Following on from a feature in the June issue of CAR on South Africa’s chances of hosting a grand prix, Bernie Ecclestone now sees us hosting a race within two years.
Front page of the Cape Argus yesterday boldly proclaimed “City Grand Prix by 2013” and reported that in an interview with Jean Smyth of Eye Witness News, Ecclestone said there has been a lot of discussions about bringing Formula One back to Africa over the last few years but that “we maybe be a little bit closer” and that possible contracts could be “finalised within the next couple of weeks.”
With this two-year time frame it could only make sense that the Cape Town bid is the one to look at. We wouldn’t have time to build a track anywhere else. A computer generated image on the front page of the Argus shows a Monaco-style Grand Prix with cars racing along the coastal road in Mouille Point.
Motorsport South Africa reacted to Eccelstone’s announcement by pointing out that he (Ecclestone) “is notorious for making off the cuff statements to elicit reaction.” According to Chief Executive Officer of MotorSport South Africa, Francois Pretorius, they had no knowledge that a contract was currently being finalized, “We have not received any confirmation in this regard”.
Dr George Nyabadza, Chairman of MSA’s Board of Directors said “a very realistic economic impact study needed to be done to weigh up the tangible benefits against the substantial costs.” He went on to say that this would however, be the domain of national government and sponsors.
Francois Pretorius said any Formula One event in South Africa would need to be inscribed onto the FIA calendar by MSA. The MSA Board’s current position is that it would only support the hosting of such an event in South Africa if it provided concrete benefits to the grass roots development of motorsport, which would happen under the auspices of MSA. He added that the immediate socio-economic priorities in the country outweighed the possible long-term benefits of hosting the event unless a cogent and sustainable plan of sport development was provided for.
According to the Argus report spokesperson for Cape Town Grand Prix, Esther Henderson, says that they have a “master plan for a circuit and track, we have an economic impact study and an environmental study. It is these that we now need to submit to the government."