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F1 insider: Durban Grand Prix?

2010-10-08 08:15

DURBAN GP?: SA could return to the F1 calendar

Author: Dieter Rencken

 
Is the time ripe for South Africa’s return to the F1 Grand Prix calendar?

That is the question that will be asked in Durban next week when a specially-constituted working group ponders a proposal by a South African company working in conjunction with Abu Dhabi-based investors to return F1 to South Africa at new custom facility to be built in kwaZulu-Natal.

According to documents in the possession of Wheels24, the investors intend building a full F1-specification circuit within a retail, lifestyle, tourism, commercial and technology centre.

A site near Durban’s recently built King Shaka International Airport has been earmarked for development, and a proposal recently presented to kZN’s provincial treasury department.

‘I have been asked by my MEC (MEC Ina Cronje) to investigate the matter and to write a report by the end of the month,’ Clive Coetzee, a treasury official, exclusively told Wheels24. ‘There is indeed a proposal on the table.’

The working group, consisting of various role players, including Abu Dhabi’s Royal Group, Nightbridge Investments (instigators of the quasi-government Gauteng Province Motorsport Company, which recently collapsed in a mountain of debt), the KZN Automotive Cluster, Motorsport SA, Tourism KZN, the Airport and Dube Trade Port will meet on 14 October at the airport to debate the matter.

TRACK LAYOUT: The proposed Durban Grand Prix track layout

Sources indicate there are serious concerns about the legitimacy of Nightsbridge, particularly after the collapse of GMSC, and Gauteng’s decision to the cancel certain contracts entered into by GMSC’s then-CEO Steven Watson – a close associate of Nightsbridge – plus the overall financial viability of the project.

Grand prix attendances across the world are dwindling on account of astronomical ticket prices.

The average Grand Prix ticket is currently priced at R4000, meaning a family of four faces a bill of R16 000 before costs of accommodation and travel.

In addition, the kZN treasury department requires that the national government commit financial support for the project. ‘However, if the national government is not willing or able to support the development then the proposal should not be considered. KZN Provincial and local government simply should not get involved without national government support’ concludes the document.

Proposed economic impact on South Africa:

Circuit - R1.8 to R2.5bn
Foreign tourism spend - R500m per annum
Domestic tourism spend - R100m per annum
Event hospitality - R300 – 350m per annum
Accumulative net direct spend per annum - R2-3 billion per annum
Job creation - 7000+ jobs sustained per annum

Share your thoughts on SA's return to F1 here!

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