Ecclestone hints at South African GP (5th Update)
Formula 1 will not be racing on the African continent before the end of the decade, according to a racetrack official.
Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit developer Andrew Baldwin told SBD Global that F1's return to the South African racetrack is a "long shot at the moment," with money being the biggest obstacle. "I can't see it in the next five years, but maybe in a timeframe of five to 10 years you could potentially see developments," he said. "It's about the money."
Baldwin pointed to F1's hosting fees that have led financial difficulties at a number of circuits around the world. The latest venue threatened to fall victim to the series' high cost is Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix.
"We made a conscious decision to not be a promoter to international motorsport," Baldwin said.
"We can't afford to do that. We can't afford to take that risk. We are not going to put our own money up to make that happen ... The modern grand prix, they need government support to make them happen."
Kyalami, which is located between Johannesburg and Pretoria in the country's northeast, hosted 21 F1 races from ‘67-93. Frenchman and four-time world champion Alain Prost was the last winner of the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. The track is currently undergoing a complete overhaul after Porsche SA purchased the venue for 250M rand at auction in '14. The remodeling is in its final stages, with the racetrack and handling circuit already completed.
Work on the pit building and other open exhibition spaces are scheduled to be finished by the end of the month. The initial renovation budget of 100M rand is now heading toward 300M rand ($19.2M), Baldwin said. Track owners hope to recoup their investment in eight to 10 years, he added.
Kyalami has applied for an FIA grade 2 license, which would allow the track to host any FIA-sanctioned series except F1. The venue is currently the only one in Africa that could potentially host an F1 grand prix, though it would require further investments, Baldwin said. Kyalami was put in the spotlight after F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton both called for the series' return to Africa.
Despite its rich history, motor racing will only play a small role in Kyalami's future business plan. Baldwin said racing will contribute only 5-10% to the track's total revenue. "The ideal number of race meetings is about 10 over the course of the year," he said. "We try to get revenue streams coming in on a regular basis. We need income every day because we know that racing circuits all over struggle financially."
Track owners will put a focus on corporate and public events to make the place a "vibrant" year-round venue, Baldwin added.
Kyalami has already hosted car launches, driver training courses and conferences. The South Africa Bike Festival will be the first public event at the remodeled venue from May 27-29. Cycling events as well as a food and music festival will also be staged on the grounds later this year.
Track officials look at every income opportunity and are "learning as we go," Baldwin said. He added that Kyalami could play host to int'l racing series such as the World Endurance Championship, but nothing is imminent.
"Are we close to anything? No, but it's not really our focus," he said. "Our focus is to get the venue finished." HJ Mai/SBD Global
02/23/15 F1 could make its "long-awaited return to South Africa" as early as '16, according to Sameer Naik of INDEPENDENT ONLINE. Africa is the only continent without an F1 race and it would represent a "historic achievement should the event return to South Africa." F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone revealed he was in the process of "proposing terms for the country to figure on the world championship schedule again, hopefully from 2016, and with Cape Town as the venue."
South Africa's bid team, known as CapetownGrandprixSA, said it had been in contact with Ecclestone from '00, and hoped it had come a "significant step closer to bringing the major sporting event back to the country." CapetownGrandprixSA COO Bjorn Buyst said it had been in communication with Ecclestone for many years, "sometimes with some success."
He said, "Every step we get closer to hosting a Grand Prix in South Africa is a success for our bid team." The proposed venue is the Green Point Sport Precinct. While the bid team has submitted a layout for a proposed street circuit, "this has yet to be approved." Buyst: "This area is earmarked for sports events and we believe our street circuit going through the stadium will be a world first." INDEPENDENT ONLINE
01/21/15 We've done a little more digging on the possible Formula 1 race in South Africa and come up with a few things.
1. As reports suggest, Cape Town would be the likely destination:
There is no permanent facility in South Africa that is up to Formula One standards, safety and otherwise. Kyalami, which hosted 27 Formula One Grand Prix between 1961 and 1993, has endured financial problems in recent years. Also, one South African correspondent told us the parking situation at the circuit would only accommodate around 10,000 spectators. Other circuits such as Phakisa Freeway and Zwarktops would be unlikely unless major investments were made in those facilities.
Durban also hosted A1 Grand Prix from 2005-2008. However, the Durban municipality surrender the rights to Top Gear about a year ago, and the city's desire for motorsport seems to be at a low ebb. Further, there has been significant political violence in Durban in recent months.
2. Preliminary work has been done on a possible high-level motor race in Cape Town.
In particular, a source confirmed to AR1 that work has been done in the Green Point area of Cape Town around the soccer stadium built for the 2010 World Cup. The area is quite picturesque and would seem to be the ideal setting for a Grand Prix. However...
3. Cape Town administrators have flatly refused permission for proposed events citing budget priorities as the hurdle.
The Western Cape area of South Africa would be ideal from a tourism standpoint for a GP. However, as is the case with numerous Formula One events, local government funding is necessary to pull them off. Our people in South Africa say the local government has no appetite for such an event at this time, and that overtures for major motorsports events such as Formula E have been firmly rebuffed.
Also, the Rand (South Africa's currency) is currently pretty weak relative to the Euro.
4. This isn't a good time for South African motorsport.
Kyalami use to have around 45-50,000 spectators for the races back in the 1960s and 1970s. However, those were quite different times.
Last year, South Africa's biggest motorsports event, a historic race at Zwarktops, drew a mere 5,000 people.
Of course, you never know with Bernie Ecclestone. However, our intelligence suggests that a lot of hurdles will need to be cleared prior to any Grand Prix in South Africa.
We'll continue to follow the story.
Brian C. reporting for AR1
01/21/15 Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone hopes the sport can return to South Africa next year.
Ecclestone explained last month that he wanted to revive the country's Grand Prix, most recently held at the Kyalami circuit in 1993.
The 82-year-old is now believed to be working on plans for a race in Cape Town, one of South Africa's three national capital cities.
"I've been looking to go back to South Africa for a long time, and now we have a good chance," Ecclestone told the Press Association.
"They're getting on with it. We're hoping to be back in 2016, but we will have a look and see."
Should South Africa return in 2016, there is the potential for a record-breaking 22-race calendar, with Azerbaijan also due to arrive.
|Kyalami in 1978 - Andretti leads at start|
12/19/14 Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that he is keen to get South Africa back on the F1 schedule along with a second race in the United States.
Although Grands Prix were held in South Africa prior to 1962, it was that year's event which was the country's first race to count as part of the official Formula One World Championship.
In the 70s and 80s the Kyalami circuit regularly hosted the Grand Prix until it slipped off the calendar after 1985, the sport no longer able to resist the growing global condemnation of apartheid.
In the wake of the end of apartheid the sport returned again in 1992 and 1993 but by then the sheer cost of hosting a round of the world championship meant the circuit's new owners, the South African Automobile Association, could no longer justify the expense.
Over the years since there has been talk of a return, and a couple of pre-season tests at Kyalami proved that there was still great interest in the sport, thousands flocking to see just a couple of teams on duty.
Now, despite a calendar already bursting at the seams, Bernie Ecclestone admits that he would like to see the sport return.
|Andretti on way to victory at Kyalami in 1971|
"We want to have a race in South Africa, it would be great to get back to this part of the world," he told RIA Novosti.
Sadly, if the sport does return to South Africa it would most likely be as a street race, Porsche South Africa having bought the heavily modified circuit earlier this year.
"Americans have one race and want to have one more," he added, though with New Jersey now virtually dead in the water, attention appears to be shifting to Las Vegas.
Unsurprisingly, the F1 supremo was keen to lavish further praise on the latest addition to the calendar, citing Sochi as one of the great circuits.
"Russia is a very, very, very, very important country and we worked toward this event for 30 years," he said. "The organization was perfect, absolutely super. All the teams have been happy here and want to come back, be here."
In a move sure to raise eyebrows, Ecclestone admitted that that Russia won its place on the calendar in spite of better (financial) offers from elsewhere.
"Maybe they are ready to pay more money than we got here. But it's not the most important thing in the world," he said. Pitpass
05/31/12 (GMM) Organizers of next year's inaugural New Jersey street race have once again dismissed claims the event is in doubt.
Bernie Ecclestone said last month that the American grand prix could be pushed back to 2014.
And the F1 chief executive repeated his doubts this week, revealing the organizers are having trouble with "funds" and had therefore missed deadlines in the contract.
But when asked about Ecclestone's latest comments, a spokesman for the race, which would be played out amid the famous Manhattan skyline, insisted preparations are "precisely on schedule".
According to njbiz.com, he added that organizers are "still on track for a June 2013 race".
The spokesman added: "We don't comment on our contractual relationship with formula one or its details."
The land that will be used for the race is co-owned by Roseland Property Co., whose boss Carl Goldberg said he had "heard nothing to suggest that there's going to be a delay from any of the American promoters".
He added there is "a significant amount of time and money being invested, all pointed to a first race in 2013."
Goldberg said Ecclestone's comments are "disconcerting" in light of the money, time and manpower invested so far.
04/17/12 Bernie Ecclestone talks to BBC Sport's Jake Humphrey about upcoming changes to the calendar, nodding in agreement when asked if a new Grand Prix in South Africa could be on the cards.
The Formula 1 boss confirms that the Belgian race at Spa-Francorchamps will "probably" alternate each year with a new French Grand Prix to be held at a redeveloped Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet.
Ecclestone also implies that the addition of the New Jersey and Russian races to the calendar in 2013 and 2014 will likely mean two European races are removed from the schedule, but expresses some doubt about whether the American track will be ready in time.