Although many new motorsport series often fail to get beyond the drawing board, the A1 Grand Prix series has not only proved its critics wrong in its inaugural season, but has already grown into a hugely successful championship.

As the season reached the halfway point at its spiritual home in Dubai, Crash.Net's Andy Stobart caught up with the championship?EUR(TM)s creator, Sheikh Maktoum, to see if he was happy with the way his vision had blossomed.

"It is going too well," he joked, "It is the first time that we have had three weeks between races, between Malaysia and Dubai, and it gave us great hindsight at looking at problems and addressing them.

"When you start a championship, it is very hard to improve from one race to the next. It is already a tremendous amount of work keeping it at the same standard, but it is even harder taking it to another level. At one circuit, I got charged E20,000 for renting four scooters! Small things like that showed that cost of travel per head is three or four times what you would normally have."

Having seen some exceptionally competitive racing between a variety of drivers and nations, Maktoum is delighted that the close competition is capturing the imaginations of countries who have not experienced motorsport before.

"We provide some of the best racing on the planet," he maintained, "The Malaysian dice between the French, the British and the Swiss was phenomenal. At this race [Dubai], there is a great vibe. We have had the biggest crowd compared to any race we have had before. Normally, we don't have this many people and it is a working day, yet we have had 7000 or 8000 people turn up at the grandstands. It was incredible for a country with no motorsport heritage."

With extensive global coverage, A1GP can also boast viewing figures that even Formula One can be jealous of. Indeed, Maktoum is pleased that so many countries are tuning in for every race to support their nation.

"The numbers for Brands Hatch have only just come in," he revealed, "That did not include CCTV in China and Al-Jazeera Sports in the Middle East, yet we were still getting 8-10 million viewers per race. The people in China promised me around 16 million people per race, so we are looking at around 30 million viewers per race, which puts us in the top five for the most watched sport on the planet. We are there."

Nonetheless, Maktoum insists that there are still improvements to be made to concept, even if, overall, he is thrilled that the championship is already a success only mid-way through the season.

"Between Malaysia and Dubai, I focused on the past and audited the situation to make it better," he explained, "I found that a lot of people still don't get the fact that there are two races per weekend. I think we lost 20 per cent of our fans after the sprint race. They are learning that there are two races, but maybe that is something to think about for next year.

"Now that the first half of the season is done, during Christmas we are looking at selling the race packages online for those who cannot watch it otherwise. We are also hoping that the broadcasters show the highlights with the first half of season. We want to get non-motorsport people up to speed and know what A1GP is all about."

 

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