Bahrain warms up chequered flag

The famous red Ferrari motor racing cars are soon to grace Bahrain after officials from Bahrain’s new Formula One circuit confirmed that the race will go ahead on April 04 next year.

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By  John Irish Published  September 4, 2003

The Middle East’s motor racing fans are gearing up for the arrival of Formula 1 in the Kingdom of Bahrain after the race organisers confirmed that the event would take place on April 01, 2004.

Speaking at a press gathering in Bahrain, Hans Geist, the general manger of Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) stressed that track construction was already 3-5% ahead of schedule. He added that the asphalt layer would be placed in October.

“We have a very tight schedule to fulfil, but we will be ready for the event,” said Geist, formerly president of Austria’s formula one track, A1 ring.

Geist added that the US $150 million circuit, which is situated 30 km southwest of the capital Manama in Sakhr, should be completed by the end of the year, with a further three months required to set up the necessary Formula 1 electronics infrastructure.

With a capacity of 70,000 in the circuit, Bahrain has also been developing its hospitality infrastructure. Along with new hotels, the airport expansion and a host of new flyovers are due for completion by March.

The circuit itself comprises four tracks, including the main racing track as well as a dragster circuit and an inner and outer circuit for out of season events.

Although winners of the race will have to abstain from the traditional champagne celebrations for religious purposes, the track’s Arabian themed architectural layout is likely to appease any die-hard F1 fans opposed to bringing the race to the Arab world.

Observers estimate that staging an event to this scale could cost the Kingdom as much as $150 million, although it is also likely to bring massive economic benefits to the tourism, hospitality and technology sector.

One problem, however, could well be the number of hotel rooms. With a total number of beds in Bahrain not exceeding the 5,000 mark, including luxury accommodation and the number of visitors possibly reaching as much as 100,000 over the three days, it is unclear how the authorities will cope with this shortfall.

Despite this, Bahrain’s International Circuit officials were quick to dismiss this as an issue, citing circuits in the UK and Germany as examples where other residences and possibly tents were available to accommodate any overflow.

The BIC are forecasting that 80% of visitors will come from the region and in particular neighbouring countries, which could mean that package deals from places like Dubai where spectators fly in on the day of the race, may well alleviate some of the accommodation problems.

Meanwhile, Turkey may soon join Bahrain on the F1 calendar. The Turkish government recently announced that it would cover the costs of staging a grand prix in Istanbul with a view to beginning races by 2005.

Bahrain is set to be unveiled as a new Formula 1 race in October when the 2004 season calendar is released. However, with the support of Bahrain’s motor racing enthusiast Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa backing the project, any serious hiccups are unlikely to occur.

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