* Makers say track will be capable of staging F1
* Aim is to build multi-purpose high performance circuit
(Changes dateline, adds quotes, byline)
By Rex Gowar
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 16 Argentina, which last
hosted a Formula One Grand Prix in 1998, could be back on the
calendar from 2014 when a new track near Buenos Aires is
Friday marked a ground-breaking ceremony of the 4.7 km
Velociudad Speedcity circuit in Zarate, 100 km from the capital,
which designers Populous said will be capable of returning F1 to
the South American country.
"The plan is for a circuit capable of delivering a Formula
One event," John Rhodes, Associate Principal of Populous, told
"The key is to offer a category one circuit," he said when
asked in a telephone interview what the prospects were of
Argentina, homeland of the late, great Juan Manuel Fangio,
staging a F1 race again.
"Once the facility is there, then it's down to a promoter ...
The issue is to have a high performance circuit capable of
holding a MotoGP then add the necessary requirements for a
Formula One race.
"The main 4.7 km circuit will be good for F1 and endurance
races like Le Mans, it's a good, sensible length," he said from
Pilar, halfway between Buenos Aires and Zarate.
The $100 million project will be completed in two phases and
will include South America's first driver trainer centre and
academy. The first phase, a 3.1 km track, 4x4 off-road circuit
and team garages, is scheduled to be completed in 14 months.
The second phase will extend the track to its full length,
making it eligible for a license from the International
Automobile Federation (FIA), which governs motorsport.
Zarate is easily accessible from the capital along the Ruta
Panamericana that goes north out of the city.
"(Populous) is a private concern owned by Eddie Freeman, an
entrepreneur who worked in resort development and this is a
natural step. We see this as more than just an event circuit,"
"There are many (car) manufacturers in the area, they can
test cars, do driver training. The investment will soon pay for
itself, there is a business idea behind this."
"During the last five years we have developed technology,
software, and design techniques through the use of simulation to
physically test the design of a circuit," Rhodes added in a
"These pioneering techniques have enabled the creation of a
topographically exciting and challenging medium-speed circuit on
what was a relatively square and flat 63 hectare site."
South America's only active F1 track is Interlagos in Brazil
which hosted the final race of the 2011 season last month.
Michael Schumacher won the last F1 race to be held in
Argentina at the Autodromo Oscar Alfredo Galvez on the outskirts
of Buenos Aires.
Populous are also responsible for the recent re-design of
British Grand Prix venue Silverstone and are involved in
designing a new F1 track in Mumbai.
The design firm also planned the London 2012 Olympics Stadium
and the Soccer City stadium which hosted last year's World Cup
final in South Africa.
(Additional reporting by Martyn Herman in London; Editing by