Scalextric manufacturer to sponsor A1 GP 'shoot-out'


A1 Team Great Britain Team Principal, John Surtees, has confirmed the four drivers who will take part in a shoot out at Brands Hatch for the chance to represent Great Britain in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix Series, the World Cup of Motorsport. They will be Ralph Firman, Robbie Kerr, Alex Lloyd and James Rossiter.

The Arden International Motorsport team, owned by Christian Horner, and based in Banbury, Oxon, will run the team in the series. For these important track tests, which will be sponsored by Hornby Plc, the team will use one of its Formula 3000 cars, which won the 2004 F3000 Championship, with Ralph Firman and Robbie Kerr driving on Monday, 23rd May and Alex Lloyd and James Rossiter on Tuesday, 24th May.

At the conclusion of the two days John Surtees and Christian Horner will have the difficult task of picking which of these four talented drivers will represent their country against nations from the four corners of the world. They will not announce their decision immediately, but at a press conference at Brands Hatch at the end of day two will be happy to discuss with the media the criteria they will use to pick their driver.

A1 Team Great Britain is offering a British driver a unique opportunity, as John Surtees explained: "Brands Hatch is where I had my first ever motorcycle race on tarmac on the newly surfaced circuit. It will also be the scene for the inaugural race of the A1 GP Series. The drivers we have chosen have all shown their abilities from karting through to F3 and F3000. It presents a wonderful opportunity for them to join a team dedicated to winning Sheikh Maktoum's ‘World Cup of Motorsport', the A1 Grand Prix Series, and in representing Great Britain. Unlike other major motorsport series that these drivers would be qualified to drive in, A1 Team GBR is not asking its drivers to bring funding to the team. We are just asking for them to bring their ability and give wholehearted support both on and off the track. In return they will be given a contract with a retainer, full expenses and a generous share of prize money."

John was also delighted to announce sponsorship of the event by Hornby, a company well known by all racing enthusiasts as the world's leading manufacturer of slot racing cars through its Scalextric brand. "When the drivers are not testing there will an opportunity to compete on the special circuit constructed by Scalextric, who have joined us for these two test days in the support of young British drivers," he said. Commenting on his company's sponsorship Chief Executive, Frank Martin, said: "We have a keen interest in motorsport in general, as we have licences to produce all the major Formula 1 teams' cars as well as the worldwide exclusive rights for the MotoGP bikes. It is extremely important to our business as Scalextric accounts for half of Hornby's sales figure of forty million pounds. We are delighted to have this opportunity to be more involved in a series which we are very keen to see succeed. John Surtees has helped us tremendously and I would like nothing more than to see us produce models of the cars that will be running in the A1 Grand Prix series."

Explaining the importance of A1 Grand Prix, John said: "The British motorsport industry is worth over 4 billion to this country. It largely sprung from that first success inspired by Tony Vandervell. A1 is an example of British engineering and technology being at the forefront, with Sheikh Maktoum having placed his faith in the purchase of 50 Lola A1 cars and an equivalent number of engines plus spares from Zytek. Apart from the series promoting British products, the important message is that there are opportunities for British business to get behind the British team in what will become the World Cup of Motorsport. One only has to see the political involvement and the business persons who have backed the teams that have been launched in South Africa, Mexico, Australia, China, Pakistan and Lebanon, to realise that this series revolves around big business and big opportunities. To those that have talked about it being a rival or replacement to Formula One I say, no. Formula One has its own special part to play in the world of motorsport. A1 is different and if anything complements Formula One and of course happens at a different time of year."

A1 Grand Prix Founder, President and Chairman, Sheikh Maktoum commented: "I'm happy and delighted that the British team is gearing up to take on the challenge of A1 Grand Prix. Both John Surtees and Christian Horner have a history of successes in motorsport."

Six months ago, in London, A1 Team Great Britain was the first A1 Grand Prix team to hold its official launch. Since then John and his team, together with the other members of the consortium backing the project, have been working hard to put together a group that they feel will be both successful and a credit to the UK. As the only man ever to have won world championships on both two and four wheels, John knows what it takes to win in motorsport. After a successful career on bikes, that saw him clinch seven world championships, he not only raced cars, but also built them. Team Surtees produced Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 5000 cars that were to race and win titles round the world.

Arden International Motorsport founded in 1997 by racing driver Christian Horner, has won the Drivers' title twice and Teams' title three times in the FIA Formula 3000 Championship, and is running two cars in the new GP2 series.

The four drivers represent the best of British motorsport. Former Grand Prix driver, Ralph Firman, was also the first A1 Grand Prix test driver. In his racing career he has won the British Formula 3 Championship, the Formula Nippon Championship and the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award. Another winner of this prestigious Autosport award is Alex Lloyd who, at the age of 20, has already tested a Formula One car and raced in the European Formula 3000 and Formula Renault Championships. Robbie Kerr, who has also been on testing duty for A1 Grand Prix, won the British Formula 3 Championship in 2002, having won the Scholarship class the year before. James Rossiter started his single-seater career in Formula Renault in 2002 and has now progressed to the European Formula 3 Championship, in which he currently lies third having won one of the opening rounds at Hockenheim. James, who is 21, has also tried Formula 1 power as he is a member of the BAR Honda Young Driver Programme and tested for the team in Spain last year.

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Published: 20/05/2005
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