The final vehicle specification and the first national seat holders for the A1 Grand Prix series, planned to commence in 2005, have been announced.

The final vehicle specification and the first national seat holders for the A1 Grand Prix series, planned to commence in 2005, have been announced.

South Africa, China, Portugal, Pakistan, Lebanon and the UK are the first countries to secure seats in the championship. The first national seat holders were announced at the official A1 launch party in London on Thursday. Local businessman Tokyo Sexwale was awarded the South African seat.

Series founder and chief executive of the FIA-sanctioned series Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum said the event was a significant step forward.

“We set ourselves demanding targets and six months down the line we are exceeding our own expectations,” Sheikh Maktoum said.

“We are delighted to welcome all six national seat holders to the series, and the fact that we have many more countries waiting to announce their participation in the series means our concept has been wholeheartedly embraced by both the business and motorsport fraternities.”

Vehicles will be equipped with 3,4-litre V8 powerplants. Serious testing started in July with former F1 driver Ralph Firman as the series’ official test driver.

John Wickham, responsible for Bentley’s 2003 Le Mans 24-hour race victory, was handed the task of running the test programme and is also the full-time operations manager.

The championship, intended to run in the F1 off-season, has a strong local connection: Brian Menell, executive director of A1 grand prix, his partner Tony Teixera and general manager Stephen Watson are all South African.

More national seat holders will be announced at the official South African launch event in November.