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Formula 1 in discussions for African event

Mat Coch

Friday 17th May, 2019 - 9:05am

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Marrakech currently hosts Formula E

Formula 1’s commercial boss Sean Bratches has confirmed he’s had discussions with two different countries with a view to hosting a race in Africa.

The sport has previously visited the continent, South Africa playing host to a race initially at East London before moving to Kyalami in the 1960s and 1970s.

The remodelled circuit last hosted F1 in 1993, a race won by Alain Prost.

Africa’s first grand prix was held in Morocco on a street circuit around Casablanca. Initially a non-championship race, in 1958 it was given world championship status and was won by Stirling Moss in a Vanwall.

Bratches says Liberty Media is now looking to return F1 to the continent, with South Africa and Morocco among the candidates.

“We race on five continents and the last habitable continent that we don’t race in is Africa,” Bratches said.

“We’ve been having very productive conversations in South Africa and to a lesser extent in Morocco about bringing a grand prix.

“We raced there before. I’ve been told that due to political considerations historically, that ceased. We’re on it, and it’s really important to us.”

Since hosting its last F1 race, the Kyalami race has been slightly reprofiled and undergone significant improvements, though it would require further upgrades to host a grand prix.

However, Bratches is also looking at a possible event in Marrakech, where similarly there is no Grade 1 circuit, the minimum requirement to host F1.

“There’s a historic circuit in South Africa, Kyalami,” Bratches explained.

“Toby Venter, who owns the Porsche dealerships in South Africa, has purchased it, fully remediated it, garages, paddock.

“Similarly to other markets around the world, we have been proactively approached by other areas such as Morocco, Marrakech.

“There’s a circuit there as well. I’m a little bit less familiar with the status, I suspect it’s not a grade one circuit, but there is a high degree of interest.”

Marrakech has most recently hosted Formula E, as well as the World Touring Car Championship, around a 2.97km circuit which uses a combination of permanent race track and public roads.

Key to the success of an event for Bratches is government involvement, suggesting the economic impact of hosting a race has make it an enticing proposition.

“Wherever you go in the world, (F1 events) are economic engines for these countries, states, cities, principalities, municipalities,” he reasoned.

“The vast majority of our grands prix are underpinned by government and it’s because it works. We shine a bright light on these cities, there’s a lot of direct economic impact that comes in.”

Though unwilling to put a timeframe on when a deal to take F1 back to Africa might be short, Bratches did suggest it was a short term ambition.

This week the sport announced a return to The Netherlands for the first time in 35 years, while Vietnam will host its first ever F1 race in Hanoi next year.

Should it happen, it’s unclear whether an African event would be an addition to the calendar or if it would replace an existing event, with F1 boss Chase Carey having gone on the record stating a degree of churn among events is healthy.

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