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Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix News
The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is one of the most widely followed events on the annual Formula One World Championship. Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) chief executive Martin Whitaker revealed yesterday that over 540 million viewers tuned in from around the world to watch last year's race on television. The massive global audience adds to the nearly 100,000 other spectators who attended the three-day extravaganza in Sakhir.

Whitaker hopes for much of the same following for this year's Grand Prix, and he trusts that it will be a much greater "spectacle" on the track than in years past following the many rule changes implemented for the upcoming season.

"That championship last year, going right down literally to the last 500 meters after a whole season, speaks volumes for F1," Whitaker told the GDN. "And with all the changes in regulations this year, I think we're in for another great season and a fascinating Bahrain Grand Prix; it will definitely be a great spectacle in the kingdom once again."

Whitaker was speaking on the sidelines of a Press conference where he announced the BIC's plans for this year's greatly anticipated race weekend, which takes place between April 24 and 26 as the fourth round of the F1 World Championship.

"When Ferrari, BMW, and Toyota were testing here, all of them had a day at the top, which shows you how close it could be this year," added Whitaker. "I think some of the teams have done a little bit of sandbagging during testing, but with the slick tires, narrower wings, and less downforce, it'll definitely be very interesting racing to see.

"The Bahrain Grand Prix is a magnificent thing to have here at our doorstep; we must be proud to be part of such an exclusive club. It is the biggest event in Bahrain, if not throughout the whole region."

The BIC boss believes that Bahrain's motor racing fans can benefit from having the race later into the season rather than its usual slot as the third round of the championship, like for past events.

"Being the fourth race will create a greater knowledge of what's happening in the season; the fans will know what's going on after having already raced in Australia, Malaysia, and China before coming here," Whitaker explained. "They will have already started watching the races and gained a little bit more knowledge of who's doing well, who's not, and who could be doing better."

Meanwhile, Whitaker confirmed that the circuit is preparing to welcome 10 F1 teams for this year's race, as he greatly expects the outfit formerly owned by Honda to be a part of the 2009 championship.

"They're going to be starting testing next week, and all the indications suggest they will be here," he said.

"Let's hope that they make it, from an employee point of view for the people who work there and from a spectator point of view. It's very important that we have as many cars on the grid."

This year's Grand Prix will have an impressive support program of three top international series as well as a Bahrain-based regional championship.

They include the season-finale of this year's GP2 Asia Series which features the Arab world's leading F1 prospect Hamad Al Fardan; the last round of the Speedcar Series in which many ex-F1 stars race such as Jacques Villeneuve, Johnny Herbert, and John Alesi; the Porsche Super Cup which will feature around 30 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars on the grid; and the all-new Chevrolet Supercars Middle East Championship, which has been inspired by V8 Supercars Australia.

There will also be plenty of entertainment off the track around the F1 village.

Whitaker was joined at the conference by Gulf Air chief executive Bjorn Naf and BIC corporate communications director Abdulrahman Qarata.

For more information on the Grand Prix, call the BIC hotline on 17-450000 or visit bahraingp.com.

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