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Catalunya going solo with GP?

2013-05-12 08:45

CROWD ROLLS IN: A colourful crowd of spectators at the Catalunya Circuit watches McLaren's Sergio Perez during qualifying for the 2013 Formula 1 GP at Montmelo. Image: AFP


BARCELONA,Spain - Barcelona is ready to smash competing Valencia's hopes of a return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2013.

The boss of the Catalunya Circuit outside Barcelona, Salvador Servia, played down suggestions that his track, an F1 host since 1991, would be forced to alternate with Valencia, which is off the 2013 schedule.

Both cities had a GP for the previous six years.


"We are working on 2013," Servia told Reuters, adding that Barcelona wanted to extend its F1 contract to 2016 and to remain a permanent fixture on the calendar. "We have already published the ticket prices for 2014. We have done 23 years of F1 and our objective is to do another 23."

The world economic slump has left almost five million Spaniards unemployed. Circuits pay millions of dollars to Formula One Management to host an F1 weekend.

The street circuit at Valencia, down the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona, staged the European GP from 2008-12.

Almost 75% of the crowd at the Spanish GP this weekend will be foreigners, Servia said, helping to offset the fewer ticket sales to locals.

"In 2012 we started selling overseas, targeting travel agencies and tour operators. We did the same for 2013. We've sold quite a lot in England, Germany and France."


Barcelona has the advantage of being the first European race of the season. It's easy to reach by road from neighbouring France and is well-served by relatively cheap flights from neighbour countries.

Servia said motor racing fans were combining the race with a short holiday in the Catalan capital or on the coast.

He is expecting a crowd of around 93 000 on Sunday, reversing a decline that set in after attendances peaked at 140 000 in 2007 when Spaniard Fernando Alonso had just won back-to-back World championships.

The circuit, 80% owned by the Catalan government, makes a loss on race weekend but Servia said the race brought broader economic benefits. The direct economic effect of its hosting motor sport was about $208-million (R1.28-billion) annually.

F1 made up most of that.

"We are in a crisis but we'll carry on putting on grands prix as if we were still rich," he said.


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