New hope for F1 in South Africa?


Between 1962 and 1985, South Africa hosted a round of the Formula One World Championship, then, other than two further Grands Prix (1992 and 1993), F1 appeared to turn its back on the country that not only gave it (1979) World Champion, Jody Scheckter, but also witnessed the first ever appearance of an F1 car running with tobacco signage.

A few years back, a couple of F1 teams attended tests at Kyalami, which drew record crowds, thus proving the popularity of the sport in the country, but by and large South Africa has been given the 'cold shoulder' by F1.

Over the years there have been numerous rumours and false starts, suggesting that South Africa was about to be re-embraced by F1, thus putting the sport back on the African continent, now a new bid appears to be gathering pace.

Just weeks after it was announced that the A1 Grand Prix series hopes to run a race on the streets of Durban, it has been revealed that there is a move to take F1 to the city part of a massive attempt to regenerate it.

It's understood that African Renaissance Holdings (ARH) - a company aimed at "black economic empowerment" - is to join forces with the South African Grand Prix Bid Company in an attempt to stage a Grand Prix in South Africa. In addition to hosting a round of the World Championship, it is hoped that, in time, South Africa might produce a black driver capable of winning the title.

ARH is involved in a number of successful business ventures, not least a casino complex on Durban's Golden Mile beach.

The chairperson of ARH, Dr Vincent Msibi, has said that his company fully recognises the economic potential of a Grand Prix, in terms of tourism, employment and industrial development.

Dr Msibi is joined by Seth Phalatse, former executive director of BMW South Africa, Jay Naidoo, former Cabinet minister and now chairperson of the Development Bank of South Africa and Nolwazi Mdluli-Motlekar, former head of SA Tourism in London. Also 'on board' is Murray and Roberts, one of South Africa's leading construction
companies, and One Vision Investments, part of an Iranian-based global conglomerate.

Dave Gant, chief executive of the South African Grand Prix Bid Company, has previously had two meetings with Bernie Ecclestone who is understood to be "well disposed" towards a race in South Africa, and has already mentioned a 2008 slot.

Meanwhile, Dr Denis Worrall, chairperson of the bid company, says that Ecclestone has instructed FOM's representative for South Africa, Alan Curtis, to look into establishing a South African F1 Drivers' Academy, which would provide training young South Africans, be they drivers, engineers, officials, etc.

Whereas A1 Grand Prix' Durban event will be a street race, the ARH F1 plan could be for a purpose built race track, though the South African Grand Prix Bid Company had planned on a purpose built track in Cape Town.

Either way, the momentum is gathering, and perhaps the rapid progress being made by A1 Grand Prix will stir Formula One into action.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 05/06/2005
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