Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone admits that he is interested in seeing an F1 race return to South African shores in the next few years, with a Cape Town track considered the most viable option.
Africa is currently the only continent that does not host a race on the F1 calendar, and this could change in the near future if Ecclestone gets his way.
“I’ve been looking to going back to South Africa for a long time, and now we have a good chance. They’re getting on with it. We’re hoping to be back in 2016, but we will have a look and see. We’ll see how we get on,” he admitted, according to IOL.
A Formula One race last took place in South Africa as far back as 1993, with the venue used at that point being the Kyalami Track in Johannesburg.
The track that is proposed for a potential Cape Town race is a street track that would circulate around the Greenpoint Sport Precinct, with a proposed route taking F1 cars through the Cape Town Stadium, which was constructed for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The team that is bidding to bring the motorsport event back to the country is called CapeTownGrandPrixSA, and they reveal that they have been in contact with Ecclestone for many years with varying degrees of success.
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The chief operations officer for the group, Bjorn Buyst, mentioned that recent communication with the F1 head was very positive.
“Every step we get closer to hosting a Grand Prix in South Africa is a success for our bid team. The last time Mr. Ecclestone communicated with us, he told us to get our list ticked and hurry up. This is not easy in South Africa due to the current political climate and financial situation. This, however, did not stop us and we have started to tick some boxes, the main ones being the toughest.”
Discussing the area in which the proposed track will be planned, Buyst revealed his excitement at the potential for F1 to be a catalyst for further events which could be held in the precinct.
“This area is earmarked for sports events and we believe our street circuit going through the stadium will be a world first. The infrastructure is there from the FIFA World Cup. We will now be able to use this every year, and not just as a once off. From F1 come many more events that will be showcased and that are not only motorsport. Formula One is an igniter for many more.”
The interesting thing about a spot on the Formula One calendar for Cape Town is that this the becomes an annual event, and can be a great money spinner for the South African economy, further building credibility with sports fans around the world and boosting tourism.
Founder and chief executive of CapeTownGrandPrixSA, Igshaan Amlay, told IOL that hard work from the bid team regarding a great deal of research and direct communication with relevant stakeholders has brought them to this point, and after many years of trying to birth an F1 race in Cape Town, the street track makes good sense.
“First, if you look at a FIA purpose-built track, it has restrictions as well as financial implications and since we have just come out of hosting a successful FIFA World Cup, our country cannot afford another ‘white elephant’,” Amlay said.
“The circuit will piggyback off the World Cup legacy by utilising all existing infrastructure located around our proposed track. The mega event will become an annual fixture over a period of five to 10 years or more, unlike the Soccer World Cup and Olympic Games, which come once in a lifetime,” he added.
South Africa has an excellent track record of hosting events from a variety of sporting codes with great success, including globally recognised competitions such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996 and 2013, the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and even the Indian Premier League (IPL) at short notice in 2010, when India was not able to host the competition on the subcontinent.