A1 Grand Prix reached a landmark in Estoril. It was three races old, had completed the first quarter of its inaugural season and is heading to Australia for its first fly-away event. Asia and Dubai will follow soon after making up the next three rounds in the 12 race Series that will finish in China next April.
It was less than two years ago that Sheikh Maktoum launched his dream on the world of motorsport. He had come up with a unique concept where the worlds of motorsport and business met and the participants were there for the pride of their nations. This was the first ever World Cup of Motorsport.
The concept burst into reality at Brands Hatch on 25 September this year. In the first race 25 teams tip toed round the famous Kent circuit finding their way and coming to terms with their machinery. The 72,000-strong crowd created an electric atmosphere as people from every country and every walk waved flags showing their support and cheering for victory in the first nation versus nation motorsport event.
This first experience for race fans was quickly followed by races in the next four weeks in Germany and Portugal. The German stop on the world tour was at the EuroSpeedway near to Dresden while the Portuguese one was at the Estoril track on the Atlantic coast a 30 minute drive from Lisbon.
In Germany it was an explosion of speed, noise and entertainment. A1 Grand Prix had arrived. Exceptional drivers began to show their mettle making names for themselves on an international stage, many for the first time. Names previously only known to the motorsport fraternity are becoming household names in the country they represent, carrying the pride of their nation to the delight of its people.
As the Series moved to Portugal the playing field became even closer as young up and coming drivers took on their adversaries in an action-packed hour of magnificent overtaking and exciting manoeuvres.
After the first six races the score in wins was four to France and two to Brazil. However, this was only part of the story. The nations who had never been known for their motorsport prowess were delivering on the track. Pakistan, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, China and Russia were taking on the nations with decades of motorsport heritage such as Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.
This Series takes its competitors to the four corners of the world and it will reach eighty per cent of the world’s population via television. It is only just over a month since 72,000 excited fans packed into Brands Hatch, but already over 100 countries have TV deals and on a daily basis this number is being added to.
The Series knows no barriers. In Germany ancient adversaries India and Pakistan stood side by side to honour its earthquake victims. Australia and New Zealand have garages a few yards apart, while the slogan on the USA car – We The People – says it all about who these drivers are racing for.
Twenty five identical cars are driven by drivers who are happy to remain anonymous while plying their trade. The commentators talk about Italy being overtaken by Portugal and not Enrico Toccacelo being overtaken by Alvaro Parente. It has young drivers on their way up – Parente is the newly crowned British Formula 3 champion – taking on national heroes of many year’s standing – Jos Verstappen has a personal fan club of over 10,000 Dutch people many of whom are travelling to the races.
As the Series heads to Australia, the host nation needs only eight points to put itself level with historic rivals New Zealand, who currently lay one place ahead in the points table. “We hope the Australian people will come to support their national team and cheer them on in what will be a tough race for all involved. With such a small gap between A1 Team Australia and New Zealand, we hope an energetic Aussie crowd will push our team on to achieve a podium position at our home race,” said A1 Team Australia’s Seat holder, Alan Jones.
Sheikh Maktoum, a member of the Dubai ruling family, has backing from the business world with South African entrepreneur, Tony Teixeira, happy to put money garnered from the exploration of oil, gas and diamonds behind what he considers a sound business venture. This unlikely business partnership has worked and they are both now happy to watch their ‘baby’ grow.
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