South Africa could be back on the F1 map if the latest bid to bring the world championship to Cape Town emerges unscathed from a planned meeting between organisers and series supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Despite the F1 calendar having seemingly reached its limits with a 20th race in 2011 and both the USA and Russia apparently lined up to join in 2012 and 2014 respectively, a 15-year dream to stage a race on the streets of the famous city appears to have taken a significant step forward with an invitation for its originators to meet with Ecclestone in the next few weeks.
The proposal is one of three for Cape Town to play host to the F1 circus, but The Cape Town Grand Prix Bid Company - which was founded by local man Igshaan Amlay in 2007 following a twelve-year research and development phase - is the first to have reached the stage of presenting its plans, in which a 5.3km circuit would skirt recognisable landmarks such as the Table Mountain, Cape Town Stadium - which would be the start and finish point - Table Bay Harbour and the V&A Waterfront.
Esther Henderson, the company's chief communications officer, said the route through Sea Point, Green Point and Mouille Point was chosen for its “sexy location”, with the proposed circuit modelled on the Monaco Grand Prix, although original plans had had to be redrawn after major changes were made to the road layout around Green Point and Sea Point in the lead-up to last year's football World Cup.
“Green Point is ideal for a street circuit like the one in Monaco because we have so many beautiful natural sights in the area," she told the Cape Argus
, "So while Monaco is the 'French Riviera', we can have the 'African Riviera' in Cape Town.”
Henderson said that there had been input from the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape provincial government, Motorsport South Africa, Cape Town Tourism, Wesgro and what she described as 'potential investors', before explaining that a street race had been preferred over a more traditional road course because early investigations, pending a full-scale economic impact assessment, showed it to be the cheaper option.
“Our initial estimates showed that building a track could cost as much as R4 billion while upgrading existing infrastructure to FIA standard was estimated at a cost of about R100 million,” she revealed, before claiming that the economic impact of bringing F1 to Cape Town would be 'enormous', "The race also attracts more affluent people to the city which present opportunities for local business to make contacts [but], in consultation with Cape Town Tourism, we chose to have the race in September, which is one of the city's quieter months."
Tourism MEC Alan Winde confirmed that there were several other groups bidding to bring F1 back to South Africa, where only demonstration runs have given the population a glimpse of grand prix cars since the last South African GP in 1993.
“There are a number of companies pushing for this - there's one at the airport, one towards Atlantis and now this," he revealed, "There is also a fourth bid to establish a 'green' race using battery-powered racing cars. I haven't been approached to endorse any of these bids but, generally, I think it is something we could put within the strategy of attracting major events. We would support that as a city and province, absolutely. A grand prix would profile the city globally very well.