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Festival a precursor to Grand Prix?

NEWS STORY
23/01/2007

Although Bahrain is thought to have the sole rights to a Grand Prix in the Middle East, it is now widely thought that next month's Formula One Festival in Abu Dhabi is the precursor to a second race in the region, with Bernie Ecclestone expected to use the occasion to announce a deal whereby the country hosts a round of the Formula One World Championship from 2009.

Although he is fully focussed on the east, having signed up South Korea, and actively pursuing India, Singapore and countless others, Ecclestone realises that there is still enormous wealth among the Arab nations, not to mention a growing interest in motorsport.

All the teams will attend next month's event in Abu Dhabi, an unprecedented occurrence for what is basically an F1 demonstration, and gives some idea as to the importance Ecclestone places on the event.

"We have been asked by Mr Ecclestone to send a car and to attend a black-tie dinner," McLaren CEO, Martin Whitmarsh, told The Guardian.

The fact that most of the teams will be in the middle of their pre-season test programmes but will take time out for the festival is a sign of how important it clearly is to the sport.

With plans for a string of F1 theme parks, the first of which is scheduled to open in Dubai in 2009, it should come as no surprise that Ecclestone is looking to host more races in the Middle East, especially in light of the increasing amount of Arab money flowing into the sport, what with Bahrain's 30 percent stake in McLaren and Abu Dhabi's 5 percent stake in Ferrari, courtesy of the Mubadala Development Company.

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