March 08, 2013 00:00 By Kanittha Pantong The Nation
Costing at least Bt2 billion, the German-designed project will stage top world racing events and include an auto test centre
Throughout his political career, Newin Chidchob has been able to make headlines.
Now, the president of Buriram United is in the headlines once again, this time after announcing the construction of the Buriram International Circuit, which will cost at least Bt2 billion.
However, interest in this project does not lie only with the construction of the circuit. During a press conference held at the i-Mobile Thunder Castle stadium belonging to Buriram United, Newin announced that the complex would not only serve motor racing purposes, but would also include an auto and auto-parts testing centre.
“If I build only the circuit, it will cater only to motorsports. But Thailand is known as the ‘Detroit of Asia’ and is the centre for automobile as well as auto-parts production in this region. I can visualise the opportunity of building a testing centre along with this circuit,” he said.
“Each year automobile and auto-parts companies spend a great deal of money sending their products for testing to Japan and many other countries. I think it’s time that I use this opportunity to make it happen in Thailand as we prepare for the AEC (Asean Economic Community) that will take off in the near future,” he added.
According to Newin, the exact amount of investment is still unknown, but it would cost at least Bt2 billion since it has to include various systems and technologies needed for automotive testing.
“If we have to invest in construction of a wind tunnel, testing tracks and laboratories, I will do it in order to have the equipment necessary for complete testing. However, the total budget may not reach Bt10 billion because today advancements mean that they may not have to be as costly as in the past – it depends on management. In the meantime, our working group must study how far we can go, and whether the project is worth the investment. But what we see today is that it is worthwhile and we will have foreign partners who will be responsible for 40 per cent of the total investment, while the rest will come from our family and partners in Thailand. We are confident of reaching the break-even point within five years of the official opening,” Newin revealed.
The automotive testing centre will be built alongside the circuit.The project is expected to be completed in less than two years from now.
“The investment is targeted at turning Buriram into the country’s top 5 tourist and sports destinations that is able to attract both local and foreign tourists,” he added.
Important racing events will be staged at the circuit, and Buriram – as well as Thailand – is expected to get a considerable boost within the first five years. Newin said that as many as 1 million people are expected to visit and use the Buriram circuit.
“This will bring about as much as 300 per cent GDP growth for Buriram,” he reckoned.
Newin said that apart from being a football fan, he is also a motorsport lover, especially motorcycle racing. However, there are no circuits in Thailand that are able to cater to world-class events, and this led him to decide to construct the new racing circuit.
Newin said he started talking with people who have knowledge in this area and searched for sponsors. He also contacted the world’s No 1 circuit designer, Herman Tilke, who has designed many of the globe’s top circuits, such as the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dabi, the Bahrain International Circuit and Spain’s Catalunya Circuit.
“In terms of the circuit, the cost is approximately Bt2 billion [including Tilke’s fee], which will come from sponsors and friends. The circuit will be built on a 796-rai plot of land behind the i-Mobile stadium. What I want to see most is for the Buriram International Circuit to become Asean’s No 1 circuit that is certified by the FIA [Federation International de I’Automobile] and the FIM [Federation International de Motocyclisme], which are the governing bodies for automobile and motorcycle racing, and the main highlight is that spectators can see the whole circuit from the grandstand. The tickets must also be cheaper than other circuits in the world,” he said, adding that the circuit will be capable of staging Moto GP, Superbike, Formula 3 or World Series events.
Newin expects that the circuit will be completed and ready for use by October 4 next year.
F1 NOT CONSIDERED
The Buriram United boss has made it clear that there are no plans to use this circuit for Fomula 1 racing "since it is not worthwhile". There are 40 Formula 1 circuits in the world, but only 19 are used each season, he pointed out.
“Although I think that when we do something we should go the fullest and even though I am crazy about F1, I am not stupid enough to organise the race because it is not worth the investment. I must also bear in mind my partners. For me, F1 is just something that Thais would want to see once in their lifetime. Another thing is that these days Formula 1 is adopting more and more street circuits, and large circuits are no longer required. So I will not invest in something that is not worth the investment.
“Meanwhile, the organisers of many events have approached us to use the circuit, but I have not given them any answers. I want the construction to be completed with FIA and FIM certification first before moving ahead with staging events,” Newin clarified.
ONLY CIRCUIT IN THE WORLD WITH 100% VISIBLE TRACK
“The Buriram International Circuit will become the most complete racing circuit,” project director Danaisiri Charnwittayarom said.
“We have already signed a contract for the design and development of the circuit, and have appointed the adviser for the construction. We chose Mr Tilke as he has vast experience in designing circuits for Formula 1 as well as Moto GP. He has designed more than 60 circuits around the world, 15 of which host Formula 1 races. One of our requirements is that you should be able to see the whole circuit from the grandstand,” he said.
The Buriram Circuit will be the only circuit in Thailand to receive FIA Category 2 certification, which means that it will be able to host F3, GT1, GT2 and GT3 events. It is also expected to be approved by the FIM for staging Moto GP or Superbike World Championship events.
“We will continue to work with Tilke GmbH & Co in order to attract major events as much
as possible. In addition, the facility will be able to cater to the Thai auto industry, and in future we can serve the whole Asean auto industry by having an integrated testing service for automobiles, motorcycles and other products relating to the automobile sector,” he said.
The Buriram Circuit has a track length of approximately 4 kilometres with 16 corners and is a modern high-speed circuit that is suitable for racing vehicles, Danaisiri said, adding that it has a capacity for 50,000 spectators.
While Buriram hadn’t in the past been a major city for tourism or sports, serving only as a “pass-through” city, Newin has turned it into a major attraction, first with the football stadium and now moving on into motorsports and the auto industry.