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Will Sochi F1 avoid going to the dogs?

2014-02-21 07:34

TOUGH CHALLENGES AHEAD Organisers of the Russian F1 GP say they're ready to face any challenges at the Sochi race track, including stray dogs. Image: AFP

SOCHI, Russia - Stray dogs roaming the streets of Sochi are just one of the problems facing Russian Formula One Grand Prix organisers as they prepare for a debut race in October 2014.

The slow hand of Russian bureaucracy and the risk of post-Olympic complacency are also on the list of challenges to be overcome.

However Richard Cregan, brought in to troubleshoot after managing Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit, is confident the newest event on the F1 calendar will meet deadlines and be a success on October 12.

TARGET ON TRACK

Cregan, the former Toyota team manager said: "There are certainly challenges ahead, no question about that. The target to complete the facility is the first week in August and I think that's doable. There's enough of the venue ready to ensure delivery of the race.

"It will be tight, it will be challenging, but we will make it and we will deliver."

The Games, and Paralympics, are the current focus and the F1 pits and paddock complex, along with the main grandstand, are a fenced-off building site on the edge of the Olympic Park.

The straight has yet to be asphalted, the VIP boxes are windowless, building debris is strewn around with skips and diggers where the start/finish line will be.

Promoter Oleg Zabara told Reuters earlier in February that the track itself was more than 90% complete, given that public roads around the main Olympic sites will be used and work would pick up after the Games.

Cregan added: "There has been a huge focus on the Olympics, which is totally understandable. Once that event is over we will be in a situation where all resources are delivering the F1 circuit. That's a good thing - but there will be some challenges in that."

STRAY DOGS

The Olympics have highlighted the number of stray dogs roaming the city, with rights activists campaigning to save them after a local company was given a contract to round them up.

F1's primary concern is safety and a stray dog running on to the track could be hit by a car and cause a fatal crash. Cregan said: "It's just a totally unacceptable situation. We have to do everything we can to avoid that, so we just have to make sure it doesn't happen."

Loose dogs have caused problems during F1 races, particularly in Turkey and India and despite purpose-built facilities with extensive perimeter fences. Cregan added the fact that part of the circuit was permanent and the rest normal streets brought its own challenges in terms of fencing and access.

Cregan said it was vital for local organisers to understand what F1 expected of them and that the sport accepted there would be hurdles - particularly bureaucracy - to overcome.

Organisers plan to sell 55 000 tickets. Cregan expects they will all be sold, perhaps 20% of them to foreigners.

Most of the marshals will be trained or provided by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport under a deal similar to that in place in Abu Dhabi and other newer venues.
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