The ambitious bid to take the F1 circus back to South Africa and stage a race around the streets of Cape Town has received its first opposition within days of making its plans public.
Even as the Cape Town Grand Prix Bid Company works on a meeting with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the local tourism authority has warned that a full impact assessment needs to be carried out before anything is agreed. The bidding group - one of four apparently interested in staging a race in and around the Cape Town area - has already set its sights on a 2013 calendar slot, and insists that a street circuit would be both a quicker and cheaper option than constructing a new road course facility.
Six races on an already crowded calendar are due to have their contracts expire after the 2012 race, although Abu Dhabi, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany and Singapore all appear to be firm favourites among drivers and fans.
Igshaan Amlay, who has been working on his dream for almost 15 years, is the first to have reached the stage of being able to present plans to Ecclestone, despite Cape Town having frequently cropped up as a potential addition to the F1 calendar. Amlay proposes a 5.3km circuit taking in landmarks such as the Table Mountain, Cape Town Stadium, Table Bay Harbour and the V&A Waterfront, while Esther Henderson, Cape Town Grand Prix Bid Company's chief communications officer, said the oceanside route had been modelled on the Monaco Grand Prix.
However, despite Henderson also claiming that the bid had received input from the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape provincial government, Motorsport South Africa, and Cape Town Tourism, amongst others, the chief executive of the latter, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, has warned that there needs to be careful consideration of the impact that a grand prix would have, both on the city and the environment.
"All new events must be reviewed in the context of Cape Town's broader social and tourism context, and of how they can be sustained in the long term,” she told the local Cape Argus newspaper shortly after revealing that the city's beach had been voted the second best in the world, "[Stakeholders should] think carefully before a final decision can be made, especially in the light of Cape Town's focus on responsible tourism.”
By way of concession, however, du Toit-Helmbold did admit that the proposal to stage the race in September would be ideal as Cape Town usually suffers a drop in tourism numbers at that time of year.
Amlay, a former political prisoner as the result of taking part in a student protest against apartheid, said that he had been in contact with Ecclestone's FOM office since late 2009, and hoped to meet with the Briton around the time the 2011 season kicks off in Bahrain.
"We have made significant progress with Mr. Ecclestone, and we have an invitation from his office," Henderson confirmed to Associated Press on Wednesday, "Back in 2009, his office said he would like to meet with us but, unfortunately, our national government was focused on the World Cup. But, the 2010 World Cup has now allowed Mr Ecclestone to evaluate a major event in South Africa and we hope to secure a meeting with him before the grand prix season."
None of the four bids to stage a race in Cape Town have received official backing from either the city or the Western Cape provincial government, but Amlay hopes that his plan to use the city's landmarks and 'full utilisation of the Cape Town Stadium' will help to sway support in his direction. The $600m stadium, owned and run by the city of Cape Town following its construction for the World Cup, is seriously under-used following the tournament, and is being tabbed as a potential start-finish arena for the grand prix.
"There's lots to be done and it's still early days," provincial tourism minister Alan Winde admitted, "but [an F1 race] fits in with our strategy of attracting major events to the city."