Making history - Exclusive Q&A with Jaypee Sports' Samir Gaur 29 Oct 2011
What the Jaypee Group have conjured out of nothing in just two years could make other racetracks green in envy. But, given the success of their newly-opened Buddh International Circuit, the Indian company deserve to revel in their achievement. Jaypee Sports CEO Samir Gaur discusses the project
Q: Samir, Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone has praised you for managing to build this incredible track in just two years, whereas Silverstone took 20 years for modernisation alone. Are you very proud?
Samir Gaur: It is very humbling. This project is about the whole Jaypee Group organisation. Thousands of people have worked tirelessly over the past two years, led by our able father Jaiprakash Gaur and brothers and cousins. When three months ago it looked like we couldnt finish the build my father pushed the emergency button and called everybody in from the family - those who look after electricity, those who look after IT, those who look after cement etc. - so they all gathered under one roof to support me and the entire organization. We all feel that what we did with this race track has made us all part of history. That has made us very proud.
Q: The Jaypee Group is primarily a construction and industrial conglomerate. What made you venture into Formula One racing?
SG: My father has always been very adventurous in the sense that he has always liked to take on projects that nobody else had the guts to do. But probably what people are not so familiar with is that we do own two sports projects already. One is an 18-hole Greg Norman designed golf course which we developed ten years ago and more recently we have developed a five-acre sports complex, which is the best in Asia. We all love cricket but we took on Formula One because nobody had ventured into it in India. And Formula One was the only answer if you want to hit something big with something else big. The Jaypee Group has the X factor so Formula One was a logical fit for us.
Q: It seems India has really taken to Formula One racing...
SG: Well, the media have taken up the story very, very well and people have obviously realised that something very special is happening this weekend. It is adventurous, it is sport, and it is fun. Speed thrills and the younger generation - the new India - is very attached to that
Q: You must have visited many races before you decided to get involved in Formula One but now you have a race so close to home. The companys headquarters are in Noida so the new development really is in your backyard
SG: Yes, thats right. We have all our corporate offices here and when we developed the expressway we suddenly had land that was available, so we thought that this was the best place to have a racetrack. Greater Noida has a perfect infrastructure and for Formula One logistics is very important. When I say logistics I mean moving a lot of freight and moving thousands of people and for that you need good connectivity and the expressway provides that.
Q: Formula One racing inspires emotion. Who is the race fan at the Jaypee Group?
SG: Well, everybody has turned into a race fan! All the brothers and cousins have after working here getting the project finished. Initially maybe it was only me who was the race enthusiast. But now I am just one among many. Obviously everybody discovered they had a racing gene!
Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
SG: Ha, that has been distributing the passes! (laughs) I had to change my telephone number twice! But joking aside, the hard part was realising that Formula One is not only a sport but atleast seven to eight businesses in one. You start with design - that is number one. Then comes construction which is in two parts. Firstly the construction of a racetrack, which is an infrastructure project, and then the construction of a paddock and hospitality area, which is a hotel project. Then comes the management of media. Then management of the medical centre; the special electronics (there are more than a thousand radio frequencies); then logistics; and then marketing because you want to sell tickets. So you see how many businesses are under the roof of Formula One. If we make a dam we do the design and the construction. Or if we do cement we bring the materials together and bring it to the market. Formula One is significantly different! Next year you will see big changes here but this year it was about realising the many businesses involved within Formula One. But knowing Mr Ecclestone has congratulated us for the result means that we are pretty satisfied with the result too.
Q: All the drivers have praised the track too
SG: Yes, that is very emotional, and very, very pleasing. So hats off to all our engineers, to all our technicians and to all our workers who worked tirelessly.
Q: Who is your favourite driver?
SG: My favourite was, is and will always be Michael Schumacher. I will cross my fingers for him tomorrow!
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