The A1 Grand Prix single-seater series, hailed as the ‘World Cup of Motorsport’, has been launched. It was the brainchild of two SA businessmen and a member of the Dubai royal family.
The A1 Grand Prix single-seater series, hailed as the ‘World Cup of Motorsport’ and the brainchild of two SA businessmen and a member of the Dubai royal family, has been launched.
CARtoday.com reported in January that the series, which will use Lola-built cars and 3,5-litre, 362 kW Langford engines, would be staged in 24 countries, including SA, next year. Brian Menell, whose grandfather was one of the two founders of Anglo Vaal, and his partner, Tony Teixera, joined Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum as investors in A1 Grand Prix.
Thirty cars have been ordered from British manufacturer Lola and the series’ team slots will be sold on a franchise basis to individual countries. The race calendar will span November and February, traditionally known as the F1 “off-season”.
A1 Grand Prix said that the series had also been sanctioned by the FIA and that South African ex-Formula 3000 racer and F1 test driver Stephen Watson had been appointed as the series’ general manager. Richard Dorfman, who has been responsible for negotiating television rights for the 2002 and 2006 FIFA football World Cups, will be commercial director.
Sheikh Maktoum said at the launch that he hoped to get 24 teams, each representing a different country, for the championship and that talks with 23 countries were at an advanced stage.
Drivers and sponsors must be indigenous to the nationality of the team, and the A1 Grand Prix organisation will arrange maintenance of the cars, transport between race venues and commercial issues.
The A1 car weighs approximately 600kg without driver and fuel and is believed to be one of the lightest racing vehicles in the world.
"I have driven fast cars before, but this is exceptional," Sheikh Maktoum said. "Put wings on it, and it would fly."
Nations with a need for speed simply have to pay a fee for their team, ensure interest from that franchise, and they can start their engines, a spokesman for A1 said.
It’s not cheap, however, with competition slot prices ranging from the equivalent of between R31 million and R1,12 billion.
The franchises will aim to recruit countries not previously involved in motor sport at a high level. "We’ll be reaching out to nearly 80 per cent of the world’s population," the spokesman added.