Cape Town - An article in a Sunday newspaper earlier this week painted a fascinating picture of the possibility of a Formula One race, similar to the Monaco Grand Prix, being held in Green Point.
But although the headline claimed Cape Town was in pole position to become the Monaco of Africa, many feel nothing could be further from the truth. The European event survives because of its history and the undeniable glamour attached to it. However, the circuit winds through the Principality’s narrow streets and is an anachronism totally unsuited to any modern Formula One promotion.
The proposed Cape Town venue that skirts the Green Point Common, could be better compared with Melbourne’s Albert Park. Visually, however, it is far more imposing and scenically, will be easily the most beautiful F1 circuit in the world should everything fall into place.
The long straights and hyperfast corners along the beach front will add to the excitement, while having the cars negotiate a series of hairpins tighter than anything at Monaco, inside the Cape Town Stadium, would be unique.
On the subject of ocean front racing venues in this south-western tip of Africa, several of the world’s top drivers of the pre-Second World War era who were here for the first Grosvenor Grand Prix in 1937 became convinced that a street circuit starting on the beach road in Camps Bay and continuing up along the high-level Camps Bay Drive, before coming down Kloof Road past the historic old Round House, would be far better than the artificial Pollsmoor circuit they were about to compete on.
Unfortunately the Pollsmoor venture was controlled by AO Edwards, a shrewd and experienced British businessman, and the drivers’ proposal was never taken seriously.
Getting back to the present, despite the 2009 British Grand Prix attracting a record 310 000 spectators over the four days, the Silverstone F1 event still only just breaks even. And this with a grandstand ticket averaging out at £400 - £500 (R7200 - R9000).
The Australian race, funded by the state of Victoria, continues to lose money at the unhappy state taxpayers expense, while the F1 circuit in Turkey went out of business a couple of years ago.
According to the Western Province Motor Club, which organised the last two Grands Prix in the Cape in the early 1960s, the costs are mind-boggling. The latest estimate for assembling and dismantling all the temporary infrastructure for a F1 event on a street circuit is about R750 million. The average fee paid to Bernie Ecclestone, to host a F1 race in 2011 was £17 million (R305 million). This has escalated at 10 percent a year and would now be in the region of R430 million. Of course, the roads would also need to be closed for weeks beforehand – as well as for some time afterwards.
In addition there are significant costs involved in the actual running of an F1 race (and supporting events). These include access control, safety measures, staffing, electronics, crowd management and logistics.
As far as the income is concerned the organisers are only entitled to money from ticket sales. The large amounts accruing from the television rights, catering and advertising, go to the international licence holders.
Despite that, although no names have been divulged, the organisers claim to have a sponsor in place.
The bid company, the Cape Town Grand Prix SA, has submitted a proposal to Motorsport South Africa, the controllers of the sport in this country. This document is due to be considered at the next MSA board meeting in Johannesburg on March 10.