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Ecclestone eyeing South Africa

NEWS STORY
11/07/2010

No doubt impressed by the way in which the country has hosted the World Cup - not to mention the money it has spent on impressing the watching world - Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he is interested in taking F1 back to South Africa.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the F1 supremo revealed that talks about holding a race near Cape Town are already underway with a circuit scheduled for completion within the next three years.

Asked whether the success of the World Cup might lead to F1 returning to South Africa, Ecclestone said: "It is another continent where we should be."

However, while it would be good to see South Africa back on the calendar, the F1 supremo is now focussed on Russia, what with all that new money sloshing about.

"It would be nice to have covered the world, but Russia is more important right now," he said. "Africa is limited for all the people who are involved in F1 for business, whereas Russia is wide open.

"But we will see," he continued. "We have been talking to the people in South Africa for quite a long time off and on. The chances are OK. It's a case of getting the right venue always.

"We've been talking to the people in Cape Town. There are one or two places that could happen and are coming on quite strong. We're talking about building a circuit. It's probably about three years away. That's what I would like to see. I would hope so. I've been hoping that for five years. Hopefully what the World Cup has done for Africa, people will think it will be good for F1 to be there."

Other than providing F1 with a number of talented drivers, most notably 1979 world champion Jody Scheckter, South Africa hosted 23 rounds of the world championship between 1962 and 1993.

Over the years there has been talk of F1 returning, indeed, a couple of teams (BAR and Williams) went out to Kyalami for winter testing a few years back.

In recent years there have been many false starts, in 2007, David Gant, Chief Executive of the South African Grand Prix Corporation (Pty) Ltd, told reporters that a project which would see a circuit built in near Cape Town Cape International Airport had the backing of the South African government but still faced obstacles in the form of "land problems".

According to Gant, a number of groups, including the company that owns the airport and the municipal government had not 'released' the required amount of land.

"They want to have a Grand Prix in Africa, specifically Cape Town," he said at the time, the 'they' he referred to being Bernie Ecclestone's FOM. "So if we get the land issue sorted out, I'm pretty confident that during the course of this year we will be able to present a viable licence application."

As for Russia, that has long been the target of Bernie Ecclestone, and while there have been numerous 'false starts' over the years, the sport finally appears to be nearing a deal. Several years ago, Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw was involved in talks, while Jordan - under its new (for 2005) owner launched its contender in Moscow.

The arrival in F1 of the highly-rated Vitaly Petrov, not to mention the ever rising number of oligarchs keen to show the world their new found wealth, will have Bernie chomping at the bit. If one thought Abu Dhabi naff, one can hardly begin to imagine how over the top a Moscow facility might be.

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