Bahrain Formula One stumbles off track

Reports emanating from Bahrain suggest the new Formula One motor racing track may not be ready for its inaugural race on April 04.

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By  John Irish Published  January 20, 2004

Bahrainis are waiting with bated breath to find out whether the Kingdom’s inaugural Formula One motor racing Grand Prix will be ready for an April 02-04 start. While officials believe the track will be complete by the March 07 deadline, Khalid Abdul Rahim, chairman of Cebarco Bahrain, one of the main contractors for the project, claimed that the main challenge would be commissioning the circuit in time. “You might finish the project, but you have to make it operational,” Rahim told the Bahrain-based Gulf Daily News. “We have only three weeks to commission the circuit, normally we have three or four months to do that.” A project status report on January 09 indicated that track completion was ahead of schedule with 89.1% already finished. However, the commissioning side could prove unpredictable as it means ensuring that all fixtures and fittings such as air conditioning and electrical equipment are working. Rahim says that the authorities are already working on this, three months before the track is ready for action. Meanwhile, costs are beginning to spiral out of control. With design changes made once work was already underway and the race date brought forward, it seems that contractors have cashed in. “We did not have time to negotiate and a lot of people took advantage. Subcontractors increased their prices and demanded that we pay more than the original deal, because there was no way out.” Rahim is adamant the issue is no longer financial, but merely a question of getting the track ready for race day, claiming that the project is already over the initial US $150 million budget. “We have forgotten about budgetary issues. We are not thinking whether we are losing money or not at this stage, because of the political importance of this project.” If all that wasn’t enough to worry about, FIA officials have also begun to carry out safety tests on the track, while Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has dispatched F1 race organiser Philippe Gurdjan to facilitate the final stages of organisation.

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