South Africa may yet host a grand prix again if a bid to host a Monaco-style street race on the roads to and around Cape Town Stadium finds favour with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
The Cape Argus reported on Monday that the Cape Town Grand Prix Bid Company was one of three different organisations that are bidding for Cape Town to host a Grand Prix. The company, which was founded by Capetonian Igshaan Amlay in 2007 after a 12-year research and development phase, hopes to present its proposal to Ecclestone in London before the start of the 2011 Formula One season in Bahrain.
The proposed 5,3-kilometre circuit starts and ends in Green Point Stadium and winds its way along the major roads in Sea Point, Green Point and Mouille Point. It could pass some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks like the Cape Town stadium, Table Bay Harbour and V&A Waterfront and, according to the Argus, the pitlane would be situated along Beach Road in Green Point.
Although the government of the Western Cape has not yet officially endorsed the bid, the submission to Ecclestone was compiled with inputs from the City of Cape Town, Motorsport SA, Cape Town tourism and Wesgro. Furthermore, the company was still “involved in a review process” with city and provincial representatives.
The company had chosen to suggest a street race instead of building a new circuit because preliminary feasibility studies, pending a full-scale economic impact assessment, showed it to be far cheaper than the R4 billion required to build a new track. Estimates showed that upgrading existing infrastructure to FIA standards to host a grand prix such as Monaco would cost about R100 million.
In truth, there are a few stumbling blocks to hosting of a local grand prix, and getting Ecclestone’s approval is a minor one… A street race will still require a major investment after the initial outlay because event organisers would have to put up stands, remove kerbs, erect barriers and provide support infrastructure such as a pitlane and recovery vehicles and trained staff for as long as the race is on the F1 calendar.
The preferred date to stage the race is September 2013 because Cape Town tourism says that’s a quiet time for the city, but local organisers may have no alternative but to fall in along with established races on the Formula One calendar.
Grand Prix weekends traditionally begin on a Thursday and Friday free practice, qualifying happens on Saturday, followed by Sunday’s race. Would Cape Town residents and business owners be willing to live with the inconvenience of having limited access to their homes and businesses for roughly a week every year? The bidding company said the economic impact of a Grand Prix would be "enormous"!
Those are all details that will need to be ironed out before Cape Town can host a street grand prix, but if Mr Ecclestone indeed gives his approval… Watch this space!