Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he has spoken to the King of Morocco about hosting a Grand Prix in the country though he stresses that this is unlikely to take place.
The last Moroccan Grand Prix was held in 1958 near Casablanca and was the site of the accident which killed British driver Stuart Lewis-Evans. The engine of his Vanwall is understood to have seized up which sent him speeding into barriers and set his car alight. Lewis-Evans was managed by Ecclestone and the two were close friends so it would be understandable if the F1 boss didn't want to return to Morocco. However, the country has changed a great deal since then.
In 2009 Morocco hosted its first international motor race since 1958 when the World Touring Car Championship raced on a street circuit in Marrakech. The city is one of the most advanced in Morocco and last year the world's fifth largest shopping mall opened there complete with a 1 million litre aquarium inside.
Marrakech is also the location of the first hotel outside Monaco owned by Monte-Carlo SBM. SBM is owned by the Monegasque royal family and runs the renowned Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Morocco was identified as an ideal window to promote the SBM brand and given F1's close association with the Mediterranean principality it isn't hard to imagine it following suit.
"There is a huge amount of investment in Marrakech. Some locals said it's even overcrowded and prices are falling again," says one senior F1 sponsorship agent. "The road circuit is good. I met the chief executive Aly Horma. Very competent man," he adds. "Good guy. Great location. But these kinds of money are only in the King's coffers and I think he would promote Casablanca or similar cities that need a new drive."
The King of Morocco has reportedly set a target of doubling the number of tourists visiting the country to 20 million by 2020 and F1 would help give it a boost. Ecclestone agrees but told Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt that he doesn't think the market is right for F1. "I met the King of Morocco a couple of years ago and talked about F1 but what reason would it be good for us? The manufacturers are not selling anything there. How many people would come?"
F1 already has a lengthy pipeline of countries which want races. They are understood to include Argentina, Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Thailand and even cash-strapped Greece. You can now add Morocco to that list though whether it ever ends up with another Grand Prix is an entirely different matter.