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Cape Town bidding for F1 round

Plans for an inner-city street circuit for a proposed Formula One Grand Prix in Cape Town have been unveiled.

A local company will present the plans, one of three different bids for Cape Town to host a Grand Prix, to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in the next few months.

This graphic outlines the Cape Town Grand Prix route being proposed by a local bid company. The bidder is due to meet with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone in the next few months and says if the bid is accepted above others from the city, it is aiming for September 2013 for the inaugural city Grand Prix. Photo: Bruce Sutherland/Graphic: Bob Grierson. Credit: INLSA

The 5.3km-long circuit will pass some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks, such as the Cape Town Stadium, Table Bay Harbour and the V&A Waterfront.

Drivers will roar along the track with Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and the ocean as the backdrop. They will pull into a pit lane along Beach Road in Green Point for split-second repairs and adjustments to their cars.

The Cape Town Grand Prix Bid Company has been invited by F1 boss Ecclestone to present its proposal in London, a meeting the company hopes will take place before the F1 season starts in Bahrain in March.

The company was founded in 2007 by Capetonian Igshaan Amlay after a 12-year research and development phase.

Esther Henderson, the company’s chief communications officer, said the proposed Cape Town Grand Prix was modelled on the Monaco Grand Prix, which takes place in the streets of the playground for the super-rich.

“Green Point is ideal for a street circuit like the one in Monaco because we have so many beautiful natural sights in the area. So while Monaco is the ‘French Riviera’ we can have the ‘African Riviera’ in Cape Town.”

The first Cape Town Grand Prix has been mooted for September 2013.

Henderson said the route through Sea Point, Green Point and Mouille Point was chosen for its “sexy location”.

The Cape Town Stadium was also an important part of the route, she explained: the proposed track started and ended there.

Henderson said the company had discussed and formulated its plan with input from the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape provincial government, Motorsport South Africa, Cape Town Tourism, Wesgro and what she described as “potential investors”.

Brian Smith, chairman of the Western Province Motor Racing Club, said the prospect of a F1 race in the city presented an “element of excitement” for racing enthusiasts.

“Although I am not directly involved with the bid, I have been to a few meetings over the past three years and understand that it will be modelled on the Monaco Grand Prix,” Smith said.

Henderson said major changes to the streets around Green Point and Sea Point in the lead-up to last year’s Fifa World Cup had meant a version of the route that was handed to the City of Cape Town for review, and approved in principle, had now been revised.

She said the company was still involved in a review process with the province and the city.

Tourism MEC Alan Winde said there were as many as three different possible bids to host a Grand Prix in the city.

“There are a number of companies pushing for this - there’s one at the airport, one towards Atlantis and now this. There is also a fourth bid to establish a ‘green’ race using battery-powered racing cars.

“I haven’t been approached to endorse any of these bids. But, generally, I think it is something we could put within the strategy of attracting major events. We would support that as a city and province, absolutely. A Grand Prix would profile the city globally very well.”

Winde said the “track-versus-street” debate continued, and each had merits.

“Obviously the cost of setting up a track would be enormous. And while a ‘Monaco-style’ race could inconvenience some locals - like the Argus Cycle Tour does - on the face of it, it would be very good for the city,” Winde said.

Henderson said the company would also seek to meet sports minister Fikile Mbalula before heading to London to present its plan to Ecclestone.

Ecclestone has previously expressed an interest in bringing F1 back to South Africa - the previous South African Grand Prix was held in 1993 at Kyalami near Johannesburg.

Hours before the 2010 British Grand Prix and the World Cup final, Ecclestone told the BBC: “(Africa) is another continent where we should be. Hopefully, now people will think what the World Cup has done for Africa would be good for Formula One. It would be nice to think we had then more or less covered the world.”

Henderson explained that the company had chosen to go with 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.

“Our initial estimates showed that building a track could cost as much as R4 billion while upgrading existing infrastructure to FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) standard was estimated at a cost of about R100 million.”

Smith agreed a street race would be cheaper than building a new circuit, although the Green Point route would raise several issues.

“It is still going to require a huge investment because you would have to put up and dismantle the stuff every year, which costs millions. Then you would also have to ensure that you do not irritate the residents with the noise or cause too many disruptions over the four-day racing period.”

Grand Prix weekends traditionally begin on a Thursday with a free practice, which is repeated on a Friday. Qualifying phases are held on Saturdays, and races are held on Sundays.

Henderson said the economic impact of a Grand Prix would be “enormous”.

“In consultation with Cape Town Tourism we chose to have the race in September which is one of the city’s quieter months.

“The race also attracts more affluent people to the city which present opportunities for local business to make contacts.” - Cape Argus

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