on tobacco advertising "has not been taken into consideration" by Formula One and has nothing to do with his interest in bringing the races to new venues like Moscow.

Grigory Antyufeyev, head of City Hall's tourism committee and chief of the racing project, said the list of investors for the track includes many major Russian companies and banks. He declined to identify any of them, saying it was too early.

TWR founder and chief Tom Walkinshaw said he hopes to consult within a few months with German architect Hermann Tilke, who has designed and built several racetracks, about the construction of Moscow's track.

Walkinshaw, a former racing driver who owns a Formula One team, said it will take at least two years to build a racetrack and to get it certified internationally.

An entertainment complex will also be built by the racing track at Nagatino.

Ecclestone attempted to bring auto racing to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but failed to find support from the authorities.

Hungary is the only country from among the Soviet Union's former satellites to host Grand Prix events, having won a spot on the Formula One Championship calendar in the past decade.

Before Moscow got the deal for Nagatino, several other Russian cities including St. Petersburg and Tula made bids to host Formula One Grand Prix circuits.