Bernie reiterates why he axed USGP
Few men in world motor racing cross swords with Bernie Ecclestone. He is known for getting his own way. If not always, nearly always.
In short, what Bernie says usually gets done - and what Bernie wants to happen usually happens.
So when he started talking up the idea of running a street race under floodlights in South-east Asia, it soon became a project that was set for realization.
The Singapore Grand Prix was born.
And last week, it was confirmed as one of the 18 races to feature on the 2008 Formula One World Championship calendar.
Next year, there will be five races in Asia, if Bahrain is included, and six, if Turkey is included.
Add Australia to that figure and it is easy to see that the balance of power may be tipping away from Europe.
Then mix in the fact that the rapidly-growing A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has this week published its own calendar for 2007-08 - and includes two races in China, one in Malaysia and another in Asia yet to be designated.
Not to mention races in New Zealand and Australia.
It is easy to see that Asia, not Europe, is the new battleground for the future in top-level motor racing.
And the place where the big motor manufacturers, major sponsors, global companies and high-flying celebrities and sports stars are keen to promote themselves and their brands.
Asia is the fastest-growing market place in the world.
And that is why Ecclestone has lined up races in Abu Dhabi, South Korea and India for the future as traditional venues like Silverstone, in Britain, and Magny-Cours in France, are forced towards retirement.
The diminutive ringmaster of Formula One was in Budapest on Friday for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix - licking his lips as he considered the dynamic future that awaits his sport in Asia in general and Singapore in particular.
He was the brave man, let it be remembered, who took Formula One behind the then iron curtain in 1986 to create the Hungarian Grand Prix in eastern bloc Budapest.
A crowd of 250,000 on race day rewarded his vision.
Now he has seen another way of innovating a fresh trend for F1 and Singapore, everyone hopes, will reap the benefits.
The Singapore race on 28 Sep next year will replace the ultra-famous United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
That fact alone makes clear how important Singapore now is in the calendar of the world's richest and most glamorous form of motor racing.
'It proves that it is not vital for Formula One to be in the United States,' said Ecclestone.
'It proves that the world has changed a lot and I am really delighted that we are going to Singapore.
'The circuit is great, a street track in an exotic and really nice location.
'It is going to look fantastic on television in Europe and I know that everyone in Formula One is really looking forward to the race a lot already.
'Yeah, it confirms too that there are a lot of other big markets around the world outside Europe and America.
'That is why we are talking to India too...'
The race around the streets of Marina Bay is scheduled to take place at night and attract a huge European television audience.
It is also seen as the future for the sport as it spears into new countries and markets - in competition with A1GP, which has added zest to the contest between two forms of racing.
FIRST IN F1
'You know, it excites me even after all these years to think about Singapore because it is going to be the first fully-lit street race in Formula One history,' said Ecclestone.
'That is something pretty special, I think.
'It is great for us, for Formula One and great too for Singapore and motor racing as a whole.
'People will sit up and take notice and realize we are not sitting still.
'As a night race, I think it will very quickly establish itself and it is going to be one of the most dramatic and one of the best races of the lot on the calendar.
'There will be a great atmosphere.'
The races in Asia, understandably, may not have the tradition and history of those in Europe, but they are run at modern circuits with excellent facilities for the teams and the spectators and well-prepared communication, travel and hotel services.
They are also usually well-funded, given state government support and enthusiastic backing by the local population keen to enjoy their racing.
'All these things help and make a difference,' said Ecclestone.
'Some of the circuits in Europe and the way they promote their events show a lot of tiredness and fatigue. They are a bit worn out now.'
According to the plans made public, the Singapore race track will have grandstands built for more than 80,000 people, a new permanent pit area with top-class paddock facilities and excellent infrastructure.
All of this helps make it more attractive to the jet-set F1 fans and corporate supporters who are growing used to improved luxuries everywhere they go.
As Ecclestone so typically put it when he compared the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai's amazing International Circuit facility with the scruffy and run-down United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis: 'It's fairly incredible what the people have created here.
'Europe has become a bit third world by comparison and so have some other places.
'Nobody believed the American government will cough up money for Formula One.
'Anyway, why should we race in America for half the money we can get elsewhere?'
The same Ecclestone, now in his mid-seventies but showing no signs of losing his energy or his verve, has embraced the idea of Asia and night-time street racing with great enthusiasm.
The European Grand Prix at Valencia in Spain is expected to follow Singapore's lead.
And when cynics point out that many drivers do not like the idea of street-racing at night under lights, he sweeps aside their objections.
'You know there is another street track that we have raced on now for quite a few years...
'It is in the south of France, more or less. Monaco, I think it is called...
'We have no trouble there, no objections and it is pretty successful, don't you think?
'So I expect Singapore and the rest to soon settle down and do just as well.'
And nobody can argue with that... Electric New Paper