The GP2 Series' experiment with a 'winter' championship in Asian regions has been deemed enough of a success to warrant a second season, with a draft calendar issued during this weekend's Silverstone double-header.
The opening season started in Dubai in January, but did not run entirely smoothly, with Sentul in particular causing consternation after its track surface deteriorated dramatically. Unsurprisingly, the Indonesian venue has been dropped for the second campaign, which will span the end of 2008 and start of 2009.
Keen to strengthen its ties with Formula One, GP2 will increase the number of grand prix support races for its Asian series, which opens on the Chinese GP bill over 18-19 October, and closes with double-headers in both Malaysia and Bahrain when the 2009 F1 season kicks off. In between, the series will return to Dubai in early December, with further events in Bahrain and Dubai scheduled - but not yet confirmed - for January and February. A two-day test at Shanghai prior to the series kicking off
“I am delighted to present this new calendar," series organiser Bruno Michel commented, "After a strong first year, that saw great race action and generated a lot of interest in Asia and the Middle-East, the GP2 Asia Series is back, not only with a new circuit – Shanghai - but also with an added event. As you can see, there will be six rounds this season and, as promised, three of them will coincide with a Formula One race weekend.
"Our philosophy hasn't changed - we still want to display the best young driver talent in Asia by giving them the opportunity to receive recognition, whilst training them at the top level of single seater competition and having them fight against drivers from the other side of the world. I'm really looking forward to this new season!”
The provisional 2008-09 GP2 Asia Series calendar is as follows:
October 8-9 Shanghai test
October 18-19 Shanghai
December 5-6 Dubai
January 23-24 Bahrain TBC
February 27-28 Dubai TBC
April 4-5 Sepang
April 18-19 Bahrain