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Kebble link to F1?

2005-09-29 17:27

John Oxley

Although Kebble has never been named as a partner in the consortium behind the bid to bring a Formula One Grand Prix to the Mother City, insider sources told me several months ago that he was the mastermind behind the bid, together with South African F1 "old-timer" Mervyn Key.

It made a lot of sense, for Kebble, with strong contacts in both business and Government, would be the perfect link man to put a deal together, while Key, the strong man at Kyalami in the days when we HAD an SA GP, would have the ear of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

There's still no firm news on whether or not the Cape Town bid will go ahead, though Ecclestone has been quoted as saying it will, and plans for the proposed circuit have been leaked to selected media, Wheels24 included.

Question marks still hang over possible Government involvement, with a figure of R75-million towards the projected R500-million cost to build the circuit and a subsidy of R50-million a year for eight years bandied about.

This is heavy money, especially considering the vast amount of work and investment that needs to be done in the Western Cape towards the building of homes and the supply of infrastructure, including water and electricity, for poor residents.

No matter how much money the consortium claims an F1 Grand Prix would bring to Cape Town, it's hard to convince someone sheltering from the rain under an old plastic bag that he or she will be better off if rich people can see a Formula One race in his city.

Certainly, if Kebble was involved, in his absence it's going to be harder for the consortium to forge ahead without his backing.

And you know what? I personally believe Cape Town won't be any the worse off if the bid fails...

What about A1?

On a different, but parallel track (excuse the pun) it's becoming increasingly ominous that the announcement of the site for South Africa's round of the superb new A1 Grand Prix of Nations series has twice been postponed.

Originally it was thought that Cape Town's Killarney circuit might prove feasible for the race, but it didn't find favour with Stephen Watson, general manager for the A1 series.

And Watson did not seem to want to use the most logical venue, Kyalami, either, seemingly preferring a street circuit in Durban.

However, with the race less than four months away - it's pegged for January 27 to 29 - we don't even have a firm site for the track (although, again, I've seen a rough plan of a proposed venue), and rumours are rife that the organisers are having difficulty getting the necessary planning permission.

On top of that would be the huge amount of investment, the hard work to build the necessary infrastructure on roads that are in constant use, the provision of safety features, and the closure of important thoroughfares before and after the race.

Which brings us back to Kyalami.

With the circuit now effectively owned by Imperial Holdings through its subsidiaries Imperial Bank and Imperial Motors, I'm sure a chat between SA's A1 GP team owner Tokyo Sexwale and Imperial boss Bill Lynch would result in an equitable arrangement!

Certainly from the viewpoint of the track design, the size and wealth of its potential spectator audience, and the existing infrastructure, both inside and outside the circuit, Kyalami would be the best venue.

  • David Gant replies

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