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A1 Grand Prix is launched in Dubai

NEWS STORY
30/03/2004

The business and motorsport worlds are to join forces in a brand new international FIA sanctioned racing series, the A1 Grand Prix. This will marry a unique business model with high speed excitement and is the brainchild of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, a member of the Ruling Family of Dubai.

The series will be run in warm countries during what is termed motor racing’s ‘off’ season and will start in September 2005. A1 Grand Prix is a series running up to 30 identical single-seater racing cars built by Lola International, fitted with Langford Performance Engineering 3.5 litre 485 bhp engines and entered under the flags of individual countries. The order for the 30 cars announced on 25th January 2004 is believed to be one of the largest car orders in the history of motorsport.

The business concept is each team will be a franchise of A1 Grand Prix. The owner of the franchise, or ‘seat’ holder for his nation, will be able to focus on running a profitable and sound business model with income generated through sponsorship, local media rights, merchandising and significant prize money. A1 Grand Prix will provide the entire infrastructure for the championship and will be responsible for providing the cars and engines, handle the transportation logistics of the cars and ensure maximum television and media coverage of all the races.

The championship will be the world cup of motorsport and will take place in countries able to host racing during the off season, with Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, China, South Africa, Malaysia and Australia already selected to host the first A1 Grand Prix season with two further possible flyaway events. Talks are advanced with 23 countries wanting to enter a national team and with interest coming from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia and Europe, representing over 80% of the worlds’ population.

The driver, as well as the sponsors, must be indigenous to the nationality of the team. He will be competing on a level playing field in relation to the performance of the car as there will be no electronic driver aids and only limited adjustments to the car’s set-up will be allowed. Each three day racing weekend will have the same format. Day one, a Friday, will be free practice, day two further practice followed by qualifying and day three a 15 to 20 minute sprint race which will determine the grid positions for the longer main event, which will endure for between 40 to 50 minutes.

Sheikh Maktoum has appointed a strong management team. He will be President and Chief Executive Officer and will preside over the development of the business. His South African business partners, Brian Menell and Tony Teixeira, are Executive Directors and will both be actively involved in selecting franchise participants. They have enlisted former international racing driver Stephen Watson as General Manger. Stephen, also from South Africa, has raced in the FIA International Formula 3000 series, tested cars in Formula One as well as being a motorsport’s entrepreneur in his own right. Televison coverage is vital to all international sporting events, so the team has recruited Richard Dorfman, a professional television rights negotiator, who joins as Commercial Director. Richard’s experience includes negotiating the television rights for the FIFA Football World Cups in 2006 and 2002, and three Rugby Union World Cups.

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