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Bangkok on track to host night time Grand Prix in 2015

NEWS STORY
19/12/2012

If ever there was an appropriate country in Asia to host a Formula One race it is Thailand. The reason for this is not immediately obvious but isn't hard to understand.

In a nutshell, Red Bull, the energy drinks manufacturer which owns triple world champions Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, is majority owned by Thai businessman Chalerm Yoovidhya. Indeed, Yoovidhya's late father Chaleo invented the drink which he named Krating Daeng - Thai for 'Red Bull'. Dietrich Mateschiz, international marketing director of German toothpaste manufacturer Blendax, came across the drink on a business trip in the 1980s and convinced Yoovidhya to go into partnership with him. The rest is history and it has made Red Bull's F1 drivers celebrities in Thailand. F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone has taken note.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt reveals that we can look forward to a night race on the streets of Bangkok in 2015. It won't be the first time that F1 has been there. Last weekend several F1 drivers, including Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, took part in the annual Race of Champions event in Bangkok which was won by Romain Grosjean. Although the Race of Champions doesn't use F1 cars, they have been to Bangkok before.

In December 2010, 100,000 people lined the streets of Bangkok to watch a Red Bull demonstration run. Speculation about a Grand Prix in Thailand has been running wild since then.

Two months ago Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said that the country will host an F1 race in 2014 and added that he was "working closely with F1 officials to look for the best site."

Ecclestone told Sylt that the location has been chosen. "It will be a street race in Bangkok at night. They say 2014 and I say 2015. It is serious and it is good."

The annual fee for hosting an F1 race is £16.6m and it is understood that the government of Thailand would foot around 60% of the bill. The rest, as previously reported on Pitpass, is set to come from local companies such as Red Bull and Thai beer brand Singha.

Ecclestone confirms that the race is backed by Chalerm Yoovidhya, the fourth-richest man in Thailand through his 51% stake in Red Bull. "The man that is doing the Thailand race is the partner in Red Bull," he says.

The addition of a Grand Prix in Thailand increases pressure on F1's already-crowded calendar. There were 20 races this year with Russia and New Jersey set to join in 2014. The number of races is restricted to 20 by the Concorde Agreement, the contract which commits F1's 11 teams to race. They object to adding more races due to increased transport costs and longer time staff have to spend away from their families.

Under the Concorde Agreement, the teams' consent is required to host more than 20 races in a season or if over 60% of them are outside F1's traditional markets of Europe, the US or Canada. The calendar is currently evenly split with 10 races held in these three regions and 10 outside. So unless the teams agree to increase the limit on the number of races, the introduction of Thailand is likely to come at the expense of a race from the sport's historic heartland.

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